Sunday, October 15, 2006

Birds on the Move...



I thought I was ready, yesterday...in the field just moments before sunrise. Time slowly rendered a promising morning as orange sunrays began to fill contours of the prairie - the break between shadow and light moved steadily across the fields. The lighting became exceptional, the weather was perfectly calm. An easy progression of what seemed to be excellent conditions for bird photography quickly dissolved before me.

At first, birds most abundant began calling and singing - the latter consisting of song fragments from Fox Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows. Suddenly, the cheerful songs ceased and I could no longer see or hear a single songbird. The reason for the disruption announced its presence with a haunting "keh-keh-keh-keh-keh-keh!" A Cooper's Hawk was perched in the willows on the opposite side of the edge where I was standing. I imagined sparrows hunkered down low in the scrubby habitat...blinking, waiting and frozen in fear.



I moved to an open area between the edge and the big springs, but then a Northern Harrier skimmed over and sent more sparrows diving for cover. I waited several minutes, but they remained hidden. A concerned Lincoln's Sparrow briefly popped up to assess the situation. I barely got off one shot before the timid bird returned to the safety beneath expiring goldenrod. The Cooper's Hawk flew overhead, once again prolonging the skittishness of my subjects.

And then condensation on my tripod caused one of the leg-locks to slip and I didn't feel like digging for the adjustment tool from my backpack to tighten it down. Hopeless, I thought. So, I packed up and headed to work. But after work, I was very pleased to find my backyard teeming with activity...more birds are on the move:

Mourning Dove
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Chipping Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch



I adore Fox Sparrows. Of all the hop-scratchers out there, I think the Fox Sparrow executes the most vigorous technique and admirable style. It's impressive that such a small bird can back-kick sticks and stones two or three feet behind them, all in the hope of finding a few bits to nibble. Such a regal looking sparrow with bold dark eyes, flashy patterns of copper, gray and white.



"I think that the most important requisite in describing an animal, is to be sure and give its character and spirit, for in that you have, without error, the sum and effect of all its parts, known and unknown. "

-Henry David Thoreau

Though there is no way to know for sure, a Yellow-rumped Warbler has been eating from one of the suet feeders in our backyard for the past two weeks. Now wouldn't that be something!

All images © 2006 Mike McDowell

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