Sunday, July 15, 2007

Summer Sights

"If there be such a thing as historical memory in us, it is not strange that the sweetest moment in any life, pleasant or dreary, should be when Nature draws near to it, and, taking up her neglected instrument, plays a fragment of some ancient melody, long unheard on the earth."

W. H. Hudson - Idle Days in Patagonia

It really needn't be overanalyzed to be appreciated. What is enjoyed simply by being present is so easily failed by the clutter of mere words. It will suffice to say that the prairie of Pheasant Branch is at its apex with activity for the summer – what fantastical beauty nature offers. While some birds are already dispersing, forming flocks or already heading south, others continue to carry food to nests with young.

I've been unable to locate the Yellow-breasted Chats over the past week and I wouldn't be surprised if they've already left. As for establishing evidence for breeding, unfortunately I've come up short. At best, the chats were consistently found in the same area each time I visited over the course of three weeks. One bird, presumably the male, was quite vocal as I rounded the trail loop at a particular location. Still, perhaps they may be present but just super sneaky!

From BNA:

"Although Dennis (1967) argued that adults began leaving breeding territories by early Jul in Virginia, and that half had left by the end of Jul, chats normally become silent and secretive by late Jul and Aug and are difficult to detect without considerable effort both by mist-netting and visual searching (Thompson and Nolan 1973: 164)."

It's a reasonable assumption that the chats were present before I discovered them in early June. I spend most of my time birding the stream corridor of Pheasant Branch, so I'm likely to miss what's going on at other places - they may have been present mid May. So, next spring I'll check earlier to see if they return.

All images © 2007 Mike McDowell

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