Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Deming Way Dickcissels
Belonging to a monotypic genus with no close relatives, the Dickcissel is a unique North American grassland bird species; their specific taxonomic alignment remains somewhat of a mystery to this day. For most people who watch birds in northern latitudes, the American Robin is a harbinger of spring. Though the solstice is a few weeks away, I associate Dickcissels with migration's end, the return of summer-like weather, and the beginning of seasonal prairie bloom. While the Dickcissel's distinct song isn't quite as warming to our ears as a robin's is, and can easily be mistaken for an insect, this migratory songbird is the last to return to Wisconsin.
Over the past few days Dickcissels have begun returning to the highly disturbed habitat along Deming Way. Several years ago I counted as many as 50 singing males at this location, but ongoing development has significantly reduced and fragmented the habitat; today the most I'll find is around a half dozen or so. The "Property Available" signs dotted throughout the Discovery Springs development project are an ominous reminder to me, but lost on these beautiful birds – there is no way to warn them. This bird I admire along Deming Way will be lost to me, and everyone else, one day. At least we'll have more mini-malls, restaurants, hotels, and gas stations.
Such heartbreaking priorities we have. The wild stays as wild as it can. The deep time that separates me from this bird is virtually incomprehensible. Yet from the same natural origins, we've evolved away from having to pay close attention to nature to a species whose nature it is to cherish convenience with little regard for what we destroy along the way.
Dickcissel image © 2010 Mike McDowell