Saturday, May 18, 2019

Song Sparrow - A Distinguished Neighbor

Song Sparrow

In the soggy marshland surrounding Evergreen Lake he sings his heart out. His sweet music includes twenty different tunes and at least 1,000 improvised variations so it’s no wonder they call him the song sparrow.

Full of complex rhythm and emotion, his colorful vocalizations are used to attract females and defend territory. His unique, prolonged melody distinguishes him as a neighbor rather than a stranger.

This common sparrow is an adaptable bird whose behavior and appearance is extremely variable and unpredictable. He is found throughout North America but individuals from different regions look completely different from each other.

In our neck of the woods, the song sparrow is described by brown, heavily streaked plumage, a mottled back and a white throat. His face is gray with a dark eye line and a white jaw line while his reddish crown has a neat gray stripe.

The female builds a nest that’s usually concealed somewhere near the ground but he does help collect the building material. An exposed nest is susceptible to being parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds as their eggs are nearly identical to the sparrows'.

Before being hammered by heavy snow, the sparrow heads down the hill in order to spend the winter at a more hospitable elevation. Another early migrant, he comes back in the spring feasting on insects, seeds and fruit and singing his symphonic song.

A common sparrow

Distinguished as a neighbor

An adaptable bird

Extremely variable and unpredictable

He collects building material

Colorful vocalizations

Streaked plumage and a reddish crown

An early migrant

He sings a symphonic song

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Barn Swallow - A Herald of Spring

Barn Swallow

According to legend, the barn swallow got its forked tail because it stole fire from the gods to bring to humans. An angry deity hurled a fireball at the swallow, burning away it’s middle tail feathers.

It has distinguished itself as the most familiar swallow in North America and the most widespread swallow in the world. It’s a welcome neighbor as it eats insects and often builds its mud nest under the eaves of man-made structures.

The barn swallow is identified by that deeply forked tail, a vermillion throat and forehead, blue upper parts and ochre underparts. It prefers to live near a river, lake or marsh where it can find its favorite food - bugs.

A supreme aviator, the barn swallow displays a spectacular array of acrobatics in order to eat, drink and bathe while still on the wing. It’s truly a free bird whose daring flight is both delightful and unpredictable.

The barn swallow is a devoted parent who fiercely defends its young with relentless dive bombing. Its other defense strategy involves a surprisingly symbiotic relationship with an intimidating raptor - the osprey.

Sometimes a barn swallow will intentionally make its home just below an osprey’s nest. The swallow makes alarm calls that alerts the osprey to intruders and in return the osprey protects the swallows from all predatory threats.

The barn swallow winters all the way down in Central and South America but the long distance migrant is usually one of our first arrivals. It’s a proven herald of spring, a sign of summer’s approach and a symbol of the resurgence of life.

He stole fire and brought it to humans

The world's most widespread swallow

Blue upperparts

A supreme aviator

One of our first arrivals

A devoted parent

A symbol of life

A truly free bird

A herald of spring

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Blue Spring - Wild Weather

Blue Spring

Coming into the month of May and our Blue Spring is distinguished by frosted pine, cool shadows and cobalt skies. Winter is gradually releasing its firm grip and after last week’s big storm maybe the Mad Season will finally let go.

The snow keeps pouring but it falls against mild temperatures, transforming flakes into cold water that tries to seep into the already saturated ground. Oh, it piles up during the dark night but by morning it begins to evaporate at the speed of light.

Walking up through the forest can be a calamity because of the wet, muddy trail and being drenched by a shower of snowmelt spraying down from the tall trees. Wandering back out of the wilderness you’ll find yourself, like the current state of the landscape, dirty and disheveled.

This time of year is marked by dust, wind and wild weather but don’t worry because it’s just a transitional period. Soon, the new leaves, lush grass and colorful wildflowers will make everything in the mountains look fresh and clean again.

Frosted pine, cool shadows and cobalt skies

A big storm

Melting at the speed of light

The mountains will look fresh and clean

The trees spray snowmelt

Winter has not released its grip

Wild weather

It's a transitional period

Saturday, April 27, 2019

American Avocet - An Elegant Glow

American Avocet

The name Avocet comes from the Italian avosetta, which means ‘graceful bird'. If your looking for the American version of this graceful bird, you’ll find him foraging in the shallow marshes scattered throughout the wide open west.

It’s easy to confirm his identity because of his distinctive features and striking colors. His sleek, white body is set upon a pair of long, blue legs and he has solid black wings broken by a broad, white bar.

The Avocet has an outrageously long, recurved, black bill but his exquisite coloring is what really sets him apart. During breeding season his head, neck and breast is shaded in soft peach while in the winter those same areas are filled gray.

He’s a common shore bird whose breeding grounds are often located along the lower fringes of the Rocky Mountains. He wades across the wetlands scything - sweeping his bill side to side through the water’s surface while feeding on tiny crustaceans and aquatic insects.

He and his mate prefer to live on an island where they scrape the ground, creating a saucer-shaped nest lined with grass, feathers and pebbles. Upon hatching, the chicks feed themselves as they’re never fed by their parents.

The little ones are precocial, moving around independently soon after they’re born. By just one day old, the nimble chicks have the ability to walk, swim and dive in order to escape threatening predators.

The parents are notoriously aggressive towards anything and anyone who approaches their nest or young. They make shrill alarm calls, create distraction displays and dive bomb unlucky intruders.

Come fall, the bird will migrate to a more hospitable environment usually along the California coastline. Before his inevitable departure, though, there’s still lots of time to bask in the elegant glow of the American Avocet.

A graceful bird

A common shore bird

A long, curved bill

Distinctive features

The head, neck and breast are peach

Foraging in a shallow marsh

Exquisite coloring

Found in the wide open west

Protective parents

Scything through the water

Wades across the wetlands

An elegant glow

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Panorama of Winter Weather - Rough Seas

Winter Weather

Winter weather has continued to pummel the foothills leaving behind a panorama of white meadows and black forests. The big peaks have all but vanished from the landscape as a layer of thick fog has erased them from view.

The animals are tired of contending with the everlasting cold and wet weather. We are all waiting patiently for Mother Nature’s palette of Spring colors to be painted across the gray environment.

Wide stretches of vast wilderness has become a desolate winter tract into which neither man nor beast wishes to go. Positioned on the Western Front, the region is mired in a rut of mud, muck and monochrome.

There is something hauntingly beautiful about the way the storms come crashing into the mountains. As the new season unfolds, the snow keeps falling in dense squalls that make the trees look like ghosts of the Great White North.

It’s not an ideal situation but battling the harsh elements is the type of adversity that makes us strong. We’ll bide our time while navigating rough seas because in just a few more weeks, we’ll enjoy a summer of smooth sailing.

A panorama of white meadows

And black forests

A gray environment

Something hauntingly beautiful

Everlasting cold and wet

Ghosts of the Great White North

A desolate winter tract

Looking forward to a summer of smooth sailing