This Eastern Meadowlark appears to be singing, although he might be coughing, hacking or choking. It was hard to tell as I watched him in the treetop, but I could see he was surrounded by smoke.
He was standing his ground, so to speak, defending his territory from all other meadowlarks. But a nearby grass fire was producing a different kind of threat to him…breathing. He was in the thick of it. If the smoke wasn’t bad enough, my presence was annoying him too. He was suffering with me wanting his picture. This bird was having a bad day.
It’s bird-mating season here in Wisconsin and it coincides with another well-practiced rite of spring…ditch burning. There are few good reasons to burn the ditches every spring, but burn they will. It's arguably better for nesting and food gathering purposes if they weren’t burned, but there is something about old men, dry grass and ditches all reaching a flash point on warm days in March. It is very predictable. The matches are struck and the smoke billows across the countryside.
A Mequon Police officer pulled up and stopped fifty-feet in front of me, to warn the old Man-with-Rake, ‘you shouldn’t be doing that’. Just then the wind shifted. Smoke now surrounded all four of us…Man-with-Rake, Mequon police, Meadowlark and me. The fire was on my right and the choking Meadowlark was on my left. I could hear bits and pieces of the Meadowlark hacking through the smoke and bits and pieces of the Mequon police officer’s conversation with Man-with-Rake. It went something like this.
Mequon Police: …you…fire…permit???
Man with Rake: …what??...need what???
Mequon Police: …fire department…dangerous…smoke!!!
Man with Rake:…????really???
Mequon Police: …lots…smoke!…out…now!!!
Man with Rake: OhKaaay
I thought it best if I kept my nose out of it, so at that point I made a sharp ninety-degree turn towards the Eastern Meadowlark, although the meadowlark wasn’t at all happy with that.
Man-with-Rake stamped out the fire and the smoke died down. The meadowlark came into clear view again and looked to be claiming victory. He obliged me by staying around for a dozen more shots then went about his business of guarding the acres of grassland he’d claimed…dry grassland that is!
He may have more battles to face.
March 25, 2012