Friday, July 12, 2013

Killdeer on Tracks

Killdeer are practiced performers.   They put on an enjoyable show.  Their shows are playing over all of North America now, except Alaska.  It is a combination of air shows and stage performances. Killdeer are the main attractions.

Claiming the Killdeer name comes from its call takes a bit of imagination.  If true, my ear is not tuned well enough to hear ‘killdeer’ in it, so I'm not joining that discussion.  What I do appreciate is the Killdeer’s ability to convince a predator she is injured…stop hunting for my chicks…come and eat me instead.  It’s acting…that’s cunning!

Rising into the air, two of the six Killdeer complained loudly as they circled me. I was in this pair’s territory. They were insistent I leave. 

Killdeer lay their eggs on the ground in a scrape barely resembling a nest.  The vegetation along the railroad tracks was Killdeer habitat.  I searched for their eggs within the acres of short seedlings, but it was like finding a speckled brown marble in a hayfield. The pair hid their eggs well.   They were careful to keep it a secret, too.  Their whole purpose in circling and calling was to get my attention and draw me away.   

Twisting and contorting herself, she put on a convincing performance of an injured bird in trouble. 

The other Killdeer pairs watched this drama from a hundred feet away, but didn’t have a part.  

She played her part convincingly and acted out her dying scene on several stages. 

I watched from my seat sixty feet away…sort of the 30th row.    

This act worked for her three time.  Each performance took me further and further down the tracks.  She was drawing me away, but I was getting the show for free.

At the end of each performance she would miraculously recover and trot away.  She even took bows…many, actually.  It is in the Killdeer’s nature to comically bob up and down when disturbed. I could interpret this bobbing as laughing at me, but I’d rather think not.  I left satisfied.

I recommend this show…two thumbs up.


Monday, July 8, 2013

House Wren Babies

Even with two parents working non-stop during summer's long daylight hours, it still isn’t enough to satisfy these two baby House Wren.  The doorway begging is continuous.

A plump spider momentarily quiets one baby, but another mouth is waiting.  The insect gathering continues with cafeteria line efficiency. Although as the babies grow, their food demand increases accordingly, so the cafeteria service speeds up, too. One parent or another delivers food every few minutes.

Sometimes the babies are quiet.  I suspect they might feel insecure then and don't want to give away their location. They will soon outgrow this small house and have to venture outside. That won’t stop them from begging for food though.  The babies have a lot to learn about how and where to gather their own food. The begging will continue in the trees.

For now, a single chek note, repeated continuously, keeps a parent House Wren hopping.

A large bright yellow-orange beak keep the parents motivated.

A bee and a bug...down-the-hatch.

The natural instinct to beg keeps this one from swallowing what’s already in his mouth.

With one parent departing and the other arriving the chow line keeps moving.

This meal requires an open-wide approach…it all fits.

The day ends late…the morning will arrive early...the cafeteria line needs to start up again. 

It's an all-to-brief rest for this parent of growing baby House Wrens.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

When you see him up-close he looks rather menacing.

But striking fear is no small feat for a bird that weighs the equivalent of a couple coins…two cents. He’s fast, alert and always on guard for his enemies. Darting, dodging and dipping through flowers, he carefully evaluates where to stick his beak  before choosing a blossom.

He prefers red flowers and all the flowers in his blossom claim belong solely to him. This Ruby-throated Hummingbird has a greedy streak when it comes to food.  He is not into sharing.  Other male hummingbirds are not welcome and are quickly turned upon.  Fights occur whenever another male intrudes upon his territory and the strongest wins…there will be no sharing. His aggressive nature is directed towards females, too, although females are gradually and grudgingly accepted.

The slightly larger female lacks the iridescent throat of the male, but she shares a similar blue-green iridescent backside.  His beautifully bejeweled  throat undoubtedly impresses her.   She chooses a male after an elaborate courting display, including acrobatic flying, sunlit throat displays and steep dives at her.

Nectar is not enough for a Ruby-throated Hummingbird to survive upon, so insects fulfill his protein requirements.  He can pluck a mosquito from the air or hover at a web to relieve a spider of her catch.  He would dine on the spider, too, if she were silly enough to stick around.

Small feats of intimidation serve the Ruby-throated Hummingbird well.  He is the most prolific hummingbird east of the Rocky Mountains. 

As for his actual real live feet, he can’t walk very well…tiny feet.  He prefers to fly everywhere.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Eastern Meadowlark

This Eastern Meadowlark turned out to be my Consolation Prize, not the First Prize. 

He was not the Tricolored Heron I was hoping to find today.  A Tricolored Heron is a rarity in Wisconsin…normally doesn’t visit here…a Gulf Coast bird. 

Reports of a Tricolored Heron near Whitewater had been posted on the Internet for more than two weeks. I considered going to Whitewater to look for him, but hesitated.  When I finally persuaded myself to make the hour and a half trip…I struck out.  After waiting seven and a half hours for him to show up, I gave up. 

That’s why I only have a bicolored Eastern Meadowlark to share with you today. There was no disappointment in seeing an Eastern Meadowlark and I don't mean to diminish the meadowlark's entrance in the Beautiful Bird competition either; I was just anticipating a much larger, tricolored bird.  

The weedy grassland of rural Wisconsin is where you're likely to find an Eastern Meadowlark.  Perched on an electric fence, this Eastern Meadowlark scanned 322 acres of Volunteer Public Access land.   The VPA Program, managed by the DNR, opens desirable private land for the public to enjoy while protecting and compensating the landowner as well.  Here is a link to the program: if you would like to find one of these leased private lands for yourself. 

While I watched the Eastern Meadowlark scanning the wide, wet  VPA lands, he mainly concentrated on five or six acres of it. I suspect he was protecting a claim...his corner of the property.   

Eastern Meadowlarks are ground nesting birds and this one may have had a well-concealed nest somewhere in the four-foot tall grass. I didn’t see a nest and I didn’t go looking for a nest  either…could have stepped on it accidently. He didn’t give away the nest's location either by visiting it in my presence; he just watched me closely.

The Eastern Meadowlark is a talented  singer.  Raising his head high for maximum projection, he belts out a simple, but varied song letting everyone know he is on guard.  Males and females look similar, but the female is slightly paler.

He wasn’t the bird I went looking for today, but he'll do.  He was an attractive, bicolorful runner-up.