FOR THE BIRDS
Sometimes things -- phases or pieces of conversation that should have been thought out, answered, or explained, but were somehow missed, overlooked and forgotten -- run through your mind as you walk, as you work, as you bird. Don't you talk to yourself? Anyhow, let's talk about a few things.
Never underestimate the pregnant pause. This thought occurred to me the other day as I was walking into the Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond. Learn to pause when you bird. It doesn't take long to learn that most of the time you aren't going to sneak up on a bird. They hear you and know that you are approaching long before you get there - so pause, walk a little and pause. Let them sense you. Be still, listen and look for movement. There might be a bird ahead of you that froze as you approached. As you pause and he sees no immediate danger, he may continue feeding and you may get a chance to identify him. The habitat called Paradise Pond starts way before you see any pond. So, start birding before you get to the boardwalk and practice the pause; it might yield some birds.
As a birder, be eternally curious and ask questions like a child, but watch and observe like an adult. Be patient; nature has many secrets to reveal and stories to tell; here are four:
1. Consider the two northern mockingbirds we saw dancing this fall. In the spring, dancing is part of their courtship. Perhaps these two fall birds were re-establishing the importance of their pair-bond; other species do this. Maybe the weather has been so nice that in the south "love never dies!"
I have read that two male mockingbirds will dance over their territory. Was that the story? I don't know, but write these things down, and check for these behaviors in the coming months and years. Enjoy the stories of nature -- they are all around you.
2. What about seeing "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" the other day? Are you old enough to remember that small inspirational book by Richard Bach? We saw this young gull (one of about 40), "falling out of the sky," scrubbing off speed in remarkable side-slipping maneuvers time, after time, after time, and for no apparent reason. He was perfecting his flying technique; he was flying to fly! He was enjoying himself.
3. What about "Mr. Mohawk", an adult male Wilson's warbler that has a thin, perfect, but abnormal black cap. I have seen a lot of adult and juvenile Wilson's warblers, and I've never seen one like this one. Go see him; he has been in Paradise Pond for two days!
4. How about two female Merlins sitting side-by-side, preening for 15 or 20 minutes. They were absolutely at ease with each other. Were they mother and daughter? I'll never know. The paler one flew up and circled and seemed to "pick the other one up" and they flew off together.
Never underestimate the power of a water drip. Recently, the two drips have been turned on at Paradise Pond, and what a treat they are. I have seen five species in the number two drip at one time. And I've had five Nashville warblers bathing at the same time. We've had three species of vireos and 11 species of warblers use the drips
in this last week.
A yellow-bellied flycatcher came in to take a bath, and I learned that his style of bathing is like that of the vireos - the flycatcher belly-splashes.
We had a young female indigo bunting take a long and luxurious bath and try to intimidate a little Nashville warbler that came in at the same time. No problem for the warbler - if that three inches of water was not acceptable, she would just move over nine inches and bathe over there. Oh no! - That wasn't OK with the bunting! They had a "Mexican stand-off," and both of them stood their ground with their bills open - glaring at each other. These two, tiny, pipsqueaks of personality, facing off in front of one another were remarkable to watch. What an uplifting experience; The zeal, the intensity, and the pleasure that these birds exhibit in their lives is worth the time and effort spent to experience it. Never underestimate birding - go bird.