Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 2008

All week long, a tiny, non-descript yellow-rumped warbler has stationed himself in the maple tree out back; guarding it against the chickadees, titmice, and sparrows trying to take a crack at the bird feeder. He has proven to be quite the energetic warrior. One minute, diving mid-air for an insect snack, and the next, chasing off an intruder. He doesn’t just fly at them, he flies after them, into the nearby trees, presumably to give them a good avian thrashing.

It’s odd because this species, and warblers in general, don’t frequent bird feeders. In fact, I haven’t once seen him land at either of the feeders. He must just think it’s his restaurant, and therefore permitted to run off any bird not up to his standards. I can’t imagine he’d want to claim this active area as his territory, but I hope he sticks around for awhile (if he doesn’t wear out), so I can truly discover, by any change in plumage color, if he is really a he, or not.

Signs that the breeding season is underway were everywhere. A song sparrow staked out his territory on the phone wires near the barn and sang his heart out. Just a few hundred yards away, a field sparrow did the same
near the spring source. They will stay there all day, everyday, with slight changes in location, until a female gives them the green light, which could be a month or more! Ah, chivalry!

Migrations were also evident. On Monday, I identified my very first fox sparrows . A beautiful rust-colored bird that I’m betting I’ve mistaken for a female eastern towhee in the past. This afternoon, to my delight, five of them showed up! Another first, was a few rusty blackbirds that flew in with a flock of red-wings.

On a visit to the pond, I could hardly believe it when my suspicions were confirmed…swimming peacefully in the water was a pair of hooded mergansers AND a pair of wood ducks. Weeks ago, I kept thinking that my identification skills must be pretty rusty because I just couldn’t tell which. Now, I find out both species are ther, and today the count was up to 4 pair of hooded mergansers! I think the wood ducks were just on hiatus. They’ll be back.

That’s the thing I love about nature…if you miss a day…you really do miss a lot. So much is going on; small, seemingly insignificant changes happen and the whole landscape is transformed! One day of sunshine arouses out of dormancy individuals, species and whole ecosystems. On Tuesday, when the temperature reached around 72 degrees, I walked to the barn for firewood and began hearing a slight buzzing sound. Looking around, I thought I might spot the first honeybee of the year. Looking down, it appeared the entire ground beneath my feet was moving. Looking outward, there must have been hundreds or thousands of flies in the grass all around me. They weren’t flying, just hopping about, like bunnies. I’m not sure why they were behaving this way, but in spring, nothing gets the motors running like heat, light and sex!