Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Iridescent Grackles and Subteen Nest Defenders

Our distraction this 2013 Spring is caused in part by bird-watching and scientific watering of newly laid sod. The watering, in turn, was originally caused by some maintenance to our sewer. That tore up our front yard sufficiently so that the whole of it required renewal.  (But maintenance is good.) This process took a while—what with sod being quite late this year, the landscapers quite over-booked, and so on. Now the huge unsightly gash (with little yellow flag) is healed, our front soil removed, the roots torn out, new black dirt introduced, sod laid. Therefore the watering. It’s tedious work—but it is raining today so that even the blog gets a little attention.

After we dispatched two over-wintering Black Swallowtail butterflies with the first warm days of this season, we hastened to buy, and plant from seed, lots of dill. We have so much of it, every year, that it even grows in the cracks of the driveway—which is fine with us. We take the plants out with a knife and replant them in pots. But while waiting for the butterflies, we have been watching birds.

As I’ve noted a while back, Brigitte discovered a Cardinal nest in our backyard with one fledgling identified. Now our knowledge has grown. There are actually two. One is a boy, one is a girl. Both have learned to fly, but while the boy is up and about a good deal—and is as brightly red as a Cardinal should be, but its little crest is still not sharply visible—the girl is more a stay-at home. At the same time our squirrels are building nests, gathering the materials. We discovered that, in that process, they’re quite willing to grab hold of other creatures’ and carry them away. Yesterday we saw what happens when those nests happen to be occupied.

A squirrel came and headed up toward our Cardinals’ nest. Enormous uproar suddenly. It was hard to make out what was going on. Well, our two Cardinals, brother and sister, making nasty noises, attacked the squirrel with beak and claw. And as it fled, they chased it, coming down at it as it ran on top of the fence for the safety of the garage roof. The girl returned to the nest, but her brother remained, for an while, vigilantly watching for a renewed attack from a power line.

This sort of drama inclines one to spend one’s mornings in the sun, pretending to read. And in that process one sometimes gets to know other species. One of these, resident not too far away, behind the garage of another house, its back to our back, lives a tribe of Common Grackles, technically Quisculus quiscula. In the shade they look quite black, like little crows, but with light they have a wondrously iridescent blue-bronze coloration. Part of yesterday’s Bird Watch included observing a Grackle mother followed by two very fluffy and seemingly much bigger fledglings. She would pick things to eat and then, in turn, fed her children, beak to beak. My image is from Wikipedia (link).

We also discovered, to our amazement, that Cardinals have a lifespan of up to 24 years—and that our fledglings will take a year or more before they are ready to breed.

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