Date: 1/29/18 12:28 pm From: Daniel Mason <millipede1977...> Subject: bird behavior and more
One of the great tortures, for me, in birding is knowing that the more you look, the more you'll see... and, having a wife and 5 children, I've found I have to put effort into balancing my time. So I don't get to chase as often as I'd like and I know I'm missing things at times but in the end, it all works out. :)
Those birds don't help anything with their unpredictability. A bird that's here today is sometimes gone today. So hard to chase some. Like the long-tailed duck. We chased it last winter, the day after a report, and never found it. Maybe it was still there(Beaver lake is HUGE), maybe it wasn't. I'll never know. Throw in distance and other factors, I just can't always go chasing even when it can mean a life bird.
A while ago, Joe Neal brought up a topic I'd seriously questioned before. Habitat. Joe was pondering the loons at Tenkiller, how there's so many there and we never see such numbers at some lakes here that seem they should support them. There are reasons even when I don't know them. That uncertainty has been frustrating at times. A friend of mine has a book, I haven't seen it yet, that he found on rails. It had detailed info on what their preferred plants were, how deep the water should be, etc. Sounded quite informative. I've looked at several prairie type birds and wondered why they LOVED one field and didn't like another that, to my human eyes, looked perfect. One such bird has been the grasshopper sparrow for me. I've read that they, like other birds, might prefer certain types of plants. I'm not trained in those things so my ignorant eyes look at one field that looks perfect and wonder, "why not here?" BIG fields like Chesney, I'd never found them. I've only seen a few grasshopper sparrows and they've all been at one location that actually seemed not so likely. At the time it was a future subdivision on mason valley road not far from XNA. Some of the electrical work was in the area, paved roads back and fort... a subdivision without houses where grasses had grown up. Two summers in a row I found grasshopper sparrows in the same area there. Why there and not the actual open fields nearby or other fields I've explored? I know there's a reason and someday I may learn it. For now I'll just be fascinated by it. And sadly, that subdivision now has houses so, I wont be finding them there this coming summer. :(
I've looked at ducks at city lake in Siloam and have wondered why some are less common there than other locations, some that are smaller. It's always fascinated me and sometimes frustrated.
And now what prompted these thoughts... rusty blackbirds. I've only been birding for 4 or 5 years(I lose track of time) but the first few years I didn't find them often. Last winter I found HUNDREDS at city lake foraging the wet fields there. Up until this month, EVERY time I've found them it's been at damp locations. Marshy/swampy/muddy locations. City lake, Lake Fayetteville, the fish hatchery in Centerton... and a few other wet, wet fields. A couple weeks ago I looked out into my jungle of a yard and saw a flock of birds out there. Picked up the binoculars to find a couple dozen rusty blackbirds foraging through the leaves on our hillside. Other than a bird bath and some other containers of water in the yard, this is not a wet location. I was surprised to see them. I don't stare out the window all day long so I don't know how many I've missed but they're out there again today for at least the 3rd time lately. Part woods, part brushy area... sunny hillside covered with leaves... and rusty blackbirds(no others, just rusties) foraging.
Was I wrong thinking they preferred the moist areas more? Is there something in particular in my yard attracting them? I'm not sure. I've been thinking about it a bit lately but thought more about sharing the sightings more after watching one rusty in particular. As I was looking out I saw a rusty playing with something I assumed was food. Thought I saw some reddish type color and thought it reminded me of a piece of apple or something. Took me a minute with the binoculars to find it eating a frog. I believe it was alive when it started as the frog was very puffed up. I felt a little bad for the frog(I like frogs) but birds have to eat and we've sure been hearing peepers the past few days so it wasn't surprising that it found one out there. Perhaps the leaf litter in the yard is just harboring the right amount of goodies these birds enjoy.
And it's always pretty awesome watching flocks of birds find food in the yard without even using the feeders. Our property gets good and weedy and it's been interesting to see what birds eat the wild foods out there. Like the sumacs that pop up. Quite a few species seem to enjoy them.
Anyway, I'm rambling. Perhaps I've got cabin fever. I wish I had a few bigger windows as right here where I type is often just as good a place to watch the birds as any. Even have bald eagles that pass by from time to time. Can't help but keep watching even when I can't get out there. :)