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. :)

Daniel Mason

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