Thursday, June 26, 2014

Prattsville: Bobolinks and Blackbirds

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Bobolink, Prattsville NY
dig that crazy-looking bird

The bird I was most excited to see was the Bobolink. I'd never seen fany before, and when very early on Sunday morning I saw a blackbird with yellow on the back of its head perched on a power wire over a hayfield at a crossroads, I couldn't work out what it was. I watched it drop down into the tall grass, then pop back up on the wire. Its only vocalization was a guttural chuck, not as metallic as a Red-Winged Blackbird.

I riffled through my field guide, ruling out a vagrant Yellow-Headed Blackbird--and somehow missing the illustration of the Bobolink; I amaze myself sometimes, I really do. I was convincing myself that it was a red-winged having a really weird molt when another showed up. They both went into the grass, but minutes later, three more flew up from a field across the road.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Bobolinks, Prattsville NY
OK, so not just a single bird having a weird molt

It wasn't until I got back to the house and sat down with the field guide that I spotted the Bobolink picture. Oh!

I hope those fields aren't mowed until the fledglings are ready to fly out (end of July). Earlier mowing would be a disaster for the Bobolinks. I saw those fields on Labor Day weekend last year and there were round bales still sitting in those fields and the grass looked like only a few weeks' growth, so maybe it will turn out all right. Here's an interesting article from the Audubon Society about the problems Bobolinks have nesting these days. (Unfortunately, the Bobolink Project website is down now; it looks like it had a lot of good information. Update 6/30/2014 - the site is back up.)

One of the other two corners of the crossroads had a field that was closely mowed, and the last was also in tall grass, but wholly occupied by Red-Winged Blackbirds.

The funny thing was, I was out for a walk on Saturday afternoon, and I didn't see any Bobolinks, only the Red-Wingeds. One male was posted a a sentry on a power line. He was giving repeated metallic chack calls, until I got within twenty yards, when he started giving high pitched calls and shuffling back and forth down the wire.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Winged Blackbird, Prattsville NY
he didn't like me one little bit

Once every minute or so, he'd fly off the wire and circle about 10-12 feet over my head, then return.

I think the Red-Winged young must be fairly well along, since I saw a few females coming out. Around here, at least, that doesn't happen until they're near fledging.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Winged Blackbird, Prattsville NY
Mama needs a break

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