To describe my lifelong fascination with flight and with creatures that fly I like to echo the words of John James Audubon who in 1839 wrote of himself as "...one who never can cease to admire and to study with zeal and the most heartfelt reverence, the wonderful productions of an Almighty Creator."
Sunday, August 31, 2008
I'm thinking that this Western Tanager, seen today in Bend, Oregon, is a male because of the yellow abdomen and yellow upper wing bar, but obviously it's not in breeding plumage. Does that make it a "hatch-year bird" or a male that has already molted? However, I could not detect any vestige of red about the head and face, and the back seemed too light for a male. So... maybe it's a female that has more than the usual amount of yellow on the abdomen and wing bar. (?) The books I have looked at do not agree with each other.
On a country road today a few miles from McMinnville I found a dead juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. I stopped to take a closer look, and discovered that it was wearing bands on both legs. The metal band indicates that it was banded by someone working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife department.
I took advantage of this chance to get a close-up look at a young Red-tail's plumage; beautiful design of markings and subtle coloration, usually seen only in broad outline from a distance.
Today I was walking in the vicinity of the Bald Eagle nest near the Willamette River here in Yamhill Co. I came upon these feathers lying on the ground there, and I assume they came from a molting Eagle. Judging by the 3 1/2 inch long pocket knife, I think the larger of these feathers is probably a secondary flight feather, but I'm not sure if the white feather came from the tail or from the head or neck. The shape doesn't seem right for a tail feather, and too long to be from the head or neck, but I know that this is one big bird.
I enjoy watching not only wild creatures in flight -- I enjoy watching flying machines also, such as this vintage airplane that flew over my house today. And even though I have by now traveled several hundred thousand miles by air, I still enjoy all the sensations associated with being airborne. However, the words of Charles Lindbergh, as spoken or written shortly before his death in 1974, remind me that man-made flight can never be as remarkable as the flight of birds, and that the achievement of our technology has apparently not been a good thing for birds:
"Lying under an acacia tree with the sound of the dawn around me, I realized more clearly the facts that man should never overlook: that the construction of an airplane, for instance, is simple when compared [with] a bird; that airplanes depend on an advanced civilization, and that where civilization is most advanced, few birds exist. I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes."
I agree, and that goes even for the scruffy Scrub-Jay that spent the afternoon in my backyard finding hiding places for sunflower seeds.
Today the young Violet-green Swallows in my nestbox fledged, so now the box is suddenly silent. But yesterday they were still being fed at the opening by both parents, and my WingScapes remote camera caught them in the act while I was away at work. Fortunately, today being Saturday, I was able to spend some time watching the young birds learning to fly and to land on things. Hopefully they will manage to avoid being captured by the ever-present and hungry Western Scrub-Jays that were watching the action all day, while my neighbor's cats watched from the ground.
In late morning I set up my spotting scope and "digiscoped" these shots of the first fledgling out of the box as it was getting its first taste of the open air. It was a little clumsy at landing on the wire, but was amazingly agile in flight, considering this was the first time its wings were ever used for that purpose. The yellow edges of the bill can be seen in the photos, but otherwise (except for slightly shorter wings and tail and a few remaining tufts of downy feathers on the head) it's not easy to distinguish it from the adult birds at a distance.
You never know what might happen next in the world of birds. This evening I heard loud, strange birdlike noises just down the street from my house. I walked down that way to look for the source, and soon spotted three Chukar standing on a chimney of a neighboring house. They became nervous as I approached, and took off flying past me down the street and landed on my own house roof!
This species, native to southern Asia, has become established in the rocky high desert environment of eastern Oregon. But here in western Oregon their presence most likely means they have escaped from someone's "exotic chicken house" in my neighborhood.