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."
Thursday, December 31, 2009
California Quail in winter shelter
On the same day I saw the Bluebirds and Waxwings feeding on Juniper berries, I also saw another bird species making use of a Juniper tree, but this time for shelter from a wind blowing in 25 degree temps. This pair of California Quail was huddled together about 20 ft. high above a residential street in Bend.
On the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains this week (where I'm spending some time with family in Bend) the freezing fog has covered almost everything in a layer of white crystals. Today I found a mixed flock of Western Bluebirds and Cedar Waxwings hanging out in and around several dense Juniper trees, apparently managing to find some ripe berries.
The two species seemed to be getting along without conflict, even though they were both after the same food supply. They both show up briefly in the following video clip:
Today the Robins poured into my yard to feast on Hawthorne berries and old grapes, giving me a chance to add to the collection of photos I started yesterday. The one above has a black head; the one below is very gray, even on the breast.
White in the secondary and tertial feathers like this one has is apparently a variation caused by one of the unusual pigmentation anomalies. I've never before seen a Robin with this pattern. The one below has a dark head, but not quite black, and the white streaks on the throat run from the chin to the orange of the breast. After several days of freezing weather, the water in the bird bath was another attraction in the back yard.
Every winter here in the Willamette Valley there is an influx of American Robins, probably moving in from the north or from higher elevations, or both. Presumably it's easier for a Robin to find food here in our relatively warmer and wetter climate than where they come from. And every year I notice a lot of variation in the plumage details when there are several together on the same lawn or field. I'm thinking of starting a collection of Robin photos, so these two, which I saw today, are good examples to begin with. The one above has only a small amount of white on the face and throat; a broken eyering and a small mark in front of the eye. The one below, in addition to a browner head, almost has a "supercillium" or eyebrow, and a more pronounced broken eyering. I wonder if these differences have any significance beyond differences of age and sex.
Maybe it's because I've had almost no time to even look at a bird in recent weeks. Or maybe it's because I'm overcoming a long-held prejudice. (I don't think that's it.) Maybe it was the brilliant sun and blue sky today, with the high temperature at about the freezing level. Whatever it was, a closeup view of some European Starlings searching for food in the frozen grass in front of my office reminded me that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For just a moment or two there I saw Starlings in a new light.