new arrivals and a mysterious departure

At some point last night under the cloak of darkness the neighborhood’s catbirds arrived to spend the summer muttering to themselves in the dense foliage. I came downstairs this morning to the welcome sound of their strange twittering cacophony. I looked out the window of the sunporch and saw at least three or four of them skulking in the yard, chasing each other through the ground cover. On the front walk, another of their tribe held in its narrow bill a fruit of the nearby Japanese laurel, aka Gold Dust Plant, or to be more formal about it: Aucuba japonica. Decidedly unimpressed with its breakfast bounty, the bird quickly discarded the bright red drupe (looks can be deceiving!) and flew off.

Oddly enough, our other local representative of the Mimid family, the stalwart mockingbird, has been conspicuously absent from the immediate environs of the house since last fall. A usual year-round resident, this bird (if it has indeed been the same individual) was always nearby in its obvious way, singing and scolding, even visiting the feeder out of desperation during particularly hard winters, and providing an amusing foil to the more retiring catbirds throughout the summer months. Sadly, no mockingbird has yet shown up to take this one’s place. I had often wondered if ‘our bird’ had been a grizzled old bachelor, for on many a spring night I would hear him singing late into the evening hours, yet I witnessed neither courting nor nesting activity. Perhaps his mellifluous songs never attracted a mate and he met with some unknown fate having never propagated his species. I am still hoping, though, that someday soon one of his brethren will appear and take up residence nearby.

old sam peabody

old sam peabody
song of white-throated sparrow
northbound bird visits

hooded merganser

Male Hooded Merganser at Quarry Lake, Pikesville, MD © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Male Hooded Merganser at Quarry Lake, Pikesville, MD © 2016 S. D. Stewart

excavation

 

Yesterday at a local nature center I found this Pileated Woodpecker performing some major excavation work on a partially dead tree. The bird was using its bill like a chisel to strip off huge swathes of bark. It had already uncovered the bare area to the right and was working its way clockwise around the tree. It would hammer on a section and then nimbly hop away just as a slab of bark separated from the tree and fell to the ground. I was hoping to catch one of these more dramatic moments, but had to settle for the fine-tuning it’s doing here.

friday black vulture party

Tree full of roosting Black Vultures, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Tree full of roosting Black Vultures.

Tree full of roosting Black Vultures, , © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Note how the vulture at center is doing the classic Snoopy vulture pose.

 

Black Vultures, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Black Vultures

chimney swifts entering their evening roost

[click in the lower right corner to enlarge]

Hundreds of migrant chimney swifts enter the chimney at Free State Bookbinders in Baltimore City last night for their evening roost. Recent rough estimates come in around 2000 birds roosting in this single chimney, though on peak migration nights that number can double or even triple. If you do some investigation in your area you may find there’s an annual event like this near you, too. If there is, I highly recommend checking it out–it’s quite a spectacle! More info here.

juvenile mourning doves

Juvenile Mourning Doves, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Juvenile Mourning Doves

These two have been hanging out on the deck railing for the past few days. Their parents drop by from time to time and regurgitate food into their mouths. It’s quite entertaining.

the passing of time

You know two months have passed when it’s time to buy dog food. You know six months have passed when it’s time to visit the dentist. And speaking of the dentist, against your will you have now endured another session with the aggressively chatty hygienist. What happened is that the dentist’s office called you up while you were out birding on an (extended) lunch break, looking for an elusive Sora to be precise, and so you were distracted and had trouble understanding the person on the phone but managed to grasp that there was a cancellation and did you want to come in tomorrow. You weren’t sure, not particularly liking to make such decisions in a rushed manner (or at all), but also not particularly wanting to continue the conversation, so you said sure, okay, tomorrow is fine. You hung up and another birder pointed out the Sora which was good but then you went to the dentist the next day and it was the chatty hygienist instead of the one you prefer who has a Polish accent and does not barrage you with personal questions while probing between your teeth for plaque, but with whom you did have an enjoyable (short) conversation with six months earlier regarding the hospital seen through the window that as you were sitting there was being torn down, literally at that moment, and you both laughed about how you hadn’t even noticed when you sat down that it was now mostly gone, but after which you were made aware of it provided plenty of visual entertainment during your cleaning while a worker repeatedly employed a wrecking ball with vigorous effort in the demolition process. So now six months later there you are in the chair again and the chatty hygienist immediately begins her assault of questions, growing quite sassy in no time at all, perhaps a new record even for her, necessitating an accompanying increase in sass on your part, for one must maintain a similar tone in this type of repartee or else it swiftly fails, making the situation rather awkward and, let’s face it, if this person is going to have her hands in your mouth for the next 30 minutes it’s best you go along with the banter even though its personal nature is now increasing at a furious pace, as if she is now testing her ability to raise your ire, but your ire will in fact not be raised, it will actually refuse raising altogether because your ire is not easily raised and she is beginning to sense this and clearly it intrigues her, leading her to make verbal note of it, and so she keeps upping the ante, as they say, to the point where it does begin to grow rather tiresome leading you to hope very much for the appointment to end soon so that you can exit the building, get on your bike, and ride in the late afternoon mist the four miles uphill through the gathering traffic to your house where you must walk your dog, prepare dinner, eat dinner, brush your teeth, read a few pages in whatever book you’re currently reading, and go to sleep. And finally it does end, this intense scraping session with accompanying interrogation into your flossing habits coupled with theorizing on topics such as whether you are perhaps a mouth-breather at night because that tends to harden the plaque on the back of your lower front teeth and did you say you do use an electric toothbrushyes, you are eventually freed from this verbal bondage, but not before a certain amount of psychological damage is incurred, though nothing permanent, just enough to make you wish that the stealthy Sora had not distracted you in the first place leading to a split-second decision without full consideration of the possible ramifications, namely that you may, in fact, by taking someone else’s appointment other than your own, be unwittingly sabotaging yourself, directing yourself onto an alternate course whereby you are now penciled in for the duration of time with the overly chatty hygienist, after having just extricated yourself from somehow getting onto her schedule and having subsequently returned yourself to your proper place on the reticent Polish hygienist’s schedule where you in fact had long been penciled in, literally for years beforehand, and still can’t understand how you had suddenly been removed from in the first place. But alas, you won’t know your fate in this matter until another six months have passed, during which time you will have purchased another two, possibly three, bags of dog food, depending on how the calendar asserts itself.

friday birds (with bonus turtles)

 

Fox Sparrow (Red), © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Fox Sparrow (Red) – my favorite sparrow

 

Wood Duck, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Wood Duck

 

Hermit Thrush, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Hermit Thrush

 

Eastern Painted Turtles, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Painted Turtles taking the sun at Black Marsh.

purple finch

Purple Finch with bill covered in berry remnants, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Purple Finch with bill covered in berry remnants, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

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