Tag Archives: Redwinged Blackbird

General Assembly, day five

Exhaustion is setting in.

Took a long walk today down to the Jefferson Expansion Memorial Park. I wanted to walk among some trees. While heavily used by human beings, but it’s home to something of an ecosystem.

As I walked past one grove of trees, a male Red-Winged Blackbird dove at me. I heard the flutter of angry wings as he pulled up about six inches from my hat, then saw him out of the corner of my eye. Clearly, I was too close to a nest, so I left quickly. The artificial pond had duck weed growing on it, and Barn Swallows swooping over it. As I got closer, I could see hundreds of water striders on the surface of the water.

All this relieved some exhaustion.


Had coffee with CK and her partner L this afternoon. It was fun to meet CK and L in person, after reading CK’s excellent scholarly blog. Of course, after a while CK and I started talking philosophy of religion. CK and I started discussing CK’s interesting questions about the commensurability of major world religious traditions. L’s eyes started glazing over.

Fortunately, just then Peacebang came along, and sat down to join us. Peacebang and I want to convince CK and L to move to Boston (Peacebang, too, lives south of Boston). Peacebang and I decided that CK will do her doctoral work at Boston University, and L will continue her work in neurology at one of the Boston hospitals. Not sure that CK and L were convinced by us.

Too soon, we all had to leave. Peacebang and I headed off to the hotel, saying: Wouldn’t it be fun if they really did decide to move to Boston? Wouldn’t that be a blast?


Fantastic sermon at the worship service this morning. I reported on it in depth for the UUA Web site [link] — the sermon was good enough that I was not able to maintain journalistic detachment.

How to stay outdoors after dark

This afternoon, I drove out to Concord. In the fields of the old prison farm, a Greater White-Fronted Goose was supposedly hanging around with the geese that usually live there; I wanted to see this resident of the arctic.

There stood the goose, looking odd with its orange bill. I looked at it for a while, and realized I had a little time before dark, so I drove over to the national wildlife refuge a few miles away. I climbed the observation tower there. As I got up onto the observation deck, a boy’s voice said, “Are you a birder?”

I said, “Well, sort of.” The boy was about 12. He was with a man who had binoculars and never used them, but just seemed to be looking at the scenery.

He said, “You see those ducks out there? –what are they? You can see them in the telescope.”

But I already had my binoculars to my eyes, and could see them well enough to say, “Well, they’re probably Ring-necked Ducks.” Then I looked through the big telescope mounted on the observation deck, the same one that was there when I was a boy. I said why I was sure they were Ring-neck Ducks, with that white streak in front of the wings, and the distinctive shape of their heads.

The boy nodded wisely. “Yeah,” he said.

We talked about birds a little bit; the Red-winged Blackbirds were back; ducks were on the move. I asked if he had seen the Greater White-fronted Goose. Behind me, I could feel the man politely rolling his eyes, the way Carol does when she has to endure listening to people talk about birds. The boy was pretty excited to hear about the goose, though he hid it. I told the boy where to see it, but, as is often the case for someone that age, he didn’t have a strong sense of how to get from one place to another. So I told the man, who knew where I meant. The man had a faint European accent; the boy did not.

“We better tell your mother about it,” said the man, which either meant that the boy’s mother was a birder, or this was a ploy to get the boy down off the observation tower.

“Just FYI,” said the boy to the man, as they began walking down the steep stairs, “a Greater White-Fronted Goose is not something you see every day.”

“Not around here, that’s for sure,” I said in parting. The man smiled, a little tightly, but didn’t say anything. Maybe he didn’t realize that goose had probably flown down here from Greenland.

I wandered over the dike between the two main pools of the refuge, well behind the boy and the two adults. I don’t think his mother was a passionate birder, because they didn’t seem to stop and look at the Northern Shoveler. I took my time, saw a lot of birds, and wound up getting to my car just as the man was trying to get the boy back down off the observation tower and into their car. “Come on,” the man said in his faint accent, “we have to go now.”

Like the boy, I didn’t want to leave. But I had to get back to New Bedford, and with the light fading fast I no longer had the excuse of staying to look at birds. I slid into my car, started the engine and turned on the headlights. When I pulled out, the boy still wasn’t in the car. Maybe he was doing the right thing; so what if it’s too dark to look at birds any more; so what if he was annoying two adults; any excuse to stay outdoors longer.

Maybe I’m getting too responsible.

Spring watch

Transcendentalist that I am, I’m always watching for signs of the turning seasons. Yesterday I was walking along the Fox River here in Geneva, near the wastewater treatment plant, when I heard a dozen or more male Red-winged Blackbirds giving their familiar “konk-a-reee” song. While these are undoubtedly birds that have wintered here, that was the first time this year I have heard them singing. It’s too early for the males to be setting up breeding territories, but their songs said that spring is not all that far off now.

Today I watched as a wintering Eastern Bluebird foraged along the river behind the Kane County office building. He was hawking low to the ground, flying out from a series of low perches, but I couldn’t tell if he was feeding on insects or some other invertebrates. He also spent some time feeding on Staghorn Sumac berries left over from last summer. He made a pretty picture, the rusty red of the berries matching his breast, and contrasting with his bright blue back and wings in the late afternoon sun.