Red Wings in the Rain

Adventures in Bird Language Tracking

Bird Sit Map Guelph Lake 2016

It was 7 degrees Celsius and windy this morning during a chilly 7:00am bird sit at Guelph Lake.  The rain drizzled for the first two periods of the sit and then tapered off for Periods 3 and 4.  Moments after the intrepid birders, Ben, Carolyn, Ann and Tamara had found sit spots on the hilly shoreline, the Red-Winged Blackbirds began a chorus of “Deet” calls.  After about 3 minutes, they stopped.  This shock wave of alarm eased into “Aujourd’hui (Conk-a-ree)” songs and territorial claims along the high waters of the lake front.  Carolyn was seated near tall Pine trees and she watched a pair of robins fly from the trees to the edge of the lake and back again.  She noticed that both robins carried nesting material to the trees.  Aside from Period 1, these two birds were very quiet, working in secret to build a shelter for their soon-to-be family.  A Great Blue Heron flew across the sky from the Southeast to the Northwest, its long legs trailing out from behind the pterodactyl-like bird.  Ben noted some Black-Capped Chickadees near the forest.  Tree swallows darted along the shoreline, catching insects on the wing.  We were amazed at the diversity of loud songs from a male Northern Cardinal during Periods 1 through 4.  He sang; “Pretty, Pretty, Pretty” and “Fire! Fire! Where? Where?” and “Look here! Quick, Quick Quick.”  Carolyn shared her understanding that male cardinals appear more attractive to the females when they have a variety of songs.  After reviewing songs on the Bird Language web-site (see link below), I learned that some male cardinals add a “chrrr” call at the end of their “Look here! Quick, Quick, Quick” song.  This “chrrr” call is thought to be a very difficult sound to make and it indicates physical fitness – an attractive quality that females look for.   An osprey hovered above the lake during Periods 3 and 4.  Its feet were outstretched and positioned for a dive, in anticipation of catching a fish.  The songbirds did not seem to mind this aerial predator.  A Canada Goose appeared at the edge of the lake.  It waddled uphill, passing us on its way, to dine on a buffet of grass at the top of the hill.  A diving duck appeared at the shoreline and dove underwater, not to be seen for the rest of the bird sit.  A pair of song sparrows, like the robins, worked quietly and secretively at the edge of the lake near some cedar trees.  One carried nesting material to the ground while the other remained on-watch nearby.  At the end of the sit, we wondered about the variety of calls and alarms given by the Cardinals and Red-Winged Blackbirds.  One sound that puzzled us was the “Check” calls by the Red-Winged Blackbirds.  Are these contact calls or alarms?  We also noted the quiet behaviour of the nest-building robins and song sparrows – two birds that are normally quite vocal.  We understood the intent of this behaviour as not wanting to draw attention to their nesting sites.  Throughout the bird sit, the seemingly carefree goldfinches flew overhead in flocks, singing about “Potato-Chips” and “Chocolate Chips”.  Ann shared her understanding that the goldfinches will wait to nest until the thistle plant is ready to provide food and nesting material in the late summer.  Ann also shared a delicious apple, blueberry, rhubarb crisp.  We wrapped up the bird sit wondering about the staggered nesting times of birds and feeling in awe of the intricate symbiotic relationships between birds, plants, insects and nesting times.    Written by T. Anderson

Recommended link:

Bird Sit Guelph Lake 2016 (2)



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