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May 20 2012

Sunday Song: Blackbirds

I’ve become quite fond of Juanita Bay over the years. I lived just blocks from it the first two years I was in the Northwest, and it was the first local park we visited after arriving. It’s a lovely, peaceful place (well, aside from the motorboats further out on the lake). It’s got wetlands with boardwalks, and a long boardwalk across the end of the bay, and all sorts of wildlife. My intrepid companion and I repaired there after our adventures with rhodies last Sunday, because I was bloody well determined to get some bird photos if it killed me, and birds flock there.

The Red-winged Blackbirds were out in force. And this time, I was ready for them.

How lovely is he? He’s not just a black blob sitting on top of a cattail way off in the distance. Yes, he’s giving me the stinkeye, but that’s all right.

I saw so many that I had a Therion song start playing in my head.

All right, so it’s called “Raven of Dispersion,” so the black bird in the song isn’t really a blackbird, but whatevs.

I quite like Red-Winged Blackbirds. They’re lovely: all coal-black (and we all know geologists love coal, amirite?), with those brilliant red and yellow patches that flash in the sun.

Showing off for teh ladiez, of course. Speaking of, I do believe I got a lady Red-Winged Blackbird:

Unimpressed with her potential suitor, she soon flew off.

I guess he just wasn’t flashing those wing-patches to full advantage.

Those patches are called “epaulets.” And they apparently led to the birds being named memiskondinimaanganeshiinh in some Ojibwa dialects. That means “a bird with a very red damn-little shoulder-blade.” If I could pronounce it, I’d start calling them that instead of Red-Winged Blackbird. It’s much more descriptive.

Of course, the males may be offended by being described as having a “damn-little shoulder-blade,” but that’s their problem. Along with their mates sleeping around. The males may be territorial, but their harems manage to find other blokes to mate with, no problem. Perhaps this is the reason why some of their calls are “described in Lakota as tōke, mat’ā nī (‘oh! that I might die’).” Or maybe it’s due to something other than being cheated on. Everybody I saw seemed pretty cheerful. No existential angst or suicidal ideations, just a lot of horny birds trying to score.

And they were, indeed, in flight. So lovely! Here’s one just landing:

And one in mid-flight:

And the money shot, the one I spent the afternoon trying to get:

Lovely!

And it rather put me in mind of another song.

Now, these aren’t technically “nighttime birds,” they’re out in broad daylight, but I can’t photograph birds in the dark, and they’re black, so they’ll have to do.

Here’s my favorite thing about Juanita Bay: you get to see all sorts of critters hanging about together. Like Red-Winged Blackbirds (or, if you prefer, a bird with a very red damn-little shoulder-blade) and turtles.

And if you want to hear the call that’s been variously “described in Lakota as tōke, mat’ā nī (‘oh! that I might die’), as nakun miyē (‘…and me’), as miš eyā (‘me too!’), and as cap’cehlī (‘a beaver’s running sore’ [WTF Lakota?!]),” then you can watch this nifty video I shot of one in flight while his buddies sang.

How awesome are they?

3 comments

  1. 1
    Trebuchet

    “How awesome are they?” Very! Great pix.

  2. 2
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Fantastic!

  3. 3
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Here’s another identified dinosaur
    http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.com/2012/05/new-species-of-dromaeosaur-from-early.html
    with a link to a very nice paper at PLoS One. With very nice stratigraphic diagrams.

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