Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Murmuration

Though perhaps I personally notice it more during the warmer months of the year because I'm out later in the day than I am during the winter, an avid birdwatching friend assures me that (even in the winter) every evening just before sundown, American robins (Turdus migratorius) stream toward a wooded area adjacent to but separate from my preserve.  For 30 minutes as the sun is setting, robins streak across the sky - some singly, some in pairs, and others in large, loose flocks of up to 20 birds.  They are all flying toward the southwest.

The birds seem to materialize out of nowhere in the sky because they are flying relatively high, though I know they are just gathering together from scattered locations where they have been foraging all day.  They are silent - black specks all streaming determinedly in one direction.  It's easy to count hundreds of birds in only a few minutes of watching.  If they were all lumped together, it would be a spectacle, but since they're spread thinly in time and space, they constitute more of an imagined spectacle.  Nevertheless, I'm impressed every time I take a late evening walk.
Last week, I was treated to a real spectacle - only the second one I have ever observed in my life.  Looking over toward the roosting forest, the robins were swirling in the air in an amazing cloud of coordinated flying called a murmuration.  It only lasted a few seconds - alas, too short for Kali, who has weak eyesight, to get a fix on it - but I saw it happen and was transfixed for that moment.

(The images accompanying this post are borrowed from the Internet.)
My municipal historical society's newsletter recently republished a recipe for pigeon stew that first appeared in the local newspaper's October 18, 1873 edition.  The recipe concludes with the sentence, "Robins are delicious cooked in the same way."  Is it any wonder Passenger Pigeons are extinct?     

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Late Summer

Sunset thunderhead
I know that I've been very negligent in posting, but truth to tell, Kali and I really haven't been doing much of anything that's worth writing about.  The last few weeks have been miserably hot and humid, so we haven't even ventured out onto the trails of my preserve let alone go anywhere else.
Long shadows
However, the seemingly unending heat wave finally broke on Sunday evening with a round of rain that ushered in the passage of a real, live cold front.  On Monday, the humidity was pleasant and temperatures rose only into the low 80s (instead of the mid- to upper 90s we had been suffering through).
The birds missed a few ripe black cherries
A friend posted on Facebook that he had participated in a nighthawk watch in a state park not far from my preserve and had seen 25 Common Nighthawks - one of my favorite birds and a sure harbinger of autumn when they begin to pass through on their way southward.  So, after dinner last night, to enjoy the salubrious weather and to look for migrating nighthawks, I got Kali to lace up her walking shoes and take a short hike through our late summer meadows.

At one point, the setting sun was shining directly through some of the meadow grasses and thistles, so I thought I'd make some "artistic" shots.  The following two images were the result; I boosted-up the contrast on both images a lot, so they're not strictly what the camera "saw."  I'm not sure if I like the result, but I thought I'd share them. 
Thistle, backlit
Indian-grass flower head, backlit
We didn't see any nighthawks (I usually see them during the last week of August and the first week of September, so if we had seen them, they would have been early).   But we did enjoy our first walk in the preserve in quite a few days.  I'll go out again this evening in search of nighthawks because the weather is still delightful.
Kali, heading home