Monday, July 24, 2017

Young of the year #phenology

It looks as though we're seeing a number of juvenile rose-breasted grosbeaks at the feeders these days. At least, on the "females," the color patterns aren't as clean cut and well established as they were back in late Spring. I'm not sure if I'd ever be able to tell if the ruby-throated hummingbirds are adults or juveniles. Their visits are so brief and they move so rapidly, that I can tell the males from the females, but that's about it. (And, I have to learn to stop trying to take pictures through the windows.)

ruby-throated hummingbird--female?, young-of-year?
ruby-throated hummingbird--female?, young-of-year?
Photo by J. Harrington

So we have several, many?, species of  birds that have successfully hatched a brood already, while others, such as the goldfinches, are just getting started, and yet others, like swallows locally, and shorebirds that nested in the Arctic, are already in early phases of migration. I'm not sure there are groupings such as early or late nesters, especially since one of the species followed by the Minnesota Phenology Network, the eastern bluebird, may try to hatch several broods a year and another, the ruby-throated hummingbird, is also identified as a multi-brood nester and an "early" (August) migrant.

I'm definitely getting the impression, once again, that I keep trying to make nature more neat and orderly than will ever be the case in a healthy ecosystem. Of course, these days I'm also paying more attention to more events in the natural world than I used to. When I lived in Massachusetts, my phenology interests were pretty much limited to the Spring arrival dates of striped bass and bluefish, and the Autumn "blitzes" as both species ate their way south again. That arrangement was much more simple than trying to look at the Mid-West months of the year and watch for which species is doing what. I'm also (re)discovering that fly-fishing for trout can often be more complex than salt water fishing. The latter often produced heftier results in fish "reduced to possession," but "matching the hatch" was a lot easier.

spotted horsemint coming into bloom
spotted horsemint coming into bloom
Photo by J. Harrington

Since we've already covered fish and fowl, let's add plants. Over the past few days, Spotted Horsemint (Monarda punctata) has started to come into bloom. I don't remember seeing any of that until the past few years so I'm guessing that either tree swallows or bluebirds or someone else left us some seeds as they were flying by to feed their young of the year several years ago.

                     Baby Wrens’ Voices

I am a student of wrens.
When the mother bird returns
to her brood, beak squirming
with winged breakfast, a shrill
clamor rises like jingling
from tiny, high-pitched bells.
Who’d have guessed such a small
house contained so many voices?
The sound they make is the pure sound
of life’s hunger. Who hangs our house
in the world’s branches, and listens
when we sing from our hunger?
Because I love best those songs
that shake the house of the singer,
I am a student of wrens.

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