April 21, 2013

The Mallard is out there, alone on the cold pond; in the 30s again. I sit in the pickup bird blind, the early Sunday “Domingo Romantico” out of Sonora bringing into the cab that finest 1930s and ’40s music of Mexico, while I watch Black-chinned Hummingbirds who seem utterly unperturbed by winter returning here right after they did. The males stream in and out from the bosque, land for the briefest moment in a bed of algae and pull single green strands from the floating mess, up into the air for a ways but then let go … or they try picking up a strand of it in the tip of the beak, as if they were pulling a thread to knot, but that gets dropped, too, though the bird can be high above the water before it lets go. Maybe the most surprising was the hummer who flew to the base of the tall riser that comes up out of the water near the pond edge, that is opened to let water flow in an arc from the top to maintain the Stockpond’s water level. As this stream hits the surface, a sort of ojo de agua is formed: a ring of water that rises with the impact of that stream. That hummingbird loved to hover just above this ring of flowing and bouncing water, then lower himself ever so slowly onto it with wings still a-whir above his back, and in this way he’d ride up and over and then slide into more open water beyond, then he’d take off. Humans are hardly the only animals that do things for the sheer enjoyment of them! I remember one Black-chinned last summer who’d come to the leaf tip of a millet plant that had sprouted from bird seed, if I had a sprinkler going and the leaves were wet and holding water in a bit of a cup at their base. That little bird played in the water, lowering himself onto the leaf tip when a stream would be running towards the base, and he’d “slide” all the way, then go back and do it again.

A first Wilson’s Warbler, a beautiful male, flies in, and numbers of White-winged Doves now coo from the bosque and from the wondrously large hackberries around the Stockpond … a probably long dead Mexican in gorgeous tenor croons with them, “Tell her … tell her I think of her, even though she doesn’t think of me … tell her that I die for her”–how different is that from what the doves are getting at? A just arrived Yellow-breasted Chat fusses and hoots, hidden deeply in a graythorn bramble.

I return throughout the day to change wheel lines and waters, and scare up a wren or two–today one showed the black stripes on its back as it flew off across the tips of the barley and oats, so I’m sure these are Marsh Wrens still.

The day ends with a Great Horned Owl silhouetted among the upmost snags of a dead mesquite, a black cut-out against the almost gone red light of evening, looking rather spooky.