Monday, August 20, 2012

On August 20th, 2012, the 62nd day of summer, summer proved it was still in charge. On the day of the Raven, plan for a big finish to the season. In 30 days, to Summer 2012 we will say nevermore.


Summer presented three great scenes of wildlife tonight.

I heard a guttural bird song this morning as I stood at my bus stop, Airport Road and Grand Haven Road. It sounded so wild and unfamiliar and I hoped to see the bird that had made that call. It was early, only 7:12 AM. The Muskegon Area Transit bus was running late again. I saw a crow take a post on a telephone post, standing on a ceramic insulator. The crow caw caw cawed, so it couldn't have been the maker of the ugly yet eloquent call. I saw two birds swoop onto the flat roof of the Airport Avenue Antique Store, and I heard the guttural call of rapid clicks again. I was gratified I had kept attending to nature long enough to actually see the birds who were making the call. On the bus, a theory had hit me. Maybe I had just witnessed a territory dispute between crows and ravens, between the plain spoken crow and its cousin with the talented mimic talent. Ravens have been known to seem to imitate human speech. I looked up raven calls on the Ornithology site from Cornell University, and a few of the calls sounded like what I had enjoyed that morning. I am sure anyone who was listening outside my office had concluded I had gone to the birds with my career. I replayed the calls several times during my coffee break.

I was biking home, and I saw a small Cardinal on the fence. I spotted the Cardinal right away for it drew my eye with a feathers of a stunning red. I would like to know what seed consumed by that smaller Cardinal had made its feather so red. I could have put a picture of that bird on my Christmas Card. I thought about stopping to capture a picture for my Christmas card, but small birds show up poorly on my android phone's pictures. Plus, I was truly enjoying cycling home on a cooler evening with a slight breeze and didn't want to stop my progress for the world.

I was about to take a nap in my bag chair on my deck, and a blue heron descended into the slough off Cress Creek, right below my nose. So I stayed still as it stayed still. The heron began to stalk across the shallow creek to the bank of mixed grass and dolomite boulders. The heron made slow progress until it turned to head up the creek. It moved with assurance as he stalked upstream. It paused near the grass and stabbed with its beak and brought up a squeaking morsel. It flopped as a small fish would flop, but I've never heard a fish squeak in a mousey fashion. It walked into the slough again, dipped the kill in water a few times and tossed it back into the craw. It pecked at the water a few times, and I could see the lump as it descended the curved throat. While the curve descended slowly to the awaiting stomach full of acid, the heron repeated its slow stalk across the creek. Unfortunately, three or four stabs yielded no morsel, and I saw the beak empty after each stab. The heron began to stalk the shallow creek downstream towards the sundown, and I saw him still working the shallows when the light failed.

The common raven

I must be enjoying my summer birding if I am referring to two sources when identifying birds.

Photography Credit

Common raven at Bodega Head State Park, Sonoma County, California.
Kolkrabe (Corvus corax clarionensis), aufgenommen im Bodega Head State Park, Vereinigte Staaten.
David Hofmann

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