Thursday, August 23, 2012

On August 23nd, 2012, the 65th day of summer, I spotted a cowbird making too much noise in brush along the Lake Muskegon bike train.. On the day of the cowbird, be a little loud and proud for 27 days, until end of summer.


I have been fascinated by the cowbird, which once followed the buffalo herds. The stampedes scared insects into the open and the cowbirds picked off the refugees. The cowbird doesn't build a nest. Instead, the cowbird lays eggs in the nest of different species, including hummingbirds. Around 220 different kinds of birds have had a cowbird lay an egg in their nest. Around 140 species have raised cowbirds, some all the way to fledgling. So in around sixty cases, the host species has gotten rid of the egg or killed off the unusual hatchling. Cowbirds that hatch in the nests of vegetarian birds often starve. Cowbirds often bring predators right to the nest of host species by being extra loud. Female cowbirds lay around 36 eggs a year, so there's plenty of misery to spread around.

I had seen a cowbird in the roadside roadkill, in the gutter of the bridge over the mouth of Spring Lake, where the lake joins to the Grand River. Ants had begun their swarming among the feathers of the fresh kill. I can understand a motorist hitting a cowbird, the black bird with the brown head smacking against the windshield. A week ago in Roosevelt Park, on Broadway east bound, a residential district with a twenty-five mile an hour speed limit, a motorist had smashed a painted turtle. The turtle certainly didn't throw itself under the wheels.

I heard the cowbird first before I saw it on a brush branch on the side of the Lakeshore Trail along Lake Muskegon's southern edge. It made no effort to flee my noisy bike and I. Maybe the cowbird has its eye on a nest and was awaiting the departure of the couple that had just built it. I see mourning doves along the trail and even female goldfinches with the slightly greenish tint.I notice duck dipping for dinner, but the shine and ripples on the lake make them hard to identify. I have studied the swans in a cove, and I can't really see the black bulb on their beak. I think the necks are straighter, more at a right angle to the body. That would make them trumpeter swans, rather than mute swans. Trumpeters, however, tend to shy away from more public lakes. I have truly begun to relish my three mile ride into town from Lakeside and the Grand Trunk docks to Heritage Landing and the Mart Docks. I even marveled at the "saltie" freighter, as opposed to a laker, laden with a payload of German wind turbine blades. People were driving out to the Mart Docks to see this spectacle, take photographs. There will be more where they came from in months to come.

Brown Headed Cowbird

Photography credit:

Molothrus ater Brown-headed Cowbird

27 April 2009, 10:31
Bear golden retriever from Auburn,NY, USA

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