It has been a busy weekend so far, but elated to say we have pretty much finished putting all the decorations away from the 2020 Haunted Halloween Trail of Tears event. The excitement and anticipation when getting all the items ready for the trail tends to mask how much work is involved. Now that we had a successful execution, it feels more like swimming in concrete to get all the batteries taken out, props disassembled and serious mental acrobats getting everything efficiently stored away for next year. Big thanks to Linda who took on battery removal this year – huge help. Now just need to work on a few props that failed in the field and then to start building next year’s epic scary features. In meantime, how about we get another post out.
Today’s feature is a nice compilation of shoreline pebbles and spring foliage. Somewhat calming wouldn’t you say? A meadow setting that puts the heart at ease… wait, wait, wait… not to interrupt such happy thoughts, but this is a blog primarily focused on wild”life” – I doubt you came here to see rocks and grass. Nope, you are likely looking for Spiders or Snakes or Elk or Deer or BIRDS! Truth be told, this is Bird post… let’s try this again…
Hit the link to read a bit more about our hidden bird.
There, that is a bit easier to distinguish. This particular bird, the Eastern Meadowlark, was gifted with some excellent camouflage that fits right in with the browns in their preferred habitat, grasslands and prairies. This is especially true in the spring and fall timeframes when the grasses are shaking off or putting on their winter browns. Today’s series comes from April 2018 as spring was kicking in.
Ron and I had the chance to bird down at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge at that time – can’t remember what brought Ron down that day – might have been the White Ibis that was spotted in the area around that time. While walking the far loop that cuts between the lake and the flood ponds, we noticed this Meadowlark hanging out in the rocks at the edge of the road. Luckily it was easy to distinguish against the white rock or we would have likely completely missed it.
When it spotted us, it did move off into the grass where it probably assumed we would lose it. The Beast was already locked on it, so that wasn’t happening. For the most part, I’ve found these Meadowlarks to be a bit skittish when it comes to people. As long as you keep a good distance, they will generally go about their hunt keeping their eye on you for safe measures. Close to fast on them or get within say 50-75 feet they will take to the air – always directly away from your direction before redirecting to their safe place.
That makes it rather hard to get a nice side shot of them in flight as most of the time you are staring at their tail. The Beast has a healthy reach allowing me to get a few shots as it turned after putting distance on us. Not the best shots for sure, but handholding something that doesn’t even fill up you main sensor square at 400mm will burn right through whatever arm muscles you happen to have.
Rather colorful birds once you get them to reveal their neckline and breast. They sport a rather brilliant shade of yellow during the breeding season from the undertail through to the bill, broken by a very distinct black ‘V’. The yellow will dull a bit during the nonbreeding seasons. The sides of the breast are long speckled white. There is also a very pronounced black eye line set off by small patches of yellow between the eye and the bill – area referred to as the lores.
If you are still unsure after noting those coloring characteristics, you can always look at the bill for confirmation. You could use that spear of a bill at a Spartan Race event – don’t get any ideas, suspect that would be frowned upon by the birding organizations. Thick and sharp which really gives it a streamlined looked in the air. Oh, almost forgot, since they are so skittish, they might not give you a chance to get those details – luckily you can at least determine what you missed as they fly to safety – look for the two white spots on the back of their tail feathers.
Note the streaked brown gap between the spots – see those and you are pretty much assured you spooked a Meadowlark. Note, if there is only one white streak down the middle then it was probably a Northern Flicker – similar in size and shape. Will close the post by providing you the easiest way to tell an Eastern Meadowlark (link here) from a Western Meadowlark (link here). Are you ready for this… brace yourself…here goes…wait, are you are sure you are ready for this…okay, here we go…. LOOK AT A MAP. Seriously, if you can tell an Eastern from a Western in the field, you are a better person than me, and for the record most birders out there. There is some technical difference like the Western maybe having more white on their outer tail feathers, but unless you have a live specimen of the other one in your pocket, forget about it. In a Western State.. Western Meadowlark. In an Eastern State, Eastern Meadowlark. Somewhere in between just pick one and enjoy the moment.
Take care everyone and make sure you stay in touch with your friends and family – isolation leads to depression which has strangled too many of my friends in the past leading to outcomes far more serious than whatever Covid dares to throw at us.