Greetings everyone! There’s PVC pipes, wires, integrated chips, power supplies, tools and scary props scattered all over my den at the moment. Couple that with my two 3D printers running 24×7 and it can only mean one thing – the annual Haunted Halloween Trail event is approaching fast (link here). Too fast actually. Not sure what the deal is, but when I was working it seemed like I was running around like a crazy person trying to get everything built in the hours before and after work. For the life of me I cannot figure out where the extra 8-10 hours a day I should have now that I am retired goes – yet here I am running around like a crazy person trying to get everything built. The good things is there’s laser focus on the event – no trying to juggle work issues with Halloween challenges. In honor of the fast approaching Halloween season, I wanted to go with a bird that reflected the holiday. Welcome to today’s featured feathered friend.
Okay, a bit of a confession here. It is really the adult male that has the association to Halloween. Not having those images worked up yet, decided to go with its more yellow/green partner. If nothing else, it does satisfy my promise to continually amp up the bird coloring as we proceeded through the month. A far cry from those more subdued Doves and Sparrows that have been featured earlier in the month, the female Orchard Oriole sticks out in its surroundings.
Hit the jump to read about our colorful friend.
Our specimen here comes to you from Dauphin Island on the Gulf Shores of Alabama. I’ve covered our April trip down there in several previous posts and you will definitely be getting your fill of birds from that incredible fallout that occurred while we were down there. Unlike a lot of the birds tinned down there, the Orchard will actually stay in the area for their breeding season as well as moving up to cover just about the entirety of the eastern half of the US. Cornell considers them a long distance migratory bird as then spend their non-breeding months in South America. Their region migration map doesn’t actually prove that out, but I’ll take their word for it until I can do some additional research.
It is highly likely some of the Orchards make their way across the Gulf. A tough travel for sure and the reason the migrants are so exhausted when they reach the gulf shores of Alabama. All the storms and rains leading up to our visit there didn’t help matters forcing them to use even more energy to successfully make the crossing. Selfishly, this is a great thing for us birders as that makes for incredible days of shooting due to the abundance and reduced activity of the subjects. This specimen was busy refueling on the Bottlebrush (for the botanists out there, Callistemon Rigidus, I do believe). I’ve heard of this shrubby tree in references to their ability to attract Hummers. Never seen it in person until this trip and sure enough, a very appropriately named tree.
I can also confirm that Hummers love this tree. We were alerted to a good place to bird behind their town hall. Ron and I headed over there and spotted the specified Bottlebrush cluster that was literally swarming with Ruby-Throated Hummers (link here). Easily the largest concentration of Rubies, much less any other species of Hummers in one spot. Note, it didn’t make it any easier trying to tin those sugar junkies.
I can now confirm that the Bottlebrush is a huge magnet for Orioles and Warblers. I would definitely look into planting a few of these around our house except thanks to an article on the Central Texas Gardner website (link here) this tree is a bit fickle. They will likely die if exposed to temps in the 20’sF or extreme heat. Ummm, I’d be written up on plantslaughter charges if I went ahead with those plans here in the Midwest. Would be placed in the same cell with the local ballpark landscaper that planted Palm trees all around the outside of the field.
The lady here was busy inspecting all the Brushes to gain back weight and energy from the migration. Probably more focused on any insects and other pesky creatures that happened to be visiting the flowers that day. Orchards will also feast on fruits and nectar. The latter being a positive for the nectar providing plants as the Oriole’s heads can become covered in pollen which in turn pollinates whatever flower is visited subsequently. Ron and I experienced this pollen collecting process while over at Shell Mounds – a new bird for us, to be revealed later, had a completely different colored head than other specimens we were shooting that day. Thinking it was a new species I shot the hell out of that bird only to find out from another very helpful birder it was just pollen staining.
How about we get to some interesting facts before letting you go. Turns out these colorful creatures do not believe in long term commitments. Sure, they will mate up for the breeding season, but come around next year, all options are back on the table – I call it the 6 month itch. Dude finds a pretty mate, put on a ceremonial display of bowing and seesawing, take her out for a few drinks at the local hotspot, enjoy a few flings, build a nest, hatch some mementos of the occasion and then “Oh, look at the time, it’s been fun, have a safe trip back home.” Definitely cuts down on the stress of finding just the right anniversary gift hehehe. Per the Halloween comments earlier, the males sport a rusty/burnt orange (link here). Like other Orioles, the ladies prefer a yellowish wash as you see here. For the astute birders out there, the lady Orchards tend to have more of a greenish tint mixed in with their yellows. This is typically a good way to distinguish them from the very similar Baltimores.
Possibly due to the digital darkroom treatment, this specimen is closer to the Baltimore coloring. Fortunately, I was able to observe the male Orchard inspecting the flowers directly above her. They hopped from tree to tree together before eventually heading out down the road together. Always recommend you shoot the nearby birds as an aid when it comes to the ID step. Some day, or year, I’ll get the male shots worked up so you can experience him as well.
Hope you enjoyed today’s refreshing burst of color. Next month is going to be extremely busy. The plan is to get a lot of posts out early to eliminate the threat of missing my monthly quota (took to the end to get my 6 in this month ugh). Thanks for dropping by and bear with me as I try to juggle haunting and posting.