Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fledgling Agitation

Out on the walk last night I met up with a brown thrasher near the far edge of the first field. I could hear the hard "chucks" of this bird long before I saw it, coming from the pine plantation (which is also filled with very noisy chipping sparrows right now). I was in there trying to find out more about the common yellowthroat that I am pretty sure is nesting just on the edge between the field and the swamp. I found the bird, confirming my suspicion, but was unable to really see anything in the mass of willow shrubs and high grasses growing there. Meantime I kept hearing the "chuck" of the thrasher.

The brown thrasher is a fairly large bird, with a long tail, and striking plumage, more rust than brown, whose song is a collection of borrowed sounds like that of the catbird and the northern mocking bird. The thrasher's song is recognizable because of its habit of repeating each phrase once. It sings loud and long in the spring, but goes pretty quiet when its nesting. And because it moves in the shrubbery of the fence lines, it is pretty inconspicuous most of the time, in spite of its size and colour.

The mosquitoes were incredible by the willow shrubs, I was wiping as many as twenty off my arm every few seconds, so after what seemed like a valiant effort to find out more about the common yellowthroat I moved on. As I got to the entrance to the far field that runs through another willow copse I notice that the thrasher was once again with me. Still chucking, but alternating the chucks with a soft short mew. I stood around for a while watching it as the mosquitoes built up on me once again, then started to move on. The bird continued to follow, continued to yell, all the way across the far field to the western edge. Finally I saw two other thrashers, confirming what I'd suspected, that there must be fledglings out. In fact many birds' fledglings are out now, all over, all over the field and the yard, and the din is terrific.

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