Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nemesis No More!

Finally, after some years of working and waiting and searching and swearing (not too badly), I have seen the Yellow-Headed Blackbird. This bird was a true nemesis for Pops, and its elusiveness grew to bother me more and more as well. Always taunting were the descriptions in the bird books, "locally common." Wherever their locales were, we could not find them. I finally struck gold, so to speak, at the Tres Rios Overflow Wetlands in west Phoenix. The lush and buggy swampland there was too much for even the most aloof Blackbirds to ignore, and I saw several dozen of these beautiful hooded squawkers through a thick chain-link fence. They had finally let their guard down, gotten careless, and given me a sighting. It was fantastic, but not fully satisfying either. Having to view beautiful birds through fences ...it's not really the right birding ethos, even if they were wild.

Fortunately, I hit the real jackpot on the drive home. I had arrived at Tres Rios in the afternoon. While driving back through the odiferous dairy farms, a spectacle of startling proportions prompted me to pull over:

As they are known to do, these Blackbirds were congregating around the dairy farms and adjacent land en masse. I had checked these farms before, but it must've been the wrong time of year. With little regard for the dim lighting, smelly surroundings, or private property of the farms, I exited my vehicle and began romping around after the massive Blackbird flocks as they bounced from field to field.

Trying to keep up with the flying birds, especially with limited sunlight, was a lost cause. There were plenty of the birds hanging around the cattle though, happy to pick through the bovine left-overs and jostle for places along the fence.

Phew! It was great to make up for lost time. I will definitely have to go back and make up for lost light too. I watched them graze with their cud-chewing chums for a little while. Some of the birds would stop their foraging and offer up a little song of thanks for their bountiful slop. At least, I'm assuming that's what they were doing, because I couldn't spot a single female in this macho throng (granted, that's easier said than done).

A yellow hood, black body, and a white shoulder patch makes this one of the easiest identifications. I'm not sure what it was they were eating with the cows. It appears to be brown sugar. It's probably brown sugar.

I felt a little bit like Indigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: "I've been in the revenge business so long...now that it's over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life." Unlike Montoya, I would not make a good Dread Pirate Roberts. In fact, I get motion sick just from reading in the car. Even though I found this nemesis, I shall continue to be a birder...for now.