Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Little Things In Life

It seems like all around the country, autumn went ahead and skipped winter, moving right into spring by the end of February. Though it's early, there are now young birds all around the Phoenix birding spots, and it's totally delightful. Of course, just because some birds have already brooded doesn't mean they're all at the same stage. This pair of Sparrows were behind the times, but better late than never!

It's great to have the spring migrations coinciding with breeding/fledging season. I was lucky to see an entire Bullock's Oriole family in the same tree--ma, pa, and 2 kiddos--a great treat and one which embodies the young and colorful feeling of this season so well.

From his colorful perch, the pater familias oversaw his brood work out the kinks in their foraging techniques. Unlike many of the other desert birds, Orioles, are pretty and proud creatures who refuse to perch on ugly things.

While pops stood proud and tall, junior skulked in the shady branches. He peered nervously around while eating, as if he was worried someone might be watching...

The Orioles like to stay higher in the trees, and this makes the color composition more interesting, if more challenging to photograph. Of course, I'd probably be grumbling if it was a new bird that I wanted to see up close--fickle as a finch am I.

Look at all these yummy flowers; this Oriole has it made! Though this bright bird's cup did overfloweth with nectar, that didn't stop him from being a real whiner. He squawked and screeched as if he thought the whole world was lucky just to hear his cracking voice. These Orioles are beautiful, but I must admit I find their sound to be bullocks.

While the Orioles are starting to fill in the tree canopies, the Gambel's Quail are pairing off down on the ground. They're much more common than the Orioles, and it's a daily occurrence to see them on their evening dates all over Phoenix. This Thursday I saw my first Quail chick of the season. The little rascal (alfalfa, I think, given its hair style) seemed to be an only child--rather odd. He'll be the oldest kid in his grade and he'll be spoiled rotten...lucky duck (Quail).

While this camouflaged couple picked through the desert detritus, Mr. Quail looked on from his elevated and verdant dinner chair. Soon his vigilance gave way to the tempting bean stalks hanging in front of him, and he started pecking away.

Foraging Quail are a common sight. This is the first time I've been able to witness the precise destructive power of the full-grown Quail beak. See the little snippets, the little bite marks taken out of the bean stalk? It is a widely believed fact that Quail bite down with an astounding 33,469,000 psi--about the same compressive force as a black hole, or Thor's vice-grips. The beans never stood a chance.

At first this stately cock kept his reserve and nibbled with the proper dignity, the dignity befitting his renaissance headgear. Eventually he lost patience and severed the stalk, rending it asunder in a way that would shock even the most iron-stomached vegetarians into carnivores.

Of all the young birds out and about these days, by far the most adorable has been this puffy, fluffy, stumpy and lumpy Curve-Billed Thrasher. I like Thrashers a lot, but I wouldn't say they're especially beautiful or aesthetically pleasing birds (except the Brown Thrasher). I wouldn't have expected them to make such cute babies. It's like the 'Ugly Duckling' story except backwards (and, I guess, we already know what species this bird will turn out to be). Most adorable chick ever? Perhaps.

There's been so much great birding these last couple weeks. It's amazing to think that things are just now heating up; there is a whole summer of birding festivals and migrants yet to come.