Friday, May 11, 2012

Land o' Larks

Lark Bunting, Lark Sparrow, seems like the name 'Lark' is often put with birds that aren't even in the family, strictly speaking. The Horned Lark is a true lark--a ground-dwelling bird with long hind-claws and a preference for singing while in flight. They're also really cool looking birds, ones I see fairly often at the Glendale Recharge Ponds in Phoenix but seldom approach.

Even from afar, their distinct plumage and hoppity hop hopping around makes them easily recognizable. I made it a goal last week to get some better pictures of these unique North American Larks, and this required that I venture out into the dry basins they call home.

In my personal experiences, Horned Larks do not tolerate a close proximity to people. But I've also heard of people driving by them on the side of the road, particularly in the midwest, where they'll be feeding in a very casual fashion.

At any rate, my objective was going to require some crawling, slithering (which I don't do very well), scooting and slinking. With this spongy red weed covering lots of the drying mud, it was a neat experience, as if I was exploring an alien planet. The male Lark shown above was always heading away from me, but his female companion decided she liked her spot, and let me get pretty close.

Alas, she lacks the manly mustache of the male Horned Lark, but is still a very pretty bird. She seemed to be feeding on the shoots of grass that managed to poke their way up though the dry soil. She'd bend them down with her Lark feet and then nibble away.

It was really nice to get in close and get some better photos of these cool and delicate birds. It was also really nice to slither away without disturbing them too much. Why is it that people are always disturbed when I slither away from them? I'm just trying to be considerate...
Here's a male I saw while driving around the Santa Cruz Flats in December.