Spring At Wood Lake

Nothing says spring like the Common Garter Snakes emerging! These guys were all over at Wood Lake Nature Center today. If I had more time, I would have gone to the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge and Bass Ponds where there's a post that has hundreds of snakes emerging in spring. I've come across it twice in the last eight years and it's just hypnotic to watch all of them slithering out in the grass.

Wood Lake is nice but it's right next to a highway and there's always some new construction going on. You can see some great birds, but if you're in the mood for bird song it's not so pleasant, the highway noise and construction drown them out. The phoebe was pretty darned loud though, singing right outside the Nature Center. I was able to digivideo him and to my surprise, you can actually hear the "fee bee" call. I'm not sure if I will upload it or not. I've been doing more and more digivideoing, but I'm not sure what I'll do with that stuff.

The other very vocal singer of the day was the song sparrow. Today I watched song sparrow sex--a first for me for this species. Early on in the day I could hear some low chipping and stopped to watch two song sparrows bouncing on the ground giving the soft chips. One fluffed up, and hopped towards the other, fluttering its wings and then they both retreated into some reads and the chipping got a little more intense and about five seconds later they were out in the open. After that there was a bit more mating out in the open. After the third time, the female started to hop away with the male in pursuit, they eventually started flying around in tight circles around me. Their chirping grew more intense and then four other song sparrows popped up in the trees around me to watch. The pair flew for a few minutes and then disappeared into some reeds. As I continued to walk around Wood Lake, I heard the soft chipping in several other spots. It apparently is a hot time to be a song sparrow.

As wonderful as it was to see and hear brown birds singing, I was really hoping for some color. Grass is barely green and we have no flowers. All other vegetation is dry and subdued, so I had to settle for blackbird colors. I love this contrast of black, red, and yellow with the dried cattails. It's interesting, the males will sing within two feet over, but get twenty feet away and aim a scope on them, they suddenly get very cagey.

Now see, didn't I tell ya' earlier--these grackles are pretty and kind of arty. Aren't they? C'mon, you know they're pretty. There were some grackles doing the "bill up" display out in the reeds. According to BNA this is "given by a male in response to approach of another male, and typically results in one bird’s departure. Bill-Up Display occasionally given to members of opposite sex, especially early in breeding season when individuals are unmated. Paired birds never perform Bill-Up Display to one another." It looks like some strange alien thing though when you have several in a bunch of reeds doing it.

I did have one very obliging bird sing its rusty song in front of me. I must admit, as much of a pain they can be at the feeder (nothing that a little safflower can't solve), they really are pretty birds. I love all those shiny black feathers mixed with bronze and blue, capped with freaky yellow eyes.

As if this bird couldn't get any freakier looking, it puffed up, gave it's song and brought down its nictitating membrane. Demon grackle! It's saying, "I want to steal your soul...or at least your black-oil sunflower mwh ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa!"