My New Book



I have to do some work around cows this week.

I’m not going to lie, cows make me nervous.  Ungulates who stare at you and keep coming towards you are terrifying to me.  The only way they could be even scarier would be if they were bison.  That is just a lot of animal being controlled by an uncertain brain.  These are three of about three dozen cows that were surrounding me.  They just kept coming closer and closer with an expectant look.  Did they think I had food.  If I stepped wards them, they would back away, but some cows in the back of the her would run forward.  I tried mooing and that seemed to confuse them even further.

This one was really pushing its luck, “Oy, Bovine, back away from the carbon fiber tripod!”  The cows eventually went their way and left me alone, but I think being a five foot tall woman makes me feel uneasy about large cloven hoofed animals getting too close and too curious.  Has anyone made a horror movie about cows?  If not, they should.

Apart from the stress inducing cows, the big upside to my work this week is that I get to spend time in some of my favorite habitat–open grassland.  I’m surrounded by bobolinks, dickcissel, meadowlards and savannah sparrows.  Above is a female bobolink who scolded me as I walked to my work area.

Her brazen attitude on the fence made me realize that she must have had a nest nearby.  I made sure to watch where I placed my feet, the last thing I wanted to do was smush little baby bobolinks with my shoes.  Female bobolinks are crazy looking birds, they do not look like the males, they look more like sparrows.  Technically, bobolinks are considered blackbirds (for the moment, who knows will happen with future taxonomy changes).  If you get past the brownish colorization, you can kind of see a blackbird type of shape to these birds (think red-winged blackbird).

The male wasn’t too far behind and flew in to chirp at me, also warning me that I was too close for comfort to his nest.  Out of habit, I pished at them and that set the male off in a frenzy of song above me.  I paused to listen to that crazy mechanical song.  I love that song, it’s the general ringtone on my phone.  If this make wanted me to move a long, singing his song a few feet above my head was not the way to do it.

I love everything about these guys.  I love their song, their odd plumage (black on the bottom, blond wig on the back of the head, patches of white on the back).  This bird is too weird for color tv.  And check out those toe nails–they’re so long!  I love these birds so much, they are worth putting up with a few dozen cows.



10 comments to Bobolinks!

  • Great post and photos Sharon!

  • anonymous

    I haven’t seen it, but IMBD gives the possibility of

    Personally, I like cows. No bull.

  • I like the way you showed the whole scene–cows, grassland, birds. Nice work.

  • I spent the entire summer after I finished college working on a study of how grassland songbirds were affected by cattle grazing – in other words, I was always totally surrounded by cows! Sounds like yours were actually steers, which always amused us with their curiosity, following us around and investigating anything we were foolish enough to leave sitting on the ground.

  • JGo

    I’m amazed by the boblink’s feet! Look at those things. Cows are generally just curious and harmless unless they are being protective of calves or if they are living basically as wild animals as they do out west. Those cattle make me nervous when I’m out walking in the desert!

  • Claudia

    Ditto on loving bobolinks. What I find fascinating is the actual weird shape of their heads – they remind me of pointy-headed bewigged judges in English courts.

  • I love how your love of birds really comes through in this post. I wish I wasn’t holed up in this Pittsburgh apartment everyday so I could spend more time outside with the birds.

  • denise

    What’s the purpose of the long toenails? They certainly aren’t conducive to sitting on a wire. To me, the male almost looks bald instead of just blonde on top. And you can tell even the female is different on the back of the head, from the front.

  • Saw the title of your post on another blogroll and had to come over. Haven’t seen a Bobolink since I was a kid in Wisconsin roaming in the fields near the creek. Love their weird songs!

  • Don’t know about the movie above, but as far as big farm animal horror movies go, if you’re looking for comedy/horror you can’t go wrong with Black Sheep –
    My mom usually hates this sort of thing and even she loved it.
    More on the subject, I love birds with ‘hairdos’. Never seen these guys in person, but we get sparrows in the yard my dad calls ‘punk birds’ – I think they’re chipping sparrows? – because they have little orange mohawks.
    Thanks for the neat pix!