While on vacay up in Michigan, I challenged my sister-in-law to a photo duel. Well, not really, but we both shoot with the same camera (Nikon D50), and I thought it would be fun if we took a picture of each other at the same time (hi Jenny!).
That's me on the left, my sister-in-law on the right
During my blogging down time I've been kind of quiet as far as my blog commenting goes - I'm out there reading your entries, but just not saying much. Don't worry, I still have much love for all your blogs. I'll get back in the swing of things eventually.
Not-so-sneaky chipmunk, attempting to climb the squirrel-proof bird feeder
P.S. - Speaking of seeing you, the Midwest Birding Symposium is being held Sept 17-20 up in Lakeside, Ohio. I hope to see lots of you there! Click the banner ad over on the right for more details. If you haven't already got yourself registered, you best get to it!
I've been enjoying my time off from bloggy-land, I have to admit, and I will continue to take things slow and easy when it comes to blogging for a little while longer. This is actually the first time I've cracked opened my laptop in days, which is a first in many, many months. Reading from an actual book has been most satisfying of late.
Today at work a friend and I were discussing how the local soy and corn crops seem to be faring as a result of the uncharacteristically wet summer we've been having (from all outward appearances, they both seem to be growing tall and hardy), which led me to think about the fact that I only pass by corn fields on my drive to and from work - no soy along my route this year. This, in turn, got me to thinking about how blessed and happy I am to leave "out in the country." Not that the city of Athens is a big hustle-and-bustle place (not by a long shot!), but living "out" has a certain charm that I really just can't get enough of.
As I started thinking about my rural driving routes, the number of country encounters started to add up in my head fast. There's the corn fields, cows and horses. And goats. And sometimes chickens... and turtles and deer, bunny rabbits (please stop darting in front of my car!), and woodchucks with their familiar and silly waddle. And the lovely aroma of skunk.
Bluebirds on phone poles and wires, Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows in low flight over road and fields, maybe a Great Blue Heron at a pond's edge if I'm lucky... Mockingbirds, Killdeer, Red-winged Blackbirds and Turkey Vultures (not to mention wild Turkeys).
Wildflowers galore, morning fog, and ponds. All part of the rural landscape that I know and love so well...
And then I come home to find that the power is out, another "charm" of country living. That's okay... I'll take it. I don't think I could go to bed to Katydid song nor hear coyotes howling and yipping at night if I lived in town. Yes, this rural life is quite fine by me.
I'll be taking some time off from this blog at least until the weekend. Maybe longer.
One of the ironies of having a nature blog, as I'm sure many of you have experienced, is that sitting at the computer, crafting posts and sorting through photos, robs you of the thing you may love most: time spent out in nature. It also robs you of time for doing other things.
I have a huge stack of books that have recently been added to the collection that need my attention. There are zuke breads to be baked, blackberries to be picked and made into jam. And other tasty things to be done in the kitchen.
And sometimes one just needs quiet. I'm going into one of those phases right now. And so... I'm off to be quiet for a while. I'll check in with you all when I can.
The subject matter is a little out of date (these photos were taken in early June), but I would still like to share them. Besides, they may be a welcome sight since breeding season is winding down for most birds. Perhaps we can use it as a reminder of those days of spring and early summer when territory and breeding displays were in full swing and the dawn chorus was going strong...
There is large, grassy field edged with cattails that I pass every day on my way to work. In early spring, I eagerly await seeing the male Red-winged Blackbirds that perch on the cattails, small trees, and even the stop signs along that stretch of road. Early in the season many of them congregate rather close to each other, sometimes even sharing the same tree. But once breeding season is under way, only one male (MAYBE two) will claim that field as his territory.
Displaying and singing
I have read that the male Red-winged Blackbirds, just like male Bobolinks, are polygynous (one male mates with many females). Here are a few members of this male's harem, barely visible through the tall grasses:
Click any photo to enlarge
There was a lot of chatter going on among these birds the day I took these photos. Not only was the male singing, but the females were extremely vocal as well. As I watched their movements out in the field, I began to wonder if they had active nests that they were guarding. My question was soon answered when I saw both the females and the male bringing in food for new baby blackbirds...
I was not able to determine where their nests were actually located, as both the male and female birds were very wary of my presence and were determined not to give away their nest location(s).
Here are some interesting facts about the Red-Winged Blackbird:
The male spends at least a quarter of his time during daylight hours defending his territory against other males and nest predators.
The oldest recorded Red-winged Blackbird was 15 years 9 months old.
Red-winged Blackbirds throughout most of the U.S. migrate only very short distances, if at all.
Recently I was honored to receive the "best blog friend" award from Kelly at Red and the Peanut. Thank you so much Kelly!
There is no requirement to pass it along to others, so I'm not going to name anyone specifically, but I will take this opportunity to say thanks to all of you who stop by and check out Heather of the Hills. I really do appreciate your interest and any comments that you leave. It's a comforting feeling to know that there are so many other folks out there who share my interest in all things Nature!