Our neighborhood Red-winged Blackbirds tend to stick to the fields and pastures down the road, but the last couple of mornings we've had gangs of them hanging around the house, including one in the tree just outside the back window right now.
Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology’s very useful website, All About Birds, delivers this encouraging bit of information about Red-winged blackbirds:
In the North, their early arrival and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.
And my Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, urging me to get out the door with my binoculars, tells me:
The most exciting behavior of redwings centers on their territorial defense and the relationship between mates. Males are territorial as soon as they arrive on the breeding ground. Start watching at this time, especially in the morning. If you focus on one or two males, you will learn the extent of their territories and will see how they use their basic displays of Songspread, Bill-tilt, and Song-flight.
That’s what I did yesterday morning and that’s what I saw from our front porch. Not just one or two. There were seven or eight male Red-wings in our neighbor’s big, bare maple, energetically and noisily songspreading and bill-tilting back and forth and song-flying from branch to branch. This didn’t look or sound aggressive. It was like they were negotiating and getting a little overexcited about it, like kids working out where the foul lines are for a sandlot baseball game they’re going to play where there’s no room for a regulation-sized diamond.
I went out again this morning and wandered farther from the front porch, but the red-wings I saw were quieter and more relaxed and hanging out individually, so I guess the negotiations are concluded and they’ve agreed on who’ll be waiting in which tree when the females finally fly in.
I had thought I’d hike on out through one of the nearby fields but I decided to head off into a small woods that I hadn’t explored in the eight years we’ve lived here. There’s not much wonder in that. It’s a low-lying patch of ground, gullied and pitted and potted and soggy because the gullies, pits, and pots don’t dry out after a rain or snowmelt. The few times before when I tried to work my way in, it was basically a swamp. But we’ve had very little rain this winter and virtually no snow and the temperature was just below freeze so that whatever might have been damp in there wasn’t and I crunched along dry-footed on frosted grass.
Doesn’t look as though many people have been in there lately. The only paths were deer runs---I scared up a couple of white-tails---and deer, apparently, have no problem running under low branches and snags and through brambles. As I mentioned, it was cold and we’ve reached that time in the year when the only gloves left in the house are the ones that haven’t been lost or ruined, which means we have lots of left-handed gloves without mates. But the sun shone brightly through the trees and there was no wind. By the time I reached the other end of the woods and climbed an embankment to the bike trail my hands were like ice but I’d worked up a sweat beneath my jacket and sweater. I found a bench and warmed up and cooled down at the same time and then I headed home for a hot chocolate.
Young Ken has to write a paper on Gilgamesh for his History of Civilization class and last night we watched The Hero’s Adventure episode of The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers’ long interview with Joseph Campbell that ran on PBS back in the late 80s. At one point Moyers poses a question in the form of a statement, “Unlike the classical heroes, we’re not going on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves.” Campbell replies:
And in doing that you save the world. You do. The influence of a vital person vitalizes. There’s no doubt about it. The world is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting it around and changing the rules and so forth. But, no. Any world is a living world if it’s alive and the thing is to bring it to life and the way to bring it to life is to find in your own case where your life is and be alive yourself.
That doesn’t have anything to do with anything. Or maybe it does.
Before I hiked off into the woods, I finished something I’d begun yesterday morning. I toured our yard and surveyed our house, completing my list of the spring-mending and cleanup that I’ll have to get started on this afternoon when the temperature climbs up towards the predicted sixty. The lawns need raking. The front stoop and the front deck and the railings and trim on the windows need repainting. I suppose I’ll have to powerwash the whole house. I should take down the swing set and the pool has to go. And there’s a dead bush that I have to dig out. It was strangled by ground creepers. I’d better root those out too. I’m looking forward to doing all of this, especially fixing the doors on one of the sheds.
Photo of Red-winged blackbird by Walter Siegmund via Wikipedia. Other photos taken this morning by yours truly.