Thursday, April 30, 2015

Like a Flock of Dandelions

Who needs "Swan Lake" when you can experience Blackbird Ballet?

With a call that's been described as sounding "like a rusty farm gate," the symphony of my Blackbird Ballet may not have Tschaikovsky's staying power in the classical music world. But it is certainly a colorful dance and fortissimo musical rendition.

The past few mornings, the treetops in my front yard have been filled with yellow-headed blackbirds. I was a little afraid I'd landed in a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." I saw that movie when I was in elementary school. It may be why I've never liked horror films. Thankfully, they weren't dive-bombing me like in the movie. But they sure raised a racket. 
Randy had seen a bunch around the cattle corrals earlier in the week, and he called from Jake's house to say there were more there. I was headed to the car to drive down there to see them. But I decided I didn't need to leave my yard to experience the yellow-headed blackbird invasion.

They are evidently camera shy like me. They kept to the tippy-top of the trees, singing their little hearts out in a cacophony of noise. They swooped from one branch to branch and tree to tree in a bird-like ballet. 
My friend, Pam Martin, who works as an educator at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center at Cheyenne Bottoms, said they migrate to Kansas in mid-April and leave for the winter in September. Before pairing off and rearing young, they gather in big flocks and often feed at cattle yards. They nest in the cattails at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms.
"We have great flocks of them here at the Bottoms, so many they look like dandelions in the fields."
Pam Martin
I wish I'd thought of that poetic description!

As I've said before, I don't have a fancy camera, so it's hard to get portraits of my winged friends. While I was pointing my camera up to the treetops, I noticed another visitor on a line nearer to the ground. I snapped a photo and also sent it to Pam for identification
She says this guy is a barn swallow - not exactly an exotic visitor. Who knew they were so pretty! They usually dart around so quickly, catching insects mid-air, that I've never seen their pretty plumage. When I'm at the barn, maybe I'm too busy dodging cows to notice the bird's feathers as they swoop over my head.

Pam says, "In Ohio, it was considered good luck to have them next to your barn!"

As good educators do, Pam prompted me to do a little research on my own.
"If swallows nested in farm buildings, it meant well-being and good fortune for the owners. People believed that the presence of these birds protected farm animals from diseases and curses and buildings from fires." 
This barn swallow was on a wire near the barn. Yay for good luck!
I can always use a little bit of luck, well-being and good fortune, especially as we begin three days of working with cattle this afternoon!


  1. Kim,
    I'm not an avid birder or "bird person," but I do like to see them around the ranch. I also enjoy bird and frog songs.

    Rosie, Molly and I took salt and mineral around to cattle on Tuesday morning. On the way home from the last stop I captured a meadowlark! I had my camera and wasn't in a hurry. It helps the meadowlark was busy singing and not minding me watching him.

    Good Luck with cattle work this week. We branded the oldest group of calves this morn. It was nice to do one bunch vs. two. We weren't in a hurry, ate at 12:30 and had the afternoon to make sure everyone got paired back up. I'm willing to bet J will be less sore tomorrow than he is after working two bunches.

    Happy May Day!

    1. I am not either (since I have to find a bird expert to ID them)! But I do enjoy seeing the different birds in my yard and hear them sing. Since the meadowlark is Kansas' state bird, I'd love to capture one of those, too. Your photo was great!

      Our first day of cattle work went well yesterday, so we'll hope for the same today and tomorrow! The weather is going to be nice, so that's a plus.

  2. The red winged black birds have invaded the trees in the yard here. It's quite funny to see them react to each other, the dogs and cats!
    We have one more draft to brand, them the little guys in a few weeks and we're done! Weather has been nice for us. Hope all goes well for you guys too! :)

    1. I see red-winged blackbirds along Peace Creek in the cattails sometimes. These yellow-headed guys made such an impression because there were so many of them.

      Good luck with the rest of your cattle work, too! One day down for us and two to go - at least for right now!