I always feel when I witness a natural event in nature, that I have been blessed. This morning I was blessed multiple times. First, by a pair of Bullock’s Orioles tending their long, hanging, intricately woven grass nest. I heard them calling and managed to follow the female with my binoculars to her nest, expertly hidden behind a leafy cottonwood branch. The male eventually flew in to where the nest was hanging and gave something to the female who took it into the nest with her. Shortly afterward, they both flew off and I waited to see if they came back. They did and the female entered the nest again.
A little further down the trail, a brightly plumaged Yellow-breasted Chat cackled, whistled and hooted from the end of a small chokecherry branch. Head in the air and swaying back and forth, he was hoping to be noticed by a female. His flirtations worked when eventually a female joined him and they took off across the river into the cattails.
As I started my walk home, a Sharp-shinned Hawk swooped across my path to the other side of the river where there were several Red-winged Blackbirds and Song Sparrows balancing on cattails. The hawk was hunting dickey birds – it’s what they are built for. Small and agile, a Sharpy can navigate swiftly through trees and around branches almost silently. Unfortunately for the hawk, this mornings strike was unsuccessful, the she flew back across my path again and disappeared in the trees.
Last, but not least, a female Common Merganser swam downstream with a chick upon her back. The youngster jumped on and off her mother’s back to examine whatever floated by. As they approached a stone dam across the river, the female lined herself up with a spillway, trailing her chick behind her. The two of them then shot the rapid, bobbing like corks, to the bottom of the dam into the foamy pool. They swam around to the other side of the river and back up to the top of the dam, and rode the rapid down again! Clearly they were having fun.
A note about mergansers on the river: Last year, a pair of Common Mergansers raised 14 chicks. I watched those chicks grow big enough to fly and was delighted the adults were so successful. More on them in another post.