Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cowbirds and Crickets

While Siri and I were sitting at the Orcas ferry dock after the wedding waiting for the ferry to Friday Harbor we noticed two little baby birds on a log next to the road. They were fluttering around in typical baby bird fashion, plaintively asking to be fed. Imagine our surprise when a tiny little yellow bird, about half their size flew up and fed one of them. They could only be cowbird babies. Cowbirds are brood parasites. The females lay eggs in the nests of other birds who then raise the young often to the detriment of their own young. The bird that was feeding them was, I think, a yellow warbler. Cowbirds fascinate me because in spite of being raised by all sorts of other birds, warblers, finches, and song sparrows for example, they grow up to know how to be cowbirds and to mate with other cowbirds not with members of the species that raised them. We often see cowbirds sitting on top of our sheep. They wait for insects to be disturbed by the sheep's grazing and then fly down to the ground to feed on them.

P.S. We heard the first cricket this evening. That is the real beginning of fall for me. This is the time of year, half way between the summer solstice and the fall equinox, the traditional beginning of fall in the Celtic calendar, that begins to feel like fall. The light has changed, the angle of the sun different than high summer. The air smells different and you hear crickets. This is actually my favorite time of year with the imminent harvest with its feeling of wealth and well being.

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