Meadowlark

Blurry but an Eastern Meadowlark Nonetheless

When we moved off the mountain to our home in the valley a few years ago, it gave me a chance to learn some new birds. I knew most of the birds I saw and heard when we lived a couple thousand feet higher, but those birds do not live down here. I learned the bobolink, flitting about the fields, and was happy to know they were fairly abundant. I learned the song sparrow. I got to know the barn swallow. This year I heard a song I had been missing, either because it was not there, or because I simply wasn’t paying attention. I thought it was a meadowlark.

So I looked it up with the power of the internets. Sure enough, at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and its All About Birds web site, I checked the song I was hearing with a recorded one. Eastern Meadowlark is what we had. I kept looking for them and not seeing them. I would hear the yellowish rascal but not see it craftily hiding in the tall grass. See See SEE-yeer. I saw one today, however.

I sat drinking my foamy coffee drink, eating raspberries and peaches with yogurt and granola, when I heard the call. I mean, I literally heard the call, of the meadowlark. So I scanned the field with binos and eventually saw the little dude poking his head up and singing. It kept popping up and down in the grass but I got a good enough look to get a visual confirmation of the species.

Meadowlarks are ground nesters, so now we have a dilemma. We plan to cut the field more than once this summer but I would hate to destroy a nest. They take around 4 weeks from laying eggs to the young flying solo, so I guess as long as we give over a month between cuttings we might save a nest or two. Or maybe not, depending on the timing of things. First bobolinks and now meadowlarks. These field nesting birds make for some mental figure eights. We want to cut the field to provide, eventually, hay for local cows. We also want to cut it to reduce the amount of wild parsnip we have. That plant pretty much takes over and is a nasty invasive that can cause terrible skin burns, so we want it gone from here if we can help it. But the birds…

I do not want to drive away the meadowlarks (or bobolinks or song sparrows) but I do want to cut the field. We will have to monitor the birds to see that we do as little damage as possible. It is good to know that these birds are definitely here. I would hate to push them out just as I am getting to know them.

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What Bird is This?

Thanks to Ohio-Nature.com

Yesterday during my early morning bird survey, I heard a bird I have heard many times in that same area.  I have looked it up in the past but still could not remember what bird it might be. I did not see it yesterday, but I remembered it to be yellowish in part, and I could tell it was a warbler. Of course, that hardly narrows it down.  There are almost as many yellowish warblers as there are reasons I don’t want to scrub the toilet. So I had to search. Again.

I took advantage of the birders tool of choice when trying to identify that mystery species:  Google. I just typed in “warbler songs and sounds” and up came several hundred thousand possible sources of just the right information.  Google led me right off to All About Birds, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This is a site I have used before and it is usually right on the money.  It mostly helped, but I had to search around a bit until I was sure I had the right bird.

I had in the back of my mind, a fuzzy memory from years past, that this was a Magnolia Warbler.  The song included on All About Birds was close but not quite what I was hearing.  The song I heard yesterday, and all the other days I have been up there, was consistent.  It did not vary one bird to the next or from year to year.  Two notes, two notes, three notes. One two, one two, one two three.  The songs I kept finding were similar, but not all the same as each other, and not the same as I was hearing.  But then, on a web site I did not mark and do not remember, I heard the song I needed to hear. It was my song.

Sure enough, I was right about Magnolia Warbler.  It was the right habitat, the right range and, now that I had confirmed it, the right song.  Done deal.