Along a quiet country road with sunlight-dappled shade, a black-jacketed bird sits regally on his fence. This is his home, for summer at least. Now though, he is contemplating a move to southern regions.
As he ponders the move, a movement in the air a distance from him catches his eye. He is off in a flash, swooping in to snap up some of a swarm of gnats hovering over the ripening soybean field.
As he swings back through the air to his perch, his mate joins him and also his children of this year. They will stay together as a family until relatives join them for a large flock sojourn to their southern, wintering grounds in South America.
This Eastern Kingbird is dressed out in his black tuxedo, white vest and red crown patch. He is truly a king among flycatchers. His call however has been compared to an electric fence buzzing in the hot summer air. If humans would discount his musical abilities, they have only to hear one of his sweet, phoebe-like spring songs to realize he is multitalented. His ability to swing through the air is most amazing, too.
It is this flight agility coupled with a fierce, aggressive behavior that enables the kingbird to defend his territory and nest during his summers here. He is able to keep much larger birds such as crows and ravens from devastating his nest that he and his mate build out in the open. Kingbirds can also recognize and eliminate cowbird’s eggs placed in their nest by hopeful female cowbirds who have no interest in raising their own offspring. Kingbirds do not tolerate anyone slacking in parental duties.
As August dwindles down to a few hours of late summer scents of corn ripening in the fields and roadside lilies, the kingbird and others of his kind gather on high telephone lines, cell towers and barn roofs, waiting patiently for their instinct to signal a departing date.
Photo: Fotolia/Paul Sparks
If nothing of dire consequences befalls them, they will be back to the exact same spot next year, swooping through the air, singing a sweet, romantic spring song and buzzing like an electric fence in summer’s heat, in their lives as king of the country roads.
On a larger note, in the same soybean fields that the kingbird patrols for supper, white-tail deer graze on green vegetation. Our evening drives this summer have been all about spotting the once dwindling Eastern cottontail rabbit, but we also thrill to see deer out for their late evening meal.
Our rabbit search began a few years back when we noticed that the furry little cuddly creatures were becoming a rare sight in our area. Due to over-population of coyotes, rabbits took a hit number-wise. After coyote hunts brought the predator into check, rabbits began a comeback. Recently, on a couple of late evening drives we spotted a total of 14 rabbits of varying sizes. On the same drives we counted 18 deer.
While the rabbits were spotted along lawn edges close to wooded areas and shaded side yards, the deer were all knee-deep in soybean fields. Their tannish, brown coats stood out like a beacon in the green ocean. Only twice did we get fooled. You see, there are certain large weeds that pop up in amongst the soybeans that, after they have turned brown, appear in the late sunlight to be deer. Coupled with our aging eyes and bifocals, we thought we could count in another four deer but with a turn-around and a second look-see, we realized the weeds had bested our enthusiasm.
To be fooled by a weed is nature’s joke. But to be soothed by the sight of creatures large and small, four-footed or winged and soaring above us, is a blessing of great magnitude.
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