The Poet’s Birds: The Perchers

Scissor-tailed flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus) perched along a Galveston West End bayou

While herons and robins, egrets and larks receive multitudes of mentions in poetry — if not complete poems written in their honor — other birds seem to be ignored. Walter de la Mare wrote about the spotted flycatcher, and Nissim Ezekiel memorialized an unfortunate paradise flycatcher, but the scissor-tailed flycatcher, sometimes known as the Texas bird of paradise, has no well-known poem to call its own.

On the other hand, one typical behavior of our flycatcher — the tendency to perch on power lines or barbed wire fences while scanning for prey — has been written about. In what may be her best-known poem, Emily Dickinson takes the perching bird as her controlling metaphor, and expands on it delightfully.

 

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
                                                        ~ Emily Dickinson

 

Comments always are welcome. For more information about the scissor-tailed flycatcher (which happens to be the state bird of Oklahoma), please click here.

 

133 thoughts on “The Poet’s Birds: The Perchers

  1. We often see the scissor-tailed flycatcher on our place. Years ago we had a lot of horse fencing on the place, and we saw the flycatchers daily. Some would allow me quite close to photograph them. They really loved it when I mowed, dipping down just behind my path, nabbing insects now exposed. We’ve taken the fences down since we no longer have horses, but I still have protective fencing around many trees in the pasture to keep deer from nibbling, and I’ve noticed the scissor tails use the round cages to perch on. They’re really a beautiful and quite resilient species.

    1. I didn’t know until today that the scissor-tail’s the Oklahoma state bird. It’s a fine one, and it must be great to have them around on a regular basis. I see them now and then, but they’re usually high on power lines, and if it weren’t for that tail, I wouldn’t be able to identify them. It was a treat to find one within camera range.

      Here, it’s the grackles and cattle egrets that follow the mowers and the plows. It’s fun to watch, and it doesn’t surprise me that the scissor-tails will do it, especially since they’re so fond of grasshoppers. I’m glad they adjusted after the fence came down, and have found acceptable new perches.

  2. Lovely, Amiga – it’s a beautiful bird and a lovely poem. At Casa Loca, the Tropical Mockingbird provided the sweetest dawn song; we have lot of flycatchers here, but we also have other species with long tails – the motmot as well as the Thorntail hummingbird and the Booted Racquet tail… it’s as if some mischievous designers had fun in the ‘design the species’ studio!
    Thanks for your lovely comment about the Stilts; I’m in town now to send that image to the printer for some bookmarks for the Wed show… and now I’m heading home to work while the nocturnal insects are sleeping!

    1. The only other flycatcher here with a long tail is the fork-tailed flycatcher. The rest of the kingbirds have relatively short ones. I found some interesting comments about the behavioral resemblance between the scissor-tail and the mockingbird. Both are more than willing to take on birds much larger than they are, and they can be quite effective in driving predators out of the neighborhood.

      What a good idea — to have bookmarks as lagniappe for your show. And the stilt certainly is a bookmark-ready bird: long and lean, and perfectly suited to fit in a narrow space.

      I’ve been thinking about those insects. Tradition has it that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. However true that is, wouldn’t it be fun to find a saint with a little time on his hands who could drive the insects out of your studio/tent? I’ll do some research, and see what I can find. Love bug season is coming; I might be able to make use of a saint, myself.

        1. But saints specialize, you know, and St. Deet doesn’t protect against ticks: at least, the ones we have down here. The word on the street is that trading St. Deet for St. Permethrin is the way to go — especially since he helps keep those devilish chiggers at bay. Begone, I say!

      1. I like all of this feedback, and thank you so much for taking the time to share it… unfortunately for Cinderella, the noon clock just struck 12, and it’s checkout time at the hotel. :( my pumpkin life is not a bad contrast however — the biggest challenge is staying in contact with friends like you! Thanks for all of your support!

  3. You raise an interesting question: with dozens of species of birds inhabiting or at least seasonally passing through a region, why have so few gotten singled out in poems? A similar observation two decades ago about how few native wildflowers people—including me!—were aware of in Austin, and presumably anywhere else, led me into my continuing project of promoting them. Of course that was primarily in pictures, not words, and you’ve gone that way in this post as well, offering your photograph of the scissor-tailed flycatcher. And speaking of poetry, do you find that a reference to catching flies is less poetic as part of a name than “Texas bird of paradise”?

    1. To be honest, I’ve never heard anyone refer to this flycatcher as a “Texas bird of paradise.” There were enough references that I decided to include it, but it might well be one of those bits of information that got posted, picked up, and repeated with not much basis in fact.

      Of course, I’ve never heard anyone speak of the bird as a scissor-tailed flycatcher; those references tend to be written. Everyone I know calls them ‘scissor-tails,’ which is shorter, and perfectly descriptive.

      It was curious that I couldn’t find more poems for the bird, apart from a few listed on contribute-your-own-poetry sites where the offerings weren’t suitable. Even when I expanded things a bit and started looking for references to kingbirds, they just weren’t there. It’s true that they aren’t noted for their song, and they tend to hang out above everyone’s head in trees or on power lines, so it might be nothing more than out of sight, out of the poetic mind.

  4. Nice photo of the scissor tail. I remember them from my childhood days. They were prominent 70 some odd years ago and then this lovely fellow almost disappeared from the farm lands. Here they have made a comeback but not in the numbers before defoliants and cotton was king. I delighted in finding the nests in fall and winter after the trees had shed leaves. I always thought the nests were so pretty. Scissor tails prefer open grasslands or fields and I see them where fields have not been cultivated and poisons have not been used.

    1. That’s where I was accustomed to seeing them: in cattle country in south-central Texas, where there’s a lot of open land, and around the mid-coast. I look for them when I see cattle egrets around, since both birds adore grasshoppers. I read the description of their nests, and it sounded to me as though they would be attractive. Lucky you, to have been able to find them.

      Another bird that seems far more common in recent years is the kingfisher. It used to be an occasion when I’d hear one of those, or see one. Now, I’ll see one a week when they’re in the area. Here’s hoping that the scissor-tails can increase their numbers, too. There have been some fabulous successes, like the brown pelican, so it’s possible.

  5. We don’t have these birdies here, so I Googled to hear what they sound like. Yep, like a puppy playing with a squeaky toy! Are they still declining in population? Seems sad to eliminate something that helps control the insect population. Emily’s poem is a fitting accompaniment to your lovely photo, but if nobody has written a poem specifically about this bird, maybe you’d like to remedy that (I’d try, but I’m sure having never seen one I’d do a lousy job!)

    1. From what I’ve read, it seems that decreases in the scissor-tail population have stabilized. The Audubon Christmas bird count found some remarkable increases, although there was this note: “The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher has showed remarkable increases on Christmas Bird Counts since the early 90’s. Large early winter concentrations have been found in urban areas and also at the Choke Canyon Reservoir. Is this increase the result of birds over-wintering, or is it just that more Scissor-tails are migrating later?” I’m not sure anyone has the answer to that yet.

      With the insect eaters, things sometimes work in a way opposite to what you suggested. Instead of fewer birds to control insects, it sometimes happens that a decrease in the insect population leads to fewer birds. Without a food source, they can’t reproduce and raise families. Changes in agricultural practices, like seed treated to repel insects, can lead to declines in the goodies that the birds like to eat. It’s complicated out there — no question.

      Writing a poem’s an odd thing for me. I never set out to write a poem about a specific subject Instead, something catches my attention, and I know from the start that it has to be a poem, rather than something else. I have no idea why that is; it just is. Weird.

    1. That’s as good a suggestion as any, John. It did occur to me that the birds that live most of their lives above our heads don’t get mentioned as often, unless they have very specific, notable behaviors, like the frigate birds or petrals.

      I hope your absence from us is an easy and short one — best wishes.

    1. Miss Dickinson certainly had a way with words, didn’t she? There certainly never has been anyone like her. I’ll confess that I can’t make heads or tails of some of her poems, and there are times when I think she was being intentionally obtuse. But this is a good one, and it’s nice to remember it from time to time.

      When it comes to capturing the wonders of nature in words, we have some today who can do it equally well: Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, W.S. Merwin come to mind. They don’t necessarily rhyme, but they arrange words wonderfully well.

    1. Just the phrase “the plains of western Fort Bend County” gives me a grin. Things certainly have changed over the years. I have a friend who used to hunt quail where the Galleria stands today. That was a very long time ago, indeed.

      The scissor-tail must be for you like the robin is for me: a carrier of memories, and a delight to see.

    1. I’ve always thought that the phrase “the thing with feathers” was so childlike: the way a little one would describe a bird when she doesn’t yet know or can’t recall the big people’s word. There’s no question that hope flits as well as sings, which makes the comparison even more apt.

      I like her thought that the bird sings “a tune without the words,” too. There’s an implication that each of us can add the words that please us, making the tune itself fit for everyone.

  6. What a very handsome bird, beautifully caught. I think we only have the spotted flycatcher here, although I doubt that I’ve ever seen one. Too many birds are becoming extinct because we are just not looking after our environment.

    1. It seems there are two flycatchers there: the spotted and the pied. Both have declined in numbers — particularly the spotted flycatcher — but it seems that the Eurasian jay is one of the culprits when the birds are in England. They’re nest predators, and apparently are pretty darned effective.

      Of course there’s no question that everything from the use of toxic chemicals to loss of habitat are affecting the creatures around us. I do commend our power companies for their practice of allowing the young monk parakeets here to fledge before tearing down their nests. The birds like to build huge, communal nests in the highlines, which can be a bit of a problem. It was good that a useful compromise was found. We need more of them.

    1. But as I kept going through the strange but musical language, I understood that the poem was about the bird’s song,* and it seemed to make more sense (except for the fact that the writer was talking at great length, not about a bird, as Emily Dickinson did, but to a bird). Eventually it all came together for me with theses lines, which even a schoolboy could have said ( except maybe for the word “rapture”) if he had a chance to listen attentively in an open field or meadow as the bird flew above him into the sunset

      I have never heard
      Praise of love or wine
      That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

      * ” . . . bird of open farmland and heath, known for the song of the male, which is delivered in hovering flight from heights of 50 to 100 metres” (wiki…)

      1. Good friends had a power boat which they’d take down to the islands from time to time. It’s name happened to be “Skylark.” One year, I joined them in the Exumas, and discovered that one of their little rituals was watching the sun go down, drink in hand, while listening to a version of “Skylark” — the song.

        I think the song’s as poetic as the poem, in its way, and it certainly attests to the power of the bird to continue to inspire.

        1. I dont know the song, but Im going to find it and listen. Not tonight, it’s already dark. I’ll wait for a brilliant evening. My dad had a sailboat and taught me how to sail even on land. I have good memories. Vivid ones of evenings on nearby Lake Carlyle. I never saw a skylark there, but I can imagine, can’t I.

    2. Well, now. That brought back memories: not only of Shelley’s poem, but also of a little song of Shakespeare’s from Cymbeline:

      Hark, hark! the lark at heaven’s gate sings,
      And Phoebus ‘gins arise,
      His steeds to water at those springs
      On chaliced flowers that lies;
      And winking Mary-buds begin
      To ope their golden eyes:
      With every thing that pretty is,
      My lady sweet, arise:
      Arise, arise.

      My mother used to use the phrase “Hark, hark! the lark” but I can’t for the life of me remember the context. Maybe she used it when she wanted me to pay attention to something.

  7. Beautiful bird. I’ve never seen one and our birds around here don’t have long tail feathers like that. Lovely poem. Love the opening line especially.

    1. They are beautiful birds, and they’re quite the flyers, too. They use their split tails (the ‘scissor-tails’) to perform incredible acrobatics as they court, chase insects in the air, and so on. I think it has the longest tail of any bird in the U.S., but I’m not sure about that, and I couldn’t find confirmation with a quick search. No matter — it’s long, and if you come upon one, you’ll know it.

      Dickinson wrote around 1800 poems, so I certainly haven’t read them all, and I don’t enjoy all I have read. But this one’s a keeper. I’m glad you like it.

  8. There is an irony in Dickinson’s characterization of Hope as a perching bird, a bird that could easily fly away, and yet doesn’t. I love the line, “And sings the tune without the words.” It reminds me on one hand why the hummingbird hums (because it doesn’t know the words), and on the other, how we Humans tend to characterize birdsong by giving it words (The owl’s “Who,” and the whippoorwill’s “Whip Poor Will”)

    1. Speaking of tunes without words, I’ve recently come across the Angel City Chorale, a group based in Los Angeles. I’m obviously behind the curve as far as the group’s concerned, as they’ve been performing and winning awards for some time, but their version of Karl Jenkins’s “Adiemus” is one of the best tunes without words I know.

      Jenkins was attempting to create a modern song using classical forms in which the voice is only another instrument, creating sound rather than performing lyrics. Given your tastes in music, I suspect you know it, but the Angel City Chorale may be new.

    1. That’s right. I never saw the bird until I came to Texas; it didn’t reach as far as Iowa, either. It was as foreign to me as the pelicans and cattle egrets I met here, but I’ve come to love it.

      As for Dickinson’s signature: there are autographs, and then there are *autographs* — what a treasure that must be. You’re very lucky to have it — and to have her poems, too!

  9. What a delightful little bird and a great photo. I have never seen a scissor tailed flycatcher. And the poem is a grand tribute to the bird that “perches in the soul.”

    1. I’ll bet this poem speaks to you a bit, Dor. Given all the “perching” you’ve been doing, I suspect seeing hope perched right alongside is pretty great.

      I really was lucky to get this photo of the scissor-tail. I often see them on telephone or other wires, but to have one so near was a real surprise. Thanks for the kind words — it’s one of my favorite bird images.

  10. I am not sure the scissor flycatcher lives in Australia but we do have the swallow. They catch flies as good as any. There are many poems about this aerial acrobat. Here is just one.

    by John B. Tabb

    A bow across the sky
    Another in the river,
    Whence swallows upward fly,
    Like arrows from a quiver.

    1. That’s a nice one, and the swallows are just as agile in the air as the scissor-tails. They’re fast flyers, too, which makes the arrow comparison even more apt. Another reason to like the swallows is that they feed on mosquitoes, and anything that eats mosquitoes is good.

  11. I wish we had that one around here. However, we do have some other flycatchers. The Kingbird is a flycatcher named Tyrannus Tyrannus. I would like that for my nickname.

    1. Somehow I can’t envision you as Tyrannus Tyrannus, but it’s fun to imagine. The scissor-tail can be a bit of a tyrant, as well. In this video, one takes on a hawk. They’re apparently fearless, especially when defending their nests.

        1. Oh. Well, that’s part of the reason for the genus name, I suppose. They’re still not as chilling as the loggerhead shrikes. I’ve stopped a few videos of those critters collecting their dinner.

  12. Nice image of a nice bird. I’ve never seen one although they do visit here on occasion. Emily sure did have a way with words. To this date I still have not visited her home despite driving by, at this point, easily over a thousand times. If I did, I think it would be more about appreciating the furnishings in the house than personality curiosity.
    Her observation about what birds give us is so true of all of nature. Always giving and asking naught but our good stewardship which more and more is sorely lacking.

    1. When I was reading through the events scheduled at the Dickinson museum this year, I wondered if you’d taken in any of them. I would have enjoyed the ones focused on her garden, but those are in the past now. Still, the gardens are there, and with all the work that’s been done to restore them to the way they were in her time, they’d be interesting to see.

      I couldn’t believe that twenty-four species of Tyrant flycatchers have been recorded in Massachusetts. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed there were that many species. Of course, a glance at all the birds in your state is impressive. Emily had plenty to watch and write about. You’re right that we could use more of her kind of appreciation today.

      1. One of these days I will visit the Dickinson Museum and post a report on the blog. I am not sure why I haven’t visited before now, having lived in the Amherst area since I came to UMass in 1968.

        1. It may be that all those tourists are off-putting. Save it for a mid-winter day when they’re gone. Of course, the gardens would be “gone” then, too, but perfection’s hard to find.

  13. I have never seen a flycatcher that I know of, and think that bird is beautiful! The poem by Dickinson has always been a welcome one but I confess I didn’t think very long on it. Now I will link your story, the poem, and the photo in my mind and probably meditate on Hope more often. Thank you!

    1. The important phrase you used is “that I know of.” Look at this list of Tyrant flycatchers in your state! You’ve seen them, but not recognized them, just as happened for me for years with plants.

      I suppose we could have the same experience with hope, now that I think about it. It’s perched all around us, but we don’t always recognize it for what it is.

    1. The poem’s certainly one of Dickinson’s best known. The line about hope being “the thing with feathers” probably can be found in every gift store in the nation: painted or embroidered or printed on every manner of knick-knack. Perhaps it’s so because it reminds us of that birdy cheerfulness. I know I’ll be glad when their “summer silence” is over, and they begin to sing again.

  14. That’s a beautifully composed photo: the colour of the wire echoing the colour on the flycatcher’s head and breast; the reeds behind, its wings. The poem is a perfect addition.

    1. “Composed” suggests a degree of intention that wasn’t there. I only saw the bird, and thought, “Shoot! shoot! shoot!” It was later that I noticed a few of the details, like the color of the wire, and the parallel between the grasses and the wing color. Sometimes, things just work out. I’m glad you like the photo, and enjoyed the poem.

    1. Isn’t that nice? I’ve wondered about that wire. It seems whiter than I remember it, and I’ve certainly never seen white barbed wire. It might have been a trick of the light. As for the fence post, there couldn’t have been a better one if someone had staged the scene. I’ve found several surprises along that little stretch of road, including my first white bluebells.

    1. I think that’s right. And some birds, like the lark, have a bit of a literary reputation, so that probably brings them to the mind of poets more often. When you know that Shelley and Shakespeare wrote about a bird, why not give it a try yourself?

      Someday, I’d love to capture a scissor-tail in flight. When they spread those tail feathers into the scissor-like pattern, they’re just spectacular.

    1. Until very recently, I didn’t know that our kingbirds are flycatchers — although their behavior should have been a clue. The scissor-tail’s agility in flight probably contributes to its general feistiness, as well. It will take on everything from hawks to owls to cats — and do it with a great deal of panache.

  15. This is one of the sweetest little perchers I have seen in a long while. I suppose that long tail provides some stabilization there on the wire.

    1. I’m sure it does, but I think it’s primary value must come during flight. When they’re hovering and wheeling through the sky in pursuit of an insect (or in defense of their territory) that split tail “scissors” the air amazingly well.

    1. I’ve seen them in your area, but a little inland — around Beeville. One of my other readers mentioned remembering them from his visits to his grandparents’ place, up around George West. I truly do believe we miss a lot of them because they’ve perched up above our heads.

      The Texas Breeding Bird Atlas says they like to hang out in mesquite trees, and it won’t be long until they start to travel:

      “Scissor-tailed Flycatchers arrive in Texas from late February (south Texas) to late May and breed from late March to late August, based on egg collection dates from March 31 to August 10. Southbound movement starts as soon as early August and lasts until late October or early November.”

  16. Thanks for sharing the Emily Dickson poem. I have been working through her collected works, and have found there some real gems. It is interesting that we romanticize some animals more than others. Recently there has been quite a ruckus in Toronto about the local raccoons, which really are remarkably cute and destructive at the same time. Battle lines are drawn. There is ripe material for a poem there, I think!

    1. I confess I’m quite fond of raccoons, although underestimating them is a mistake. One night we were tied up at a dock on a barrier island, and the raccoon that boarded ate all the Pepperidge Farm cookies. We weren’t pleased, but we had to laugh.

      You surely saw the videos of the raccoon that climbed a building in Minnesota — I had to stop watching, I was so nervous for the critter (who made it).

      I was delighted when I found a complete online listing of Dickinson’s poems, and I found many that I’d never read. There are hundreds more waiting for me. I didn’t realize until recently that she was quite the gardener, too; many of her nature poems are grounded in direct experience.

    1. I was so pleased that the little guy decided to pause long enough for me to stop the car and get out — and I was lucky that I had the telephoto lens on the camera. What you call coy might have been evaluative, and if I had been any closer, I think the photo shoot would have been over!

    1. Aren’t Miss Dickinson’s poems lovely? I like this one, especially. There’s a list of her poems here that’s fun to browse. There are links to each poem, so you can just read through the titles and click on whatever seems interesting. Very nice!

  17. I am sure there are many birds to which there has never been written a poem. But Dickinson’s poem is beautiful enough to cover for many a bird. And your image of the scissor-tailed flycatcher is a poem in and of itself.

    1. You’re quite right, Otto. Those “things with feathers” are everywhere, singing and chirping and reminding us that hope still lives, even in the midst of the most challenging circumstances.

      I’ve come to think that bird photography is a bit like street photography. Those “moments” when a bird pauses can’t be predicted or controlled, and there’s often not a second chance. That’s part of what makes it so much fun.

  18. What a beautiful photo. Texas bird of paradise is the perfect nickname for him. He’s a lovely, little thing with a tail longer than his body. It probably helps him balance while waiting for his dinner.

    1. I just realized who’s in your gravatar! It makes me happy to see him again, too.

      The scissor-tail’s about robin sized, not counting that fancy plumage. I’m sure it does help with balance, and I know it’s a help when they go after insects in the air. Apparently they can snag a grasshopper or dragonfly mid-air, since the tails give them incredible maneuverability.

      The one who had a little trouble maneuvering today was the great blue heron who came wheeling around to land on the swim platform of the boat I was working on. He clearly was shocked to find a human two feet away from his landing spot, and he nearly fell in the water. Such a flailing of wings I’ve never seen.

    1. Sometimes I find Emily’s poetry indecipherable, but this one’s nice, and it does pair well with the bird. I didn’t realize until yesterday that the skylark isn’t found here, except around Vancouver and the San Juan Islands, so this is probably our most graceful “high flyer”. Do you see skylarks regularly?

    1. It’s about the size of our American robin, or a waxwing. It’s larger than your British robin and the smaller species of doves; it’s quite slender, and I think that makes it look a bit smaller than it actually is in the photo. It’s quite pretty. This is as close as I’ve ever been to one, and I’d never seen the colors so clearly.

    1. Meeting the scissor-tail here in Texas was somewhat akin to coming across eucalyptus in California. I didn’t know much about either one, but I surely knew I wasn’t in Iowa any longer.

  19. I find this flycatcher beautiful, and the ‘bird of paradise’ name suits it well, even when it’s not used that often. I haven’t read E. Dickinson’s poems in quite a long time, and this one is certainly one of the most popular.

    One of my favorite bird songs is ‘Skylark’ (lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Hoagy Carmichael) performed by Rosemary Clooney:
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9e11JNE630). My father used to really like her and passed on to me all her records. Ella Fitzgerald also performed it.

      1. Now that you have me thinking about skylarks, Ralph Vaughan Williams’s beautiful The Lark Ascending comes to mind. Inspired by George Meredith’s poem of the same name, Williams inscribed some lines of the poem on the flyleaf of the score.

        I read that the composition’s among England’s favorite classical pieces, which doesn’t surprise me, given the popularity of the bird in the country. The song of the bird is remarkable. Anyone with a skylark in their neighborhood certainly would know it.

        1. Thanks for the Ralph Vaughan Williams’s score and George Meredith’s poem. Now I’m more familiar with their work.

          You got me thinking now of the American Larks, and they are called:
          ‘Horned Larks’ (Eremophila alpestris) Have you seen one?
          This what they look like: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMkdbNVURGw)

          There’s also a U.S.native ‘Lark Sparrow’ which is from another family (the Passerellidae, which are the ‘New World’ sparrows). It’s not a lark but has a slight resemblance in some of the head markings. It’s really cute, although I also sympathize with the non-native one. It’s not their fault they were released here.

          1. I just learned ‘lark’ in Spanish is ‘alondra’. ‘Alondra’ is a popular Spanish female name, but didn’t know it meant ‘lark’ in Spanish. The bird is not native to the Caribbean but I did know the name ‘Alondra’.

            Sorry for all the typos…

            1. I don’t believe I’ve heard the name ‘Alondra.’ It’s interesting that it was the most popular girl’s name in Puerto Rico in 2009, but only the 23rd most popular in Mexico in 2010. I wonder if naming patterns differ in Spanish-speaking communities in the same way that Mexican food differs from Tex-Mex or traditional Spanish dishes.

              No need to apologize for typos. If I pick them up, I’ll correct them, but if I don’t, it’s probably because I haven’t noticed them. I certainly produce my share!

            2. I think Spanish names get complicated because of so many different influences. Here in Florida there are the Cuban-American ones. They come up with names that I never heard of. I suppose this happens when cultures mix. I just read the same article you did on the ‘Alondra’ name and it turns out it´s short for Álexandra´ or Álejandra´, but it´s also Spanish for lark.

              Remember, there´s so much psychology in naming, either for personal or commercial purposes. Names carry so much weight. I also like to dissect them for the same reason.

          2. I haven’t seen a horned lark (that I know of), but you’ve reminded me of another bird that’s quite familiar — the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). The neglecta became part of the name after it was decided the eastern and western meadowlarks weren’t at all the same bird — the poor western meadowlark had been neglected!

            I grew up with meadowlarks, and see them here in Texas. Most often, they’re heard before they’re seen. They have marvelous songs and calls that carry long distances.

            1. The western meadowlark is from the Icterid family, that of the grackles, of course, with a more melodic song! It has a beautiful song. I remember seeing beautiful images of them by Ron Dudley and Mia McPherson.

    1. The Ella Fitzgerald version is my personal favorite, but there’s no question that Rosemary Clooney’s is just as memorable. It’s wonderful that you not only have the memories of listening to the music with your father, but also have the recordings. I agree about the song itself; it’s as poetic as some of the best poetry about the bird.

      I suppose a melodic lark rising skyward is more poetic than the scissor-tail plucking grasshoppers out of the air!

      1. I really loved the Ella Fitzgerald video from your link. Thanks for that! Her voice was an instrument in itself, even when music accompanied her. It is often said it is highly unlikely her voice will be surpassed by any female singer again. She was unique. Her voice was just prodigious.

        I find the the scissor-tail plucking grasshoppers very poetic. Its shrewdness, craftiness, and perspicacity appeal to me very much.

  20. That’s one of my favorite poems and it fits this post to perfection. What a glorious bird! Take a look at that tail — it’s magnificent! Yes I can see where it gets that nickname. Lovely, Linda.

    1. I think it’s one of her most accessible poems. The more standard structure and punctuation help, and the beautiful extended metaphor for the human longing for hope she develops helps to make the poem memorable.

      Speaking of birds, I think I just figured out who the artist is behind those wonderful bird calendars you introduced me to. Is it your art camp buddy?

    1. I’m sure part of the reason the bird stayed put is that I had my telephoto lens on the camera, and was able to stay some distance away. You can see it giving me the eye, though. It’s always such fun to come home, look at the photos on the computer, and see those little details that were invisible at the time. I’m so glad you like the photo — and the poem!

    1. Once the weather cools, exploring the far west end of Galveston and the long stretch of “nothing” on the other side of the San Luis pass should turn up some other birding treats.

      The last time I stopped by Lafitte’s Cove, there weren’t many birds around, but there were nutria swimming in the pond. I’m not sure what Emily would do with nutria, but there’s a company in Cajun country that’s making dog treats out of the critters. You might be interested in them: they look fairly well established. I love the company name: Marsh Dog.

      1. Actually, I looked at several, and this one you found is quite good. Most of the ones I found have the birds just sitting. It’s understandable, given how difficult it would be to capture them in flight. I wonder if anyone’s put their drone to the test?

    1. That’s a great video. Not only does it show the ‘scissoring’ of the tail, I think I saw at least three instances of the bird catching some sort of prey. Perhaps because they do catch larger prey, like large spiders, grasshoppers, and small lizards, they have a tendency to beat whatever they’ve captured on a convenient tree limb or post to subdue them before taking them to the nest. It looks to me as though that happens once in the video, too.

  21. So lovely, Linda. A clever tie-in to the wonderful Emily Dickinson poem. Boy, would I love to see a Scissor-tailed flycatcher, and this photo presents a different side – it seems to me it’s more about the facial expression, and the fact that it waits patiently on that wire – than the tail. Nice!

    1. You would love these birds. They’re so graceful, and entertaining to watch. They’re great hunters, and just as willing to sit and wait for dinner to happen by as to go out and chase it. Smart birds, I’d say.

    1. Aren’t those feathers something? I think there’s a bird in the U.S. that has longer ones, but I can’t remember what it is, and can’t find it just now. In any event, this one is quite a sight in the air, especially when it’s “scissoring” the air with those feathers.

    1. No, you don’t have them, They’re still common in Oklahoma, and show up in Nebraska and Kansas from time to time, but that’s about as far north as they go. I’m not going to spend the time to do it, but it would be interesting to see which birds northern and southern poets feature the most. My hunch is that people write about what surrounds them, and that could differ considerably.

    1. You know, it would be wonderful fun to do a day trip some time, to a spot you haven’t yet seen. It would be much easier than traveling halfway around the world! There are some beautiful birds here, and there are areas around us have have some of the greatest variety of flora and fauna in the country. Of course, cooler weather will make jaunts more enticing!

      1. That would be fun! Especially with you as the flora and fauna guide; I adore both but am pitifully bad at identifying species of all kinds! Cooler weather will also mean getting past September, which is good because my oldest child is getting married then, and my job for the next month is to stop roaming and get cracking on that event!

    1. It’s a cute bird, but don’t let it fool you. It’s all business — and fairly aggressive — when food’s around. When I first saw a video of it beating live prey against a tree limb to subdue it, I thought, “Whoa. That’s moving into loggerhead shrike territory.”

      Those shrikes are mean little devils. According to the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas, “The Loggerhead Shrike, [is] commonly known as the `butcherbird’ for its habit of impaling prey on sharp objects such as thorns and barbed wire.”

  22. We don’t have this bird in our area, and that poem is so calming. I like that Emily Dickinson’s poems. Lots have happened these few months in terms of my review writing, so haven’t been spending much time blogging. Just a piece of good news on top of the two I posted just now, I’m at TIFF as accredited press! Yes, based on my reviews on Asian American Press the online newspaper I write for. So, this time at TIFF I can watch to my heart’s content, but of course, I have to write as many reviews as I see them so they will have me back next year. But still, it’s a great experience. :)

    1. You certainly are making opportunities for yourself. I’d wondered what you were up to, and assumed it had something to do with film. I’m really pleased for you, and know you’ll enjoy the festival even more this year. I suspect there won’t be much bird watching on this trip — you’re going to be a busy woman!

      1. I’ve planned a short birding trip after the Film Festival to go to the southern tip of Canada, famous for its birding hot spot. Check it out: Point Pelee National Park. :)

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