The Poets’ Birds ~ Dickcissel

Male Dickcissel ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

A decade ago, historian, film buff, naturalist, and Erath County rancher Jack Matthews introduced me to the Dickcissel (Spiza americana): a bird he’d found returning to his Flying Hat Ranch after years of management practices that included minimal grazing and reseeding with native grasses.

Dickcissels require grassland habitats, but they’re rarely picky about the land’s composition. In summer, they appear in native prairies and restored grasslands, but they also nest in lightly grazed pastures, hayfields, and fallow agricultural fields. Occasionally, they can be spotted along fencerows and roadsides.

Still, it wasn’t until last summer that I came across the bird. Too far away for a photo, it attracted my attention by its song. At the very top of a dead tree along the Brazoria refuge auto route, the song was musical — and loud. At the time I laughed, thinking that any female within a miles-wide radius might have heard that song. 

It wasn’t until this year that I finally found another Dickcissel: a male in breeding colors attracting attention to himself by his song. Perched atop another small dead tree — this one next to the windmill where earlier this year I’d found a Loggerhead Shrike — he was within camera range, and determined to stay put for the sake of attracting a potential mate.

When I returned a week later, he still was there, singing his heart out from the same topmost branch. After finding him perched and singing a third time, I felt a bit sorry for him, but the next time I passed by the windmill he was gone; the flowers were blooming even more profusely, but the time of singing had ended, and the voice of the Dickcissel no longer was heard in the land.

Apart from the pleasure of finally meeting the bird, the Dickcissel brought to mind Marjorie Saiser’s poem “The Nobody Bird.” It’s a fine tribute to Dickcissels, and a reminder that other ‘nobodies’ existing in the world also have their songs.

 

           I’m nobody! Who are you?
               ~ Emily Dickinson
The woman leading the bird walk
is excited because she thinks
for a minute the bird
is one she doesn’t have
on her life list,
and then she says,”Oh, it’s
just a dickcissel.”
I raise my binoculars
to bring the black throat patch
and dark eye
into the center of a circle.
I see how the dickcissel
clings to a stem
when he sings, how
he tilts his head back,
opens his throat.
The group follows
the leader to higher ground.
The wind comes up; white blossoms
of the elderberry dip and
right themselves in a rocking motion
again and again. An oriole
flies into the cottonwood,
the gray catbird into
the tossing ripening sumac.
The nobody bird
holds on:
holds on and sings.
 

Comments always are welcome.

132 thoughts on “The Poets’ Birds ~ Dickcissel

  1. You are making the assumption that it was the same bird each time, and that is not necessarily always the case.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m glad to be able to envision dickcissels on the prairie now, even though I haven’t found them quite as obvious as the red-winged blackbirds and meadowlarks.

  2. Are you familiar with the Cornell Lab “Merlin” app for ID birds? They’ve just added a new feature that will ID a bird from its song.
    This is a beautiful bird of which I was not familiar. Thanks.

    1. I do know Merlin. When I first heard about the app, it tickled me that the name evokes both the bird and the magician. It’s appropriate, really, since the app can seem like magic. I didn’t know they’d added the song ID feature; I’ll have to check that out.

    1. It is a beauty. The colors of this one were even more vibrant than I was able to capture, but I was afraid getting a better sun angle would set him flying.

    1. He didn’t care a whit for me. The first day I saw him he was flighty, and wouldn’t allow me to get at all close, but the second day I took my time and got close enough to see that he was scanning the horizon and the sky as he sang. He clearly was hoping for a feathered friend!

    1. Well, yes and no. I keep finding descriptions like this: “The unusual name comes from the song it makes while perched atop a stout weed or a small tree along a field edge. From its open perch, the bird sings a sharp ‘dick dick dick’ followed by a buzzed ‘ciss, ciss, ciss’. The notes are usually in groups of three.”

      That’s a perfect description of the sounds, but I don’t hear them as ‘dick’ or ‘ciss.’ I have the same problem with most written descriptions of bird songs and calls. I do better just listening, and learning to identify the sound.

        1. That’s really interesting. I know that the Liberians had a different way of making the sound of a rooster, but I can’t quite remember what it was. I’ll have to ask my reader who lived up the road from me in Gbarnga. They had a lot more roosters running around.

  3. You sent me online to listen. It seemed to have about three main sounds. Rather inconsistent. I’m impressed that you can recognize it by sound. The color is distinctive. I wish I knew more about birds. You have aroused my interest with your “poet birds” articles. I love learning; you love teaching. We make a pair.

    1. I love learning, too, and I’ve found my blogs to be great ways to indulge that love. For example: just yesterday I learned that the dickcissel and the cardinal are related. When I looked at the dickcissel’s bill, I could see that ‘family resemblance’ — the mark of a seed eater. Being able to identify a bird’s song or call is especially useful at the refuge, where so many keep themselves hidden away in the grasses and reeds. Sometimes, of course, the sound is all I get. No matter how long I look, I often can’t find the bird itself.

      No one’s caught my oblique reference yet, but you might, so here’s a quiz for you. What verse did I rework when I wrote “the time of singing had ended, and the voice of the Dickcissel no longer was heard in the land”? (‘Verse’ is the clue, of course.)

        1. DingDingDing! You win the prize! That’s it, exactly. When I was writing, and the phrase “the voice of the Dickcissel” came to mind, the verse wasn’t far behind.

          1. Well, you have a great memory of where phrases with a familiar ring come from I think. I had this vague sense of familiarity but had to look it up . Both lines kind of evocative or haunting really.

    1. I’m with you. Saying “only a dickcissel” is akin to saying “only a dandelion” or “only a grasshopper.” No matter the species, every individual counts.

    1. Thanks, Peter. When the boy-birds are showing off for the girls, a good shot is easier; they tend to look for a high perch where they can be more easily admired by those they’re trying to impress — and occasional passing photographers.

  4. Pretty bird, Linda with a streamlined head. I went to the site and listened to its song: dick-dick-see-see-see. It was quite clear on the ‘sees.’ I always enjoy the male birds when they are putting on their shows to attract females. Not so much the flicker that insists on drumming on our vents at 6:00 AM. Thankfully he found his lady love. –Curt

    1. Your flicker sounds like the mockingbird who sat in a tree outside my old apartment and started singing at 3 a.m. The bird was persistent, I’ll give him that. He could sing for hours; I’m not sure whether his potential mates were impressed or annoyed. I was both. At my new place, I enjoyed cardinal and house finch songs this spring, but at least they’d wait until the sun came up.

      1. We had Northern mockingbirds in Sacramento. Same thing, singing in the middle of the night, often with different bird songs. Those were the days before I had a sound maker to drown them out. They are protecting their territory as well as calling the girls. So they can go on and on! –Curt

    1. Isn’t that the truth! The next time you leave the woods for a place like Brazos Bend, you might try the prairie trail, or look for other prairie-like environments in your area, since that’s what they prefer. They will visit agricultural fields ripe with grain, too, but I’m not sure if there’s much of that in your area. Some day, I need to explore what’s north of Houston.

    1. It seems they’re more common in the midwest than they are down here. I’ve not seen anyone mention it, but I suspect they’re almost never around cities, and I’ve never seen them mentioned as a feeder bird. That certainly cuts down on the chances of seeing one. Even as much as I’ve been out at the refuge, I’ve had only one sighting each year, even though I look more closely when I see a bird atop a tree.

    1. I’m almost certain he did. When the singing and the showing off stop, and the bird disappears, it seems likely that a new pair is setting up housekeeping (or nest-keeping).

  5. A fine-looking fellow! And not “just a dickcissel” to me. I also believe, like you, that it was the same bird each time and that he finally found his mate because that’s just how I am wired … to make a nice story for a nice bird!

    1. I’m convinced it was the same bird. Each time I stopped and watched, it acted much like a dragonfly, leaving and returning to the same perch time after time. It always came back to the same branch — and it was on that branch each day I saw it. Clearly, it had claimed its territory, and just needed someone to share it with!

  6. I don’t guess I’ve ever noticed one of these before, though Google tells me they’re native to the Midwestern U.S. I’ve recognized Finches, of course, and, after listening to this one’s song, I do believe I’ve heard that before (I just didn’t know what it was!). Thanks for enlightening me, Linda!

    1. It can be hard to identify a bird by its song. Once I manage it, I sometimes wonder why it was so hard. I listened to a mysterious bird for three years without being able to figure out what it was. Eventually, I caught sight of it: a house wren! How such a tiny bird can produce such a loud song I don’t know, but now I know they’re all around, even if I rarely see one.

  7. Beautiful bird and photograph! I’ve seen pics of them on the Birds of Texas FB group, but never one in the flesh-n-feathers. I hope he found is gal, though.

    1. It’s hard for me to believe I found a bird you’ve not seen, Tina. I was thrilled to get this photo. Since my lens couldn’t cover the distance between the road and the tree, I had to do it on foot, one bit at a time. Good old Annie Dillard has a chapter on stalking in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek where she includes the old, classic rule: “Stop often ‘n’ set frequent.” This time, it worked!

    1. It is a nice, comfortable poem, with just the right twist at the end. Saying a bird is ‘just’ a dickcissel is like saying the girls are ‘just dogs.’

  8. I’m so glad you had a few encounters with this gorgeous bird with his onomatopoeic name. Your photo really does it justice. Thank you for sharing the poem, which was new to me. There isn’t any “just” bird in my book. Every single one is a marvel.

    1. I haven’t been by to fully enjoy your latest post, but I did notice that you included a dickcissel in your photos. What fun, that we both were able to see the same species at about the same time. I was especially pleased to have a photo of it with that opened beak and upturned head; he looked as though he was doing everything possible to send that lovely song as far as possible, and he was doing a good job of it.

    1. It may be a while before I see another one, but at least I was able to come away from this year’s encounters with a few nice photos. I couldn’t believe how long those middle toes are. That’s part of the reason he can cling so well to his branch.

    1. His song wasn’t as melodious as a mockingbird’s, or a cardinal’s or robin’s — at least, to my ear. But it’s distinctive, and not at all unpleasing. Besides, what we think of it doesn’t matter at all. It’s what the girl dickcissels think of it that counts!

    1. It is a handsome bird. I like the combination of rust and yellow, and the little bits of black. I like the low-key feel of the poem, too. She’s one of those regional poets that may not be well known, but she knows her region, and writes about it wonderfully well.

  9. He’s a fine looking fellow in his yellow waistcoat and rusty epaulets. His beak looks rather finch-like. One assumes he is also a seed-eater.

    1. He is a seed eater, although he’ll have an occasional small insect, too. The dickcissels are related to cardinals, and that beak is where the resemblance really shows up.

  10. I wonder if this bird could have another name? It doesn’t roll of the tongue easily. Dickcissel. It also gets underlined in red and is not in my dictionary. Such a lovely bird deserves a better name.
    It grabbed the attention of Emily Dickinson with that beautiful poem.

    1. I did some looking, but Dickcissel it is. In North America, it mostly appears on the prairies, but it’s a long distance migrant and winters in central and South America: especially the llanos region of Venezuela. I suspect your dictionary and editor don’t include or recognize it because it’s not present in your part of the world, but Google certainly should show entries for it. No matter. The bird sings on whether it’s in our books or not!

  11. As you know I am always interested in birds, and this one is a beauty, although not one I shall ever get to see, so thanks for sharing.
    But I wish he had another name – for the first time ever, your blog post was tossed into the spam in-tray! lol

    1. I had to laugh — another reader, from Australia, said that his online editor and dictionary didn’t recognize the bird’s name either. It took me a minute to figure out why the post would be thrown into spam, and then I got it; your filters might have thought there was a reference there to — ahem — adult content!

      It is a beautiful bird. I’m just glad that I finally got to see one. They’re here only in the summer, and they mostly congregate farther north, but if another shows up, I might be better able to spot it.

  12. I’ve heard of dickcissels but I’ve never seen or heard one. I just checked Cornell’s All About Birds and it seems Upstate SC sees them on a rare basis during the breeding season. Nothing along the coast, unless one or two get very lost.

    I don’t have the Merlin app but I’ve been using the Cornell site for years. After getting my cochlears, I used their song recordings to match up songs with the birds I know and see at my feeders. I was delighted with that.

    It drove my cat, Gus, nuts, as he couldn’t figure out where the birds were!

    1. When Dixie Rose still was with me, I’d occasionally put on one of those videos that’s nothing but an hour long recording of birdsong: robins, mockingbirds, and so on. She had the same reaction as Gus. Sometimes, she’d even begin looking under the sofa or prowling the kitchen, just in case.

      Now I wonder if I might have seen these more often than I realized, and confused them with meadowlarks. Their songs are pretty easily distinguishable for me now, but by sight alone it would be easy to confuse the two, particularly since I grew up with meadowlarks and would expect one when I spotted yellow and black.

  13. This was wonderful. I am sorry for the Dickcissel. And yet, I wondered if the reason he had left was because he did find a mate?

    I also loved the poem you shared today, and don’t know if you will get the connection, but… Once, when at our local arboretum I took time to set up and capture a very green, backlit, potted elephant ear. The layers of the leaves produced, to my eye, an amazing texture and array of color. When I stood up, one of the know-it-alls in the class told me: “Nobody photographs an all green subject. It is common and boring!”

    Humpf.

    I think the ladies in the garden, and in the poem “…OH it’s just a dickcissel.” must miss out on quite a lot in life.

    I’m sorry I haven’t been round for so long. I miss your way with words and the lovely thoughts you bring to us.

    1. I’m almost certain he found a mate — unless he fell victim to a raptor of some sort. Male dickcissels are solitary and territorial in the breeding season, and aggressively defend their territory. The Cornell site says that if an intruder crosses the bird’s territorial boundaries, it’s immediately chased off. That may have been happening while I watched; so closely focused on the dickcissel on the branch, I could have missed other birds crossing that imaginary line.

      Oh, those rules. I once had a teacher tell me I hadn’t written a “real” poem because it didn’t rhyme. Then, I was crushed. Today? I would have used nicer language, but I would have told her to buzz off. “Humph” is exactly the right response.

      It’s so good to see you! I miss your posts. I hope all’s well in your world!

      1. It is! I have been living in the garden all through winter, spring and now this summer. I need to take a rest and WRITE something.

    1. He is a cheery fellow, isn’t he? Our meadowlark is slightly larger, but bears similar colors. Your larks seem to be not so colorful, although I think at least your skylark has an even more beautiful song — and a good number of English poets who’ve celebrated it!

  14. A beautiful subject in your photo, love the colours. That yellow brings some energy!
    Not sure if they are in Europe and in Italy. I should ask some friends with more knowledge then me.
    And yes, Emily’s words are always nice to read, inspiring.

    1. I did some casual research and found that this particular bird doesn’t appear in Europe; it’s strictly a North and South American bird, spending summers in the U.S. and Canada, and migrating to Central and South America in winter. It is a beauty. We have several wholly or partly yellow birds, but I find the combination of its rusty brown and yellow even more appealing.

      Out of curiosity, I checked the Wiki and found thirteen species of larks listed for Italy, including the Eurasian skylark, whose song is exceptionally musical. I thought this video of its song was well done.

        1. I think a lot of people have noticed more of their natural surroundings in the past months. I certainly wouldn’t want to go through another lockdown to gain that benefit, but perhaps it’s sensitized people to what’s happening around them, unnoticed, all the time.

    1. I was so pleased to find him, and then to have an opportunity to photograph him. I agree; ‘dapper’ is a description that suits him very well. They’re handsome birds.

  15. Lovely photo and poem! At first I thought I had not seen one of these, but later wondered if I actually had seen many Dickcissel and simply thought they were a species of sparrow I was not familiar with. After checking out their region of distribution map online, I would bet I have seen them. I will be paying attention from now on!

    1. I’ve wondered whether I might have confused dickcissels with meadowlarks. The color scheme is similar, although the meadowlarks are a bit larger. Both birds do like an open perch, and they prefer the same kind of grassy environment, so you may very well have seen either or both. They’re in your area in summer, then migrate south in the winter. When they migrate, they form great flocks; that would be wonderful fun to see.

    1. The poem certainly does speak to more than a bird. I certainly have heard phrases like “just a dandelion,” and who could forget the ever popular “just a child” or “just a waitress”? The word can be just a touch dismissive — and who would want to dismiss this bird?

      1. …or to dismiss any bird, for that matter. Feeling rather morose after the passing of another spring , and observing the decline of the kildeer and disappearance of the curlew from my neighborhood.

        1. I’ve been lucky to see more kildeer this year than ever before. To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a curlew, but others with sharper observational skills do report them here. Perhaps the turning of the year will bring yours back; I hope so.

  16. I thought for sure that a Dickcissel was going to be a joke name for a bird. Wrong, was I. When I was in high school I used to recite Emily’s ‘I’m Nobody’ poem to myself as a kind of subversive personal mantra. Love the last line of this bird nobody poem. I feel it.

    1. ‘Dickcissel’ sounds like it could be a joke, doesn’t it? When I first read the name in Jack’s blog, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. After I finally saw the bird, I understood why he was so pleased to have created an environment that would tempt the bird to become a resident.

      I love the “I’m Nobody” poem. Emily can be a little ‘out there’ from time to time, but I always thought that was one of her best — almost tongue in cheek. I’m with you in admiring the end of this poem, too. Keep singing!

  17. “Only a Dickcissel”. That would thrill me as I have never seen one. Now “only a Starling ” might be okay as they are rather pesty but every bird is a treasure of nature. Lovely poem and a fine shot of this beauty of a bird.

    1. I don’t know; I’ve had a half dozen starlings hanging around the feeders this year. From what I can tell, it’s one mated pair with four youngsters. They love dried mealworms, that’s for sure. With four mouths to feed, I’m happy to provide a little extra for them.

      Do you know the full version of Emily’s “I’m Nobody” poem? It certainly would fit with Frog Fridays. See?

      I’m Nobody! Who are you?
      Are you – Nobody – too?
      Then there’s a pair of us!
      Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

      How dreary – to be – Somebody!
      How public – like a Frog –
      To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
      To an admiring Bog!

      1. Yes, I have read that poem before. For most of my younger years it was my goal, in a way, to be nobody. That’s stretching being an introvert somewhat but I never craved notoriety and would have just as soon be unnoticed. I guess that explains my desire to be cremated and not have some headstone telling the world that I existed. Otoh, I do tell the world I exist by making blog posts.

        Here starlings are less desirable. They congregate in large numbers, perhaps you have seen one of their murmurations, and clean out the feeders in minutes.

  18. Dickcissel!!

    For years, this species escaped my attempts at a glimpse. Finally, just two years ago, Nature tired of her joke and our drive down a backroad in Colorado County, Texas coincided with an annual migration flight of several hundred Dickcissel. Glorious!

    They remind me a bit of a miniature Meadowlark.

    The poem selection is so on point when it comes to “modern” birding. So many enthusiasts are out to add a new species to their life lists they often dismiss a “common” species. Is the Mockingbird no less beautiful because it is prevalent?

    I absolutely love your poignant description of encountering the singing male. Since we don’t know for certain why he wasn’t there the last time, our minds are free to devise his fate. I choose to believe he attracted a mate, they subsequently found a suitable nesting site, eggs developed into healthy chicks and next year a young male Dickcissel will be singing his first mating song from atop a dead tree branch near a windmill.

    A sublime memory has been rekindled. Thank you.

    1. Colorado County? You weren’t by any chance roaming around the Attwater Refuge, were you? That certainly would be a good staging area for Dickcissels to gather before migration. They do resemble a meadowlark: both in appearance and behavior. I knew I’d seen one last year, but I couldn’t believe my luck when I found this one — and him so approachable!

      There’s a difference between searching and browsing online, and there’s a difference between searching for a species — avian or otherwise — and simply browsing the countryside, not knowing or caring what will show up. In the years I’ve been roaming around, I’ve learned one important lesson: something will show up, every time. Most of the time, there’s no predicting what it will be, and that’s a good part of the fun. If life lists make someone happy, I’m glad for them — but too narrow a focus can result in missing a good bit.

      Personally, I’m convinced this Dickcissel had established his territory. Whether he managed to entice a female to it and defend it while she built their nest? Who knows? But I’m going to believe it.

      1. Guilty as charged. We spent three days in that area scouring back roads and harassing wildlife within the refuge. I discovered early on that “listing” was too much like competitive sports. Much more fun to “browse the countryside” as you described.

  19. Wonderful bird photo and poem, as always, but I’m most entertained by the name of the Flying Hat Ranch. It’s a great name for those of us who wear hats in the Texas wind.

    1. Jack’s always lived close to the land, so the name’s especially appropriate. It’s been a while since I looked at his blog, and when I re-read his ‘About’ page, I had to smile at this:

      “If my writing ever accomplishes anything, what I want it to do is to get human beings back into balance with nature and out of boxes called houses, board rooms and classrooms for a time, maybe a season or so, while looking at water, earth, sky and fire as the wind and sun and rain grace our face. I write about these things because I think human beings can be persuaded by the written word. I may be wrong.”

    1. An Illinois nature site says it’s present in your area from late Apri to late August
      abundant in the central and south areas of the state and a fairly common migrant and summer resident in the north. Apparently it can be found on telephone wires or fences as well as windmills and dead trees.

  20. I always look forward to seeing/hearing the first dicks of the spring. They are so emphatic about claiming their territories. Handsome birds and great parents. I bet he got quiet because they are nesting. They have to be so secretive. A great photo here.

    1. I’m delighted you stopped by, Lisa. You clearly know the Dickcissel; like you, I assume that my little bird found his mate and set to nest-building. There’s a lot I don’t know about birds, but it’s sometimes easy to spot one that’s claimed a territory, as this one surely had. I used to think birds were wholly unpredictable, but in the places where I visit regularly, I often find the same birds in the same spot, time after time.

      Sometimes, even returning migrants claim the same spots, like the ospreys that perch on the sailboat masts in our marinas. One was clever enough to dismantle the anti-osprey-perching gizmo a boat owner installed. When the birds left, the owner fixed it up again. The next year, when the ospreys came back, it took two days for one of them to dismantle the gizmo in exactly the same way. I’ll never be convinced that wasn’t the same bird.!

    1. One word that came to mind while I watched him was ‘self-possessed.’ I think that captures some of the same spirit you describe: confident, but without any need to impose himself on the world. His song was all invitation.

  21. The third time’s a charm, it seems! What a handsome looking bird. I’m not quite sure why ED would call it a “nobody bird.” But thank you for the introduction. I’ll see if I can find its song online. The internet is handy for that sort of thing!

    1. I confused you! I usually add the poet’s name below the poem, but this time I included Marjorie Saiser’s name in the text of the post. She just used the lines from Dickinson as an epigraph. Here’s the complete Dickinson poem, if you’ve not come across it:

      I’m Nobody! Who are you?
      Are you – Nobody – too?
      Then there’s a pair of us!
      Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

      How dreary – to be – Somebody!
      How public – like a Frog –
      To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
      To an admiring Bog!

      I must say, this one is a favorite of mine among Dickinson’s work, and Ms. Saiser sure put it to good use!

    1. I agree with you on the Dickcissel’s calls and songs. They are nice, and they’re recognizable, but I’d much prefer to have a mockingbird, cardinal, or robin singing around my place.

    1. Thanks, Lavinia. I’ve noticed over the years that there’s always at least one straggler in every group of birders or naturalists. I can well imagine Marjorie Saiser as one of those stragglers, falling farther and farther behind until, suddenly, she’s the only one to hear the Dickcisssel sing.

    1. I was so pleased to get a nice photo, too. Even if I never see another one, I’ll at least have that as a memory. Of course, now that I have seen and heard it, finding another may be easier. It tends to happen that way.

    1. Holding on is one thing, and singing is another — but being able to hold on and sing is quite a trick: one that the dickcissel has perfected. Like you, I really liked the ending of the poem; it seemed perfect for this time of ‘holding on’ in a variety of ways.

  22. This poem hit me in the gut. It’s beautiful in the acknowledgement that even we “unknowns” or “plain ones” sing as longingly and lustfully as the pretty ones. What a wonderful post, Linda!

    1. I have a friend who refers to ‘thinkos’ as well as ‘typos.’ I think that’s one of the most useful concepts ever, and I just went ahead and fixed yours up! I love the poem for just the reason you mentioned. I often think about all the flowers that bloom unseen. They’re no less lovely, even without human appreciation — and no less valuable.

    1. They are interesting, as well as a fine reason to put off mowing until after the breeding season is over. While they don’t nest exclusively on the ground, they often do, and they’re vulnerable enough as it is without humans interferring with their happy homes!

      1. It is so great you put nature first. I was mowing the front pasture a few years ago and this Killdeer was acting really nutty in this one area. I figured she had a nest so I kept my eye open. Even when I was within a few feet from her nest, that bird did NOT move. I finally saw the nest and went around it and she was so relieved! When I came back around I stopped the tractor and found a stick to mark the spot (which she wasn’t thrilled about). I checked on the eggs every couple of days and then one day they were gone. I have had some interesting contacts wih Killdeer and their chicks and they always make me smile.

        1. I really do love Kildeers and their chicks. It amazes me that the chicks can run almost immediately; I always think of them as resembling golf balls with legs! And fast? My goodness, they are fast. Of course, the parents are, too. They’re wonderful birds.

          1. Once I spotted a mother and her chicks by the barn. I stopped and took a few photos before they noticed me. The chicks darted in the tall grass and the mother flew about 20′ in the opposite direction. She was dead set on making sure she led me the other way. They like to pretend they are injured then fly off when you go toward them. They are really fun!

  23. Lovely to see a fine picture of this beautiful bird – I don’t think I have seen or heard of one before. I smiled at the idea of you laughing out loud to hear his song.

    1. The best thing about finding this bird is that it may make it easier to find the next one; I hope it doesn’t take another decade! As for laughter, we all could use a little more these days, and if it results from birdsong? That’s a double pleasure.

  24. Singing its heart out – a bird I only know from other people’s pictures. The image is an excellent capture of the moment of singing. I’d love to hear it sing. My favorite birdsong encounter is hearing a bobolink for the first time, the bird that must have been the model for R2D2’s vocalizations.

    1. Here’s a well done video of the Dickcissel song. It’s not particularly musical, but it’s easily recognized once you’ve listened to it for a bit. The same fellow posted this marvelous video of Bobolinks, who rather remind me of our mockingbirds. I’ve never seen a Bobolink or heard one, so that video was quite entertaining. The males are especially striking with their black and white color scheme.

      1. I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars films and have only passing knowledge of R2D2, so it was back to YouTube for a complilation of his sounds. You’re right; there’s quite a similarity between the bird and what I would have called a robot, although now I know he was actually an astromech droid.

      2. Thanks for those videos, both are wonderful. I’ve haven’t seen or heard a bobolink in years, but I still remember that wild song, and the beautiful yellow top and black and white markings of the males. Lang Elliot has done many sound captures of nature, I knew a guy who worked with him on sound captures of tree crickets.

    1. Every time I read this poem, I appreciate it even more. I’m glad you enjoyed it, too. I suspect it’s gone for the year, now — on its way south for the winter. That’s a sign that it won’t belong until the folks from Minnesota and Michigan begin arriving here in Texas, doing their own winter migration.

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