Monday, May 15, 2017

Spring is tough on birds

On Sunday morning I returned to Belle Isle.  After three days straight of non-stop birding I wanted to give it a miss.  But, after Saturday's near 100% absence of neotropicals, I've been worried.  So I decided to return on Sunday to check if things were improving.  

I decided to stop off at Rivard Plaza first.  I took a quick walk around the marsh area.  The dog walkers and bike riders were already starting to gather.  As I was getting ready to return to my car, I found a female redwing blackbird lying on the ground on her side.  I picked her up from the ground and was surprised to see that it was still alive -breathing and blinking - but expressing no other kind of alarm at me picking her up and handling her.

Her feathers were in essentially perfect condition.  There was no sign of a broken wing or other kind of fracture.

However, and unfortunately it's not seen in these photos, her lower beak appeared to have taken some blunt trauma, but the beak was still intact and not too damaged.

Otherwise, I looked the bird over and over and there appeared to be nothing else wrong with it.  I picked her up from the silver flooring that shows in the photo below.  Not seen in this photo was a largish metal electrical box just to left.  I guessed that the bird had had a crash with this metal box and landed on the metal flooring stunned and perhaps with fatal head trauma. Springtime redwing blackbirds go into these reckless chases and it's not hard to imagine such an event.

For photos only, I put the bird back on the pavement.  Her feet curled up beneath her.  During this time I was thinking about what to do with her.  I knew I was not going to leave her there.  She was in such perfect condition that I thought about putting her in my car, waiting for her to die and then taking her to Janet Hinshaw at the University of Michigan Natural History Museum.  I have a couple of other birds in my freezer that, when I get a chance, I would also like to take.  I thought about placing it deep in the bushes - ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

But, something about just waiting for the bird to die did not appeal to me.  I noticed how the bird's feet griped my fingers strongly.  

I found a slender limb of a small tree right next to the marsh pond well away from the sidewalk with dog walkers and bike riders and transferred the bird to the slender branch and snugged it against the trunk for support.  I left it there and walked away.  What would be would be.  I drove on to Belle Isle.  

Birding was still very slow at Belle Isle.  But there were at least a few new warblers.  Along the trail I found a dead and somewhat decayed gray catbird.  I picked it up for photos and thought of my redwing blackbird back at Rivard Plaza.  

The only other photo I took was of this wood duck pair on the woodland trail creek.  Something about this photo appeals to me.  

On the way home from Belle Isle I got the crazy idea to check on my bird at Rivard Plaza.  It had only been about an hour and a half since I propped it up on the slender branch.  If it had died and fallen off its perch, I would collect it and take it to Janet Hinshaw.  Upon arrival I could see from a distance that there was no bird on the perch.  I walked up to the area and there was not a dead bird at the base of the tree or anywhere else around.  I was relieved and happy.  The bird had likely been stunned, but not so severely that it was unable to recover.

I'm happy I made the decision I did and learned a good lesson from the experience.  I'll end by commenting that female redwing blackbirds are completely beautiful.  I've always thought this but having the chance to hold one in my hand confirmed it.  


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