Posted by: atowhee | July 4, 2010

Not a Pleasant Chat; Talking Ecstasy

Dr. Tom Kuhn and I birded along Bear Creek and around Ashland Pond yesterday afternoon.  As the sun moved down toward the horizon, there were Yellow-breasted Chat to be heard on all sides.  As we stood on the footbridge across Bear Creek above the confluence of Ashland and Bear Creeks, Chat music filled the air.  One Chat was in the willows next to the bridge, the other was in brush on the opposite side of Bear Creek.  One would sing, the other would answer.  Not a simple, casual colloquy.  This was vocal sparring at its best.  Each in turn was devalued and declaimed, called out and called names, defamed and denigrated, upbraided and downgraded, hooted and tooted, chided, de-hided and derided.  All in the Key of C.  Not once was a Chat seen.  But we were definitely aural witness to the goings-on of two decidedly untrusting neighbors.

Another highlight was a soaring Peregrine above Bear Creek.  He was soon spotted by a Kestrel nesting streamside.  Exit Peregrine pursued by a Kestrel.  As I watched the large falcon effortlessly cruise off at the speed of freeway travel, I imagined the feeling.  The sky was blue in bright sunlight, the air freshened by air currents changing elevation.  To move that swiftly with N2 and O2 molecules sliding over the durable complex of keratins and amino acids we call feathers, creates drag, friction, a constant need for muscle and bone adjustment to control the bird’s flight.  It must also be the ultimate “wind-in-your-hair” feeling.  Can there be any ecstasy in nature, any intoxication to match the flight of a Peregrine in clear air?  Not the scent of the headiest rose, not skiing the finest mountain, not a couple’s intimacy at midnight, not the scrumptiousness of the finest cuisine.  The Peregrine’s flight is essentially endless.  This bird can fly for hours. No meal, no inhaled scent, no ski run, no human pleasure could last as long, nor repeat as often.  Other Peregrines in other skies surely fly as freely, as long, as beloved by air and gravity.  And for as long as there are birds there are likely to be future Peregrines so flighted, so fated, so fortunate.

This particular Peregrine, hardly noting the slower perusing peasant, moved out of sight in moments as such birds are wont to do.  Whether this bird roosts in the Cascades to the north or Table Rock even further north, this Peregrine could be back there within a few minutes at most.  Such prolonged speed, such ecstatic flight, such motion can only be  imagined  by even human pilots or skydivers.  Just an earth bound birder, I must be content to marvel. Please, once again, Peregrine.

Location:     Bear Creek Greenway–Ashland
Observation date:     7/3/10
Notes:     Robin on nest.  Male Chats singing at one another across BearCreek next to the footbridge.
Number of species:     19

Mallard     3
Turkey Vulture     2
American Kestrel     1
Peregrine Falcon     1
Rock Pigeon     16
Mourning Dove     1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     3
Western Kingbird     1
Western Scrub-Jay     2
American Crow     1
American Robin     1
European Starling     20
Yellow-breasted Chat     3
Spotted Towhee     2
Red-winged Blackbird     3
Brewer’s Blackbird     6
House Finch     1
Lesser Goldfinch     8
House Sparrow     10

Location:     Ashland Pond
Observation date:     7/3/10
Number of species:     25

Wood Duck     9
Mallard     5
Killdeer     1
Ring-billed Gull     6
Mourning Dove     1
Acorn Woodpecker     6
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     1
Western Wood-Pewee     1
Black Phoebe     1
Western Scrub-Jay     8
Tree Swallow     10
Barn Swallow     2
Black-capped Chickadee     3
Bushtit     12
White-breasted Nuthatch     1
American Robin     2
Wrentit     1
Yellow Warbler     1
Yellow-breasted Chat     4
Spotted Towhee     2
Song Sparrow     1
Black-headed Grosbeak     2
Red-winged Blackbird     20
Bullock’s Oriole     5
Lesser Goldfinch     20

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