In one of those ironic little tidbits, the day after seeing my 100th lifer bird, (and I’ve been sitting at 99 for months now) I went over to Lake Crabtree and logged two more. Go figure.
One of ’em, the house wren, was probably not the first time I’ve seen the bird, but the first time I had it in my sights long enough to tick off every other possible wren and decide that bland little bird definitely, positively was a house wren. House wrens
The other was a toughy. It was a solid grey bird walking along the ground and being buzzed occasionally by swallows doing their mini-fighter jet impressions. My first glance made me think “cowbird” but it was a drab thing, and solid grey. Sometimes cowbirds aren’t real well differentiated, but this wasn’t the brown-and-grey thing at all, this was grey grey, back a bit darker, dark eye…as unassuming a bird as can be imagined. I stared at it for awhile, slinking closer. It wandered around, doing a little bop with its head that was sort of cute. It did not, however, hold up a sign saying “HI, I’M A _______!” which I was secretly hoping for.
It turned out the bop was diagnostic. The only thing it looked to be at that size and color was a female Brewer’s blackbird, but Sibley’s Field Guide had them listed as unusual in this range. But I checked on-line, and the North Carolina bird counts all list Brewer’s blackbirds for the past coupla years, and they’re officially recognized as a Bird Found ‘Round These Parts. And finally, a line buried in the Cornell description jumped out at me–“While walking on the ground, this blackbird bobs its head forward in a distinctive short, jerky motion.” Bingo! That bit I’d actually noticed in the field! Go, bopping bird! (I am still excited when I managed to ID a bird based in part on behavior. It makes me feel like a real birder. I still get a major thrill when I ID a bird from the call.)
The other cool thing were red-winged blackbirds. I just love looking at them. (I imagine I’d grow to hate them if they swarmed, as they apparently do at times, but they’re neat in moderation.) It’s the color. Something about that blinding a red on an animal is just arresting, the way cardinals are, but twice as intense, with the yellow and the neat black framing.
Plus the little “uh-oh-kareeee!” call is cute. In moderation.