Summer Solstice Birding

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

 

2016 has been strange in many ways.  Add one more example–it’s the first time in nearly 70 years that the full moon and solstice have fallen on the same day, June 20.  Algonquin Indians called this rarity a “Strawberry Moon” since it occurred at the height of the strawberry harvest.  The solstice (from Latin sol, meaning sun and sistere, meaning to stand still) is the day in the earth’s orbit when the 23 degree tilt and the northern hemisphere are directly toward the sun, the sun reaches its maximum elevation in the sky, and daylight lasts the longest.  In other words, it’s all downhill from here.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

To celebrate, I went birding.  June birding is like June Christmas shopping–there are no crowds but the pickings are rather slim.  Gone is the phrenetic excitement of spring migration when you feel you’ll miss something if you’re not out there everyday.  Instead you have the quieter breeding, house-keeping, and chick-rearing of the birds that have chosen to live and work in your neighborhood, fostering a special attachment to these “locals”.

Osprey

Osprey, click on any photo to zoom

Summer birding is all about moisture.  As a northerner I first looked for a job in the south 35 years ago.  During an interview in Charleston SC I commented on the humidity.  “If you want to live down here, young man, you’ll just have to get use to feeling sticky.”  So I took a job a little further north on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Combine sweat, bug spray, and suntan lotion with standing water from a rainy spring and you have sticky birding, even here in the shallow south.

male Orchard Oriole

male Orchard Oriole

Along our tidewater creek on the Chesapeake we were debating the other evening as to which bird was contributing the most decibels to the summertime din of birdsong.  It was a draw between the nearly constant screeching of the Osprey, the piercing trill of the Red-winged Blackbird, and the extensive repertoire of the the Northern Mockingbird.  The Mocker probably wins the prize for duration as he continues the concert long after sunset.

female Orchard Oriole

female Orchard Oriole

The photos in this post were all taken this week at the Blackwater NWR in Dorchester County, Maryland, a few miles south of here.  There was nothing unusual seen but the day offered a chance to work on photography techniques.  This site is my most reliable location to find the gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker, a bird that alluded my camera lens for years.  I was the only birder there, the horse flies and mosquitoes were held at bay by the strong NW winds which came in following the priors night’s strong storms, and the daylight was long–the longest of the year.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

We were having a glass of wine on the porch at sunset this week when two Mockers landed on the lawn right in front of us and began literally rolling over each other in the grass.  I’ve seen birds mate standing up, sitting, swimming, and even while flying, but have never seen this rolling caper.  It became even stranger when the third bird flew in.  My literary spouse put it all into perspective when she reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s famous quote, “I have no objections to anyone’s sex life as long as they don’t practice it in the street and frighten the horses.”

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

24 thoughts on “Summer Solstice Birding

  1. Thanks for the lovely photos, Steve. I haven’t seen a redheaded woodpecker in years. They were common when I was growing up in Racine, Wisconsin. We have’t seen one since moving here 13 years ago. Ditto an oriole, thoughI think I heard one yesterday in the trees by the Talbot Library. (Back in northern Illinois my son sees the Baltimore every year. Incidentally, don’t you have cardinals and Carolina wrens participating in your dawn chorus these days? They are the loudest ones for us (in Eastern Talbot County). A pair of the friendly wrens nested in a flower pot next to our back porch screen, Their nest is almost a tunnel, as you doubtless know. I took photos of chick #1, including mom’s feeding. Saw her (or dad) many times feeding chick #2, but never saw it emerge from the nest. Quiet now, so it must have done so and flew off when I wasn’t watching.

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    1. You’re right regarding the Carolina Wren. If you measure decibel per ounce of bird they would easily win, but they are infrequent visitors to our yard. Your wooded yard is a perfect habitat for them. The Cardinal’s mellow song is drowned out by our top three. That’s interesting about the nest. Were they House or Carolina Wrens?

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      1. They were Carolinas, which are with us year round. We have only rarely seen a house wren. The Carolina Wrens often nest in our garage and in various plant pots near the house.

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  2. Blackwater NWR is one of my most favorite places to spend a day for photography. The birds, the critters, the scenery…..although I am enjoying my adventure out West, I am still missing the Chesapeake Bay region. Posting my bird find today from out West, and reading your post and enjoying your fantastic photos, I truly am now!

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  3. I loved this post. My favorite photo was the red winged black bird. All of these photo’s reminded me that I need to get outside, and pay more attention to the birds because they are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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