April 24, 2003
spring birds

Two sitings yesterday of old bird friends.

The first was on the bike path, along the flood control channel next to the freeway interchange. It's about the least natural setting you can imagine, pretty much concrete as far as the eye can see, speeding cars and parking lots. But because of people wasting water when they water their lawns or whatever, there's a steady flow of water in the concrete-lined channel, and soil tries to build up down at the bottom, and grasses relentlessly grow, creating a little wetland until they come by with the heavy equipment to "clean it up" every year. And every spring the killdeers return to this little stretch of bike path. Saw my first one yesterday morning. The killdeer looks very much to me like a shore bird, and I always see it on the concrete slopes above my lttle wetland, though Sibley tells me it's a plover "found in upland habitats often far from water."

The second siting was the first of our returning hummers, which Lissa quickly and authoritatively identified as the male black-chinned. Lissa is much better at the naming of these things because she is a much more visual person, and a better observer. I'm fascinated by knowing the names, but I need her to keep pointing out which is which. In this case, the black-chinned has, well, a black chin, though that would not help distinguish him from the male Ruby-throated, which also has a blackish chin. That distinction is pure geography - we're not likely to have the ruby-throated here.

We know it's the same hummer, because after returning all the way from Central America, he heads straight for our obscurely hidden feeder on the front porch. Though whether it's really one or many I can't tell. They all look alike to me, especially without my glasses.

Posted by John Fleck at April 24, 2003 07:41 AM