Tuesday, April 28, 2015
I saw a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds at the marsh. The female wasn't close enough to include her in the photo, but I liked the background so I took the picture. The female is a more uniform drab brown color. In the case of this bird, it does take a village to raise them because they have no parenting skills. The female sneaks into an active nest belonging to another species and quickly lays an egg. For whatever reason, the nesting female treats it as her own, despite size and color differences. Once the cowbird chick hatches, it either out-competes the other chicks or throws them out of the nest. It is not the kind of conduct that endears them to you.
While the female is sitting on the eggs, the male Osprey will bring her fish to eat. After the male catches a fish, he takes it to a tree limb and eats the forward half of the fish. It seems to me they save the best for the female (and later, the chicks), but it probably has more to do with the fact that it is easier to start eating at the front of the fish and work back. Anyway, once they are ready to bring the female her portion, they will do a victory lap type celebration before going to the nest. They have a one-note call, which is what this male is doing.
There were only about eight Snowy Egrets at the marsh while I was there the other day, but most were not fishing. They would slip in and out of the reeds, disappear for a while, then reappear. I am not sure what that was all about since they build their nests in trees and bushes.
This is a Greater Yellowlegs. Except for a Willet, it is probably the largest sandpiper. In the next photo, you can see how large they look next to a Snowy Egret. I could see a lot of minnow activity in the grasses that were flooded. Minnows like to gain access to areas that become flooded at high tide and forage in new areas that have not been picked over. I didn't realize the Greater Yellowlegs would eat minnows until I saw him scurrying around helter skelter trying to chase them down. It may be a little difficult to make out, but this is a minnow that became "folded over" when the bird grabbed it.
I had to laugh at a footrace that developed between these two birds over minnow activity ahead of them. While the photo is a still, you can see the suggestion of speed in the leg postures of both birds. The only time the sandpiper bends his foot at the wrist like this is when it is in a hurry. When it is just walking it keeps the foot straight and spread open. The long gait of the Snowy also means it was in a hurry.