Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Redstart Riot - American Redstarts

Yesterday was a hard day. I was grieving the loss of  our little dog, Easy. Someday, I'll tell about that, but for today, I can't. I'm just too raw. After we buried her, I went off to Weed For Dollars to get my head out of some of the pain. I hoped that I would see some birds or beasts that might help to heal my broken heart. Nature never disappoints me; it was a terrific birding day here in The Burg. I'm only showing the American Redstarts for this post as to show all of what I saw would be just plain gushing. My father always used to tell me that anything worth doing was worth doing to excess. I subscribe to that most of the time, but if I showed the whole day's birds, you'd all think I'd gone on a birding bender to drown my sorrows and you would worry about me.
   At Alliquippa, here in Phippsburg, along the road is a hedgerow. It's an enormous, sensuous tangle of honeysuckle, lilacs, sumac and wild black cherry, all in bloom right now at once. The fragrance is deafening, yes, deafening. You heard me right. It's like trying to breath honey, an elixir of the sweetest, vanilla scented kind. Standing in it, I was awash with the perfume and couldn't quite tell if the buzzing I heard was the honey bees working or that feeling that precedes a faint or when you eat too much frosting and your fillings sing. The Cat birds were rustling and calling from within and there must have been at least six American Redstarts, males and females. They worked that area of heaven on earth for at least six hours. I left long before they did. I did get photographs of everybody, which was no easy feat trying to shoot in a thicket with high contrast of dark and light and hoppy flitty birds. The males called unrelentingly to the females that chatted back, jumping coyly ahead and out of sight whenever the males got close. I could have stayed there for many hours working for perfect shots. It was the kind of focus I so desperately needed to be able to apply to stop myself from sobbing uncontrollably, and a couple of times, I did anyway. The birds didn't care. They kept moving, darting, calling and enticing me to them. They lifted me from my despair up into the sky, up into the air. 
Honey bees love the wild black cherry blossoms. Those trees get that gnarly, black virus that mutates their branches and makes them hideous in the winter, as if they are festooned with gobs of tar. It would be tempting to hack them all down, but look who lives on the blossoms. 
American Redstarts are a type of wood-warbler. They are migratory and glean insects from the trees. This yellow one is the lady. The singer below is the male. They are about 5" long from head to tail.
For the couple of hours I worked for photographs of these guys, a male perched out of the canopy of leaves only this once.


  1. Beautiful descriptive post in word and photos!! My sympathy to you for the loss of your little dog, it very hard to go through..they are so much a part of the family!!! Hope things are better soon!!! Keep cool... it was 80 at 9:30 this morning inland ..hope it's cooler at the coast!!!

  2. sharon f in west kMay 25, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    stunning pics-Mother Nature does seem to step in at the hardest times! I feel for you-the more joy they bring to us, the greater the ache...just ride it out and take care-SF

  3. Last weekend in Smallpoint

    Lesser Yellowlegs
    Magnolia Warbler
    Canada Warbler
    Northern Parula
    Willow Flycacther
    American Red Start
    Philadelphia Warbler
    Yellow Warbler
    Yellow-Rumped Warbler
    Black-Throated Blue Warbler
    Blackburnian Warbler
    Cedar Waxwing
    Black-Billed Cuckoo
    Laughing Gull
    Bald Eagle

    No sign of Balt. Orioles or Rose-Breasted Grossbeaks like the weekend before. Too foggy to observe Tern activity off Head Beach.
    Say Hi to Dave & Tom for me.

    Mike Rae (Boomerang)

  4. Geeez, Mike! How to make a girl feel small, really really small! were you walking or aboard the plastic boat? I'll pass on the 'heys,' to the broth'ahs.

  5. Wonderful Photos of the redstart.Patience is a virtue.

    bmc still can't get my pic on. Maddening !!

  6. Thank you, Grammie G and Sharon. I can feel your love from here.

  7. Great redstart in flight photo. Wow!


  8. All on foot, I also saw a Barred Owl perched on the wires on the north end of Small Point Rd. a week earlier. May have been a member of the family you photographed. I gotta get a good camera with a zoom. Maybe you can help. I spend all of my extra $$$$ on gas & bait for the boat. I'm hoping to launch this weekend. If you have a VHF radio give a shout on channel 10. Have a great Memorial Day weekend.


  9. Love the honey bee and cherry blossoms. You really know how to capture the perfect photo.
    In our thoughts,
    HG and GP

  10. Thank you for another great set of pictures. Sorry about your loss. It moves me to hear you talk about the Alliquippa where I grew up as a kid, loving that place though it looked quite different than it does now. It is too hot to garden. I've been sweating just carrying water out to the dry veggies. I did jump into the ocean yesterday for the first time. There is a Rockland swim in August, out along the breakwater. I've never done that, but may someday. The water remains quite cold out there, or did you feel it?Thanks again for sharing your amazing photos. Ron

  11. Mike, Kodak has a sale on right now, http://store.kodak.com and some great prices on great point and shoots. Under $300 for a 20x zoom, I'd buy it if I needed a new point and shoot!

  12. Thanks Robin, I'll check it out. Keep your eye out for me (and sandpipers) this weekend. Have a good one. Mike

  13. Hello Robin,

    Very sorry to hear about the loss of your little dog and I understand how you feel as I too am feeling raw after having to have my cat put to sleep a week ago today.

    However, those 'Yanky Starts' as we refer to them in te UK are stonking! My first experience with them was in 1989 when I spent a year volunteering at Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario. When I pulled a male American Redstart out of the bag to ring I was almost beside myself as it was such an awesome bird!



  14. Seumus, That made me laugh out loud! I had never heard the term 'stonking' and thought it very funny. Though I don't know the word, I did understand just what you meant. Ha ha! Glad you liked the birds. They were a ton of fun. I'm sorry about the loss of your cat. There's nothing for that kind of pain but time, I guess. At least there's lots of birds along the way. Best to you, RRR

  15. Well, we did it,Thanx awfully.The stone is lovely really befitting for the little princess. I miss seeing her in the drive.

  16. We do, too. Nice head shot, lady!

  17. Sorry to hear about your loss Robin. Time will heal the heart some-what, but you will always have fond memories. We recently lost Keeko, a cat that has been in our family for a long time. I feel your pain.

    Wonderful photos of the Redstarts!


  18. So sorry about your loss. We are thinking about you and Uncle David. Love, Julie

  19. Thank you, Julie. We know that those of you who have lost pets know the depth of the sorrow that goes with it. XXXOOORRR

  20. I just had a chance to read your Blog and I'm so sorry to hear about Easy. I know how hard it is to lose a family member. You can feel joy knowing you gave Easy a fantastic life filled with love and true happiness something many dogs let alone people never experience.

  21. Thank you, Judy. It has been hard for us. She was a very happy dog.