Sunday, January 19, 2014

Postscript on Blackbirds

Blackbirds fill the winter cottonwoods.

Trees of Blackbird Leaves

Limbs so starkly bare,
no leaves the wind to share;
cottonwoods sway slightly there
in brisk cold winter air.

Soon the lonesome tree becomes
 roost to birds so burdensome;
they bend the branches from
weight of many of their own.

For from surrounding fields
a million Red-winged Blackbirds yield
to swarm these wooden keels,
these noisy feathery beasts of zeal.

Undulating skeins of black,
synchronized with flight exact,
to sway with such rhythmic tact,
stuff my cottonwood to the max.

Huge flocks they came with quite the flair,
I amused by numbers there,
hypnotized I simply stare
in brisk cold winter air

And then the tree exploded with startled birds when this young Sharp-shinned Hawk came calling! :-)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blackbird Ballet

Red epaulets (shoulder patches) distinguish the adult male Red-winged Blackbirds in the flock.

     Red-winged Blackbirds congregate in huge flocks in their wintering grounds in southern Kansas including the Red Hills.  While they certainly are among some species which supply aggravation to grain farmers and feedlots, their other attributes can be quite entertaining.  I have always been mesmerized by the sinuous, winding flights of millions of blackbirds.  Once I tracked a fight next to a roadway which was 14 miles long!  Certainly, congregations of animals in these numbers are a spectacle, even more so when they snake through the air in amazingly tight and synchronized movements.  Next time you notice a huge flock of blackbirds, take a moment.  Watch them for a while and become hypnotized by one of the most graceful and coordinated behaviors of nature.  This is just another subtle joy and satisfaction of being in the Kansas Outback!

Watch the sinuous, undulating flights of these millions of Red-winged Blackbirds.

Now doesn't that make you feel better?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Winter Stream

Morning sun sends streaks of rays
     to nurture icy creeks;
they turn to stars in rippled waves
     that devour sparkling treats;

A nourishing celestial meal
     quenched by melting snow,
sustains small life which you conceal
     in relentless hurried flow;

I softly step your frozen shore
     and peer through water's sheen;
some shiners dance your sandy floor
     which currents have swept clean;

A chilly breeze whose presence known
     by brushstrokes on your surface,
has scripted a concentric poem
     upon your glossy canvas;

The wind yields silence through your trees,
     no leaves to sing its rapture;
it wanders upstream aimlessly,
     leaving but a whisper;

Then finds on perch a great-horned owl
     to walnut branch it clings,
and relentlessly starts teasing now
     until the bird takes wing;

And suddenly this quiet grace
     erupts in noisy chorus,
a flock of crows gives raucous chase
     this sentinel of your forest;

The valley's blessed by peace once more
     as intrusion slowly fades;
Chickadees show a grand support
     by calling out their names;

Did you see the drama in your depths
     or taste the frosted snow?
Did you feel the cold wind to your breast
     or hear the birds' fine prose?

It matters not, I sense inside,
     if winter streams don't know,
the special treasures they provide
     these pleasures to my soul. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mid-winter Blues

Mountain bluebirds congregate in the Red Hills every winter.  This year's population has been spectacular!
Winter often brings the blues
in different forms and different hues;
some lament the season's cold
others rejoice as it unfolds.

Thrushes from the frozen north
seek refuge in Red Hills resorts
of rolling grassy red terrain
on cedar berries they are maintained.

Red cedars pose a serious threat 
puts the ranching culture to the test,
and pretty birds that bless our eyes
also cause the prairie's demise.

So with some ambiguity
I praise these azure birds I see;
I only wish they'd take the seeds
far far away this wish I plead.