Saturday, August 18, 2007

Is it the little things?

When this young Chipping Sparrow hopped up and looked right into the lens, I was thinking that it was the little things that really counted. His Dad had been attempting to get him to swallow seeds whole. Therefore instead of giving the seed a bit of a crack first with his beak, Dad had been poking whole seeds into this little guy's mouth. The seeds then proceeded to fall right back out onto the ground every time. Suddenly the fledgling, after yet another sequence of drops, hopped right over to the glass door, and stared into the lens as if to say---"And you're looking at...?" It was one of those little moments that are very nice.

Which got me thinking about "the little things". For instance, here we have Great Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica. What makes it recognizable as one of the lobelias are little things-the lobes. It has two on top that stick up like ears and three on the bottom rather like a lip. Therefore it's a Lobelia--the little things.

I was then reminded once again about "the little things" when I failed to get a photo of the other leaves of this plant. A little thing that has kept me from being able to identify it.

Then there is what I think of as a lovely little thing, the way rain remains droplets on a Mourning Dove's back.
By the way, the Mourning Doves are flocking. Friend and Doorstep are now almost always seen with their three youngsters from this season. The youngest was shunned there for a little while as he insisted on continuing to crowd everyone in hope of handouts. Usually members of the dove family once they leave the nest must learn to eat immediately or else. There is very little regurgitative feeding once they become quite mobile. Well in this case, the adults would hop at him and then chase him out into the yard away from the group. He'd stand out there and watch and perhaps think about the matter and eventually he got the message. Now that he's developed manners and doesn't beg, he gets to hang out with everyone else.

Then as I was standing out in a rather wet day, thinking about the little things, suddenly the Gulls began to do it again. Exactly what "it" is I've yet to figure out.
Suddenly, usually in late afternoon, a large flock of Ring-billed Gulls,(I think, I haven't gotten a good look at an adult yet), perhaps 70 of them, will appear above the ball fields in the park circling and calling. I thought perhaps garbage collection? But, no, that's not it.
Then today I realized that the adult gulls seemed to be pressing the immatures to land on the tops of the field lights in a kind of herding action. If the young fly off again, they are then "herded back on". ??? Interesting.
5:21:83 PM So out came the magnification.

5:22:04PM A group of five immatures, all pointing in the same direction, with four actually looking in the same direction. There is still a certain amount of herding going on with other lighting pole perches.

5:22:20 PM The gull cries continue. Adults swoop and circle. Number four is still looking my way, while two and three are thinking about where the other stands in the pecking order.

5:22:48PM I notice the Gull calls have almost completely stopped. One through Five are all looking fixedly at something. Unfortunately I can't tell what it is but I'm getting the feeling that what I'm seeing is some kind of youth training session. The adults are doing something that they insist the youngsters see.

5:22:57 PM One and Three are having attention span problems but Two, Four, and Five are still watching whatever it is.

5:23:05 PM Then everyone recovers their focus until Two loses hers. (Sorry about the raindrop on the lens.) Two is watching one of the adults fly off. The Gull cries begin again, the adults begin to wheel and disperse.

5:23:31 PM One takes off after an adult and within seconds all the others do as well. Now here's a case where I was watching the little things and whatever the big thing was got away. Though perhaps if I hadn't been watching the little things I might never have known that the big thing existed.
Next time: The Big Thing.
Just what were the adults attempting to have the immatures see and possibly emulate? Whatever it was it didn't take long. At least not nearly as long as a training session for a young Red-tail. A good thing too, as these immatures haven't nearly the attention span of a young hawk in training. But then again, being flocking birds, perhaps they don't need to have a long attention span. And in fact being gulls perhaps a long attention span isn't even a good thing considering their foraging habits.
Donegal Browne

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for seeing the "little things" and sharing them with us.

Fascinating about the gulls......