Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lords of the Flies

Unexpected Fluttering
Robin in the Snow
The Day Before
Yesterday Was a Beautiful Day to Fly
Even in Snow, He Still Sings to Me
Governing the Feast
A Female Oregon Junco
Red-Winged Blackbird Participates
Junco Gets in on the Feasting
Red Robin Plucking Flies
Something is fluttering outside my bedroom window. Groggy, I wake slowly. Without glasses I'm legally blind, whatever that means because I can see light and colors vividly. I just can't discern shapes or distances.

Spring is the fly season. When you live in the country and have more livestock for neighbors than people, it's a given. With our early spring, daffodils, ducks and flies abound. I yawn, stretch and grab my glasses.

No flies fluttering at the window, but snowflakes as big as rose petals swirl like a celebrity romance. It's nearly a white-out, the snow is falling so fast and thick. Yet, I catch a glimpse of orange and can barely see a robin through the snow.

Hard to believe that the day before I sat outside under the apple tree with Bootsy the barn cat, watching ducks dive on Elmira Pond and sipping an Easter brunch mimosa. A small aircraft flew low across the valley and I thought what an incredible day to fly. I had a ham slow-smoking in the BBQ and spread a blanket over the still damp peat and new green grass. I could see plump apple buds already.

Snow. A hard reality to accept so soon after a sunny day.

As the flakes continued the grass greedily sucked up the moisture. It seems that the flies were surprised, too. Normally, flies seek shelter at the first hint of rain. Flies can survive getting wet, but they can't fly. This makes them vulnerable to prey.

For whatever reason, the flies dropped like...well, like flies. They littered the snow like little black smudges as if the chimney was spewing ash. And this did not go unnoticed by the stealthy red robins. They flocked in the snow, the Lords of the Flies.

Other birds caught on to the feast. I'll have to write more about my young red-winged blackbird who has been serenading me like a courtly lover. He sits outside my office window and trills so sweetly I expect to see a cap and plume on his head. Nonetheless, the snow did not deter him. He sang to me then joined the feast.

If I were this fanatical about birds in the UK, I'd be called a twitcher. That suits my moment because now so many Lords of the Flies are flocking to my snow soaked lawn that I'm visibly twitching. Oh, look! There on a dry stalk in my garden -- an Oregon junco!

You can tell a slate-colored junco by its white-rimmed tail. It might be a she -- females are dark but can have more brown on the back. She seems brown about the shoulders. Both genders have pink beaks and twitter in flight. They are all so close to my window perch that I can hear the twittering.

Or maybe I'm twittering while twitching!

With my camera mounted on my face, I follow the junco from garden to fence to grass. Suddenly, I realize there is a large and previously overlooked presence in the grass. With perfect camouflage, it's a red-shafted northern flicker!

Normally swift and elusive, I capture the day's prize with still shots that I've posted at My Friend Flicker.

Next the robins regroup and devour more flies. I try to spot other birds I might miss in my daily routine of watching the pond. The flicker has dashed but now watches from a garden post. I decide to grab some coffee and smoked ham. The Lords of the Flies continue to swarm all day.

And I didn't have to swot a single fly. Snow in spring can be a boon.


  1. Flickers are so pretty. I don''t recall ever seeing one before. What's with Spring this year? Mind you I recall one Spring where we got about a foot of snow on Good Friday.

    1. Spring can be so touchy! Today, it was sunny and evidently not all the flies died! Ugh...at least we didn't get a foot of snow. :-)

  2. Love all the birds; we have a more limited range but some pretty colourful. And if I may put you rght on one thing: I don't think you are a twitcher. A twitcher is, strictly speaking, a certain type of bird watcher, one whose main goal is to collect sightings of as many rare breeds as possible. They don't enjoy the watching for watching's sake but for the 'chase' and have been known to pour across the country for a glimpse of a golden eagle or golden oriole.

    1. I'll revert back to bird nerd. :-) Did you see the swallows (see, I'm twitching again)?

  3. Argh...just tried to post a comment and lost it! What a surprise to have all that snow after such a lovely, spring day! Love your re-winged blackbird to serenade you, that is so sweet. And thank you for reminding of what the word Mimosa, I was wracking my brains the other day to try and remember it. We call it Buck's Fizz here! And I always thought that a twitcher was someone who watched birds, albeit more fanatically than most people, so I say we are still twitchers and/or bird nerds. Either way, we love birds, yay!