Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pic of the Day

     Western Meadowlark, Strunella neglecta – Badlands National Park, South Dakota: A beautiful bird with yellow breast and black bib the Meadowlark is a member of the blackbird family. Though the eastern and western meadowlarks look similar, their songs are quite different. The eastern meadowlarks song is somewhat flat, while the western meadowlarks song is very melodious and lyrical.
     When I was a young man, a friend (Charles), and I were maintaining a bird banding station at my parent’s home (my home at the time as well). Eastern Meadowlarks were common in the pastures around the house and was a bird we had set our sites on banding. So, we strung our nets and waited. It is important to note, “A watched net catches no birds.” Not knowing this axiom, Charles and I watched the nets. It seemed to take forever, but finally two Meadowlarks flew into the nets. We both ran to the nets and were eager to retrieve the birds and band them. Each of us thinking, “next year we might retrieve these very birds, or even better, another birder would retrieve them on their wintering grounds.” How cool would that be!
     We were both new at bird banding and still learning how to extract birds from the nets. This is an easy process once you get the hang of it. Even if the net is rapped around the bird numerous times or even rapped around the tongue, which happens frequently, it usually takes only a few minutes to remove a bird. At this encounter there were no such problems, just inexperience.
     As we both attempted to remove the meadowlarks, Charles lifted the net and reached for the birds feet. Suddenly the meadowlark burst from the net and flew away. He stood there in amazement and I stood there laughing. As I lifted the net holding the second bird I reached for its feet, and before I new what happen the second bird burst from the net flying off into the pasture. We both stood there laughing and pointing fingers at each other and ourselves. And we were both sure the two Meadowlarks were in some secluded part of their territories laughing at us as well. Ever since that time, both Charles and I laugh when we see meadowlarks, knowing that two meadowlarks outsmarted us so long ago.
     This boisterous Meadowlark, the western race, was photographed in the Badlands of South Dakota. It had obviously not heard of my former travails with his eastern kindred; perhaps he was too busy defending his territory with song to notice me. Whatever the reason, this Meadowlark allowed me to drive right up to the post from which he sang his territorial song, and allowed me to shoot frame after frame of robust activity using my car as a blind. By the way, Meadowlarks had made a point to avoid my lens until I found this bird. Now………who had the last laugh!

Nikon D300, Nikkor 500mm f4, Digital Capture, ISO 200

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