First Purple Martin of spring and a big flock of Rusty Blackbirds

2011 February 5
by David J. Ringer

VICKSBURG, MISS. –

Rusty Blackbirds in sycamore

A real treat at home today — the largest flock of Rusty Blackbirds I’ve seen in several years. Hundreds of birds were calling and singing in the trees and then dropped down to the water’s edge to feed and bathe — and up — and down — and up again. And eventually, they all slipped away a few at a time, slowly and quietly, until I realized with a start that none remained. Eerie and a little unsettling, under the circumstances.

I conservatively estimated 500 birds (this image shows only part of the flock) when I submitted my checklist to the Rusty Blackbird Blitz. The blitz runs through Feb. 13, so if you live in Rusty Blackbird territory, get out and search for them, reporting your findings whether you get any blackbirds or not. This effort aims to help researchers understand the catastrophic decline this species has experienced in the last few decades.

Purple Martin in flight

Meanwhile, overhead, this lone male Purple Martin was the first I’ve seen this year. It’s two days earlier than my first sighting last year. February 3rd was the cross-quarter day, midway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. I often think of it as the first day of spring here in the Deep South, for even if the weather is cold (which it is) and snow could still fall (which is forecast), frogs and cardinals have started to sing, and Purple Martins are near. (See this arrival dates map.) Sure enough, this bird showed up two days later.

Related posts:

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  4. A whole flock of newbies
  5. First day of spring 2010!
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