Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Indigo Bunting and Roadside Weeds and Wildflowers

It's been another warm, humid, windy day with a damp blue sky full of huge, restless gray and white clouds. An Indigo Bunting – the first of the season here – sang from somewhere among the tangle of weeds in the old field just outside the entrance to our subdivision. I couldn’t see where it was, but its chanting sweet-sweet, chew-chew, sweet-sweet mixed with the songs of White-eyed Vireo, Mockingbird and Eastern Towhee, and the spees of a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Two Red-tailed Hawks soared low over the field and over the busy highway just beyond it.

The wild grasses, weeds and wildflowers along the edge of the field have made a flowing tapestry of colors and textures for the past two or three weeks that’s a pleasure to walk by. The mixture changes gradually, some plants fading, others appearing as the days go by, and I don’t know the names of most of them, only a few. Clouds of tall white daisies, Queen Anne’s lace, low-growing deep-purple verbena and a graceful, coral-colored, branching sort of weed, speckles of yellow dandelions, furry pink rabbit-foot clover, tall feathery grass-tops, tan brushy grass, fresh, new-green grass, and the crusty brown and rust of old grasses and tiny wildflowers. Puffs of filmy panic grass hover like mist over several kinds of twisted, tough-looking plants. Tiny yellow balls of blooms hug the ground, clumps of tall, harsh, spiky purple thistles, lush honeysuckle vines and flowers and white blackberry blossoms, the soft dusty lilac of Chinaberry trees in bloom – and on the other side of the road, a riot of sunny pink roses tumble over the banks of the ditch.

Indigo Buntings love shrubby, weedy old fields like this. As the species account in Birds of North America notes, “Their colorful appearance and cheerful songs are good reasons to fallow old fields and to spare (not spray) herbicides along railways and roads.”*

*Robert B. Payne. Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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