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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My studio has a rack of three fixed-pane windows, facing north. To them I owe countless Bird Spa pictures, constant bird sightings, endless hours of gazing and wondering, and a pure north light on my palette and paper. On those windows are six FeatherGuards, designed by a Bird Watcher's Digest subscriber (and marketed by my husband) to deter collisions. They're lines of monofilament, strung with colored chicken feathers. Usually, they work. In the height of migration, with a bunch of crazy juvenile birds bouncing around, we still get some strikes.

Bill was out in the blind and I was at the drawing table inside when we heard that sickening BONK that means something has brained itself on the glass. We're so attuned to it after 7 years that we can tell which window it's hit by where the bonk comes from, and the pitch of it. A big window makes a deeper BONK. I always jump up and go digging in the flower beds for the poor thing, to see if I can help, or at least take it out of the way of predatory chipmunks (like Bob.)

You never know what the bird is going to be. You always hope it's not badly hurt.

Sometimes, what you find takes your breath away. Oh.We get one or two yellow-throated warblers here every year. This is a big, robust warbler with a long, slightly decurved bill, large clinging feet, and strong legs. It hitches around on the trunks and limbs of sycamores like a black-and-white warbler, and nests in natural cavities. (One of only a couple of warblers that do nest in cavities; the other being the prothonotary.) They nest sparingly right in the center of Marietta, which, as a river town, has lots of huge holey sycamores. They nest all up and down the hollers and runs near us, the low-lying ones with sycamores. I wish this bird were still called the sycamore warbler. It's so hard to keep from confusing it with the common yellowthroat, in name at least. All apologies to Geothlypis trichas, this bird has it outclassed six ways to Sunday in the beauty realm, don't you think?

Usually, we see them in fall, and they are almost always in a weird place--in the bird bath, on the deck railing, climbing up the beige stone chimney (which I think looks like a sycamore trunk to them), and once inspecting the LEG OF A TRIPOD we were using!!

This one was in a pile beneath the studio window. Rats, rats, rats, rats. Please be OK.

Might as well give you a good preen and fluff while you're down for the count. I have a feeling we'll be taking some pictures of you. There's Bill's doghouse blind behind me. He was trying for some bathing beauties, but never dreamt he'd see by Bill Thompson III

Of course the first call that went out was for the kids to come see what the window had wrought. Ohhhhhh! What a pretty bird! Is he going to be OK?photo by BT3

Gradually, he began to come around, and realized that Zick's fingers were not where he wanted to be. He moved up into one of the birches, higher and higher. You would have to be the most beautiful warbler on the planet, wouldn't you? Do you like butter?

The next morning, we saw a yellow-throated warbler preening calmly in the top of that same birch. It was a strong coincidence, if coincidence it be. He was fine, healthy, with it, but unconcerned about us standing just below him, snapping pictures. Singing a few bars in between rearranging his feathers. I pray it was the same bird, ready to continue his migration south. Given the paucity of YTWA sightings here, it seems likely. In my experience, if a bird can grip with his toes and open his eyes immediately after impact, the foreseeable prognosis is better than if he can't. He's not singing here. He's still panting.Compare these photos with those taken of the bird we saw the next morning in the same birch tree. Pretty darn similar. But so delightful to see this bird preening,
stretching his wing and tail
scratching his throat with his little yellow-soled foot (note that the feet match the window-stunned bird's!)
and being devastatingly lovely.
I'm going to think it's the same little fellow. Chances are. It's two visitations from heaven, that's for sure. Take care and stay away from windows, little scrap of beauty.
Thanks to B. for letting me borrow your camera for the preening shots. I love that gargantuan fixed 300 mm. lens. I just don't love carrying it around.


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