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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lacking a perch taller than a dried weed stem or a rock, the longspur resorts to flight songs--a lot of them. A surprising number of common birds have flight songs (indigo buntings, yellow-breasted chats, ovenbirds, Kentucky warblers, Acadian flycatchers, mockingbirds, and many others). These could be called forest birds, and flight songs are more or less optional for them. They'll fly and sing at dawn and dusk, or, like the chat and indigo bunting, intermittently through the day. For grassland birds, which have a hard time finding a perch tall enough to work with, flight songs are a more important component of their courtship display. Think horned lark, pipits, and these longspurs. Even the small, secretive sparrows engage in flight songs. The idea is to broadcast your message of sex or defiance as far and wide as you are able. Birds often adopt a striking flight style while singing on high. The longspur lifts his head and flutters shallowly, like a moth, as he pours out his song. It is not easy to get a picture of that, but we tried.
You have to envision BOTB and me standing under the bird, pointing our long lens barrels up at him as he circles overhead, singing his head off. We're laughing quietly and having so much fun.
It was a longspur feast. Just another time I am so happy not to be shooting film! I have him launching himself in the air, assuming a leg position I'd never dare draw... resting, singing, loafing,showing off his beauty from every angle, and filling the air with his silvery song.
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