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Walking the Fen

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Remember the Beaver Creek Wetlands? Here's another dispatch from a beautiful morning spent there. As we entered the swamp forest, a bunny hopped along a log.As we came out of the open fen and made our way to a shrubby wetland, the sneezy Fitz-BEW! of willow flycatchers floated on the air. This little bird could be called nondescript, but it's such a lively sprite, so typical of a certain kind of wet shrubland. There was an overgrown, swampy part of a Big Lots parking lot right near Bird Watcher's Digest in Marietta that sat immersed long enough to get a healthy community of black willow and other wetland shrubs growing through it. It had willow flycatchers. Of course, it was drained not long after the ecosystem had gotten going, blank asphalt being much the preferred option overall .

Soon the unmistakable song of a yellow-breasted chat drifted to my ears. Oh, how I wanted everyone to see this great love of mine, this species I am blessed to call a regular in my yard. Having no iPod or speakers, I resorted to imitating his whistles and ratchety scolds. He came in for a clear look at the imposter.
The chat has a most entertaining way of jetting his long neck out when he sings; of puffing his throat to froglike proportions. He reminds me of one of those toys whose eyes pop out when you squeeze him. Every utterance is accompanied by an outrageous posture, a kind of razzmatazz vaudeville delivery.All this is made even more striking by the chat's flash markings, great for long-distance visual transmission--his yolk-yellow breast, his white spectacles, and his amazing black mouth lining.Twice, he performed his butterfly display flight, no doubt for the benefit of the unseen rival (who happened to be me). The bird looks as if it's suspended on a yo-yo string, bouncing with exaggerated flaps and cocked tail, dangling feet and head up, over the shrub tops. This chat pulled out all the stops for us, and I was grateful to be with an excited bunch of birders, some of whom were seeing their first ever yellow-breasted chat. Their collective gasps of wonder were worth the slight embarrassment of having to whistle and stutter loudly through my teeth. I have been trying to send that bird a check, but "Siebenthaler Fen, Shrub Border Near Gazebo, Beaver Creek, Ohio" just keeps getting returned to sender.

Knowing that this remarkable wetland had been made accessible and protected in perpetuity by ordinary citizens made my heart sing with the chat.
A painted turtle, the size of a quarter, with a future.


It is true and Julie is quite modest about her bird calling skills. Those two had quite the conversation going for a good 10-20 minutes. Bravo.

Megan Boris-

Your pictures are great! Any suggestions for how to set up/what type of camera to get great nature photos?

Oh, Julie, thank you! This perfectly poised bird caught on film--as if I were back there!
I've walked circles around our pastures, being led again and again around by "our" Chat--but have yet to catch a glimpse. His calls turn my head from the farthest corners of the property now, though. And I even attempt a very novice chatter in return--still working on my whistle!

Just a note to say that your blogs never fail to brighten every day. Thank you for being there and doing what you do so well.

Love the YB Chat, and your photos depict him perfectly. I will never forget my Life Chat. I looked out the window at my tiny backyard on 10th St in Marietta and saw this bright yellow bird with distinctive facial markings. Looked him up and found it was a kind of warbler, of all things. All the chats ever since haven't been nearly as special as that guy.


Reminds me a little of the pond I visit near asphalt. But I don't see a Chat...just some very ordinary birds. I'd love to hear you speak Chat. Lovely photos :o)

Thank you for sharing the handsome chat.

Unrelated: Bill's NPR piece was really good today.

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