Splish Splash, Chicago
The Magic Hedge is renowned as one of the premier warbler watching sites in Illinois. Airline logistics and politics have kept me from Chicago for a while, so a trip there in the latter half of April was eagerly anticipated. My first encounter of the morning called for the red pen to add to my list of 10,000 Bird contributors in the form of the delightful Meredith Matthews. Meredith showed me around Montrose Point on a glorious morning at a very pleasant, sedate (Corey, note sedate) stroll. She told me that the migrants had been delayed by unfavourable conditions until now, but the weather was due for a change and a southerly wind was anticipated, hopefully bringing the movement that all spring-watchers long for; the first wave of warblers.
I had been in Seattle during the previous week and was surprised to find that Chicago was not so advanced into spring. Many, indeed most, of the trees were still bare with only a few beginning to show signs of buds and breaking flowers. Had the warblers appeared, they would have made for good watching. Viewing conditions were perfect with good early morning light and no leafy obstructions, but we wondered how much food would be available. There were plenty of birders present ready to watch the heck out of anything that passed through, but all agreed that it was (that dreaded phrase) “a quiet day”. Sadly duty called and Meredith had to get to work. We had enjoyed a good morning together, but I had to resign myself to a non-warbler post.
In the meadow on Montrose Point is a small man-made water feature signed as “Splish Splash” that was attracting the birds to bathe. The first bird down to the water was a male American Robin. A few robins visited while I watched and the males appeared to be more extravagant at their ablutions than the females.
He admired himself in the reflection and hopped off to dry on a nearby perch. If that is the result of a quick wash, I could be tempted to try it myself which reminds me that it was the Queen’s birthday yesterday. This starts the countdown to my own yearly bath in preparation for her official anniversary in June.
A Common Grackle appeared to be more reluctant to take the plunge into the shallow water, but once it did, it thrashed about with abandon.
The birds were aware of my presence and dipped their heads very quickly into the water and brought it up again to allow them to keep an eye on me and any other predators that could ambush them when they weren’t looking.
I guess that the water runs off the feathers very quickly, but it could slow them down in the first instants of flight if they had to suddenly take off to evade capture.
Red-shouldered Blackbirds seemed to have no qualms about leaping straight in and getting thoroughly soaked. With his feathers sodden, he looked vulnerable on the ground.
He struck me as rather relaxed. In the same situation, I would have been more wary. Surely soaked feathers must be a handicap to a quick getaway.
Thanks to Meredith for her company during our play-date and for taking the time to show me round.