Monday, May 25, 2009

Orange Monday

I have been Mr. Mom for the last few days while Laura is on vacation with one of her good friends. Yesterday evening I had planned on camping out on the prairie and taking grassland bird photos in the evening and again this morning. I had played my "sleep over" card with Grandma and Grandpa in anticipation and the boys were excited to have a sleep over.

Then the rain came. About as soon as I dropped the boys off yesterday evening until noon today - exactly the time I had wanted to be out. It was too late to change sleep over plans without a little boy revolt so I wound up hanging out at Mom and Dad's for the morning, watching birds in their backyard and visiting instead.

The orioles had been coming into their feeders for a while, including a vivid, glowing male Bullocks Oriole that I decided I was going to try to get a photo of one of these days. It had recently been joined by a dapper little male Orchard Oriole, another species I had wanted to get a photo of for the last couple of years after watching them regularly come to the oranges and grape jelly feeders in Mom and Dad's backyard. There were also Baltimore Orioles, young Bullocks Orioles, and a hybrid oriole also coming to the feeders.

Since my trip to the prairie was no longer an option, I decided to get out my portable blind and set it up near the feeder and try for oriole photos for a couple hours as the clouds were lifting.

It worked.

This tiny brick-colored Orchard Oriole was the most persistent of the orioles present. These are the rarest (and smallest) of the Montana orioles, confined to the northeastern part of the state. Although not as luminous as the others, the rich, handsome plumage is certainly attractive.

The glowing Bullock's Oriole did not come to the feeder as often, but he finally made an appearance where I was able to get a few good photos of him.

The young male Bullock's Oriole was the most vocal of the bunch. I knew he was coming to the feeders a few minutes before he showed up because he was loud and liked his own voice.

The Baltimore males were also spectacular. This male sat in the plum tree in my backyard earlier in the week.

This male was not quite as orange as the male above, or the Bullock's Oriole.

Then there are the hybrid orioles. Apparently many of the hybrids resemble either of the parent species and only a few actually appear as a mix of features from both parent species. On this individual the mix of the black and orange face pattern from both species is most evident, but the wing pattern is also a mix. The large white outer webs of the greater wing coverts on the Bullocks Oriole are replaced with a rather large orange patches (as compared to the Baltimore) on this bird.

The wing bar is also larger than on a Baltimore and the white outer webs of the primaries and secondaries are also similar to the Bullock's. These two species hybridize on where they meet in the Great Plains and the hybrid zone is apparently stable. The number and timing of the molt sequence is very different in each species and may be a strong source of selection against hybrid individuals (Rohwer and Manning 1990)

Below is the hybrid on the grape jelly cup. If you could see a bird trying to lick it's lips, this is what it would look like.

I managed to get a few photos of the other birds hanging around the backyard (I love being in the blind and watching and listening to things going on around me - see here for a previous post about using it in my backyard last year). Thanks again to BOTB for the recommendation on the pop-up blind. If you are interested it is an Ameristep Doghouse ground blind. It works great, the only hang-up is learning how to get it folded back up into the bag, but that just takes practice.

This is the owner of the grape jelly cup. The other birds are only there with her permission, particularly other American Robins.

The Black-headed Grosbeaks stop by for an occasion taste but they seem more content with the offering of seeds at the other feeders.

The Spotted Towhee was foraging on the ground nearby. No grape jelly or oranges for him - just seeds.


Rising, James D. and Pamela L. Williams. 1999. Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Rohwer, S. and J. Manning. 1990. Differences in timing and number of molts for Baltimore and Bullock's orioles: Implications to hybrid fitness and theories of delayed plumage maturation. Condor 92: 125–140.


Clare said...

Very beautiful photos as always John. Such vivid birds.

I am intrigued with the pop up blinds, but wonder if my birds would wonder why a bush suddenly appeared on the tundra.

John Carlson said...

Hey Clare,
It might still work. I used it on the Sharp-tailed Grouse lek this spring and they didn't seem to mind but then again they had other things on their mind at the time.
Would polar bears be more of a concern? I know I always feel a bit vulnerable when I have it out in the open because I am only looking out a small hole in one direction. Otherwise I bet it would work great. J

Carol said...

Beautiful!!! I dont know if we get Orioles here in FL. Grape Jelly...I'd probably only get ants.

bathmate said...

I liked it.