[Tweeters] Fill recently

Connie Sidles constancesidles at gmail.com
Mon May 20 11:51:28 PDT 2013

Hey tweets, The Fill has been hopping lately, though now that all the big cottonwoods have leafed out, the birds can be a big challenge to see. Best bird over the past 4 days (including today): a singing LAZULI BUNTING. He's been hanging out on the western edge of Sidles Swamp, though he did get over to Shoveler's Pond briefly the other day. He's not a bit shy, which is good because he comes out into the open now and then to put himself on view.

The blue of a Lazuli Bunting is like no other blue that I know of in nature. It's named after the ancient Egyptians' favorite stone: lapis lazuli. Most of the lapis I've seen is a dark, almost electric blue, laced with gold tracings. Every now and then, though, you see a piece that is lighter blue, like the blue of the sky halfway up the firmament. That's the bunting's color. I think that particular variety of lapis must have been most popular with the Egyptians because poor people who couldn't afford the real stone often made pottery and ornaments painted with a copy-cat color. The copy was always the paler of the blues. So if you want to see a living example of a most ancient and revered hue, give this guy a try.

Also present today: FOY BLACK SWIFT, a lone scimitar hurrying back to the foothills from whence it came early this morning. The best way to see this bird at the Fill is to pick a day in late May to early June when the foothills of the Cascades are all clouded up. The bad weather drives the swifts down to the lowlands to forage, and eventually, in the early mid-morning, they often appear over the Fill. You can tell them apart easily from the more common Vaux's Swifts because Black Swifts have a forked tail. It's not a deep fork, but it is surprisingly visible, even at a great distance. In addition, Black Swifts flap more majestically and slowly than do Vaux's, kind of like a limo navigating amongst a bunch of darting Priuses.

Yesterday was a 6-swallow day, as we hosted a BANK SWALLOW, a couple of NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED, and the usual suspects (Cliff, Barn, Tree, Violet-green). Also present yesterday was a SOLITARY SANDPIPER on Main Pond; 2 OSPREYS perched on the baseball light standards; a couple of AMERICAN WIGEONS still hanging out on Main Pond; a RING-NECKED DUCK also on Main Pond (there have been 2 pairs here for quite a while); a WILSON'S SNIPE on Main Pond; and a CASPIAN TERN flying over Union Bay.

There were also two RIVER OTTERS swimming in Main Pond yesterday. That was a first! They were big ones, too. A mother Mallard with nine ducklings huddled under the willow tree where I was perched. I'm sure she was hoping the otters wouldn't notice her babies, or perhaps she was a really brainy duck who had figured out that the otters wouldn't come close to a human, so I was good camouflage for her. Mallards never seem to me to have particularly large IQs - I've always thought of them as falling somewhere in the low double-digit range. But this duck looked very sharp and matronly, a duck with experience. She reminded me of Mrs. Doubtfire. - Connie, Seattle

constancesidles at gmail.com

More information about the Tweeters mailing list