A freshly arrived Red-winged Blackbird stakes his turf from the stubby crown of a Sandbar Willow in western Franklin County, today.
The floodgates of early bird arrivals really opened today. Warm southerly breezes ushered in temperatures pushing 60 degrees, and Turkey Vultures were riding the currents northward. Killdeers were loudly shrieking in every muddy field, and watery spots were filled with Canada Geese, Mallards and other fowl, and scores of migrant Ring-billed Gulls acted robinlike in the barren fields.
To me, no bird speaks spring like the Red-winged Blackbird. When the stunning males take up their posts and burble out their sputtery Konk-ah-ree-Onks, we've turned the corner and winter will soon be a distant memory. Where there were none of these last week, today, they are everywhere.
I thought they were of the utmost coolness. And still do.
Watch a male on territory, such as the one in these photos. He'll sit there for a minute, watching for other males that are bold or stupid enough to enter his domain. Then, in a spectacular show, the bird will inhale, visible puff up, fan his tail and splay those magnificent wings forward like a bodybuilder doing a most-muscular pose. Those scarlet-red shoulder epaulets, trimmed in gold, just explode into flames of color in a scene that's nearly unrivaled amongst our songbirds.
In a week or so, the much more muted female Red-wings will arrive and the males will turn the charm knob up to 10. Wait'll you see one of 'em strutting around one of the hens, throwing out those shoulders and Konk-a-reeing with all his might. It's quite the spectacle.
If Red-winged Blackbirds were rare as Painted Buntings in Cleveland, we'd all go crazy over this bird.