Family Dynamics

I was traveling yesterday, and so I couldn’t get out into the countryside until this morning, when it was cloudy, cool, and sprinkly. Such weather kept the butterflies bedded down, but didn’t seem to bother these birds at all, thankfully. I headed to a new spot that Anne had scouted for me last week, and the initial indicators are promising. Thanks, Honey!

We’ve seen this first bird before, in Estabrook Park a couple of times, but this is the first time I’ve seen a great egret in Europe. Technically, they are different subspecies, with Ardea alba egretta residing in the Americas, and Ardea alba alba over here in Eurasia. As the Pedia of Wik so stylishly puts it, however, they “differ but little.

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This next bird had me all excited because I didn’t recognize it at all, and I thought maybe I was seeing my first rail or crake, but the reality might be even more interesting. This little cutie, with three tiny jet-black chicks at its feet, is actually a juvenile moorhen, from the same family as rails, crakes, and gallinules, but probably from the first brood this summer and now helping to care for its siblings from a later brood.

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Below is an adult moorhen, with a bright red and yellow beak, who was in the vicinity, and whom we have seen before, a couple of times. Anyway, I was amazed to learn that “helping-at-the-nest has been studied in a number of avian species,” including our “moorhens (Gallinula chloropus),” but the evidence gathered so far suggests that doing so “does not enhance the reproductive success of breeders.”

Then why do they do it, one might reasonably ask? Well, maybe they do it because they can’t use their phone or go to the mall, and they’re bored out of their little skulls so why not help out around the nest? Weirder things have happened, right?

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Finally, I spotted a pair of terns who appeared to be in the midst of their own family drama. They were perched, which I hardly ever see, but on separate posts, and at least one had a lot to say. Then one swooped down to snag a fish out of the water but didn’t eat it right away nor feed it to the other one. Instead, it flew back and forth a couple of times and returned to the same perch, almost as if to say, “see how easy that was? Now go catch one for yourself!” It sure is a fun time to be watching birds.

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Lastly, in other news, Anne has returned safely to Milwaukee and is going camping with her family at Kohler-Andrea State Park for the week. Maybe she’ll get to see the white pelicans again.

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

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