Saturday, September 10, 2011

An Oriole Irruption

Irruption--an irregular migration of a large number of birds to areas where they aren’t typically found, usually motivated by the search for food. 

A young male Baltimore Oriole pauses before plucking out the bee-guard so he can sip with ease.  Later the bees will make use of his effort.

We've been having spring weather -- that would be high temps in the 90's instead of 110F -- and I'm filling the hummer feeders all the way up now that the food doesn't ferment by 3:00pm. Good thing, since we've had some unexpected visitors.

Over the Labor Day weekend I started seeing birds in the American Beautyberry bushes (Callicarpa americana) by the bedroom window.  Small greeny-yellow birds with wingbars.  Warblers? 

But the beak was the wrong shape.  Warblers have thin little beaks for eating bugs, not berries.

Female Orchard Oriole, the smallest member of the North American oriole family.


Then we started seeing orioles from all the windows...

Male Baltimore Oriole eating seeds of Big Red Sage (Salvia penstemonoides).


 Female Baltimore Oriole in blooming Firebush (Hamelia patens).

 
Young male Baltimore Oriole protecting 'his' hummingbird feeder.












Male Baltimore oriole snacking on ripe purple berries in the American Beautyberry bushes (Callicarpa americana)

Most of the orioles have moved on now, which is probably just fine with the dozens of migrating hummingbirds that have shown up in the past two days.  

The orioles were the first we've seen in our five years here and there were more than just a stray or two. I'm guessing they're part of an irruption from the historical migration pattern. 

Did the scorched-earth drought make them hug the Hill Country rivers on their southbound journey?  Perhaps columns of smoke sent them our way.

We'll never know.  But I do know this, I'm glad we had berries, feeders and water on offer.  The flash of sunset feathers in the foliage is like seeing hope.  And we can all use more of that.

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.
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