Larks Open Up

Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta)

All the Western Meadowlarks I’ve seen this fall and winter have been quiet. It made me wonder why they’re even called larks. I mean, the lark is famously a songbird. Although scientists classify them as members of the blackbird family, not the lark family, they are celebrated for their voices. Then last week the birds taught me why they bear that name. I heard a birdsong medley coming from a tree on the north side of the park, inside the dog run. As I walked toward the sound to investigate, another park visitor pointed to a couple of the birds perched up in fennel bushes by the side of the path and asked me what they were. The sun was behind them and I couldn’t tell. It wasn’t until I walked uphill and caught a good light that the answer became obvious. The tree and some of the surrounding shrubs served as warren for a flock of at least two dozen, possibly many more, Western Meadowlarks. What a set of pipes these birds have! I had heard them from a hundred yards away. They flew in and out of the tree, the shrubs, and into the surrounding grass.

When birds sing it generally means that they’re intent on pairing up, breeding, and nesting. Although they may perch in trees and shrubs, Meadowlarks build their nests in tall grasses on the ground. At the moment, the hilltop where their tree stood had not been recently mowed. But this is an off-leash dog area, and this normally gets mowed, not to mention that dogs run loose there and can sniff out or accidentally trample a nest. I worry.

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

P.S. Burrowing Owl Update

As of 8:30 this morning, the First Owl — the one that is hard to see — was back in its accustomed spot, but a bit lower, so that from the paved perimeter trail you could barely make out the top of its head. The photo at left was taken from the Open Circle Viewpoint.

This owl was not visible yesterday in the early afternoon, and there was speculation that the warm weather had triggered it to start its northward migration. Not true. The bird is still here. We have no way to know where it goes when not in its usual spot.

The Second Owl — the one that was easy to see — remains missing. As readers of this blog know, this bird suffered an injury to its wing and its fate is unknown.

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