It’s a beautiful morning on Salt Spring Island, and Charlsea and her friends are eager to explore. It’s still a little cool out and the dew is heavy on the grass, so you need good boots when you are out early in the morning. Charlsea heads out across the grass among the little daisies looking for Saila and Jenna, who are checking out the colourful spring flowers in the garden. Where will they explore today? “Lets check out the dock!” says Jenna, as she loves being near the water.
It’s warmed up, and their jackets are off. “Oh check it out,” says Charlsea, “there’s the red-winged blackbird. He’s all puffed up! He’s trying to impress the female... see he’s puffing out his red patches! And there is the female... she is a completely different colour than the male - look how she hangs onto the grass blades. If they are hanging out near the dock, they are probably looking for a good nesting site among the reeds, just like last year" Charlsea tells them. Saila and Jenna are very curious.
The next several days are hot, almost like summer, so it's time to don shorts and t-shirts to inspect the dock and watch the birds. Sure enough, they spot the female with some grass in her beak. ”There has got to be a nest somewhere close by,” Charlsea says, “stand very still, don’t make any noise and watch where she goes. She never goes straight to the spot. She’s trying to keep us from finding her secret place."
They have to be patient. They watch as the male puffs up his red and yellow shoulder feathers again, as the birds constantly call out to each other. They seem to have several different calls, especially a distinct shrill set of calls when they think someone is too close to the nesting site! Charlsea and Jenna watch the birds and the birds watch them.
Finally, they find the nest. There it is, it’s perfect! Patience has paid off. They get as close as they can and see that there are no eggs in the nest yet. Several days go by and even though they keep checking, there is still nothing to see. It’s hard to be patient sometimes! Charlsea is worried that Jenna is getting a little too close to the edge. “Be careful Jenna, don’t fall off the dock!” she shouts.
Last year, it took Charlsea a lot longer to figure out where the nest might be, so she never got to see the eggs and what colour they are, nor did she get to see the female sitting on her eggs in the nest. One day she happened to notice some bright red hungry open mouths in the nest among the reeds, waiting to be fed.The Maplelea Girls got close enough to take a good look but were very careful to not touch or disturb the nest.
In a flurry of excitement, she sees that the red-winged blackbirds are defending the nest from a Great Blue Heron! The blackbirds make quite a team, eventually getting the heron to fly off and leave them in peace.
Charlsea is on her own exploring, dressed for the rainy weather. She’s hoping that tomorrow the weather will be better and she will be able to continue observing the red-winged blackbirds and learn more about them with Saila and Jenna.
Thank you to Maplelea Fan, Thea C. for this wonderful photo story!