Sunday, October 7, 2007

More About Cowbirds

Elly and I were watching the cowbirds yesterday morning, when she commented they must not be sexually dimorphic (which means that the sexes look different) because all the birds we saw looked the same. I said I thought they are dimorphic, so we checked Sibley which confirmed that they are. We took a closer look at the crown on the driveway. I counted over two dozen males and only three females.

I got out our Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, to read up on cowbirds, which are part of the icterid family. The icterids also include Orioles and Blackbirds among others. Sibley devotes a lot of space to cowbird brood parasitism -- the fact that they don't make their own nests but rely entirely on laying their eggs in the nests of other birds. I didn't read the entire entry. Later in the day I called Mark McKellar at the Backyard Bird Center to ask him about why we saw so many male cowbirds and so few females. Mark is our "ultimate" birding authority when we can't figure out a birding question. A lot of other people's too. Anyway, Mark explained that male and female cowbirds migrate separately. The males generally migrate first, followed later by the females. I guess that is common among the icterids.

I took the above picture of a gorgeous buckeye butterfly yesterday afternoon. It was feeding on some beautiful purple flowers in our neighbor's front yard. I'm going to have to ask what sort of flowers they are. Along with the buckeye, dozens and dozens of bees were collecting pollen from them.

I also met my sister Karen at Browne's Irish Market for lunch yesterday. We have lived a few blocks from Browne's (a Kansas City landmark and institution) for 19 years and I had never visited it! They have all sorts of Irish-related merchandise and a deli. I had a BLT on whole wheat that was absolutely delicious. Karen and I have decided to make it our hangout when she visits KC.

She gave me a novel she had bought (The Art Thief by Noah Charney), saying it was one of the worst books she had ever started reading, she was furious with herself for wasting money on it, and just wanted it out of the house. I opened to the first page and read "It was almost as if she were waiting, hanging there, in the painted darkness" and burst out laughing. "Karen, the opening sentence is an indefinite-it construction!" (Sort of a major no-no in the writing business.) I promised to dispose of it properly. I plan to take it to Propsero's Books and ask them to burn it. Prospero's made international news (the London Times sent a reporter) when they started burning books customers wouldn't buy and charities wouldn't even take for free. You can read more about that on their website. They are only a few blocks from our neighborhood, too.

Here is one more picture of those purple flowers.

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