Subtle Transitions - Iowa Wildlife Federation

Subtle Transitions

Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.

Subtle Transitions.     2 Indigo male   It’s early August, and Iowa’s woodlands are hinting of change.  The stunning lime colored brilliance of earlier forest greenery has slowly given way to the darker, more subdued hues of late summer.  Early season berries are but a memory, while the fruit of late season species are currently transitioning from the green of summer to the red of an impending autumn.

3 Indigo courtship  But some of the forest’s most notable changes are measured by sound rather than sight.  Just a few weeks ago, the first hints of morning light were greeted by a din of bird song as a diverse array of feathery creatures staked claim to secluded breeding territories.  By contrast, daybreak woodlands have now fallen comparatively silent.  By now, most birds have raised their broods; youngsters are on their own and adults are going deep into summer molt.  There are exceptions to this new found sound of silence.  In the woodland where I frequently walk or sit during first light, indigo buntings are still acting as if its early spring rather than late summer.  This morning offered a typical example.


1 Indigo male Aug 1, 2013


While it was still barely light — almost black in fact — a nearby male suddenly began his daily chorus with bold and boisterous enthusiasm.  I knew exactly which bird it was.  He’s been singing here all summer; usually from one of two perches located about thirty yards apart.  In addition to his highly predictable, well established routine, I know its the same bird due to a pattern of lightly colored feathers on his breast.  Buntings often raise two — even three broods during a single season, and this particular bird is a definite die hard.  But sooner or later even the indigo buntings have to call it quits.  Another three weeks, and they’ll begin the daunting 1500-plus-mile nighttime journey leading southward to Yucatan and beyond.  By the time the last bunting finally vanishes from our local woodlands; we’ll know that summer has ended and that fall has officially begun.

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