Like Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower, the gull, along with many urban birds, is overlooked and pushed aside, sometimes literally under foot on crowded sidewalks. Also like O’Keeffe’s flower, when you take the time to really look at that gull and embrace the wholeness of her — her yellow bill, her gray coverts, her ear spots or orbital rings, the white tips of her stretched wings — she becomes your world not just for the moment, but in perpetuity.
Starlings are common residents in my city landscape. In appearance they are kaleidoscopic, polychromatic, iridescent, resplendent. In song, they are whistles, chants, murmurs and twitters. Every spring, they find ways to reconfigure urban structures into sanctuaries for their nests -- structures like this corrugated metal framework.
The flight path started at distant patches of seaweed which passing cormorants would pick off the water and carry back to their nesting towers. In the image below, a Pelagic Cormorant with characteristic white flanks, handed off a seaweed prize to his lady love. Since both male and female incubate, I'm not 100 percent sure of the sexes here, but the gift bringer did seem the larger of the two, which would suggest a male.
For a few weeks at the end of April and beginning of May, hundreds of thousands of migrating sandpipers, Dunlins, plovers, dowitchers and Red Knots feed and rest on the Refuge's mud flats and along the tideline. On the day we went, a volunteer estimated 15,000 birds were foraging on the plateau in front of us.
I notice spring birds before spring buds ... and just the other day, the Red-winged Blackbirds were vocalizing their intent over a Kirkland swamp. In my periphery I saw the crimson flashes of male birds flitting between reeds, and then females clinging to cattail puffs.
I wondered if they were, as Jung suggested about human dream states, creating psychic wholeness by connecting their conscious and unconscious realms. Externally, for us, there’s serenity in birds flocked together for slumber … Canvasbacks revealing just one wary red eye, Ruddy Ducks spinning with their sail of a tail, Scaup males waking before the rest and rustling the females to breakfast and mollusks. They utter the lightest peeps in their own language as their unconscious dream life meets life’s surface tension.
I believe this interaction was a territorial display between two Northern Flickers. Their routine was on a continuous loop for about five minutes, performed on utility cables strung across our view of the city.