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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

A Drama at Betasso Preserve

June 10th, 2013 · 1 Comment

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The black bird paced back and forth on a horizontal branch of the Ponderosa Pine. I had never seen any bird behavior like that before, so I stopped to see if I could understand it.

Black birds don’t interest me much. I generally prefer to look at and photograph birds with colorful feathers. And this black bird was a European Starling, birds that are now so common in North America that many people consider them to be pests.

The presence of these starlings here is, of course, the fault of a guy named William Shakespeare. A group called the American Acclimatization Society decided that bringing every bird that Shakespeare wrote about to the New World would be a great idea.

Shakespeare’s biggest mistake was mentioning starlings in Henry IV, Part 1. Because of that blunder, the society released a few hundred European Starlings in New York’s Central Park in 1890 and 1891. European Starlings liked America as well as European people used to that they (the starlings) now number more than 200 million here.

I had gone to Betasso Preserve for two reasons, and looking at black birds wasn’t one of them. I did hope to find Mountain Bluebirds, which I had found there before, but didn’t see any. The other reason was to read a new novel by Zane Grey on my Kindle (a novel about the Sedona area called Call of the Canyon that was new to me, although he wrote it back in 1924). I didn’t find any bluebirds, but I did continue reading that book on one of my favorite benches.

When decided to head back home to get dinner, the shadow of a bird passed over my head. I noted where it landed and for at least 10 minutes watched this black bird and another one who soon joined it before figuring out what was happening. I had figured that the birds had a nest nearby. But I couldn’t see it. At least, I couldn’t see it until the European Starlings dive-bombed the tree. That’s when I began to wonder if they had gone insane, like people sometimes do.

A European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) Dive-Bombs a Hole in the Ponderosa Pine

A European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) Dive-Bombs a Hole in the Ponderosa Pine

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The starling was dive-bombing a hole in the tree a couple of feet below the branch that it had been pacing along. Was it their nest? But if the starling’s chicks were in the cavity, why was the starling attacking it? By watching it long enough I understood.

A Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi) Had Entered the Nest

A Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi) Had Entered the Nest

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The Vicious Snake Drives off the Poor Starling

The Vicious Snake Drives off the Poor Starling

Click on the picture above to enlarge

The snake got a tasty meal and the population of European Starlings in Colorado didn’t increase quite as much. But it was a sad day for a couple of European Starling parents.

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Posted in: Photography

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Melvin Pennington // Jul 2, 2013 at 5:45 am

    David, this is the first time I am jealous of you. It should have been me taking these pictures, but since it was’t, thank you for sharing them. I are would like to know the camera and lens you used.

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