Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eastern Towhee...that beautiful red eye gets me every time!

Birding Hocking Hills in Southeastern Ohio
Gravel crunching under my feet is always a good sound. Crunch, crunch, crunch…I love it, but that morning it was obscuring the “witchety—witchety —witchety—wooof my suddenly new favorite bird, the Common Yellowthroat. Sidestepping into the soft, green grass, my footsteps quieted, allowing me to listen to the yellowthroat's song fade as I left the meadow and headed into a brushy, wooded edge. On my left, the watery sounds of the slow-moving Clear Creek led me down the path and made me smile. Every now and then, I'd stop and peer over the edge just to make sure the water was still clear (and maybe see a Great Blue Heron or Kingfisher). Further down the path, I slowed as I inhaled that musty wet-wood smell that clings in the air around old wooden structures and was not surprised when I saw a worn footbridge up ahead. Not hurrying over it, I enjoyed the scent and the scenery, but eventually moved on. Only two steps off the bridge, however, a familiar scuffing and scraping sound made me stop. To my right I could see a glimpse of a rufous side through the breaks in the leaves. Quiet and still, I watched as he kicked through the leaf litter. Suddenly, he popped up on a branch, eye-level, and sang, and it wasn’t the definitive “Drink your tea-eeee” song I love to hear the Eastern Towhees sing. It was another song, very pretty, and as he sang, he didn't see me as I admired how the red of his eyes intensified each time he moved through a beam of sunlight. But soon enough he heard me, because at the first click of the camera's shutter, he looked my way. I assumed he would bolt, but he didn’t. He listened as I clicked again…and again, more curious than wary, his extraordinary red eye glowing like a tiny glass marble lit from the inside.

The most cooperative Eastern Towhee I've ever seen!
"Look at me...look at my gorgeous eye...
I'll even sing for you."

Clear Creek Metro Park was fast becoming
the Pinckney Island of the midwest!

Eventually the Eastern Towhee started singing
his beloved "Drink your tea-eeee" song.

Singing his "other song," his feathers were quite
ruffled. I think he was telling another male Eastern
Towhee to move on and find his own territory.

42 comments:

John said...

Beautifuly written, and the Eastern Towhee is a stunning bird, and the eyes are just captivating.
John

Kelly said...

Thank you, John! :-)

The Early Birder said...

I could sense the location thro' your descriptive words & then to capture that fabulous red eye.
Super Kelly.

Laure Ferlita said...

Such beauty - thanks for inviting us into the woods with you!

Kerri said...

Such a lovely bird! A wonderful post!

JKoenig said...

Thank you for sharing with us another beautiful bird and helping us to hear his song. Kelly, you have such a gift of making things come to life through words and pictures.

Have a beautiful day!

Roy said...

Ah! Eastern Towhees! Great shots.

There's a mating pair in Ballard Park who "adopted" me last year, and I got a ton of great poses, male and female. Ballard Park is full of Towhees. It's also full of Yellowthroats, but they're a lot more shy; I hear them, but I only ever see them im fleeting glimpses. Oh well...

ShySongbird said...

What a beautifully written post Kelly and such a lovely bird, its red eye is gorgeous. The GS butterfly photos on the previous post are really stunning. Also thank you very much for the award, that was very kind of you.

Montanagirl said...

Very nicely written, and the photos are terrific. We see the Spotted Towhee here. Have never seen an Eastern.

Tammie Lee said...

I can tell you love your wanderings, taking the world around you in, especially the feathered friends.

Spirithelpers

Cicero Sings said...

Such red, red eyes. We in the west don't see these guys. Like how he is all ruffed up in that last picture.

Busy Bee Suz said...

He is beautiful and I love how you tell this story...SO great.
Does he really tell you to drink your tea??? SO CUTE.

Richard said...

Great shots Kelly. You really captured this one.

Warren Baker said...

Great pics, Great bird and a lovely narrative. well done kelly.

Chris Petrak said...

Good description of your encounter with the "ground robin" - and wonderful pics

E said...

Awesome captures, Kelita, love your adventure and pics. Congrats. Hugs.

holdingmoments said...

Great descriptive post Kelly; just like being there with you.
And what a beauty he is. Those eyes sparkle.

Heather said...

Lovely photos, as always. That red eye of his is so striking! I watched a male Towhee doing an interesting display this spring - he had a raised crest, like your guy in that last photo, and he held his wings away from his body, but still low, like a person holding their arms out behind him. He hopped around doing this for quite some time. Unfortunately I don't remember the sound he was making at the time. I couldn't see any other Towhees in the vicinity that he might have felt threatened by, but that doesn't mean they weren't there (and he wasn't displaying to intimidate me - he started this long before I got close enough to get a real good look at what he was doing).

Boy, I've got to get to Clear Creek! Maybe I'll try to make it there this weekend, depending on what the weather does. We got dumped on with rain last night, and it's been drizzling all day today!

Jenny said...

I love your narrative Kelly, it made me feel I was right there beside you, with all the sights and sounds and smells. Beautiful!
Fantastic crisp shots too!
PS: my word verification was noodist which made me smile! (-:

Adrienne in Ohio said...

Kelly, you have such a beautiful way of writing--I feel like I'm there with you! Your photos are wonderful!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

I love the Towhee's, Kelly, and those red eyes. I also can hear them before seeing them --by listening to "Drink Your Tea---he-he-he".... When we were in North Carolina, I could hear the Towhee singing --but never could find him.

Great post, Friend.
Hugs,
Betsy

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Beautiful shots Kelly. The male is such a pretty bird. I had them around the house this winter but have not seen any this summer. They must have been hungry ;-)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

What terrific shots! And a great post, too. The towhee's eyes are just stunning in that light—glowing like rubies.

I really enjoy your adventures.

Cindy said...

Wow! What a beautiful bird and I agree with everyone very nicely written. Great post.

Nature As Is said...

Well I can tell you that the Towhee is a wonderful looking bird but the eyes are so awesome!! very intense especially when they look at you and screech from the tree tops. Lovely captures Kelly

Mary said...

Wow...I don't think I have ever seen the red eye so clearly. They are such beautiful birds, I'm always happy when they stop by...usually in winter. You really hit the jackpot at the park.

Elaine said...

Lovely description and wonderful photos! Thanks for sharing your outing with us.

Rajesh said...

Very lovely. The color combination of black and brown is fantastic.

Moria said...

Great pictures! An Eastern Towhee would be a life bird for me. We do get a couple here in Austin from November through February, so I'm hoping to see one this winter.

yen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yen said...

she is gorgeous and the eye says it all.

Arija said...

All great shots, but the last one withhis crest raise is really fabulous.

Abraham Lincoln said...

They are one of my favorite birds and I was just sorting through my collection of towhee photos. Isn't that a coincidence?

Jayne said...

I love seeing them, esp. when the male and female are together at the base of the feeders. Great shots!

Kelly said...

....so nice...than you everyone for your kind comments. Sometimes, it just feels good to recreate a moment. I'll remember it 2 months and 10 years from now. Writing down the details always helps me...that's why I have a sketchbook/journal in addition to my camera with my when I'm in the field. When I reread, it's almost like I was there.

Heather....it was about 50 minutes from my hotel, so tack another 20 on for you. You have to go there. Very easy to find. Go say hi to those Common Yellowthroats for me. I miss them.

Chris....I didn't know they were called "Ground Robins" --cool, I like that name. We don't use it around here. I have heard people call chipmunks ground squirrels, though! :-)

Scribe....."glowing like rubies" is soooo much better than like a red marble!! Wish I had thought of it...

Abe....birds of a feather flock together? That happens to me too....

Anna said...

Oh Kelly this amazing set of pictures of eastern towhee. So cool with the red eye. Thanks for sharing. Anna :)

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Kelly. I see that the Eastern Towhee is actually the Rufous Sided Towhee(Pipilo Erythrophthalmus), Eastern Race, and Western Race(formally called the Spotted Towhee). I see they do have different calls.It is strange how they forage on the ground scratching with both feet together.
This bird certainly wanted it's photo taken Kelly.Your a very talented photographer.

Kelly said...

Anna...thank you!

Ken....The Eastern Towhee used to be called the Rufous-sided Towhee (which is how I learned him). They changed the name in 1995, but I have never been able to drop the old name form my vocab. I worked in "rufous side" in the narration in honor of his old name. :-)

Hilke Breder said...

Kelly, I always enjoy reading your reports. Great shots too!!

Kelly said...

...thank you, Hilke!!

Roy said...

Great set of images Kelly. That eye is perfect.

Kelly said...

...thanks, Roy!