|A beautiful male Indigo Bunting sang cheerily from his perch on a stalk of Giant Ragweed in the big meadow near the Little Miami river at Otto Armleder Memorial Park.|
While most birds have quieted for the season, male Indigo Buntings continue to sing for all they are worth. Their constant singing makes them easy to spot. We found them all along the connector trail, the fields at the beginning of that trail, the trails that go through the meadow, and the forest openings around the Little Miami River. The only place we didn't see or hear them was in the small stretches of deeper woods, which makes sense because Indigo Buntings are birds of woodland edges, scrubby fields, and riparian corridors. They are one of the few neotropical migrants that have benefited from the clearing of forests for farmland, and they continue to expand their range.
Common to some, exotic to others...
The Indigo Bunting is a strange case when it comes to "being appreciated." Because Indigo Buntings are common birds in their favored habitats, I often hear birders dismiss them with, "Oh, it's just another Indigo Bunting," but I've heard new birders or people who live in cities or suburbs not near the bird's habitat, exclaim, "Oh, wow, what is that blue bird? It's so blue!" or "Cool, it's an Indigo Bunting!" Same bird, polar opposite reactions. I love Indigo Buntings whenever I see them. Their song is happy...and when the sun strikes them (the blue color is structural and only shows in the sunlight; it's not a blue pigment), they are exotic looking, and I definitely appreciate them. To me they always carry a slight zing of surprise, so it was fun seeing them again and again and again at Armleder.
|Giant Ragweed towers over the fields and can be found all over Armleder Park. |
It is a native annual that can grow up to 15 feet tall.
About Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia trifida)...
...it's a native plant, but it grows like a noxious weed in crop fields. Quail and other critters might like it, but farmers don't, except for one "Contrary Farmer" who wonders about practical uses for it⎯click here for his article, "The Irony of Giant Ragweed." In the article, Gene Logsdon outlines the horrors of Giant Ragweed in the fields, but he also talks about how much his sheep love it and how quail and pheasants thrive on a diet of it. Native Americans nurtured it 2000 years ago, and its seeds are 47% crude protein, which is much higher than any cultivated grain. To top it off, it's easily digestible. He ends by wondering if "...we are looking at the ultimate irony of over-civilized humankind. We are trying to kill a plant, an ambrosia, that is actually beneficial."
For other information about Giant Ragweed, click here for a fact sheet from the University of Tennessee, and here for the article "Giant Ragweed - Revenge of a Native," by Bob Hartzler from Iowa State University. Allergy sufferers, run. Just like Common Ragweed, Ambrosia trifida is a major contributor to seasonal allergies and late summer early autumn hay fever.
Other beauteous things found along the way...
We saw Red-winged Blackbirds starting to group in large flocks for their big trip south, and even though it was warm, hints of Autumn were apparent. Here and there the deep red of spent Poison Ivy leaves popped among the green, and the purple of Tall Ironweed (Veronia altissima) was splashed across the fields, hurrying along the shift of nature's color palette to the rich hues of fall...
|Tall Ironweed (Veronia altissima) is starting to bloom in the meadow at Armleder. Like Giant Ragweed, this plant can get very tall, but it tops out at seven feet.|
|A female Red-winged Blackbird eats a grasshopper she nabbed off a Tall Ironweed plant, which is just about to burst open in deep purple flowers.|
|Wild grapes ripe for the plucking. When the catbirds I heard singing by the river find these juicy treats, they won't last long!|
|...even though I'm trying to ignore the signs of fall, they keep coming. Ripening wild grapes signal the beginning of autumn and help fuel fall migration in late summer and fall for many migratory songbirds.|
Click here for a link to a guide The Nature Conservancy put together titled "Managing Habitats for Migrating Land Birds in the Western Lake Erie Basin--a Guide to Landscaping and Land Management." Even though it was written for residents of the Western Lake Erie Basin, the information transfers to our area as well. Migrating birds need food sources at stopover sites during migration, and the plants we choose for our yards, such as wild grapes and other fall-ripening berries, can help them on their journey south.
|...cuteness on the ground. This tiny, tiny baby Fowler's Toad decided to cross the path as we walked by. With fall approaching, he's probably considered more toddler than baby, but he was baby cute...probably about the size of a quarter.|
The shift from late summer to fall happens quickly, and soon all the work accomplished through the summer by trees, flowers, and other plants will be put to rest, while birds, forest animals, and humans harvest their bounty (it's probably a good time to hug and thank a tree!).