Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Birds of a Feather

As I've wandered the city looking this way and peering that way, I've come to realize just how beautiful the local flocks of pigeons are. In flight, that is. They swoop, they circle, they make sudden U-turns. In the process, the group aspect changes from black to white and to black again. Just as though MC Escher had invented the pattern.

As these pictures show, the birds aren't exactly in unison -- some wings are on an upbeat, others on a downbeat. But it's amazing how such a leaderless flock acts more or less as one. It's long puzzled scientists, too! The latest study I've seen reference to features arcane mathematical models.

Look at the choices available above -- why on earth would all the birds choose to land on the same wire?

And all face in the same direction while they're about it?

But they didn't all take off at the same time.

Now here we have not a flock, but five very social birds -- acorn woodpeckers who were making a fine racket one day as I was out walking. Where's #5? Look closely and you'll see a couple of tail feathers sticking out from behind the utility pole on the left. There's also a bare pine top I can see from my kitchen window where up to six woodpeckers regularly congregate; they are a communally nesting tribe. By the way, you don't have to look very hard to see acorn-sized holes -- and home-sized holes in that pole above.

After years of woodpeckers, insects and weather, this is the fate of wooden utility poles. No doubt the reason we're likely to see a lot more birdless iron up in the sky (below).

Sometimes I wist, but bird photography is not my thing! My little digital snap shooter can stop a flock quite nicely (maybe one out of ten shots.) But to really take pictures of individual birds, I'd need a lot more camera and even more lens -- that plus the requisite tripod. Couldn't do any walking weighed down under that gear! So, for great Arizona bird pictures, start up near the top of this page under the heading Naz Nature on the right hand side. Firefly Forest, Nature Songs and Wings of Nature all post some terrific Arizona bird pictures. That's why they're listed up there!

After the fact note: I just located the picture of acorn woodpeckers atop a utility pole that I wish I could have taken. Click here for a treat!

4 comments:

Kelvin said...

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Granny J said...

Good to see you back, Kelvin!

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