When Work is More than Worth It

by Bryce W. Robinson

The desert gets old. I’m comfortable saying that, but days like today remind me how lucky I am to be working doing what I love. Two active nests and a life bird make my desert wanderings of the day more than worth it.

Grasshopper Sparrow- Ammodramus savannarum

This Grasshopper Sparrow was hidden low in a Palo Verde. As a wayward migrant, I assume it was fatigued from a night flight en route to its breeding grounds along the California coast. It sat relatively still, avoiding me by staying low and well hidden in the shrubbery. I was excited as it was a life bird for me, and was very cooperative with camera.

I had luck on my side as far as nest finding goes. I myself found two active Black -tailed Gnatcatchers. I have seen these birds all season, performing territorial and courtship displays. Today was the first time I had seen the result of such behavior, birds in nests. The Gnatcatcher nest is incredible. It is a tall, tightly wound teacup. The birds sit squished, exposing only their tail and beak. I noticed the first nest from only ten feet away. I was giddy, but held back my vocal celebrations as not to stir the bird.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher- Polioptila melanura

This first bird is a male. I noticed the black cap in the other photos I took, not shared due to the poor quality, but worthy of keeping for the information gleaned. Many species share the burden of incubation. I was glad to finally seem something for myself rather than learning by reading. Oh the benefits of field work. Only half an hour later I found  my second Black-tailed Gnatcatcher nest with an incubating female.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher- Polioptila melanura

It has been quite the experience seeing this bird go through the exercises of creating life. I hope to see more, as the birds make their efforts to produce the next generation of bold scolding Black-tailed Gnatcatchers.