Thursday, February 2, 2012
The air smelled heavy and earthy. The sun melted the last wisps of morning fog and warmed my back as I stood in the wet grass. A few yards away, a pair of male redwing blackbirds sparred in the underbrush, rising and falling like miniature conquistadors sporting shiny black satin and flashy red epaulets.
They lunged at each other, lifting exultant wings; their talons poised and threatening. Between lusty bouts, they perched on low-lying branches until the urge returned and they faced off again with aggressive thrusts and retreating pirouettes.
From the corner of my eye, a brown streaked bird with a long broad tail flapped into view. Was this plain, undistinguishable female the reason for this extravagant display of testosterone? She hovered over them casting her spell, flapping her wings like a butterfly on steroids.
First she tried to distract them by darting from side to side. Then she swooped near, pretending to protest their dual of love. When this didn’t work, she trailed after them as they whirled from bush to bush; a visual reminder of her stake in the outcome.
I left before their contest was over. I never witnessed the losing male’s defeat or the triumphant coming together of the welded pair. What I took away was an impression that later became a painting and brought back memories of Minnesota my second home.
The redwing blackbird is a year-round resident of both Florida and Minnesota. Their red shoulders and ebony black feathers make a striking contrast against the rolling sunflower fields of the upper Midwest where they flock in great numbers. The male exposes red epaulets during the mating season and can become quite aggressive, even attacking passing hawks, crows or people who invade their territory.
Redwing, Minnesota’s sandstone cliffs are a favorite gathering place for many of these migrating birds, attracting hundreds of tourists each summer to this normally quiet city. In October, the changing leaves along the Mississippi river and the quaint antique shops lure additional visitors to Redwing, one of my favorite cities.
In my acrylic painting, the wings and feathers of the redwing replicate the petals of the sunflowers and inspired my title: “Blending in.”For this and other bird art go to my online gallery @ http://carol-allen-anfinsen.artistwebsites.com