Thursday, May 24, 2012
I was dive-bombed by a single red-winged blackbird, while overhead a hawk was attacked by an entire angry posse.
Red-winged blackbirds are beautiful. They're nature's jewels of the wetlands, bright little specks of accent colors scattered through the cattails of the marsh, a benign peaceful sight that brighten any walk in their habitat.
Not quite as peaceful these days, however. This is the time of year that red-winged blackbirds become wildly protective of their fledglings in their nests. Either singly or in noisy aerial posses, they'll attack anything that seems to be a threat.
We were walking in the Wingra Marsh this morning when, without warning, one of these creatures pecked at the top of my head and did a quick little victory dance in my hair with its claws. Or so it felt.
But don't worry about me -- save your sympathy for the hawk that was attacked a moment later by an entire angry flock. They would circle around and attack from behind, over and over. Unlike crows I've watched attacking hawks in a similar ritual, they didn't content themselves with displays of mob behavior and hair-raising close encounters. The blackbirds swooped right in and pecked at the head and shoulders of the hawk, zooming in from above and behind, giving a quick peck before peeling off to circle around again. They were so small and quick and maneuverable the hawk could do nothing and was in full retreat.
Moments before, a couple dozen red-wings whirled and chattered around one clump of cattails. They must have been organizing their posse. It's tough being a predator, knowing it's only a matter of time until the vigilantes get organized and a whole angry squadron of fighters comes flying up out of the marsh to get on your tail.