Red Wing Blackbird
Location: Wellesley, MA
Over Memorial Weekend, my son was playing in a soccer tournament in the Needham area in Massachusetts. The short driveway from the parking lot to the playing fields passed between two marshes, each under an acre that appeared twin lawns of cattails. I was immediately intrigued as wetlands, even small ones, usually harbor wildlife. During the warm-up for the game, I wandered back to the marsh. Sure enough, red wing blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) flitted from reed to reed. There were dozens of them. The males, with their shiny black bodies and striking red and yellow shoulder patches, swooped here and there over the marsh landing on random reeds, then taking off in a nervous showy dance. The brown, non-descript females, all business, flew low, disappearing into reeds, likely with seeds and insects for their hungry young. Outfitted only with a 200 mm camera lens, the attractive males stayed maddeningly beyond my reach for anything more than a small dot in a picture. Then I heard a loud chirping sound, only a few feet into marsh from my bare wet feet. A baby blackbird clung stubbornly to a reed, trying to fly but not quite able yet. It sounded downright annoyed. I snapped this photo then returned the soccer game. An hour later, after the game, the bird was gone, freed from its nest, heading another step closer to adulthood with every flap of its wings.