Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Mockingbirds and Grackle wage war for park perks


The Enemy -- the big, bad Grackle,.
Defender No. 1, Mocking Bird
Accomplices for the Enemy.
These are not the best pictures today, but the story? That's a whole 'nother tale.

Monday, I was watching a pair of Mockingbirds doing their work-a-day chores at Riverfront Park in Beaumont, while I was leading a session on the water cycle for a Nederland sixth grade class.
This is all part of the Neches River Adventure Tours' Wet and Wild series -- it's the classroom boat you see plying the waters of the Neches many days.

When the class was over the kids ran back to the buses to get their lunch. They scurried back to park and took over their territories on the picnic tables and beneath the pavilion where we had led the classes.

As I was leaving, I was struck by the continuous crackling sound of a Grackle -- a poor imitation at that.  I finally found the source -- one of the Mockingbirds I had been watching.  It seemed strange to me -- this wasn't the kind of normal behavior for Mockingbirds.  They like to sing a medley of 10 or more songs -- songs of other birds.  They sing mostly chirping songs.  But this bird was fixed on the Grackle sound.

I soon saw why -- a large Grackle (probably a Boat-Tailed Grackle) -- came gliding past and soon was met by a two-bird aerial attack squadron who needled him until he retreated in the direction of City Hall.  Intrigued, I grabbed my camera and began to watch it unfold.  One of the Mockingbirds would circle back and land in the tree by my car.  The other would wander on patrol around the park.

Soon, the crackling sound, strange siren song that is was, would tempt the enemy  and the big Grackle would swoop back. The first few times he headed to the tree with the Grackle-mocking bird, only to become the target of the daring dive-bombing duo.

About the fourth time this happened, boss Grackle headed for the tree you see him perched in in the above above. It is closer to the pavilion we had been in.  Then it came to me.  The Mockingbirds must have a nest over there.  The were using the tree by my car as a decoy to keep the big bosses attention away from the tree where the nest was.   But, the nest-close tree was only temporary rest for the Grackle, because the Mockingbirds made relentless and daring passes at him until he flew back to City Hall.

When he left, his five or six ladies and young Grackles would come and sit on the chain link fence and wait for a student to drop something -- they would then swoop it up quickly.   The Mockingbirds would come sit among the Grackle band and look menacing, but they did not put on a aerial dog fight with these finger-food-fixated feathered ones.   Apparently, the Mockingbirds didn't find the ladies and youngsters as menacing as the boss.

I left after about the fifth  or sixth scene.   The kids were starting to finish eating, so the student-supplied droppings sought by the Grackle band was coming to an end.  I am not sure if the  Mockingbirds were able to preserve their brood or not.  I got the impression that the big boss was very determined, and he wasn't settling for some cast-off potato chips.