For my pond ecology documentary I have been filming Red-winged Blackbirds at ponds and marshes all around Cape Ann. Only about 15 seconds of footage is needed, but when I began, it was mid-February and their songs filling the marsh was a welcome reminder that spring was on its way.
When the blackbirds first arrived, there was snow on the ground and chunks of ice on the cattails. It was so cold you could see their breath. The choristers perch from every outpost, from the tallest tree to the slenderest of reeds, singing their hearts out, calling to the females. Red-winged Blackbirds are especially fond of perching on cattails; they construct their nests with cattail fluff (along with other bits of vegetation).
In all that time, two months roughly, I never saw a single female once. Mid- April and at long last the elusive females are beginning to arrive. Rather a Plain-Jane compared to the male’s dashing velvety black with brilliant red shoulder epaulettes, underlined in a slash of yellow, nonetheless, she is the object of desire of the chortling males.
Red-winged Blackbird’s nests are well camouflaged in the reeds, and so is she! Look for the females at the very end of short film, the last two clips. Happy Spring, Happy Earth Day!