About Blog Title...

As a child, it was one of my greatest delights to visit my grandparents in the spring when the whip-poor-wills began to call. Grandma and Grandpa lived in a remote valley of the Ozark Mountains where there were trees a plenty, and, seemingly, a whip-poor-will, or two, in each one.
My grandmother insisted that a whip-poor-will's call was not "whip-poor-will," but instead, "chip-butter-white-oak." I would listen really hard trying to hear it exactly as she said it was, but all I could hear was "whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will,..." But, I never let on to her.
I remember my grandpa watching and listening, with an amused look on his face, to one of these listening sessions. Shortly after that he began to call me, just for fun, "Chip Butter." It is a name I am proud to wear for I still love to hear that long, lonesome call on a warm summer's eve. And, sometimes, when I listen really, really hard, it seems I can hear quite clearly, "chip-butter-white-oak, chip-butter-white-oak..."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Good Neighbors...

"The Harivansa says, 'An abode without birds is like a meat without seasoning.'  Such was not my abode, for I found myself suddenly neighbor to the birds; not by having imprisoned one, but having caged myself near them.  I was not only nearer to some of those which commonly frequent the garden and the orchard, but to those wilder and more thrilling songsters of the forest which never, or rarely, serenade a villager, - the wood thrush, the veery, the scarlet tanager, the field sparrow, the whip-poor-will, and many others."
                                                                                                 ~ Henry David Thoreau's Walden

We are "caged," in a sense; and we, like Thoreau, are fortunate to be neighbors to many birds - birds of all sizes and colors.  By day we enjoy the songs of the mockingbird, and on spring evenings , we listen for the lonely call of the whip-poor-will.  We do have good neighbors.
This was a week of close encounters with the Great Blue Heron that randomly appears, first at one pond, then another, and at various streams here and there. The first encounter was, literally, right in my face, when he was surprised by my passing near a stream in which he was feeding.  Of course, I had no camera.  And, another miss...one I so regret, for I had almost taken my camera... occurred at Deep Pond when the old cowboy and I were crossing the bank in the tractor to "get to the other side."  Right under our very noses, the Great Blue Heron stood with a fairly large fish in his beak.  Ordinarily, he would have been long gone when he saw us, but he was intent on the task at hand...to swallow that magnificent catch.  There was nothing to do, but to enjoy the moment (which might have been a good thing), and later to record the data in the journal notebook (always good to know the wheres and whens in one's studies).  But, I did carry my camera with me for the rest of the week; and, it was a good thing, for there was to be a third encounter...

It happened at Upper Pond, along which the Chip Butter Trail passes.  Frightened by my approach, the big blue bird lifted his tremendous wings and rose into the air, but...  he did not fly away, as he normally does, but alighted in the top of a huge pine tree.  His beak was parted, so he surely must have been uttering his harsh, prehistoric-sounding squawk, which I would have liked to have heard.  After a bit, he was up and away...

For the past few years, I have become quite taken with the Bunting bird families.  I often see the extremely attractive Indigo Bunting near thickets where woodlands meet open areas.  There is no color quite so beautiful as that of this small bird, although I have read it has no blue pigment, but is actually black.  It is the diffraction of light through the structure of the feathers that makes them appear blue. Could have fooled me!

It was a few years ago that I first saw a male Painted Bunting.  As I was driving along, a couple of  very colorful little birds flew up from the highway right in front of me. I wondered what rare bird they might be, and hoped they were both safe.   But, when I got home, I found one of them in the grill of my truck - the male Painted Bunting - bright red underparts and rump, green back, blue head, and red eye ring.  I held that lifeless little bird of many colors in my hand, and felt sick. Only once, since that day, have I seen another.  I will keep looking, and I will record it here...


  1. I've only seen Great Blue Heron from a distance. I bet they are magnificent up close. We, too enjoy the birds. The mocking bird is very "energetic" and we try to whistle new sounds to see if he will mock us. He doesn't quite have the "bob white" call down yet, but he keeps trying. I was riding my bike today and saw 2 Orioles, so pretty. Last year a young Great Horned Owl was taking up residents on our property and was spending most of his time eating bugs until he got better at catching larger meals. I do have to say that the local hawks will send me over the edge! And I don't mean that in a good way! The young do sooooo much shrieking for food for several months that at times I have to go back into the house. But all in all, I love our winged creatures. I did not know that the Indigo Bunting's feathers were black, how interesting.

  2. I've enjoyed reading about your encounter's with the Blue Heron and am glad you were able to capture the third encounter for the photo is quite intriguing. He/she looks gorgeous atop the pine tree. Awe to keep a journal and little sketches of your birds, this is wonderful. I'm sorry to hear about the little male Painted Bunting....I'm sure it broke your heart.

  3. Sorry about the little bird. It hurts to see something killed like this. We have alot of birds that build nest in the eves of the house. Lots of babies. It is wonderful to see them first fly out of the next.

  4. I enjoyed your story. The Heron is often on the creek below, but unseen due to the trees. His screeching always make me think of the prehistoric birds, sometimes it's so loud! I recently saw a beautiful bluish bird that I think may have been an Indigo Bird, a cousin to your painted bird. Sorry to read about the tragedy, that's how feel when I see a turtle that didn't make it across the road.

  5. Oh I would love to see a painted hunting!! I sure understand that sinking feeling of finding such a casualty
    in the grill , for once when we were driving at night, we thought we saw a small owl swoop by the front
    Of our truck. We looked behind us for fear of running her over. But it was not till we arrived home that we discovered
    Her fate...sigh...
    Many warm blessings dear one,