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It may not be as riveting as ‘Game of Thrones,’ but it’s still worth your time to watch this show

Living the Wild Life

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Bill Schiess |

I could hear the snapping of beaks as warblers and flycatchers captured insects hatching on a nearby pond, then flying to nearby willows at Camas National Wildlife Refuge. Some of the birds were flittering through the leaves, picking insects that had made it cover.

A northwest breeze was helping the gliding flights from the watery hatchery to a large willow right next to my auto-blind where the birds were very busy. After a few minutes of being parked, the fly catchers returned to their sallying for the bugs in flight. These little dusky birds belong to the “Empidonax Complex” and they are difficult for me to tell the difference between the Hammond’s, Dusky, Willow flycatchers and the Wood Pewees. So I, like many novice birders, call them “empids,” but they are fun to watch as they feed on flying insects, snapping them out of the air.

Soon, the warblers came close by, picking off the hapless bugs whose only missions in life are to hatch, feed the fish and birds, bug people and produce hundreds of little bugs. The warblers brought a lot of color to the feeding bush but not as much as another visitor: the Western Tanager, a male one with its bright red head.

When a flock of fly catchers mixed with warblers, it always seems to coax other species to show up. The mate to the tanager appeared, along with a Bullock’s oriole, a Catbird, a Hermit Thrush and a Western kingbird. The bugs must have been a favored one, as all enjoyed their meals until a Red-tailed hawk decided to look for a careless songbird. None became lunch while I was there, as I was forced to leave when my camera became lazy and ran out of juice, forcing me to an early exit. Nine hundred pictures were enough.

As I pulled into my driveway, I saw a flash of orange as a male Bullock’s oriole was attacking one of my hummingbird feeders. A quick check of the orange halves nailed to another tree found all the sweet meat had been consumed by hangry birds. All that remained were the skins and some dribbled juice on a lower branch.

After recharging my thirsty camera, I put new orange halves on the nails, set up my portable blind, and climbed in my gravity chair to wait for some action. Half an hour later, I was rudely awakened by the obnoxious call from the Grackle as it came to feed on the nearby sunflower seeds. I also noticed that while I was in dreamland, the oranges had entertained some visitors.

After scaring away the big tailed bluish blackbird, it did not take long for the orioles and the tanagers to visit my hiding place. While shooting some pictures, I noticed the tanagers flew to my neighbor’s pine tree while the oriole flew to a hybrid poplar. After leaving my hiding place, I watched both trees closely and discovered nests in each one. Hopefully, both nests will be successful and there may be another story when they hatch.

If you are lucky enough to have trees in your yard, enjoy the shows that they may provide. If not, head to Camas, Market Lake, Mud Lake, or any grove of trees near water and watch the real life shows.