Saturday, February 2, 2008

Common Grackles and Global Warming

Common Grackles are one of the earlier migrants to reach the DC area, usually getting here in late February or early March where they often establish large colonies or semi-colonies for nesting. One such colony is in the bamboo planting behind the Safeway store on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington.

Usually when they arrive they immediately start displaying and establishing their tiny territories and get busy with nest building and egg laying and then incubation. This activity gets underway in mid-March.

One of the things I learned while studying Common Grackles for my Masters thesis, is that one of the most commonly uttered calls that you hear from displaying/territorial male Common Grackles is an utterance that sounds like they say "choo-gah". They do it in spring only and only when they are about to start nesting. Again, this normally happens in mid-March at the latitude of Washington DC.

Imagine my surprise this morning at 6:20 a.m. when I walked out of Safeway with a cart full of groceries and off to my left, in the bamboo, I heard the cacophony of Common Grackles recently returned from a lower latitude., Then imagine my shock when among the squawks and gurgles they were saying, I heard several familiar "choo-gah" calls.

Its February 2 today. Freaking Groundhog Day and Common Grackles are beginning their nesting activities 6 weeks early. I'm certainly glad there is nothing hideous happening to the environment that would throw the biological clock of a semi-colonial nesting bird like Common Grackle so far out of whack.

Rush Limbaugh and Senator Jim Inhofe, two well known and verbal authorities on global warming would blame this change on Bill Clinton.

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