Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Practically the first living creature I noticed the morning after I moved into this old stone cottage was a Baltimore oriole. I had a cup of strong coffee clutched desperately in hands made stiff and swollen from lifting boxes and shifting furniture, and I’d just staggered from the kitchen to the living room and out onto the narrow deck that overlooks the river. The gaudy, eye-catching male was sitting in a sunlit opening about halfway up a towering, white-trunked sycamore on the island directly across the channel—ember bright against the dark green leaves, visible as a neon sign.

A jaunty, living flame of a bird. 

As if in greeting, the oriole let loose with a verse or two of his lovely, flute-like whistles. felt suddenly elated by his cheery welcome and immediately forgot all about my aching back and assorted pains.

I'm not the first to be captivated by an oriole's voice. Naturalist Mark Catesby named the Baltimore oriole after George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, who visited Virginia in 1628, and was so delighted by the song and appearance of the many orioles he saw along the way that orange-and-black became the official heraldic colors of the Maryland colony. Audubon wrote vividly of days filled with orioles and their songs when he was exploring on both the Mississippi and Ohio rivers—the “thousand musical voices coming from neighboring trees,” and the gratification he experienced “upon sight of the brilliant birds.”

I only managed a couple of shots of the Baltimore oriole that recently showed up in the dooryard box elder. Neither is particularly good. And after looking and comparing these photos to other images online, I'm frankly still not sure whether this less-colorful Baltimore oriole is a female or immature male—though I think the bird might be a bit too orange for a female. However, it also lacks a mature male's solid black head and the orange seems more muted than a typical adult male's…though drab only by full-dress oriole standards. So I remain confused. Opinions would be welcomed.


Richard said...

Grizz...that's a female Oriole. All of mine look the same way. Orioles can sing up a storm and after a few days of the non-stop song, I just want to say "Shut Up Already"

Grizz………… said...


Hey, thank you…I appreciate the quick I.D. response.

I kept thinking all along it was a female, but every other one I've seen in years past I remembered as being more yellowish—which it what threw me. Of course, maybe that's just my faulty memory. Then I looked at lots of online images and became even more confused. I frankly don't see orioles all that often—and then it's more apt to be a singing male, which anyone can recognize.

At best, I'm about a halfway decent birder when it comes to some females and various stages of young.

Again, thank you for setting me straight.

Anonymous said...

Grizz, I'm dropping in from Bonnie's Original Art Studio. I appreciated your comment on her last blog on marriage. I'm so glad I dropped in. I share your love of nature, and am a happy new follower.

Grizz………… said...


Hey—it's great to have you, and I'm really glad you liked what you found during your look around. I'm pleased, too, that you signed on as a follower. Thank you.

I hope you visit often. Don't be hesitant about commenting; you're among friends here on the riverbank…and you're always welcome.

Bernie said...

I love visiting here to see your lovely pictures, here a bit of history and learn a bit of science. You do have a great blog my friend.
......:-) Hugs

Grizz………… said...


Thank you. That is a lovely compliment, which I really appreciate.

I want folks to feel welcome and relaxed here, to stop by because they enjoy their visits. Whether it's the photos or words, or maybe picking up a nugget of nature lore or history…or just the fun of a good story. I want them to feel it was time well spent. That's what I strive for—and when it succeeds, that's my reward.