Hush! 'tis he! My Oriole,
my glance of summer fire…
—from “Under the Willows,”
by James Russell Lowell
Soon after moving into this streamside cottage, one of the first things I noticed was the pair of Baltimore orioles who'd hung their nest in a towering sycamore directly across the river from the front deck. Of course, orioles are pretty hard to overlook, especially males, with their gaudy orange-and-black plumage…a bird which looks like a jaunty, living flame.
Not to mention their loud, flute-like whistles! In both sound and sight, Baltimore oriles are made to be noticed!
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. The baseball team took it’s name from the city and its colors from the state bird.
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.”
Baltimore orioles, while not exclusively a riverine species, certainly love to build their "hanging basket" nests along Ohio's numerous pastoral streams. I long ago lost count of the number of such nests and their parenting birds I've spotted while wading the brooks, creeks, and rivers for smallmouth bass—many suspended from overhanging sycamore limbs 20 or more feet above the water. Orioles songs have kept me well entertained when the fishing was slow.
Lord Baltimore's colorful bird is easily one of my favorite birds, and a cheery riverside companion.