by Ted Farnworth

When I first took on the job of trying to clean up the pond of Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus L.), I was warned about the Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentine). Apparently we have some pretty big ones living and nesting around d the pond. The boot sucking muck on the bottom was also something that I soon discovered as a waded out into the weed patch.

But no-one warned me about the Red Winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus). No, I’m wrong, Sandy did say that it looked like a nest had been built early in the season in the Cattails (Typha latifolia) near the bridge. When I went over to plant some new Sweet Gale (Myrica gale) around the pond, I started at the west end and thereby avoided exciting the noisy male redwing guarding the nest. But that was several weeks ago, and things had quietened down around the pond as I made progress on pulling out the Flowering Rush. But on Tuesday all that changed.

As I approached the middle of the pond the screeching started up again. Sitting on a Cattail, all puffed up and flashing his red wing patch was a very agitated bird. It was obvious that I was not wanted. I couldn’t really tell where a nest might be, but since I had so much Rush to pull, I just headed over to the other side of the pond.

Things quietened down and I worked on. Unfortunately, I forgot about the warning I had received. As I returned to the bridge I chose a route that took me back near to the no trespass area I had avoided earlier. Although I didn’t see it, I heard a sound like a strong wind coming from behind me. As I heard the screech again and realized my mistake. The sound of flapping of wings coming from behind me and then the feeling of feathers brushing my neck told me it was time to speed up and get to the shore.

Redwing Blackbird; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson

The next day, my feathered friend was on guard as I waded through the weeds. Like the previous day I headed away from the screeching, thinking I would be safe. Trying to avoid an attack from behind is difficult to do; even harder when you are wearing hip waders. Down I went. Fortunately, the pond is not that deep. But I found out the hard way that hip waders fill up with water very quickly when you are down on two knees.

Lesson learned? Listen to a bird when it is yelling at you, “stay away, or else.”