This morning's early rising would also help serve the purpose of driving away or at least keeping the Great Horned Owl at bay. As I settled in, I almost laughed out loud in the cool, velvety darkness at how loud the bullfrogs were at the pond, over 75 yards away. How DO they manage to escape all the predators when they're making so much noise? If you're wondering where the Milky Way is right now, you will need to get up at 3 A.M. to see that one too - it's directly overhead at this time of year. I love the challenge of trying to capture pictures of it.
A few scurrying noises around my deck made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I can be pretty brave in daylight, but the idea of a snake, a large spider, or some other critter accidentally bumping into me in the darkness can sometimes make me feel like I'm 2 years old.
A few of the male martins were being noisy and were loudly performing their mating calls with the clicking at the end, while still in their gourds. It's no wonder that an owl or any other predator can easily find them at night...silly birds. And what makes them think that's what their lovely lady wants to hear at 3:00 A.M. anyway??
By 3:30 A.M., I had heard only 1 bird start the dawnsong. He zipped out of his gourd and he was up, up, and away from the colony quickly. At 3:45 A.M., the neighbor's rooster was crowing. I thought, "If that were my rooster, that would be his last day to crow at 3:45 A.M.". But that must have been my martins' queue because within minutes of the rooster crowing, the rest of the Dawnsong choir joined in. As I scanned the yard and racks carefully watching for the owl in case she tried to take advantage (we put out solar yard lights last week), a huge number of male martins exited and rose quickly in the darkness, chortling as they rose - the only indication I had that another one was in the air.
It's amazing how loud each martin sounds as they circle high above and sing the darkness away. As the stars started to fade and my human eyes detected dawn around 5:12 A.M., the first martin returned to the racks and proceed to womp on another male that had tried to sneak into his place while he was out gathering fresh troops. Apparently, there are no time constraints for when territorial battles can be fought.
I took this video a couple of years ago of a male martin performing the dawnsong on my racks and it is still the best video I've been able to capture of it.
Even though I've witnessed the end of the song and their returns to the racks several times now, that part never gets old either. Close to 60-65 martins falling out of the sky, dropping into the colony, almost all at once is a fantastic sight.
For anyone that missed it, via the PMCA - the purpose of the Dawnsong:
"Gene Morton's dawnsong theory was that adult males perform it after their mate is committed and their paternity is assured - it's safe, at that point, to invite sub-adult birds to join the site, so the senior males can have extra offspring via the sub-adult females. So dawnsong will not be performed until green leaf stage of nest building"It must be working - as of last Saturday, May 13th, I have 3 sub-adult males. Welcome back kiddos!