• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Beautiful Mountain Bluebird

Air Date: Week of

A female bluebird takes flight above a wire fence. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Springtime means migratory birds have returned to the North and are preparing to nest and raise their chicks. Mark Seth Lender is Living on Earth's Explorer-In-Residence, and he shares his observations of Canada's mountain bluebirds in the spring.


CURWOOD: Springtime in the North means migratory birds have returned and are getting ready for the serious business of nesting and raising chicks. Our Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, shares his observations of bluebirds this time of year in British Columbia.

Wire to Wire
Mountain Bluebird, British Columbia

LENDER: Mountain Bluebird, wings beating time, follows the wire down the line. Her flight, a path that plies just above the barbs with which (in our pedestrian desire) we strive to set apart. Cedar from silage. Sweet corn from forest mosses. Nature from what we nurture. Untamed darkling woods and rills – fenced off – from cows and fields in crop or fallow.

We divide.

But when it comes to Mountain Bluebird we are temperance on the vine. We consign, what Bluebird seeks to find: Nest boxes, arranged every twenty fenceposts, like pulses, like Hollows of the Human Heart.

Bluebird has come to depend upon us this built wooden refuge to provide, roof over head. Vindictive as we are against what is unkempt, our dread, of wild things, of wilderness, our fell hand bringing forest to its knees with two-man saw and chain saw. Yet Bluebird earns Reprieve. In a field returned to Nature insects abound, the greening hills alive. There Bluebirds, thrive.

Bluebird lands at the cross-corner of the section divide -

To the gate post -

To the bleached twig with its single empty pinecone -

Then to the twisted pair of tines, shining, sharp against weather that is sure to arrive. There, though pressed, by shortness of season Bluebird hesitates. She holds, in her beak, beetles with mirrored wings in hues of fluorescein and violet blue -

She waits. Then leaps!

Then comes to rest on a lichen-crusted tree all gray and yellow-green, unintended compliment to her pale cyan and cerulean.

Significant Other stands nearby, her guard, and decoy (Her muted watercolors a non-compete against his feathered lightning). Like a bolt from the blue he tackles a sprig of mullein just off to the side, it sways as he lands, his tail spread wide. Balancing, he stretches out his wings. And, while the world eyes the bright of him –

A male bluebird perches on a fencepost. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Quick to the nest she tips in.

Only two babies inside but they make quick work of the parcel that she brings. No murmurings of motherhood (work is her every reason and her rhyme), she launches into thin blue air, to answer that collect call of the wild, in mime, quick-time:

Bluebird toes the line!

CURWOOD: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender. And there are pictures at our website loe.org



Mark Seth Lender’s website

Find the field note for this essay here

Thanks to Destination Wildlife


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth