Ready for their close up: The Birbs of Arcadia

The gates at Arcadia are still closed to the public and to keep safe, Arcadia farmers wear masks, stay six feet apart, wash their hands obsessively. The birds, though? The birds have no idea there's a pandemic going on.

They're living their best life on the 56 acres tucked in between Ft. Belvoir and Richmond Highway that is Arcadia's Dogue Farm, our vegetable production farm.

The Bluebird boxes hosted eggs, chicks fledged and the next tenants have already moved in.

On a recent Sunday an amateur ornithologist and budding photographer took a sunrise walk on Dogue we just had to share @nature.birdy's photos with you.

If you spend much time at Arcadia, you've likely seen this guy or some of his friends. The Red-winged Blackbirds hunt among the fields closest to Richmond Highway; in the evenings and early morning hours they can be found perched on cattails swaying under their weight in the catchment pond. Last season we observed them hunting butterflies in groups and we weren't even mad. It's a tangible example of the ecosystem Arcadia nurtures by not using pesticides or herbicides. Everyone eats!

Her plumage is far more subtle, but the female Red-winged Blackbirds are also beautiful and they too helps with pest control in the fields. Wikipedia says Red-winged Blackbirds are the most abundant living land bird in North America: bird-counting censuses of wintering Red-winged Blackbirds show that loose flocks can number in excess of a million birds per flock and the full number of breeding pairs across North and Central America may exceed 250 million in peak years. The Red-winged Blackbird male is all black with a red shoulder and yellow wing bar, and the female is a nondescript dark brown. Seeds and insects make up the bulk of the Red-winged Blackbird's diet.

This female Tree Swallow is so cute you almost want to reach out and boop her on the end of her beak. At Dogue, tree swallows nest in the equipment barns, the Bluebird boxes from time to time and, we suppose though we haven't set out to find any, cavities in trees, too. Per the Audubon Society, these little marvels eat berries and insects, which gives them a survival advantage in the winter over other insect-only swallows.

This male Downy Woodpecker is exciting to get to see upclose-- we hear them sometimes, when the farm is quiet (not often midday but oh, that sunrise hour!) and we see the holes they leave in the trees but we don't often get to see them--perhaps because they're so small? Adult Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest of North America's woodpeckers, and very common. They are great insect eaters, which is why we love 'em. Natural pest control for the win!

This female Orchard Oriole was hard to see until our young birdwatcher pointed her out, and we're so glad he did.

Another super pest predator, with a side of seed spreading: In breeding season, they eat insects and spiders. Later, their diet also includes ripe fruit, which quickly passes through their digestive tract. She will be very happy to know we are planting a fruit and nut orchard this fall at Dogue!

The farm is also a home for romance: we couldn't resist sharing these shots of two Tree Swallows having a rendezvous. That romance, however, can lead to tragedy: do NOT look up Tree Swallow Infanticide. It's like Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix but you already know who did it: a male Tree Swallow.

Thanks for coming along with us on our birb walk. This isn't all of the birds at Arcadia--just the ones we encountered on a quiet quarantine morning. We have raptors too. 15 acres and no one remembers seeing a squirrel or a rabbit. Everyone eats! Leave us a comment if you want to see more of the wildlife at Arcadia and for more stunning bird photos head over to Instagram and check out @nature.birdy. We're so lucky to have this pictures and see the biodiversity we work so hard to welcome up close. We're practically Jurassic Park over here. You know birds are dinosaurs, right? Like, literal dinosaurs. Also, wash your hands and wear a mask!


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