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A Drive Along on a Bar Ditch
In the rural Southeast, roadside ditches – known as “bar ditches” – carry on for miles. They’re full of water and full of life, these narrow wetlands. Herons stalk the shallow water, stabbing at minnows. Common Gallinules, like this one, swim on the surface. Reeds and bulrushes provide cover for secretive marsh birds like King Rails. Red-winged Blackbirds flash crimson epaulets as they sing, and Boat-tailed Grackles offer their own rough music.
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A Drive Along a Bar Ditch
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
[Selection from “The Piedmont Rag” by Cephas and Wiggins]
Welcome aboard for a drive in the country [car engine starting] – two lanes, winding through marshes, fields, and pastures. We’re in the rural Southeast. The occasional farmhouse and barn come in to view.
It’s the roadside ditches that grab your attention, though. They’re full of water, and full of life. Like narrow wetlands, they carry on for miles. Herons stalk the shallow water, stabbing at minnows. Gallinules, plump waterbirds shaped like coots, swim on the surface. [Calls of a Common Gallinule – formerly Common Moorhen] Reeds and bulrushes provide cover for secretive marsh birds like King Rails [Calls of King Rail]. Red-winged Blackbirds flash crimson epaulets as they sing, [Song of Red-winged Blackbird] and Boat-tailed Grackles offer their own rough music.
[Boat-tailed Grackle song]
These ditches are known in some parts of the U.S. as bar ditches. More than likely the phrase comes from “borrow ditch” which refers to the earth dug out to build up a roadbed – material “borrowed,” in a sense – an excavation that simultaneously creates the ditch.
However bar ditches got their name, they provide productive habitat, giving us a good look at birds and nature, right along the roadside.
[Red-winged Blackbird song]
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Music selection from Cephas and Wiggins “The Piedmont Rag,” Sweet Bitter Blues album, 1983 L & R Records.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Common Gallinule 136259 recorded by M. Fischer; calls of King Rail 130910 by G. Vyn; Boat-tailed Grackle song 135406 M.J. Andersen; song Red-winged Blackbird 57196 by W.W. H. Gunn.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2012 Tune In to Nature.org July 2012 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# barditch-01-2012-07-25 barditch-01