Author Archives: Amy

BPW: Cliff Swallows

On our drive back from Florida last month we took a detour to stop at the Unclaimed Baggage Center shop in Scottsboro, Alabama. On the way we stopped for breakfast in Ft. Payne, Alabama, where we saw a colony of Cliff Swallows.

Cliff Swallows

They were perched on service wires and flying around a man-made stream. The birds also frequently made stops under a pair of small pedestrian bridges that crossed the stream.

Cliff Swallows

Cliff Swallows

These Cliff Swallows were life birds for us and it was a lot of fun to watch their antics.

Cliff Swallow about to take off

Bird Photography Weekly is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Thanks to Birdfreak for hosting this great blog meme – go have a look!

Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Life List, Travel, Video | 4 Comments

Chasing blogged buntings

Waterfall Glen is a DuPage County Forest Preserve, located southwest of Chicago and about 90 minutes driving from our home in the northern suburbs. We visited this odd-shaped preserve today after reading Owlman’s post about his recent visit. Go read his post Indigo bunting oasis! to find out why we were so intrigued (and to view better photos than below!).

Prior to reading Owlman’s post, I had never heard of Waterfall Glen. I had, however, heard of Argonne National Laboratory. The forest preserve property surrounds the lab’s property, making the preserve doughnut-shaped. Argonne is a U.S. Dept of Energy research facility focused on national security, energy and biological & environmental systems.

The main trail at Waterfall Glen is a nearly ten-mile loop. There are several parking areas around the preserve and smaller looping trails are available. We walked about 3.5 miles on the northwest side of the park, taking the Tear-Thumb trail shortcut from the main trailhead parking lot.

First, as expected, we were eaten alive on the grass path.

Waterfall Glen trail

The gravel main trail was much better – no mosquitoes but plenty of birds and other creatures.

Waterfall Glen main trail

Grey Catbird

The main trail was virtually crawling with these slugs and tiny thumbnail-sized frogs.

Slug at Waterfall Glen FP

Tiny Frog

And we also saw & heard Indigo Buntings, yes! Unfortunately most of our views were like this:


After this little hike we drove to another area of the park to see the waterfall.

Waterfall Glenn FP

Waterfall Glen FP

Waterfall Glen FP

We had a lovely morning there and will surely visit this preserve again. Many thanks to Owlman!

Posted in Illinois | 1 Comment

Do-it-yourself suet log feeder

My dad made us this great suet log feeder to add to our back yard feeders.

Homemade suet log feeder

Homemade suet log feeder

He used a piece of oak firewood about 16″ long and drilled four 1 3/8″ holes for suet logs or suet dough.

Filling a homemade suet log feeder

With a hook screwed in on top we can hang this almost anywhere.

Hook on top of log bird feeder

Homemade suet log feeder

We’d seen our resident Downy Woodpecker struggle a bit on a cage suet feeder, but she has no trouble with this one.

Posted in Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Cooper’s Hawk in our yard!

Yard bird #20 scared away all of the other birds enjoying our feeding station.

Arthur noticed the feeder birds scatter and even the resident bunny high-cottontailed it out of the yard. Because of this Arthur was on the lookout for a hawk when Coop landed in the tree behind our yard. It had a look around and did a bit of preening in the tree.

Cooper's Hawk Preening

Next it dropped down behind the fence for a few seconds and then flew into a tree in our neighbor’s yard. Just a few seconds after that, it landed on our fence where we oohed and aahed (more like “Where’s the ?$&#!?! camera!?” and “Try to get the scope on it!!”) over it for a short, precious minute.

Cooper's Hawk

There’s something light and feather-covered in one of the Coop’s talons, but it looks much too small to be an entire bird. Probably no more than 30 seconds passed from the hawk flying between the tree, ground, tree and fence again, so what’s in the talon and what was left behind (and where?) is a bit of a mystery.

Cooper's Hawk on our back yard fence

We love our feeder birds – all of them! Welcome, Coop!

This is a late addition to this week’s Bird Photography Weekly. BPW is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday and everyone is welcome to participate. Thanks to Birdfreak for hosting this great blog meme – go have a look!

Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Yard Birds | 1 Comment

2 lifers at Disney Wilderness

On June 16th we visited the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve near Kissimmee, Florida.

First we did some leisurely birding from the car on the drive in to the parking area.

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkeys hanging out by the side of the road

Despite this lousy photo, we did have a pretty good look at this lifer Swallow-tailed Kite as we approached the parking area.

Swallow-tailed Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite

Eastern Bluebird
An Eastern Bluebird greeted us at the parking area

The Preserve, established in 1992, spans 12,000 acres and includes several different habitats including swamp, wetlands, scrubland and flatwoods. Parts of the preserve are home to the endemic Florida Scrub Jay, but this area of the park is normally off-limits to visitors.

Again it was hot so we limited ourselves to a short walk on the John C. Sawhill Interpretive Trail.

The first sign of life on the trail

Disney Wilderness Preserve

Our second lifer of the day a Brown-headed Nuthatch, which we saw along the trail shown above.

Disney Wilderness Preserve

When we left the trail we signed out of the preserve’s trail register and noticed the only other recent visitor had been on the trails the day before, for just 15 minutes. We lasted about an hour and a half in the heat.

Posted in Disney, Florida, Life List, Travel | Leave a comment

Lakefront Park on Independence Day

This morning we biked to Round Lake after watching the local Independence Day parade. At the lake we visited a newly dedicated (June 6) part of Lakefront Park. The little park has an interpretive path and even a small restored wetland!

Lakefront Park wetland

Lakefront Park

Part of the park is woodland. An interpretive sign showed aerial photos of the land taken in 1939, when the former forest was cleared as farmland. In another photo you could see that by 1993 the farmland was gone and the woods were returning.

Lakefront Park path

Yay for suburban parks and restored habitats! Have a great Independence Day, fellow Americans, and a great July weekend to everyone else!

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Appropriate NASA birds

While in Florida last month we spent a day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It was all about astronauts, rockets and space exploration that day, but we did see these Black Vultures hanging out by the family/press bleachers. They would’ve had the best seats for the launch, if it hadn’t been scrubbed.


And we saw this Laughing Gull back at the complex, standing close to a digital sign that gave updates on the launch status. Sure, you’ll be at Kennedy for the next launch window (July 11), even if we aren’t. What are you laughing at?


Posted in Florida | Leave a comment

SWF: Longleaf Pines at Tibet-Butler

While waiting out the time between the scrubbed STS-127 launches in mid-June, we spent a couple of days around Kissimmee, Florida. One morning we visited Tibet-Butler Preserve in Orlando, a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Before we were chased out by the man-eating mosquitoes, we followed a bit of the Pine Circle Trail, where we were dwarfed by a forest of Longleaf Pine.


We were interested to read that seedlings of this tree have a so-called “grass stage” where they are easily mistaken for clumps of grass. Is that what we saw on the path, or are these simply fallen needles from the tall trees that surrounded us?


Our lone bird on the short walk was this Red-bellied Woodpecker.


We also glimpsed the greenest lizard I’ve ever seen (my guess – Green Anole [Anolis carolinensis]).


No photos of the mosquitoes but trust me, they were there. Have a great weekend and a safe Independence Day to my fellow Americans, wherever you are. Be sure to check out the other posts submitted for Skywatch Friday this week.

Posted in Florida, Skywatch Friday | 11 Comments

My visitors came from *where* in June?!

Here are some of the more interesting search terms that brought visitors to this site during June. You can see previous editions of this monthly post here.

One disturbing kind of search that brings visitors to this blog are those that are looking to harm or deter birds. Pigeons were the target last month with searches for anti pigeon gel and pigeons ate poison. Someone also stopped by after searching for bird feeders that ward off large birds.

The most interesting and funny typos for the month were bird house dimentions, fedding oranges to the birds, and morphing owel.

The following ID-related searches also led to this site: looking for a white breasted gray-blue bird found in wisconsin not a nuthatch; did i see a falcon or a hawk in fox valley illinois; do orioles live in illinois. The answers: Blue-grey Gnatcatcher; Yes; Yes.

Future design inspiration came in the form of the search for prairie chicken gifts.

Someone searched for how to find out how visitors came to blog. I use statcounter but there are a lot of similar services out there.

My favorite search for June was bird feeder microphone. Dude, don’t settle for a microphone – you can get a whole video & still bird camera for your feeder!

Posted in Search Terms | 3 Comments

Anhinga with fish

One bird we’re always sure of seeing when we visit Florida is the Anhinga. We saw this one bringing a fish back to shore to share with another Anhinga at the Intracoastal Waterway Park on Merritt Island.

Anhinga with fish

The Anhinga is another bird that has a nickname – they are called “snake birds” because of the way they look when swimming. An Anhinga will swim with most of his or her body submerged, with only the long & lean, snakey-looking head and neck exposed. Even when swimming with prey impaled on bill, as in these images, the snake bird lives up to its name.

Anhinga with fish

Posted in Florida, Video | Leave a comment