Category Archives: Yard Birds

Bird-a-Day weeks 6-7

With today’s entry of Tree Swallow in the Bird-a-Day Challenge, I’m up to 49 birds for 2012. Of the 14 birds added since my last update, five were yard birds. One of them was a doozy, though.

18-FEB-12 Tree Swallow Gemini Springs
17-FEB-12 Loggerhead Shrike OCCC
16-FEB-12 Black Skimmer Merritt Island NWR
15-FEB-12 Western Tanager yard
14-FEB-12 Mallard Epcot
13-FEB-12 American Goldfinch yard
12-FEB-12 Wild Turkey Lake Winona Road
11-FEB-12 Chipping Sparrow yard
10-FEB-12 Yellow-rumped Warbler yard
09-FEB-12 Wood Duck Audubon Center for BOP
08-FEB-12 Eurasian Collared-Dove Disney’s Animal Kingdom
07-FEB-12 Green-winged Teal Gemini Springs
06-FEB-12 Red-winged Blackbird yard
05-FEB-12 Red Phalarope Mayport pelagic

Yard Birds

Red-winged Blackbirds are present here in central Florida all year, but we’ve only seen them in our yard since last month. I suspect when they start breeding activities we won’t see them in the neighborhood too much. Yellow-rumped Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, and American Goldfinches are winter visitors here, and will all be gone by May or June, returning again in September or October. Goldfinches are pretty rare in our yard so I was happy to see one having a drink in our bird bath last Monday. But it was the Western Tanager that visited our yard for a brief moment last Wednesday that was a real shocker. We spotted a Western Tanager in our yard last October. Could this be the same bird?

Further Afield

Several visits outside of the usual haunts over the last weeks provided some great birds. It was hard to pick the bird of the day after the Mayport pelagic trip on the 5th – I’m as likely to see a Manx Shearwater in the coming months as a Red Phalarope, I think. The Wood Ducks I saw while volunteering at the ACBOP on the 9th were my first for Florida, believe it or not. A last-minute trip to Merritt Island to see an Atlas 5 launch (which ended up scrubbed) plus two days at Disney yielded birds I don’t expect to see at home or at my local patch. A Loggerhead Shrike working the parking lot at the Orange County Convention Center was a nice surprise yesterday.

Local Finds

On the 12th I drove to a dairy farm near DeLeon Springs to look for some reported Brewer’s Blackbirds. I struck out on the blackbirds but was pleased to find a nice group of Wild Turkeys, my first for Volusia for 2012. Another first for Volusia and a new BIGBY species was Green-winged Teal, a flock of which Arthur found during a morning walk at Gemini Springs on the 7th.

Looking Ahead

Now for a little prognostication. Between our yard and Gemini Springs, as of today there are about 40 species not already used in the game that I am 95% sure to see on any given day. Most of these are year-round residents, but some will start to leave around the end of March. Meanwhile a few new birds should start to show up, like Great Crested Flycatchers and Swallow-tailed Kites, both of which might arrive as early as late February. I hope I’m not jinxing myself in forecasting at least another six weeks of play in this game. And hopefully for the next update I can round up a photo or two. ๐Ÿ™‚

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Bird-a-Day Challenge, Disney, Gemini Springs, Green Birding, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Bird-a-Day week 5

Now that I’ve made it into February in the Bird-a-Day Challenge, I thought I’d start posting semi-regular updates as the weeks roll on. Since my last update on January 25th, I’ve added 11 birds, three of which were dreaded yard birds.

04-FEB-12 Killdeer Gemini Springs
03-FEB-12 Ruby-throated Hummingbird yard
02-FEB-12 Northern Harrier Gemini Springs
01-FEB-12 Bufflehead Kennedy Space Center
31-JAN-12 Palm Warbler yard
30-JAN-12 Eastern Phoebe Spring-to-spring Trail
29-JAN-12 Painted Bunting Merritt Island NWR
28-JAN-12 Eurasian Wigeon Merritt Island NWR
27-JAN-12 Common Grackle yard
26-JAN-12 California Gull Frank Rendon Park
25-JAN-12 Black Rail St. Johns NWR

I attended the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival in and around Titusville from January 25th to 29th, which meant I was seeing birds I don’t expect to see here at home and at my local patches – great birds for the challenge!

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting: January 29

The Black Rail on January 25th was one of at least three heard-only (yes, that’s legal!) birds during a festival field trip designed especially for finding these elusive little rails. Notice the yard bird there in the middle of the festival on January 27th – I was sick and spent most of the day in bed, and when I finally got to peek out the window I didn’t see anything more rare than a flock of Common Grackles. I also got to pick up a good bird on February 1st when Arthur and I took a hastily-planned trip to Kennedy Space Center (to see this) and I found a single female Bufflehead in a small pond during our tour. The rest of the birds were found locally and most are pretty common right now. The Northern Harrier was a nice surprise as I’ve only found them at Gemini Springs on two other occasions since moving here. On to week 6!

California Gull
California Gull: January 26

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Bird-a-Day Challenge, Gemini Springs, Space Coast Fest, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Bird-a-Day breakthrough

Sedge Wren
January 19th: Sedge Wren at Lake Woodruff NWR

Last year on January 24th I failed to find a new bird in the Bird-a-Day Challenge, and the game was over for the year. Yesterday I didn’t go out birding, so I had to pick something from the day’s yard list. My bird of the day was the American Robin; and so the game continues today with my first day birding at the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival.

Strategy dictates that the “best” bird of the day is chosen for the challenge, and that typically means the rarest bird that hasn’t been used for the challenge so far. Very often, it’s difficult to pick which bird to add to the list – and remove from the taking as the game progresses. I picked American Robin yesterday because I had already used up some of the “better” birds previously in the game: Gray Catbird and Cedar Waxwing are much more hit-or-miss than the robin of late. But American Robins don’t spend the summer here (as if I’ll get that far in the game!) and they typically leave earlier in the spring than other winter birds seen yesterday (Yellow-rumped Warbler, Tree Swallow, etc) – so they were the best choice to check off in the challenge.

Black-and-white Warbler
January 4th: Black-and-white Warbler in our yard

So far this game has been messing with my birder mind.

When I found a Limpkin at Lake Monroe Park on January 8th, I knew it was the bird of the day, even though it was early in the morning. I don’t find Limpkins on local outings very often, and I was sure I wouldn’t find anything better later while peeking at yard birds throughout the day. But I had to bike home from Lake Monroe Park first. I found myself half-hoping the Wild Turkeys and Northern Bobwhites would keep out of my view. Those birds were one- or two-hit wonders last year, and though I am ALWAYS on the lookout for them to cross my path, I kinda sorta did NOT want to see them after I got Limpkin in my mind for the day. A birder who doesn’t want to see seldom-found patch birds? Crazy.

Limpkin
January 8th: Limpkin at Lake Monroe Park

Regrets? I’ve had a few. Well, maybe just one.

When I saw a Gray Catbird on the Spring-to-spring Trail back on January 5th, it was my first catbird of the year, and only my third one since moving to Florida. Since recording the Gray Catbird as my bird for that day, I have seen Gray Catbirds six more times; it seems I’m seeing them every third day or so. We even had one in the yard – two different days! A better choice for that day might have been Eastern Bluebird (recorded just 3 times; used later), or maybe Killdeer (also 3). But it’s too late for that!

Eastern Bluebird
January 12th: Eastern Bluebird at Gemini Springs

I’m relieved to get further in the game this year than 2011, even though I didn’t really think it would be too hard. Onward to February!

Baltimore Oriole
January 20th: Baltimore Oriole in our back yard

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Bird-a-Day Challenge, Florida, Gemini Springs, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Birding Highlights 2011

When I sat down to reflect upon the ups and downs of 2010 about a year ago I had no idea what was in store for me in 2011. Moving out of Illinois wasn’t on my radar at all. Now I sit here in my Florida home just one year later, looking back on twelve months that saw a lot of personal ups and downs, and one huge change – the move to DeBary.

But what about the birding? Here are my 2011 bird-type highlights.

Moving from northern Illinois to central Florida was a major highlight, bird-wise, even though it meant I’d be missing a lot. The below photo shows your blogger at Gemini Springs, the new local patch.

Blogger

I managed to pick up a whopping 35 life birds in 2011! With just 285 ABA lifers, it’s still not too tough to pick up new birds. 15 of the birds were found in Illinois (including the Ogle County Snowy Owl), and the remaining 20 were all found in Florida.

Six of those life birds were picked up on my first-ever pelagic birding experience on a voyage out of Ponce Inlet in September.

One of those lifers was a rather out-of-range western treat in our own Florida back yard: a Western Tanager.

Early in the year I helped out with the Raptor Internship at FCWR. I had a lot of fun helping the new volunteers learn about handling raptors and I made a lot of friends (who I still miss every day). Of course spending time with some amazing birds is always special. This is Darwin puffed up on a particularly cold day.

My very best bird experience of the year also came courtesy of Flint Creek, and I’ll share that with you tomorrow (though regular readers will surely have no problem guessing my #1 for 2011!). Stay tuned!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in FCWR, Florida, Gemini Springs, Illinois, Life List, Yard Birds | 1 Comment

This calendar is all over the place…


… literally! Some of the twelve birds featured in this 2012 Backyard Birds Mini Calendar may be Backyard Birds, but you’d never find them all in the same back yard.


Click picture to see larger

Northern Cardinals are native to eastern North America.

Cedar Waxwings live across much of North America.

Wren is kind of non-specific for a calendar published in Indiana, but it probably refers to the Eurasian Wren, which is commonly referred to as simply “wren” and is native to Europe and Asia.

Great Tits are back yard birds through much of Europe and are also found across Asia and north Africa.

White-crowned Sparrows live across much of North America.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers live in parts of Europe and Asia.

Steller’s Jays live across western North America.

Oriental White Eyes are found in tropical Asia. I can’t find any evidence of them frequenting feeders.

Siberian Rubythroats live in Siberia, natch. They eat insects.

Vermilion Flycatchers (spelled Vermillion on the calendar) live in the Americas, from the American southwest through much of South America.

I’m having a hard time figuring out what a “Common Tree Pie” is supposed to be, but it looks like a White-winged Redstart, native to southwest and central Asia. They eat insects.

Finally, the Azure Kingfisher is native to Australia and neighboring islands. However, the bird identified as such looks more like a Common Kingfisher (native to Eurasia and Africa). If you’ve got a thriving body of water in your yard, you might count a kingfisher as a yard bird, but they’d certainly never be feeder birds.

On Amazon’s best seller list, this calendar ranks #258,859 in books. That seems a little high to me.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Funny, Products, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Domain surveying (with preen break)

There are Red-shouldered Hawks everywhere you turn here in our central Florida neighborhood. They’re perching in our front tree, they’re frightening feeder birds in our back yard, and they’re calling from treetops on every sleepy street each time we go out. I snapped some photos of this youngster who happened to be perched on the wire across from our house the other day. So far, I can’t get enough of them. I hope you like them, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

RSHA00

RSHA01

RSHA02

RSHA05

RSHA06

RSHA08

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Volusia Birding, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Western Treat

Saturday was a busy day. Arthur’s family had just left us the day before, following an excellent and busy two-week visit. We had been to theme parks, nature preserves, restaurants, beaches, historical sites, shopping malls, and more. So Saturday was a day for a bit of relaxing, but also laundry, straightening up, and getting settled back into our offices, which had been turned into guest rooms.

The day also included a bit of yard birding, as you do. When chickamice are cheeping, the impulse to rise and check the feeders is automatic. Cheeps called us to the window at about 4:30PM. While I was watching Tufted Titmice, Arthur found a yellow bird that he didn’t immediately recognize. He tried to point it out to me, which shouldn’t have been too hard, considering the modest size of our yard, but I couldn’t find his bird. He speculated what it might be while I remained clueless, searching for movement about 10 feet too high from where I should have been looking.

Western Tanager

Finally I spotted a tanager-like bird in our orange tree. I’m not overly familiar with tanagers, but my first thought was that it was a female Summer or Scarlet Tanager. I noted it was a yellowish bird with dark wings and strong whitish wing bars. During this initial viewing I didn’t notice (or remember) the color of the beak, but I must have registered the general shape, because that’s what would scream “tanager” versus “oriole” or something else to me. I observed the bird for a minute or so before I lost it. I reached for Sibley while Arthur kept watch on the yard.

Western Tanager

So Sibley clearly lets me know immediately that both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers don’t show strong wing bars. But Western Tanagers, far out of their normal range here in Florida, do. Holy crap! This was getting exciting. I went for my camera and hoped the bird would be spotted again. Arthur to the rescue. He found the tanager again and I managed to take some photos. Now I noticed the pinkish beak. Western Tanager! Lifer! In OUR YARD! Boo-yah!

Western Tanager

Boy, am I glad I got photos! Obviously the bird is well out of range, but I had no idea how often they visit Florida. When I posted to the Florida listserv, birders replied to me privately that our Western Tanager might be a first for Volusia County. Whoa. I later learned from Michael Brothers that there are just two previous records: January 1957 in Ormond Beach and February-March 1968 in New Smyrna. I was also urged to report the sighting to the Florida Ornithological Society, so it might be officially recorded (like the 1957 and 1968 birds), a process which I have started.

Western Tanager

We saw the Western Tanager late in the day on Saturday. After dark, we went on a food run, picking up oranges and grape jelly. Apparently Western Tanagers will feed on the same types of food as orioles; I saw the tanager eat at least two large insects Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning we placed the jelly, two orange halves, and an oriole feeder with sugar water at one of our feeding stations, along with a camera.

Treats for a Western Tanager

As of Wednesday afternoon, the camera hasn’t recorded a single visitor to the feeders. We did have a second, extremely fleeting sighting of the Western Tanager on Tuesday afternoon. Arthur spotted it (natch) and got me on it, but it flew off after less than a minute. I know there are several local birders that would love to see the bird. I would love for it to stick around! We’re keeping our eyes peeled!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Life List, Rare / Vagrant, Yard Birds | 1 Comment

Our first yard birds

Since we moved to DeBary in June, I have recorded 27 species of birds seen in and from our yard. On moving day, a Northern Mockingbird was probably the first bird to make itself known to me, though I didn’t recognize the crazy jumble of songs at first. The first bird I saw was a Swallow-tailed Kite, soaring high overhead – and I count that as the official first yard bird.

Before we put feeders up in the yard, we saw Mourning Doves, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays in the vicinity of our yard. A pair of Carolina Wrens hung out by a brush pile in the back yard and would flit around our window screens, maybe looking for bugs to eat. A Brown Thrasher visited a few times, turning over leaves in another part of the back.

Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren looking through our window – September 5, 2011

Another early yard bird was a heard-only Sandhill Crane later in the day on moving day. We’ve seen these birds in groups of two, three or four birds in our neighborhood several times, and when we venture outside the neighborhood we see them more often than not on our way to the highway.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes in our neighborhood – August 12, 2011

White Ibis roam our neighborhood, usually in small gangs. We were delighted when a lone bird came into our front yard on August 9th. Although it didn’t seem to find anything to eat in our grass, we watched as it picked off several frogs in the neighbor’s front lawn across the street.

White Ibis
White Ibis with frog – August 9, 2011

After we put up the first feeders, regular visitors like Tufted Titmice and Carolina Chickadees began coming to our yard to feed, along with the doves and cardinals. Of course we were extremely excited to have Tufted Titmice in our own yard – they were so rare up in Lake County, Illinois! Now they are very regular and I only squeal with delight every 5th time I see them or so.

Tufted Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse at the feeder – September 16, 2011

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal at the feeder – September 17, 2011

Although we offer nuts, the neighborhood Blue Jays seem to be quite skittish. We hear them a lot, but we rarely see them come in to eat. American and Fish Crows also stop by sometimes, but they hang out in the brushy part of the back yard and ignore the seed on offer. We haven’t had Downy Woodpeckers or Red-bellied Woodpeckers go for our nuts yet either, though they are also visiting our yard regularly.

Blue Jay
A Blue Jay caught at the feeder by the BirdCam – September 21, 2011

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker – September 19, 2011

A couple of times we’ve seen a Red-shouldered Hawk perched on a horizontal snag by our office windows in the back yard. We rarely saw these birds up in northern Illinois so it’s quite a treat to have the chance to see one up close in our own yard. I just know there are Barred Owls all around us here in DeBary (eBird even places them in our neighborhood!), but we’ve only heard a pair of them in another part of town so far. I will probably pass out if/when we ever see one in our yard.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk – August 4, 2011

We rarely see any birds using the bath, which I find very strange. I expected the bird bath to be a huge draw in this hot climate, but I’ve only seen the squirrels drink from it and the occasional Mourning Dove.

Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove – September 11, 2011

We had a Water Wiggler in the bath at first, but later I purchased a mister, thinking surely that would be irresistible to our feathered friends. So far, not so much, though I have spotted Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, and Carolina Chickadees drinking from the drips left on the tomato stand I’m using to hold up the mister. Maybe once our regular birds are joined by more overwintering friends, the bath will see more action?

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird sipping drips – October 3, 2011

One day about six weeks after we moved in, Arthur spotted a hummingbird hovering by a flower outside his window.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Our first Ruby-throated Hummingbird – July 31, 2011

The next day we hung up a couple of feeders but didn’t see any more hummingbirds. We took the feeders in, intending to clean them and put them out again, but somehow a week or so passed and we hadn’t replaced the feeders. Then Arthur spotted a Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched in a tree in our yard. Immediately the feeders went out again and we started seeing a single bird visiting each evening between about 5 and 5:30pm. After about a week we noticed a pair of hummers sparring over one of the feeders in the back. We added a second sugar water feeder to the back yard and now we are seeing a hummingbird almost every time we look outside for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Today we added Palm Warbler to our yard list. I suspect this bird was hunting and chowing down on caterpillars in our yard for over two hours! According to eBird, Palm Warblers arrive in our area in mid-September and stay through late April. I wonder if this is a recent arrival who may stick around our apparently caterpillar-infested yard? ๐Ÿ™‚

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler with one of a hundred caterpillars – October 5, 2011

By the way, I know my pictures are normally nothing to write home about, but a lot of the pictures in this post are real stinkers, aren’t they? The house we’re renting has old windows which are just fine to look through with the naked eye, but through optics there is some major distortion going on. My poor WingScapes BirdCam has been acting up, too – it seems to be as uncomfortable in the heat as I am. Hopefully the pictures I included give you an idea of what we’re seeing in our yard, anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

Black-throated Blue Warbler
My favorite yard bird so far, a male Black-throated Blue Warbler – September 24, 2011

Here’s our list so far:

1 Swallow-tailed Kite – Elanoides forficatus
2 Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
3 Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
4 Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
5 Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
6 Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
7 White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
8 Great Crested Flycatcher – Myiarchus crinitus
9 Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
10 Carolina Chickadee – Poecile carolinensis
11 Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum
12 Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
13 Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
14 Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
15 Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
16 Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
17 Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
18 American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
19 Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Archilochus colubris
20 American Redstart – Setophaga ruticilla
21 Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
22 Red-eyed Vireo – Vireo olivaceus
23 White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
24 Black-throated Blue Warbler – Setophaga caerulescens
25 Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
26 Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
27 Indigo Bunting – Passerina cyanea

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Yard Birds | 1 Comment

What I Will Miss

When Arthur and I moved from the Netherlands back to the USA in 2008, I posted a couple of entries on our personal blog about what I would miss and not miss from my European home of nearly ten years. As we prepared for our recent move from northern Illinois to central Florida, I started thinking about the Midwestern things I would miss and what I was looking forward to in Florida. Since this is a birding blog, I’m sharing the bird-type things I will (and indeed already do) miss from northern Illinois.

The Birds*

To birders, Florida is known for several specialty birds, one endemic species, and fabulous birding opportunities with relaxed and easy-to-view birds. But there are plenty of species that I got to know up north that never or rarely venture so far south. I always enjoyed seeing winter visitors like Red-breasted Nuthatches and Dark-eyed Juncos at our back yard feeders. These two rarely travel as far south as central Florida.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
A Red-breasted Nuthatch visiting our feeding station in Round Lake Beach

The chances of seeing owl species like Saw-whet, Long-eared, Short-eared, and Snowy are virtually nil.

Long-eared Owl
Long-eared Owl (non-releasable education bird) at the 2009 Midwest Birding Symposium

It was also fun to watch certain breeding birds in the summer, like American Robins, Tree Swallows, and American Goldfinches, that will only live in Florida out of breeding season. I suppose that also means I’ll only be seeing drab goldfinches from now on, too. Bummer.

The Birding Community

I enjoyed following the Illinois listserv, IBET, and getting to know local and statewide birders via the list. During our years in Illinois, we joined several different local clubs on various walks and at their monthly program meetings. There are a lot of birding clubs in Chicagoland, with many different affiliations, and we really enjoyed our time with most of them. I especially loved the one local bird club we joined as members, Lake-Cook Audubon. During the last year or so I volunteered as the editor of the newsletter, and I enjoyed that a lot. What I miss about the birding community is really the familiarity, which is something I hope will grow over time as we join local groups here for events, walks and talks, and keep up with the local listservs. But I am sure the especially welcoming atmosphere of Lake-Cook Audubon will be hard to beat.

Bird Banding

I learned so much last year while volunteering at the MAPS banding station at Rollins Savanna. Cindy, the master bander, is a great teacher and station manager, and all of the volunteers get along and have a lot of fun each day in the field. I miss them this summer.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing at Rollins Savanna MAPS banding station, June 2010

I think there might be some bird banding volunteer opportunities here as well, but from what I’ve gathered so far, nothing will be as close as Rollins was to our old house (about 8 minutes driving). There are banding stations at Wekiwa Springs State Park (about 30 minutes away) and at Tomoka State Park (50m), both of which welcome visitors. I’m not sure if they also welcome volunteers. I hope to find out this fall.

My Raptor Friends

Last, but absolutely not least, I already miss all of my feathered and unfeathered friends at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation terribly.


Eastern Screech Owl Kotori, Red-tailed Hawk Old Red, American Kestrel Darwin, Barn Owl Pip

There are raptor rehab centers here as well, but my experiences with FCWR will never be matched by another facility. The two closest centers I have found seem to care for raptors alone. It was fun, in my limited experience, to work with different types of birds and other non-avian species, and to be able to participate in so many different activities. With FCWR I helped with migration rescue and recovery in Chicago, recovered an injured Great Blue Heron and other birds in need of rescue, released Great Horned Owls, ducks, and others, cared for rehabbing Eastern Grey Squirrels, Opossums, Red-tailed Hawks, and handled amazing birds of prey during education programs and public events. I hope to investigate local volunteer opportunities in the fall.

Finally, here’s a brief look back to that original What I Will Miss post. Over three years ago, I wrote:

I know there will be a lot of different and wonderful birds wherever we end up, but I will miss seeing some of my favorite European birds: the European Goldfinches and the acrobatic little Blue Tits that visit our garden; the big White Storks that like to hang out on highway light poles; the pairs of Tufted Ducks floating in roadside ponds; the beautiful, brightly-colored male Pheasants that patrol fields and forest edges along with their elusive dully-colored mates.

Well. I had so much fun getting to know the birds of Illinois that I didn’t really have the chance to miss Dutch birds at all. I wonder if the same will hold true here?

*Disclaimer: At this point I’m really not totally up to speed on local birding. So there’s a chance I’ve mentioned that I will miss a species that might actually occur here. I’m basing most of this on books.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Illinois, Life List, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Nest failure and success

For a second year I have been watching an American Robin nest in our front yard. I expected the chicks to hatch this year between May 8th and 14th. Following the discovery of three eggs (down from the original four) in the nest on May 8th, I checked again on May 11th, when I found two freshly-hatched chicks.

Just hatched robins
American Robin chicks shortly after hatching

I was amazed when I looked back over last year’s observations from this same nest and saw that the babies hatched on the same exact date in 2010!

On May 16th I observed both adult robins make frequent visits to the nest. At one point I saw one of the adults feeding a chick and then consume a fecal sac (“aww…. eww!”). Later in the day I made a quick check inside the nest.

5-day-old robin chicks
5-day-old American Robin chicks

I was away all day on the 17th so I didn’t note any observations. On the 18th I noticed a lack of activity at the nest. The nest is partially visible from our living room, and even if I wasn’t actively looking at the nest, I could normally notice adults going to and fro in my peripheral vision. I decided to have a quick peek inside the nest.

Empty robin nest
Empty robin nest

Oh, how sad! I didn’t see any evidence of the chicks or their eggs on the ground around the nest. The nest didn’t look terribly disturbed so I’m not sure what happened to the chicks, but I suspect predation, possibly by neighborhood crows. American Robins in our area typically have two broods, but they don’t usually reuse a nest twice in the same season. I wish the best for the robins that lost their babies in our front yard, but I know that robins in general are doing quite well in our neighborhood. I was heartened to watch two adult robins attending to a chick in our back yard a couple of days after finding the empty nest.

Life is tough for wild birds, but they do bounce back from what we would consider a terrible family tragedy. If you’ve got nesting birds on your property, don’t forget that you can contribute your observations to science using Cornell’s NestWatch.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Citizen Science, Yard Birds | Leave a comment