The chase is on!

We’re still in the grips of winter with far below average temperatures.

While the February average is in the high 30’s here in Chicagoland, we’re still experiencing bone-chilling minus-zero air temperatures with wind chills in the -20’s.

Snow mountains from the blizzard that dumped around 17 inches on us a few weeks ago still weigh down the garden greenery.

Birds actually warm themselves in the heated bird bath in this bitter cold.

American Robin bathes in a heated birdbath in winter cold.

American Robin bathes in the heated bird bath while his buddy watches for intruders.

At times like these, it’s hard to keep the pool all to yourselves.

I imagine one of the Robins saying to the other, “Just ignore them and maybe they’ll go away.”

Indeed, the European Starlings seem to be trying to look just as disinterested.

European Starlings share the birdbath with American Robins on a cold, snowy day.

European Starlings share the bird bath with American Robins on a cold, snowy day.

Do wild birds observe Ground Hog Day?

A Gold Finch and a House Finch see their shadows against a mostly-frozen bird bath in the cold February morning sun.

How many more weeks of winter?????

A Gold Finch and a House Finch try to find open water at a frozen-over bird bath.

 

But wait!

What’s that I hear?

The song of a …. Northern Cardinal!

The chase is on!  I spied one male Cardinal chasing another from tree to tree at dusk.

During the day I hear them calling.

In spite of the frozen earth, days are lengthening and the first signs that birds are beginning to defend territories awaken hope that warmer days are ahead.

A Northern Cardinal provides a colorful counterpoint against the frozen landscape.

A Northern Cardinal provides a colorful counterpoint against the frozen landscape.

My Black-capped Chickadees are going to begin looking for nesting spots.

It’s time to place their nest box in the pine tree.

A Chickadee nest box is ready for placement.

A Chickadee nest box is ready for placement.

And for those of you waiting patiently for the Ruby Throat Hummingbirds ….

keep an eye on their 2015 migration map!

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A Happy and Prosperous New (Birding) Year!

Bird Watcher's Digest_Jan-Feb '15_Rubythroat Hummingbird

Rubythroat Hummingbirds in Winter

Only a few more months and these little flying jewels will be visiting my garden again!

The January-February 2015 issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest features an article written about an educator, friend, scientist, and birding mentor, Dr. Bill Hilton, Jr.

I had the privilege of studying Rubythroat Hummingbirds in their Costa Rican wintering grounds with Bill, his colleague, Ernesto Carman, Jr. and a team of fellow  citizen scientists in February ’09.

This article captures some of what Dr. Hilton’s “Operation Rubythroat” has achieved.

If you’re looking for a great way to make a contribution to science while taking an awesome (tax-deductible) winter vacation to a lovely, warm Central American destination, consider signing up for one of these “expeditions”!

Wishing a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous New Year to all!

 

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Meet Fluffy

Fluffy is a name you give a little white kitten or, in my case, a Ruby-throat Hummingbird whose feathers are visibly more “fluffed up” than its counterparts’.

Fluffy - Portrait of a Ruby-throat Hummingbird

Fluffy – Portrait of a Ruby-throat Hummingbird

Most of these little birds are pretty sleek, even at this time of year when they are packing on extra grams of fat to sustain them through their long migratory flights.  But Fluffy is noticeably more, well, fluffy.

Ruby-throat hummingbird silhouetted against a cloudy sky

Ruby-throat hummingbird silhouetted against a cloudy sky

So, this little one I named “Fluffy” has been hanging around for several days loving the new feeder I bought this season.  Fluff guards it by sitting atop the staff and driving off most intruders — occasionally having a change of heart to allow another to share the feeder for a while.

One hummer guards while the other hummingbird sips nectar.

One hummer guards while the other hummingbird sips nectar.

 

Fluffy has been seen sitting on the perch for lengths of time just enjoying the late summer sun.

Ruby-throat hummingbird sunning on the raised perch of this feeder.

Ruby-throat hummingbird sunning on the raised perch of this feeder.

My new feeder features a perch ring slightly higher than the feeding ports and the hummers have really taken to it.  It’s obvious they enjoy the easier reach and they almost always perch while feeding.  They rarely hover over the ports to sip.  A hummer will often just rest on the perch … at least for a while until another territorial hummingbird comes along to knock it off and then they both zip away playing “war”.

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To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store

Kelly Trojans:

I’m still here …. just busy with other priorities AND have not been able to load the winter’s photos on my Blog … have not been able to figure it out.

But for today, I’m not concerned about birding or posting photos. I just thought this was a great story.

Originally posted on True Stories of a Midwest Yankee:

Dear woman behind me in line at the grocery store,

You don’t know me. You have no clue what my life has been like since October 1, 2013. You have no clue that my family has gone through the wringer. You have no clue that we have faced unbelievable hardship. You have no clue we have been humiliated, humbled, destitute.
You have no clue I have cried more days than not; that I fight against bitterness taking control of my heart. You have no clue that my husband’s pride was shattered. You have no clue my kids have had the worries of an adult on their shoulders. You have no clue their innocence was snatched from them for no good reason. You know none of this.

What you do know is I tried to buy my kids some food and that the EBT machine was down so I couldn’t buy…

View original 544 more words

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Happy Bird Day – National Bird Day 2014

There is a PBS film presentation, Parrot Confidential, that is worth taking time to watch.  It will both break your heart and fill your heart with joy.  Access a link to the film and a video conversation with the filmmaker at the National Bird Day website.

I treasure having had the opportunity to see these magnificent birds in their wild habitat in Central America.  So, have a box of tissues handy while you grab a steaming cup of Costa Rican organic shade-grown coffee (I get mine from Café Cristina) and watch.

National Bird Day 2014

National Bird Day 2014

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A new woodpecker species appeared in my mini-bird sanctuary!

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes caro...

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus). Photo taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 in Johnston County, North Carolina, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That bird feeding station outside my window just never ceases to give pleasure and amaze.

I was happy to show off my resident Red-bellied Woodpecker to Cousin Sally when she was over for Christmas dinner yesterday.  Or rather, he was showing off his skills in clinging to the suet feeder swallowing chunks of food.  He is not a super regular visitor.  So that makes him a bit special when he does show up.

Northern Flicker

When that Red-belly showed up, conversation turned to woodpecker species.  “What’s a Northern Flicker look like?”  Well, since I just so happen to have two birding books on the end table in front of the window ….. here.  See?  The closest to my house I’ve ever seen one?  Oh, that was in the forested area around the ponds out back.  Never around my feeders.

English: yellow-bellied sapsucker

English: yellow-bellied sapsucker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I was pleasantly surprised by a NEW woodpecker species visit.  A … could it be?  But … does it winter around here?  A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!  Quick! Check the “Birds of Illinois” book to make sure I can believe my eyes.  Yes!  Illinois is on the northern edge of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker’s winter territory.  More are found in southern Illinois than here in the north this time of year.  To be sure, I’ve spotted them in the local forests in early spring.  But … here?  In my yard?  In winter?

A quick check of the Illinois Birder’s Forum website and the local Christmas Bird Count listings prove it.  Six Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were sighted at my local arboretum during the CBC on December 15th.  So, it’s confirmed!  They’re in the area and a new bird species has made its appearance outside my birding window.  It was not at the feeding station, but that could change.  What a wonderful thing it would be to have a close-up view of a resident Yellow-belly enjoying the suet feeder!

We birders get excited about the craziest things!

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Feeding Frenzy In The Snow

Snowy days always bring birds to the feeders in droves.  The ground and trees are covered with snow making it difficult for them to find food.  Open water in the heated bird bath is more than welcome – it can be a literal life-saver.

Although the birds refused to sit still for photos, the camera managed to snap a few shots that captured the chilly feel around the feeding station during a recent snow storm.

The suet feeder, nyger seed Goldfinch feeder and the hopper filled with millet, sunflower and safflower mix draw a crowd on a snowy day with trees and ground covered and other food sources scarce.

The suet feeder, nyger seed Goldfinch feeder and the hopper filled with millet, sunflower and safflower mix draw a crowd on a snowy day with trees and ground covered and other food sources scarce.

 

This American Goldfinch individual is easy to identify since he has a distinctive pattern of feathers on his head.

Dehydration can threaten survival in winter when there are few sources of water that’s not frozen. Eating cold snow saps the birds’ energy, so an open source of liquid water helps them tolerate the cold. Water also helps them keep their feathers clean providing better insulation against the bitter winter weather. This American Goldfinch individual is easy to identify since he has a distinctive pattern of feathers on his head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-capped Chickadees are quick-moving little acrobats occasionally pausing before swooping down to grab a seed from the feeder and flit back to a tree branch.

Black-capped Chickadees are quick-moving little acrobats. Occasionally, they may pause for a while to survey the feeding station situation before swooping down to grab a sunflower or safflower seed and flit back to a tree branch to savor the morsel.

This Chickadee is busy selecting a sunflower or safflower seed from the feeder.

Caught in the act. Typical Chickadee behavior. This Chickadee is busy selecting a sunflower or safflower seed from the feeder before flying into a nearby branch to crack it open and relish the meat inside. Meanwhile, the lights from the Christmas tree inside provide a warm contrast to cold snowflakes swirling around the wild bird feeding station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-breasted Nuthatch pauses on top of the feeding station.

This Red-breasted Nuthatch pauses atop the feeding station before deciding whether to approach the hopper feeder for sunflower seed or the suet feeder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An American Robin extends its reach to select a berry in the hawthorn tree.

This American Robin extends its reach to select a berry in the hawthorn tree. Robins prefer lipid-rich fruits in fall and winter. When they eat honeysuckle berries exclusively, they sometimes become intoxicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dark-eyed Junco pauses on a branch of a snow-covered tree with a snowflake balanced on the tip of its bill.

This Dark-eyed Junco has a snowflake balanced on the tip of its bill. These gentle birds are mainly ground feeders and are most often found eating millet seed that has fallen from the feeder above. On snowy days when the ground is covered with snow, they will eat from a feeder, although they are clearly not comfortable.

A Downy Woodpecker searches for insect larvae that live inside tree bark.

A Downy Woodpecker searches for insect larvae that live inside tree bark.

American Goldfinches share the nyger seed feeder.

With snowflakes swirling around them, a pair of American Goldfinches shares the goldfinch nyger seed feeder.

                       

A male and female English Sparrow pair endure a snowy December day.

A male and female English Sparrow pair endure a snowy December day in northern Illinois. These invasive, non-native English Sparrows more than outnumber the native North American birds at feeding stations.

This female Northern Cardinal has a few flakes of snow on her feathers.

This female Northern Cardinal has a few flakes of snow on her feathers.

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