Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

A Year Bird at Our Feeders January 21, 2009

Filed under: Animals,Birds,Children's Interests — saltthesandbox @ 3:43 pm
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Most mornings I practically have to drag Ethan and Aaron out of bed. However, this morning a male Common Redpoll arrived at our feeders right at wake-up time. Both boys were out of bed and at the back window in less than 60 seconds.

Common Redpolls are winter visitors from Canada. Last winter they were pretty common, visiting our feeders on at least a half dozen days through the winter. So far this season, we had seen them once in in a birch tree in Columbus Park (in November) and once in the large ash tree across the alley (during the Christmas Bird Count). This is the first time we’ve seen one at our feeders this season. It was exciting enough that we decided to post our sighting on IBET, the birding e-mail list for Illinois. (The boys really love it when we find a report-worthy bird!)

Also, this is the first time we’ve seen a Common Redpoll during this calendar year — that makes it a “year bird” for us. Both Aaron and I are keeping lists of all the birds we see this year. The Common Redpoll was year bird number 72 for Aaron and year bird 69 for me. (I’m usually the driver on our birding adventures, and I sometimes don’t see birds that the boys spot along the roadside, like Snow Buntings and Horned Larks.)

Ethan does not keep a formal year list. He’s more interested in adding birds to his life list, which is well over 400 species. So, on a typical evening, Aaron is on the upstairs computer searching for potential year birds on the Birdmail lists for Illinois and surrounding states. Then he approaches me with his well-reasoned arguments about where we need to go on our weekend trips around the Chicago area and Midwest. Meanwhile, Ethan is on the basement computer planning our summer vacation in California. (He also planned last summer’s driving trip to Colorado, when the boys found more than 50 life birds.)

And so it goes here in Oak Park. I’m the one most interested in the local birds and neighborhood nature — that’s why I started this blog. Aaron was thrilled to see the Redpoll this morning, because he could check off another winter target bird. Ethan’s sights are on farther horizons. He enjoyed seeing the Common Redpoll, but he mostly talked about the Hoary Redpolls he added to his year list last winter.

I set up the spotting scope by the back window. I’ll try to digiscope a close up of the Redpoll if he returns.


Added 10:15 p.m. the same day (Wednesday, January 21):

The Common Redpoll never did return, so I have no photos to show at this time. However, Aaron has been tracking Birdmail reports for Illinois and surrounding states. Folks in other parts of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio saw Common Redpolls today, often in places they have not seen them before this winter. So, we seem to have a Redpoll invasion in the works. It’s kind of wonderful that our tiny backyard is part of this much larger pattern of bird behavior.

Overall it was a good day at our feeders. We had 12 species total, which is above average for south Oak Park in January. (For comparison, today I only saw 5 species of birds on a 2.5 mile walk through nearby Columbus Park.) Here’s our yard list for January 21, as tallied on eBird, which we use to keep track of yard birds on non-FeederWatch days. If you want to learn more about a species, each name is linked to more information on the All About Birds website, one of our favorite sources for online bird information:

Cooper’s Hawk – 1

Rock Pigeon13

Mourning Dove2

Downy Woodpecker 2

Blue Jay1

Black-capped Chickadee1

Dark-eyed Junco – 17

Northern Cardinal – 5

House Finch – 21

Common Redpoll – 1

American Goldfinch8

House Sparrow – 50

Today the Cooper’s Hawk just flew low over our yard but didn’t catch anything, at least that I could see. One female House Finch showed symptoms of eye disease. I’ll be writing about our other yard birds over the next few weeks.

By the way, if you want to see our FeederWatch results for this season so far, go to this page.

Are you getting the idea that we’re a bit obsessive about identifying, counting, and making lists of what we see? Well, there’s a lot of history behind that in our family, and I’ll be writing about that as well.

However, I promise I won’t devote all my blogging to birds. For instance, I have some upcoming posts about the things we see in trees and on the ground when we are looking for birds. But, that’s for another day.


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