Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Two Visitors to Our Yard March 17, 2009

Filed under: Animals,Birds — saltthesandbox @ 10:28 pm
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Last month we saw 8 or 9 species of birds a day through our back window. But, with spring edging closer, our count numbers have been increasing. Today we had 15 species for the first time since last year. Some are year ’round residents, like Cardinals and House Finches. Some, like Grackles, spent the winter elsewhere and recently arrived to spend the summer. A few, like Juncos, are winter residents and will soon leave us. But most of the 80 bird species we expect to see from our yard this year will just be passing through while heading north.

One of those short-term visitors showed up today. Early this afternoon, a female Purple Finch turned up at our feeder. Perhaps it’s the mate of the male we saw yesterday. It ate sunflower seeds off and on all afternoon. I took its photo with Ethan’s camera (because Ethan was at school):


Female Purple Finch on our sunflower feeder.

Another visitor spends the winter in the residential neighborhoods, but last year moved to Columbus Park woods to build its nest. Just before sunset, Ethan saw an adult Cooper’s Hawk on our back fence. The hawk missed its chance at a meal, but Ethan was successful with his camera:


The adult Cooper's Hawk failed to catch a meal in our yard. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

We like Cooper’s Hawks because they keep the Pigeons really nervous and off our neighbors’ roofs. If the hawks nest elsewhere this year, we will cut way back on ground feeding once the Juncos leave.

Tonight’s weather radar shows more birds taking off from areas to the south of us and heading north. What new birds will turn up tomorrow?

Update added the next day at 1:30 p.m.: The new birds for Columbus Park this morning were Golden-crowned Kinglet and Fox Sparrow. I also saw a female Bufflehead swimming on the lagoon, which was new to the Park but a common winter resident on large lakes and rivers in Chicago. For a more complete story, here’s the post I made to the Illinois birding email list:

Subject: IBET Columbus Park: Golden-crowned Kinglets, Fox Sparrow, Eastern Phoebes, and more.
From: “Eric Gyllenhaal”
Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2009 18:02

I just got back from a walk around Columbus Park on the far west side of Chicago. The female BUFFLEHEAD on the lagoon was the first of its kind we’ve seen in two years of birding in the Park, but the woods were even more interesting.

The woods by the lagoon had the first GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS I’d seen this year, plus two EASTERN PHOEBES. A juvenile SHARP-SHINNED HAWK was in the woods as well. The Phoebes stayed in the open, flying within 25 feet of the hawk while making chip notes and even flycatching. The other birds (like Juncos and Robins) stayed low to the ground or left the area.

I saw at least one FOX SPARROW in the woods between Austin and the golf course. I also heard a Fox Sparrow sing there, which threw me for a loop at first — it sounds so unlike a sparrow and had me thinking “grosbeak.” I also saw two more Phoebes in Austin woods, plus another Golden-crowned Kinglet. The Kinglet flew out of the woods to forage on the golf course putting green, which was a pretty strange sight. It was also a bit strange to see the Phoebes in the woods instead of beside the lagoon — I guess they go where the bugs are this time of year.

Oh, and yesterday a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH passed through the Austin woods, calling as it moved and stopping briefly to give me a look. There are evergreens on the other side of Austin, but none in the Park, so again it seemed out of place.

Both today and yesterday there were lots of SONG SPARROWS all over the Park, plus calling NORTHERN FLICKERS. I’ll post the full list in about an hour on our blog. [Go here to read it.]

Eric Gyllenhaal
Oak Park, Cook County, Illinois

Update added Wednesday at 10:00 p.m.
: The boys and I went to Columbus Park after school to look for “year birds,” especially the Golden-crowned Kinglets and Fox Sparrow (which would be year birds for both boys) and the Eastern Phoebes (year bird for Aaron). We missed all our target birds, but found two other year birds instead: Brown Creeper and Chipping Sparrow. We’ll post Ethan’s photo of the Creeper tomorrow. (Right now Ethan is too busy pasting up his science fair project, which is — of course — about bird migration.)


Go here for eBird records of birds in our yard, including day, month, and year lists.

To read a nice article about Cooper’s Hawks in the Chicago area, please go here.