Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Big Break Birding Total Reaches 100! April 2, 2009

It’s spring break, and the race is on to find new first-of-year birds and to see how many kinds of birds we can find during the break. We’re calling it Big Break Birding, and it includes both Big Footprint Birding (long trips from home) and Big Green Birding (birding in the neighborhood).

Two male Purple Finches showed up in our yard at lunchtime to push our Big Break total to 100 species. Here’s what happened when one visited our sunflower feeder:

A pair of House Finches try to chase a male Purple Finch from our sunflower feeder. They did not succeed. (Those are American Goldfinches in the background.)

A pair of House Finches try to chase a male Purple Finch from our sunflower feeder. They did not succeed. (Those are American Goldfinches in the background.)

A close-up view shows the Purple Finch has just husked a sunflower seed. Note that, in male Purple Finches, the raspberry color extends over the top of the head:

The male Purple Finch has just cracked through the seed coat and is holding a sunflower kernel.

The male Purple Finch has just cracked through the seed coat and is holding a sunflower kernel.

In the enlargement below, the female House Finch, with her plain brown face, is in front. The male House Finch, with with a reddish face but brown on the top of his head, is behind her:

The female House Finche's bill is open and ready to attack.

The female House Finch's bill is open and ready to attack.

Within a split second the Purple Finch dropped its seed and struck back — it drove off the House Finches and reclaimed its perch at the feeder.

Other Big Break Birds today included a male Eastern Towhee feeding and singing in our yard at sunrise and three adult Black-crowned Night-Herons sleeping in a tree at Columbus Park, seen on my morning walk.

Yesterday — a Big Footprint day — was only moderately successful. We birded the Lake Michigan shoreline in Indiana, searching for a rare Glaucous-winged Gull that had been reported the day before. We walked the windy, wave-swept shore for hours looking closely at every gull:

We hiked a mile to look closely at the four immature gulls in the center of the photo. The foreground is blurred by wind-blown sand. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

We hiked a mile to look closely at the four immature gulls in the center of the photo. The foreground is blurred by wind-blown sand. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

We had no luck finding the gull (which may have been misidentified anyway). However, we did add a year bird — Caspian Tern — plus three additional Big Break Birds (Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter, and Merlin).

We also headed south to look for birds in flooded fields along the Kankakee River in Indiana. We saw neither year birds nor Big Break birds, but we did see some pretty spectacular sights. Thousands of birds were feeding in the flooded farm fields, including hundreds of Northern Shovelers (more than we had ever seen before). Every 10 minutes or so something would scare the birds and many would take flight:

Frightened ducks take flight from a flooded field in Jasper County, Indiana. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

Frightened ducks take flight from a flooded field in Jasper County, Indiana. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

Other birds got nervous as we drove close, but they swam away slowly, so Ethan got some better photos:

Male Canvasback (upper right), pair of Ring-necked Ducks (center right), and three American Coots (in foreground).

Male Canvasback (upper right), pair of Ring-necked Ducks (center right), and three American Coots (in foreground). Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

Pair of Redheads (female facing away from the camera).

Pair of Redheads (female facing away from the camera). Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

American Coots head for open water in a flooded field near the Kankakee River.

American Coots head for open water in a flooded field near the Kankakee River. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

On Wednesday, our four Big Break Birds cost us 12 hours of birding and 300 mile of driving. Today’s three Big Break Birds were seen in 6 hours (so far), with 4 miles of walking to see the Night-Herons.

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Note added same day, Thursday, at 6:20 p.m.: Ethan and I just got back from a drive to Columbus Park. I took him there to see the Black-crowned Night-Herons, a year bird for him. We found them roosting in a Weeping Willow tree. Ethan also found a Hermit Thrush in the woods — another year bird for him, and also our Big Break Bird number 101.

 

Forsythia in Bloom!

Filed under: Cultivated Flowers,Plants,Seasons,Spring — saltthesandbox @ 11:05 am
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There’s one house in south Oak Park where spring flowers bloom early, from Gail’s birthday Daffodils to today’s Forsythia:

These are the first Forsythia flowers we've seen this spring in south Oak Park.

These are the first Forsythia flowers we've seen this spring in south Oak Park.

If you need a dose of Forsythia flowers to get you through the week, try the Oak Park Arts District on Harrison Street, near Bead in Hand, but on the north side of the street:

There are lots of other flowers in bloom near the Forsythia, including some small blue and white ones I didn't recognize.

There were lots of other flowers in bloom near the Forsythia, including some small blue and white ones I didn't recognize. (We'll go back later with Ethan's camera to try to get some close ups.)