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