It is springtime in the midwest. Great flocks of American White Pelicans Pelecanus erythrorhynchosare fly north toward breeding grounds. We are fortunate in Iowa to have many of them visit our lakes and rivers. Dozens of the great birds were on the Iowa River in downtown Iowa City today giving residents close views. These birds are the biggest in the state at up to 20 lbs and with 9 ft wingspans. The loud roar heard in the videos is from water spilling over the nearby dam.Continue reading
Category Archives: Birds
Barred Owl Visit
Any day with an owl visit feels like a lucky day.
Last evening as Jim and I ate dinner on our deck, the sun was dropping in the sky behind the trees. A squirrel broke the peace, screaming a few feet away from us. There are a number of neighborhood cats that roam, so we often hear a squirrel or bird sound the cat alarm. The squirrel was persistent and I looked into the trees to locate it. On a branch 15 feet away and above my head was a grey tail hanging down. That was no squirrel tail — it was an owl!
The angle of the sun and the deck screening made photos tricky, but Jim was patient and got several. Click any photo to open the gallery and see more detail.
Soon the squirrel alerted the robins, who took up the chatter. They scolded and dive-bombed the owl a few times, brushing their claws through the owl’s feathers. The owl remained unperturbed, though at a point it turned its head to face down its harassers.
While Jim watched, the owl stretched a wing out, and then swept the wings up and back while spreading its tail. The setting sun and screening added a lot of sparkle to these photos.
As we fell asleep later, we heard the owl call, reassuring us that it was still in the yard.
Two Weeks of Baby Robins
This American Robin nest had been occupied nearly two weeks before this photo was taken 31 July 2018. It was about 20 feet from my viewpoint. There were many photo opportunities in the days ahead.
Jim has been watching the phoebes for weeks. A few days ago he noticed the nest was empty, and it seemed the family was gone. Just this morning he spotted them again. Though the fledglings are out, the phoebes are still in our yard.
The nest, a “permanent” structure, sits on a beam under our deck. With the babies gone, Jim drilled a small hole between floor boards to get a better view. The hole is only about a quarter inch across, but the camera lens on the phone is smaller than that. He was able to get this photo looking down into the nest.
Of course the photo makes it look as large as an eagle’s nest, but in truth, the cup of the nest is less than 3″ across.
The wrens also seem to have sent their first brood out into the world, as it’s become less noisy out our back door. Often they have a second brood, so we’ll look forward to their chatter returning before the summer is out.
We still have the catbirds. Early this year we were treated to several of the plain, grey birds in our yard. Usually we’re only aware of one or two.
What birds are hanging around your yard these days?
Eggs in the Phoebe Nest
Update: Under the blue divider is the original post about our new Phoebe neighbors. They built a nest under our deck as pictured at the end of the original post. I noticed one of the birds sitting on the nest a few days ago and wondered if there was a way to see the eggs. Seen from above on the deck, the nest is under the X. I quietly bent down and was able to barely see through the 1/4″ crack to the nest.
I placed my phone over the crack and turned on the camera. The lens is tiny and was able to peer through to the nest. What a pleasant surprise.
Original: We enjoy the usual avian visitors to the woods behind our house. There are cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, flickers, etc. who are year-round residents. Others are passing through during migration in fall and spring. This year, we have the nest of an Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe under our deck for the first time. We hope it proves to be a good location for them so we can monitor the progress of their young.
Backyard Birds | Cooper’s Hawk
When Jim and I looked for a different home more than a decade ago, one thing Jim insisted he wanted was a view to the west. Having grown up on a midwestern farm, he learned to love the broad horizon, with its window on the setting sun and on incoming storms. What we actually got, though, is quite different from that. Instead, we have trees nearly touching our house on the west side. With summer’s leaves unfurled, the view beyond our property is completely obscured.
We can’t see oncoming storms, but we do have yard birds. If you read the descriptions in bird books or at one of our favorite sites, All About Birds, you would see that most of our birds like the margins between woods and grasslands. They find familiar territory here.
Some of our birds are seasonal, migrating to or through the area, while others are around all year. Recently Jim posted about a pair of Eastern Phoebes that are nesting under our deck. The phoebes are new to us, though this is within their summer region.
As I worked in the kitchen a few days ago, I hollered at him to get his camera. A Cooper’s Hawk was perched on the tree out back. Usually when we see them, they are too far away too see clearly, or they are swooping through, intent on catching a meal. But this one was still, and at my eye level. It also was directly above one of our bird feeders. No, it doesn’t find its meal in the feeder; it finds it at the feeder. Coopers eat smaller birds and rodents. Once we watched one land on, firmly grasp, and fly off with a struggling squirrel. Surprisingly, they’re not terribly big birds, only about the size of a crow. Click any photo to embiggen.
Besides the great photos, Jim also was able to get this short video.
We don’t have the setting sun, but we have an ever-interesting assembly of birds out our window.
We enjoy the usual avian visitors to the woods behind our house. There are cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, flickers, etc. who are year-round residents. Others are passing through during migration in fall and spring. This year, we have the nest of an Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe under our deck for the first time. We hope it proves to be a good location for them so we can monitor the progress of their young.
Black Point Wildlife Drive
by Melanie and Jim
On our last full day in Florida, we headed to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge north of Kennedy Space Center. The wildlife site is accessible from the town of Titusville. After crossing the causeway from Titusville, we turned onto the Black Point Wildlife Drive. This is a seven-mile, one-way drive through marshlands.
As the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says, it “provides an excellent place to see waterfowl (in season), wading birds, shorebirds and raptors. Alligators, river otters, bobcats, various species of snakes, and other wildlife may be visible as well.” We saw no bobcats or snakes, and the velociraptors were hiding. But there were plenty of birds and alligators to enjoy. Zoom/drag or turn your phone in this interactive for a typical view of the area.
Great Horned Owl Visiting Again
In February we told the story of a great horned owl visiting our backyard. Before that day, we never saw or heard one in our yard. Today we had the privilege of a second visit.
This time it perched on a lower branch than before, and Jim was able to get some terrific shots.
Click on any picture below to embiggen.
And here is a short video to show a bit of personality.
We watched it as a cat roamed through our yard beneath it. The cat was lucky the owl wasn’t ready for dinner. Later a squirrel grazed under the bird feeder and similarly escaped a violent death.
It was quite a treat to see this beautiful bird.
Hawk on a Light Pole
I just starting walking down the street and looked up. Sitting on the nearby light pole was this hawk staring down at me. The angle was bad to get a positive ID. It didn’t seem large enough for a Red Tail. It seemed more likely a Cooper. The tail was straight down on the opposite side of the pole. I couldn’t get in position to see it. What do you think it was?