Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Posts about Bird biology

Spring, in the right place

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 26, 2015 - 5:18 PM

Jude and I were  gone for 17 days in April, on the road to see family. We visited southern Florida, South Carolina, and Michigan, with a stop in northern Ohio for a bit of focused birding. We did birds throughout the trip, with but casual intent. Birding in Florida was bad, mostly because the temps were in the high 80s and 90s during our visit. South Caroline offered Atlantic beach time, but only two species of gull, the beach being full of people. Michigan: we didn’t even try. Ohio, at Magee Marsh on the Lake Erie shore, east of Toledo, was better. It can be a spectacular place during spring migration. We were early. I found kinglets, gnatcatchers, and Hermit Thrushes in the short time I spent in a wind-chill wind.

 

The highlight was the song of a Black-capped Chickadee at a Wisconsin rest stop along I-94. There was little bird song at our other stops, and none familiar except cardinal and Tufted Titmouse. It was good to get home.

 

Chickadees here are singing between periods working on the nest they are excavating in a backyard tree. It is a dead tree, sort of ugly, leaning over the pond. I’ve defended it against removal in recent years, vindication now mine: Dead trees have a purpose. Cardinals are singing. Downy Woodpeckers are tapping out their song. And best of all, frogs are calling in the swamp behind the house. Frogs are my favorite spring singers. Last night: Spring Peeper, Cricket Frog, and a lone Wood Frog. Last year we counted seven species before the calling made its seasonal stop.

 

There were 17 Wood Ducks on the pond Friday, with one lost Blue-winged Teal. There are two drake Mallards on most days, and a pair of Canada Geese that have claimed a nesting platform we put on the water. They had a noisy, hour-long argument this morning with another pair that has the same idea. Among all of those Wood Ducks there are four pair, or at least four drakes closely following four hens. One of our wooden duck boxes shows down caught on the edges of the opening. I am assuming occupancy, or at least interest. On the ground beneath another box we found two duck eggs, both opened and empty. I have no good idea of how they got there. The box on its pole looks like it should be predator-proof. Could a hen spill an egg?

 

House Wrens have yet to make an appearance. We usually have two boxes of wrens. Red-winged Blackbirds are here, just males so far; they are waiting for nesting partners. We’ll have Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, and Yellow Warbler as nesters if this year follows recent years. Cardinals also must nest back there in the swamp tangle, but I’ve never determined where.

 

I sat on the deck overlooking all of this activity this morning, watching geese fight, and chickadees work. For all of the birds that travel might bring, it’s good to be home.

 

Chickadee with cavity debris in its mouth. Below, disposal trip.

 

Spring, in the right place

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 26, 2015 - 5:17 PM

Jude and I were  gone for 17 days in April, on the road to see family. We visited southern Florida, South Carolina, and Michigan, with a stop in northern Ohio for a bit of focused birding. We did birds throughout the trip, with but casual intent. Birding in Florida was bad, mostly because the temps were in the high 80s and 90s during our visit. South Caroline offered Atlantic beach time, but only two species of gull, the beach being full of people. Michigan: we didn’t even try. Ohio, at Magee Marsh on the Lake Erie shore, east of Toledo, was better. It can be a spectacular place during spring migration. We were early. I found kinglets, gnatcatchers, and Hermit Thrushes in the short time I spent in a wind-chill wind.

 

The highlight was the song of a Black-capped Chickadee at a Wisconsin rest stop along I-94. There was little bird song at our other stops, and none familiar except cardinal and Tufted Titmouse. It was good to get home.

 

Chickadees here are singing between periods working on the nest they are excavating in a backyard tree. It is a dead tree, sort of ugly, leaning over the pond. I’ve defended it against removal in recent years, vindication now mine: Dead trees have a purpose. Cardinals are singing. Downy Woodpeckers are tapping out their song. And best of all, frogs are calling in the swamp behind the house. Frogs are my favorite spring singers. Last night: Spring Peeper, Cricket Frog, and a lone Wood Frog. Last year we counted seven species before the calling made its seasonal stop.

 

There were 17 Wood Ducks on the pond Friday, with one lost Blue-winged Teal. There are two drake Mallards on most days, and a pair of Canada Geese that have claimed a nesting platform we put on the water. They had a noisy, hour-long argument this morning with another pair that has the same idea. Among all of those Wood Ducks there are four pair, or at least four drakes closely following four hens. One of our wooden duck boxes shows down caught on the edges of the opening. I am assuming occupancy, or at least interest. On the ground beneath another box we found two duck eggs, both opened and empty. I have no good idea of how they got there. The box on its pole looks like it should be predator-proof. Could a hen spill an egg?

 

House Wrens have yet to make an appearance. We usually have two boxes of wrens. Red-winged Blackbirds are here, just males so far; they are waiting for nesting partners. We’ll have Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, and Yellow Warbler as nesters if this year follows recent years. Cardinals also must nest back there in the swamp tangle, but I’ve never determined where.

 

I sat on the deck overlooking all of this activity this morning, watching geese fight, and chickadees work. For all of the birds that travel might bring, it’s good to be home.

 

Chickadee with cavity debris in its mouth. Below, disposal trip.

 

Colorful spring birds

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 25, 2015 - 6:10 PM

Wild Turkey males dress for the occasion when its time for courtship. Few other bird species can match the bright shades of red and blue, or such a vivid combination. This tom was following a hen in our neighborhood a few days ago.

Egret hunts lizards

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 14, 2015 - 5:28 PM

This Snowy Egret was hunting lizards in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge during a recent visit. I watched the bird from our car as it walked a wood edge, its head pointed into the brush. The bird moved slowly, with purpose. At times it began to sway its body, almost like a slow dance. This happened when something in the brush caught its interest. When the bird stopped advancing and seemed to focus more intently, it moved its head and neck in a wave pattern, undulating slowly as it extended the neck. The capture movement was too quick to follow. The bird shook the vegetation loose, and ate its prey. I have no idea what the body and head/neck motions meant unless they were to confuse or distract the lizard. The next day, in roughly the same location, I watched another Snowy, perhaps the same bird, on another hunt, everything similar to Day One except success as I watched.

Eagle mug shots

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 13, 2015 - 6:12 PM

Four live eagles are on display at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. They were injured once, healed now, but unable to fend for themselves in the wild. Three Bald Eagles and one Golden Eagle offer very close views. Especially impressive are the talons of the Bald Eagles. A trip down the Mississippi River as migrants move north in May, usually a fine opening scene for the heart of spring, could include a visit to the center. Find it by driving through town toward the river.

Bald Eagle, above, Golden Eagle below, Bald Eagle talons at bottom

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT