St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Walking the Birds

For a true bird watcher, you go to where the birds are -- even it means a trip to the North Shore or the prairies of Nebraska.
Margo and I like watching the birds, but don't pursue them.  If they visit the yard then we welcome them with some sunflower seeds and a little nectar and enjoy them, but no life lists or birding trips.  

My late friend, Allan Swenson, one of those rare people from the back woods who is a few orders of magnitudes more intelligent and curious than any of the neighbors told me there is more to see in your own backyard than you will ever have time to search out.   With a telescope, magnifier, camera and endless patience, by his 80s he had become acquainted with most of his own 40 acres.  

So we are settling in here on the home 40 and exploring what we can see from the backyard.  Yesterday some of the weeds battling for survival in the orchard were the subject. 

 Today it was the birds from the porch.  The following photos are all taken within 100 feet of the porch--most from on the porch itself.  

Sandhill cranes in the field to the north across Evergreen Av

We knew he was in the yard when we heard a meow.  Then hidden in the tree top, a wild and adlibbed lengthy song parodying a dozen other birds--our visitor a gray catbird 

In winter we have a dozen or more blue jays keep us company.  In the summer a pair or two hang around to nest.  Their nest often contains the blue Menard's tarp plastic unraveled strings and miscellaneous yard pickings. 

Feeder birds, the rose breasted grosbeaks will stay and nest with sun flowers nearby. 

Indigo buntings are spring visitors, fueling for a few weeks and then heading off somewhere else to nest.  I see them along the pines and oaks along the River Road sometimes. 

Maybe a grackle?   Dad disliked them -- he planted a row of spruce in the yard and the grackles landed on the top leader branch and with their weight broke it off.  "They tromped my spruce and ruined them," he complained.  The spruce just bushed out a little more so not really so much damage.  This could be another non-popular bird, the Starling.  As an immigrant, like the English sparrow, it is looked down upon by those who are purists--probably the same folks who are against immigrants coming to America.  Probaby should drop back 50,000 years when no humans were in the Americas (at least I think that is the theory).
Now I have to take a little of my opening statement back--I did recently go to Cushing to the Co-op Feed Mill to seek out an English Sparrow.  There is a flock that eats the spilled grain.  When we were an active dairy farm, we had our own flock of sparrows, but sadly, the sputzies have disappeared with the waste feed.  The old days of horses and oats in the horse manure littering the city and town streets were heaven for the English Sparrow.  

Orioles must find other things to eat or drink than sugar water.  Can't imagine how they and hummingbirds grow without a little minerals and nutrients too. 

Orchard robin babies barely hatched

A lone turkey can be found most mornings strolling through the orchard or picking gravel along Evergreen Av

A female gold finch (I think).  The winter flocks are gone and a few hang around waiting for some of my thistles to mature.  

Brother Ev labels this LBJ's -- Little brown jobs -- meaning sparrows of some type other than the English sparrow. I am not sure. 

Tried hard to get a hummingbird in the shine of the evening sun.  Not quite, but the reflections are pure gold!

Tree swallow on the porch birdhouse
These photos are in the last 3 days -- a few of the several hundred shots I take trying to get a decent one.  For me, decent is the whole bird in the photo, in focus, and true colors.  Hard with sky backgrounds, moving birds, focusing troubles, so lots of flubs.  

It is fun flubs and all to see what is in our own backyard.