Tag Archive | bird

What’s That Bird? 

Knowing that my camerone can’t take a photo at a distance, I’ve learned that shooting a quick video can make-up for the lack of detail. I may even be able to pull a still from the video. Sadly, not in this case.

I am a beginning birder and try to key these little guys out to the best of my knowledge, however it is based on personal perspectives also. Although I think Juncos are black and white birds, many keys have them under brown. I furiously search under black, then white and can’t find them. Now, I’ve also employed other websites like allaboutbirds.org to know even more about the birds I have identified. I’ll admit I don’t feel like I’m any better at ID, but I’ll learn. I’m used to plants that love to be admired and stand still white I look for identifying features, leaf shapes, petal count, undersides… etc. Birds and animals… Not so much.

This little, yellow guy has a black face and is not a American Goldfinch, at least not a common one, I know those. I’ve looked through trushes, flycatchers, finches… exhausting!

I was in Central Illinois during Memorial Day, not sure if migration was still happening or these guys are residents. I was in a prairie/savanna area, not too far from water.

Any guesses??

 

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

White-Crowned Sparrow ~ Zonotrichia leucophrys

This post was a bit lost in my drafts folder… These guys were passing through last month. They, like the Juncos, like to be up North for the summer. And I mean like the Great White North! I’m also too far North to be in their Northern, Southern range. Ah, alas I am in the migration range only.

The male does most of the singing, however the female likes to belt out a few delicate, but more intricate tunes. Males learn their songs not only from their fathers, but from all of the other White-Crowned Sparrows in the neighborhood. If a male grows-up on the edges of two communities, they might sing two different songs, one from each community, you could say bilingual. 

They mainly eat seeds, however will feed insects to their young. These guys were happy to see many protein-packed sunflower seeds and peanuts on the ground, as they need a bunch of energy for their migration. These guys have been known to stay awake for two weeks straight! Not only that, the can fly for a long time without tiring. Scientist have this little guy running tread mills and other endurance tests. They are trying to figure out what keeps the little guy ticking for so long. Clearly, Scientist’s want to learn how to keep us humans working longer than our standard, 40 hours, sigh.

See you next Fall, White-Crowned Sparrow! I wish I could go with you to Mexico for the winter!!

     

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Mom! Mom! Mom!

It’s BABY BIRD time again! Nothing screams Spring like seeing all the little critters coming out. The first chicks I’ve seen this year are these three Common Starlings. They sure were a squawky bunch of kids. I heard them before I looked out the window to see them.  They are sitting on the yew that is right below the suet cage. These guys weren’t hip to landing on the swinging cage. I can’t imagine they have many hours on their pilots licenses yet, as their landings were a bit rough, especially when the branch bounces as each one lands.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Ruby-throated Hummingbird ~ Archilochus colubris

These were taken last fall, by my hubby. We had just gotten the new easy camera, a Nikon Coolpix, however still needed to figure out how to use it. Lucky for us, the neighboring camp host had a plethora of bird feeders for us to shoot birds at. I love hummers! They are such unique birds. We were very blessed to see one nesting above our camper last summer.

I hope the new feeder I received as a gift brings more of them to my house. Although I’ve never gotten any remotely clear shots of them in my front yard, I do get many of them visiting. I have planted many tubular flowers that are in the red ranges of color, a favorite of theirs.

For now, I know it’s a bit early for these beauties to be up here in Northern Illinois… I’ll just refer to my migration map and be ready for their arrival!!

 

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Mallard Ducks ~ Anas platyrhynchos

When I was a little girl…. That’s how my Grandfather would always start his stories 🙂

When my family visited my Grandparents, we had a general routine for Saturdays. We’d go to lunch at a favorite buffet location where we would stuff bread in my mom’s purse for the ducks we’d feed at the park later!

These guys are the most common and well-known duck in the world. So common, that I think I’ll just go into a story.

The wintry winds had already begun to whistle and the waves to rise when the Drake and his mate gathered their half- grown brood together on the shore of their far northern lake.

“Wife,” said he, “it is now time to take the children southward, to the Warm Countries which they have never yet seen!”

Very early the next morning they set out on their long journey, forming a great “V” against the sky in their flight. The mother led her flock and the father brought up the rear, keeping a sharp lookout for stragglers.

All day they flew high in the keen air, over wide prairies and great forests of northern pine, until toward evening they saw below them a chain of lakes, glittering like a string of dark-blue stones.

Swinging round in a half circle, they dropped lower and lower, ready to alight and rest upon the smooth surface of the nearest lake. Suddenly their leader heard a whizzing sound like that of a bullet as it cuts the air, and she quickly gave the warning: “Honk! honk! Danger, danger!” All descended in dizzy spirals, but as the great Falcon swooped toward them with upraised wing, the ducklings scattered wildly hither and thither. The old Drake came last, and it was he who was struck!

“Honk, honk!” cried all the Ducks in terror, and for a minute the air was full of soft downy feathers like flakes of snow. But the force of the blow was lost upon the well-cushioned body of the Drake, he soon got over his fright and went on his way southward with his family, while the Falcon dropped heavily to the water’s edge with a broken wing.

There he stayed and hunted mice as best he could from day to day, sleeping at night in a hollow log to be out of the way of the Fox and the Weasel. All the wit he had was not too much whereby to keep himself alive through the long, hard winter.

Toward spring, however, the Falcon’s wing had healed and he could fly a little, though feebly. The sun rose higher and higher in the blue
heavens, and the Ducks began to return to their cool northern home. Every day a flock or two flew over the lake; but the Falcon dared not charge upon the flocks, much as he wished to do so. He was weak with hunger, and afraid to trust to the strength of the broken wing.

One fine day a chattering flock of Mallards alighted quite near him, cooling their glossy breasts upon the gently rippling wave. “Here, children,” boasted an old Drake, “is the very spot where your father was charged upon last autumn by a cruel Falcon! I can tell you that it took all my skill and quickness in dodging to save my life. Best of all, our fierce enemy dropped to the ground with a broken wing! Doubtless he is long since dead of starvation, or else a Fox or a Mink has made a meal of the wicked creature!”

By these words the Falcon knew his old enemy, and his courage returned. “Nevertheless, I am still here!” he exclaimed, and darted like a flash upon the unsuspecting old Drake, who was resting and telling of his exploit and narrow escape with the greatest pride and satisfaction. “Honk! honk! ” screamed all the Ducks, and they scattered and whirled upward like the dead leaves in autumn; but the Falcon with sure aim selected the old Drake and gave swift chase. Round and round in dizzy spirals they swung together, till with a quick spurt the Falcon struck the shining, outstretched neck of the other, and snapped it with one powerful blow of his reunited wing.

Do not exult too soon; nor is it wise to tell of your brave deeds within the hearing of your enemy.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Pyrus calleryana ‘Glen’s Form’ ~ Chanticleer pear

Semen Tree

Another name for the Bradford Pear, and ornamental pear tree. Characterized by greenish-white flowers which smell like a cross between old semen, dirty vagina, and rotting fried shrimp. Common throughout the South, these trees are pleasantly located near eateries and other fine establishments.

“Oh darn, there goes my appetite, for the semen trees in front of the South Campus Dining Hall are in bloom.”

I love Urban Dictionary! It teaches me how to communicate with the yutes these days…

image

Common Name: Bradford pear, Chanticleer pear, Aristocrat pear, Cleveland Select pear.
Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 25′ to 35′ feet
Spread: 13′ to 16′ feet
Growth: Starts very upright and pyramidal, aging into an oval.
Bloom Time: April to May – before the leaves emerge
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium – Can tolerate drought after established.
Tolerate: Clay Soil, Air Pollution
Salt Spray:  Moderately Tolerant
Soil Salt: Intolerant
Flower: Showy
Leaf: The leaves are alternate, simple, 2-3 in. (5.1-7.6 cm) long, petiolate, and shiny with wavy, slightly toothed margins. Good Fall
Fruit: Small (1/4″ / .5 cm), green bunches of fruit which are hard until softened by frost. After which, birds eat and disperse the seeds in their droppings.

Popular Cultivars and their differences:
Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ (Chanticleer callery pear):
Narrower habit, foliage has a red-purple fall color.
Pyrus calleryana ‘Aristocrat’ (Aristocrat callery pear):
Leaves have a wavy edge, less prone to branch breaking, however more susceptible to disease, fall color is inconsistent.
Pyrus calleryana ‘Autumn Blaze’ (Autumn Blaze callery pear):
Good, early fall color, more cold hardy, susceptible to fire blight, consistent good red-purple fall color.
Pyrus calleryana ‘Redspire’ (Redspire callery pear):
Fall color more yellow than red, oval form, less prone to branch breakage, however very susceptible to fire blight.
Pyrus calleryana ‘Jack’ (Jack callery pear):
Shorter and more narrower than species, yellow in fall.
Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ (Bradford pear):
Upright, fast growing, sterile cultivar. Fast-growing causes many branch failures, which can contribute to failure of the tree eventually.

imageI’m actually not particularly a fan of the pear, although I do love the true fruit kind. Pyrus communis ‘Williams pear’. I have a gnarly, old one, too tall to pick from in my yard. Occasionally, a squirrel will leave one on the ground and I’ll get to eat it.

Sadly, this ornamental tree is one of my boss’s favorites. We plant it in droves. Frowny face. He likes to line the driveways, flank patios and front doors with them. Yes, they are pretty, however there are many alternatives to white blooming, spring trees (Read Below) When these pears are in full bloom, many folks notice a foul smell. Even famed Horticulturist Dr. Michael Dirr calls the smell “malodorous”. Others have described the smell as rotting fish, chlorine or semen.

In 1858, a French missionary named, Joseph-Marie Callery (1810–1862), collected this plant in China and documented it’s existence. In the early 1900’s, the U.S. was having problems with their common fruiting pear (pyrus communis) succumbing to fireblight. In 1917, Callery pear seed was brought in from China aimed at developing a fireblight resistance for the species. It wasn’t until the 1950’s, that the Callery pear was perfected and marketed in U.S. as a promising, new ornamental tree, leading to monumental landscape plantings. During the 1980’s, concerns about its structural weaknesses and its escape into our native forests began to surface.

Callery pears are remarkably resistant to disease and blight, imagealthough they are regularly killed due to their naturally excessive growth rates causing them to be weak-limbed. Strong winds, ice storms and heavy snow are the chief culprits of pear deaths. Some cultivars, such as ‘Bradford’, are particularly susceptible to storm damage.

Many states now dealing with escaped invasive pears include Illinois, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. (Invasive.org is a great source for invasive species information in your area)

The reason they have become a problem in states like mine is the vast amount planted by landscapers and although folks think these pears are sterile, they really aren’t. In general, the various cultivars are unable to produce fertile seeds when they are self-pollinated, or even cross-pollinated with another tree of the same cultivar. However, if different cultivars of Callery pears are grown within an insect’s pollination distance (300′ ft – 100 m), they can produce fertile seeds, which birds will efficiently disperse. In addition to the previous method, fertile pear varieties are commonly used as the rootstock for grafting ornamental varieties. If the grafted crown is damaged, the fertile rootstock will grow out, producing fertile fruit. These two factors, among others, have contributed to the pear spreading into natural areas and becoming an invasive problem.

Here’s a list of wonderful alternatives to planting a pear:

Red horsechestnut ‎- Aesculus x carnea

Serviceberry – Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’

American hornbeam – Carpinus caroliniana

Redbud – Cercis canadensis ‘Alba’ (a white variety)

Yellowwood – Cladrastis kentukea

Dogwood – Cornus kousa, Cornus racemosa, Cornus alternifolia

Ironwood – Ostyra virginiana

Blackgum – Nyssa sylvatica

Chokecherry – Aronia melanocarpa

Blackhaw viburnum – Viburnum prunifolium

American fringetree – Chionanthus virginicus

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Baltimore Oriole ~ Icterus galbula

This medium-sized passerine measures 6 ½” to 8 ½” long and 9” to 12 ½ ” across the wings. They have a longish tail, fairly long legs and a thick, pointed bill. Their body weight averages 1.2 oz.

Baltimore Orioles love ripe fruit. Hang cut oranges from trees to entice orioles into your yard. There are special feeders that hold sugar water for them (like a hummingbird feeder). They also love grape jelly, which can be placed in a small bowl and hung from a branch. If you plant dark-colored, bright fruits and nectar-bearing flowers, such as raspberries, crab apples, serviceberry, tupelo, and trumpet vines… They will come! If your feeders are set-up perfectly for them, they will teach their young to come to them.

These photos were taken last fall, while we were camping. These feeders were hanging on the Camp Hosts site, which was right next to ours. He fed them sugar water and grape jelly. They would wait in the trees for him to fill the feeders!

Baltimore Orioles use their slender beaks to feed in an unusual way, called “gaping”. They stab their closed bill into soft fruits, then open their mouths to cut a juicy swath from which they drink with their brushy-tipped tongues.

Female orioles are just a tad lighter than the males, however they do tend to get darker with age, possibly even reaching the brightness of a male.

Baltimore orioles also forage by making short flights to catch insects. One of their favored prey is the tent caterpillar moth, which they typically eat in their larval stage, which can be a nuisance species if not naturally regulated by predation. The larvae caterpillar are beaten against a branch until their protective hairs are skinned off before being eaten. Gotta love these guys!!

The female oriole is the nest builder. She creates a tightly woven pouch consisting of plant or animal materials, and is usually located on the end of a branch. She likes to build in tall trees like elms, cottonwoods, maples or willows are usually selected. The female lays three to seven eggs, with the norm being around four. The eggs are pale gray to bluish white with an incubation period of about 12 to 14 days. Once the nestlings hatch, they are fed by both parents and brooded by the female for two weeks.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Juvenile Male Cardinal ~ Cardinalis cardinalis

Happy Valentines Day!

I though today would be a great day to write about cardinals.

Cardinals are monogamous birds whose relationships with their spouses are harmonious, romantic and musical. The male and female sing duets, calling similar songs to each other. Native American lore says if a cardinal crosses your path or attracts your attention, and you’re single, there may be a romantic relationship in your near future. If you’re already in a relationship, you may experience renewed romance and courtship. If you or your partner have been unfaithful, monogamy is the cardinal’s message

     

Cardinals make a distinct ‘chirp’, that my ears pick-up quickly. I was home writing posts, when I heard the call. This little guy was under the suet puck I have hanging from a shepherd’s hook. Mr. Squirrel was up on the puck, gobbling and dropping a lot of crumbs. Perfect situation for Mr. Cardinal! I crept up to the window and looked down, hoping not to spook him. The cardinals at work are very skittish. Any movement at all has them flying off. This guy here had no fear. As long as the crumbs rain down on him, he was happy and not worried about who looked at him.

Cardinalis cardinalis is what’s called a tautonym: zoological names of species consisting of two identical words (the generic name and the specific name have the same spelling). Such names are allowed in zoology, however not in botany. Clearly, like I’ve said before, botanist’s are EVIL!!! Click here to see the long list of tautonyms available from the Wiki. Some of my favorites: Bison bison, Chinchilla chinchilla, Iguana iguana, Gorilla gorilla. 😉

My gift to you on Valentine’s day; a romantic Native American legend.

The Red Bird

A Choctaw Legend

Once, when time was not quite old enough to be counted, there lived a beautiful Indian maiden. This was a special maiden. She could do all the work that needed to be done to keep her lodge in order and to satisfy her mate. But this maiden did not have what she longed for — her mate. As she sat under the large tree one day, she heard the Red Bird.

“Red Bird, is it so strange for me to wish to have someone to care for, who will care for me?” asked the maiden. “If it is not so strange, why have I not found that one meant for me?”

The Red Bird had no answer for the Indian maiden, but he sat and listened to her because he could hear the lonely in her voice. Every morning for the passing of seven suns, the Red Bird came and listened to the maiden’s story. As each day passed, the loneliness felt by the maiden began to fill the Red Bird.

One day in the Red Bird’s far travels, he came to a handsome Indian brave. The brave saw the Red Bird and called him to him. As he began to talk, the Red Bird felt the loneliness in his voice that the maiden had shown. Soon the Red Bird began to see that these two lonely people had the same wish, to find another who would love and care for them as they would care for their mate.

On the fifth day of listening to the brave, the Red Bird became as a bird that is sick. The brave became concerned, for the Red Bird had become his friend. As the brave walked toward him, the Red Bird began hopping, leading the brave to the lodge of the Indian maiden. Because the brave was wanting to see if the Red Bird was alright, he did not notice that he was going from his home. The Red Bird saw the Indian maiden sitting outside of her lodge and when he came very close to where he knew the brave would then see the Indian maiden, he flew away. The brave saw the Indian maiden and realized that he had wandered far from his home. He went to the Indian maiden to ask where he was.

The Red Bird sat in the tree and watched the brave and the maiden. At first the brave was shy and the maiden would not talk, but they soon were talking and laughing like old friends.

Red Bird saw this and thought it was good. He had done as he could and now it would be up to the brave and the maiden. As Red Bird flew to his home he thought of how Great Spirit had known that someday the two would find each other. Now it was good, thought Red Bird, that maiden had someone who would see for her and brave had someone that would hear for him and that they finally had someone who would care.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl