1. Birds

BABY ROBINS
BABY ROBINS

Wild birds are a big part of our lives.  Since we live with woods on three sides and semi-open fields down below the house, we have a great variety of birds in winter and summer. We feed them year round.  If you have bird feeders out, and hang them on your deck or from a tree, you might have the same problems we did with critters of all sorts getting in them and eating the seeds and destroying the feeders.

We had terrible problems with raccoons and possums. Our feeders were constantly destroyed. Then the seed would get all over the ground, bringing in mice and, even worse, chipmunks! Those things burrowed under my flower beds and killed all the plants. Last winter I spent a good deal of time trying to come up with a solution, and I designed a bird feeding station that I felt would solve my problems, and it did! I had a contractor come in and build it to my specifications. We’d just had an aluminum roof put on the house a month earlier, and I asked for some extra pieces so the roof of the feeder would match the roof of the house.

BIRD FEEDER 2

The 6 x 6 posts are buried 4 feet in the ground in 2′ of concrete. Nothing can knock it over. Well, maybe a bear. The posts are covered with the same vinyl post wraps that are on my deck posts in the front of the house. Nothing can climb up them! The feeder is high enough off the ground that I need a step stool to remove the feeders for filling. Nothing can jump up into them! Since this has been erected there has not been a single critter that can access it except the birds.  It’s cat, possum, chipmunk, squirrel, and deer proof!

BIRD FEEDER 3

The wooden ledge belong the hanging basket is for a heated bird bath that goes up in the winter. The cord is hidden in the post siding and runs underground to a switch on my deck so I can turn it on or off if I want to. In the summer there is a fountain just out of sight to the left of this picture. I also purchased large, plastic plates which I screwed onto the bottoms of each feeder so no seed falls to the ground. This cuts way down on mice and chipmunks, and the cats help out a lot there too!

IF YOU FEED BIRDS IN THE WINTER, PROVIDE WATER AS WELL! Many people feed the birds in the winter but don’t have a water source for them. In the winter, starvation is often only 36 hours away for most birds. If you provide them seed, but no water, the energy they get from the seed is quickly depleted by searching for water. A bird can eat snow to satisfy its fluid requirement, but the snow reduces birds’ body temperatures and then they need additional food to get their energy levels back to where they should be. Also, birds WILL bathe in the winter. By keeping their feathers clean, they have better insulation, which helps them conserve energy during the cold nights.

I love sitting on the deck and watching and photographing the birds.  Following are my favorite pics! The common name of the bird is followed by its genus and species.

BLACK THROATED BLUE WARBLER – Setophaga caerulescens

This warbler has a very limited range in northern Wisconsin. I was lucky to get a pic of it on it's migratory route up north. This warbler has a very limited breeding range in northern Wisconsin. I was lucky to spot it hanging onto the orioles’ jelly feeder in May, 2014, as it was on its way to its summer home up north. The red “X” is Richland County, where we live.

 

BLACK THROATED WARBLER.... these birds are not too common around the bird feeders, but they will stop by in the spring and have some of the jelly I put out for the orioles.
BLACK THROATED WARBLER…. these birds are not too common around the bird feeders, but they will stop by in the spring and have some of the jelly I put out for the orioles.
BLUEBIRD – Sialia sialis
We often have birds fly into the windows and some of them die, as did this bluebird. They rarely come to the feeders but are fairly common around here.
Bluebirds rarely come to the feeders but will take advantage of the bird fountain. This one, unfortunately, flew into the patio door and died.
BLUEJAYS – Cyanocitta cristata
BLUEJAYPEANUT
Bluejays are difficult to photograph because they usually put two or three seeds in their mouth very quickly and then take off, unlike other birds which stay on the feeders. This one has one peanut farther back in his mouth and is loading up his second one.

 

The clip above is a 30 second video of a bluejay in the backyard waterfall.

CARDINAL – Cardinalis cardinalis
Like bluejays, cardinals usually come in and grab a few peanuts and then fly off to eat them. There is a pine siskin in front of the cardinal below.
Like bluejays, cardinals usually come in and grab a few peanuts and then fly off to eat them. There is a pine siskin in front of the cardinal below.

PIC_1502

GRAY CATBIRD – Dumetella carolinensis

Catbirds are migratory and, like other thrushes, they love bathing! In the summer they are always in our bird fountain! They like to eat dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry, other small fruits, and seeds.

CATBIRD... they eat the orioles' jelly as often as they eat the seeds.
CATBIRD… in the spring they eat the orioles’ jelly as often as they eat the seeds.
The 33 second clip below is of a cat bird and a young grosbeak in the water fountain.

The following series of photos are of a catbird nest I found in my raspberry patch. I photographed them almost daily, until they got to the point where I was afraid that if I bothered them again they would try to jump out of the nest and they weren’t quite big enough to be on their own so I stopped bothering them. I photographed them from July 22 through July 30. It’s amazing how much they grew in just 8 days! The dates are on the photos.

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 1 JUL 22a

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 1 JUL 22b

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 3 JUL 24b

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 4 JUL 25a

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 4 JUL 25b

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 4 JUL 25c

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 5 JUL 26a

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 6 JUL 27a

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 7 JUL 28 A

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 8 JUL 29 A

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 8 JUL 29 C

CATBIRD BABIES DAY 9 JUL 30

The photo below is the mama catbird, sitting on the nest.

CATBIRD MAMA ON NEST JUL 23

CEDAR WAXWING – Bombycilla cedrorum

I believe these birds vie with the orioles and tanagers as the most beautiful of our song birds. The waxing below flew into our patio door and was stunned. I quickly picked him up before a cat found him, gave him a few drops of water and waited for him to revive.  We always have birds hitting the windows or patio doors! I have tried many things over the years to eliminate this: metallic strips tacked above the windows and fluttering down them, screening tacked to the outside of the windows, films, and hanging baskets of trailing flowers above the windows, all to no avail. The woods behind the bird feeder is reflected in the glass of the large patio door and they think they’re flying into trees. I have read about many different experiments with things to prevent the reflections, but none have worked so far. And as we need to get in and out of that patio door, it cuts down on the things we could use.

Birds always seem to revive with a few drops of water after hitting the window.
Birds always seem to revive with a few drops of water after hitting the window.
After he seemed a bit more responsive I opened my hand so he could escape.
After he seemed a bit more responsive I opened my hand so he could escape.
After a minute or so of clinging to my hand, he jumped off onto my leg. He looked one way and then the other, and finally jumped down to the deck.
After a minute or so of clinging to my hand, he jumped off onto my leg. He looked one way and then the other, and finally jumped down to the deck.
 After jumping down from my leg he gave me one final look, and then took off. The entire time he was with me was probably no longer than 5 minutes.
After jumping down from my leg he gave me one final look, and then took off. The entire time he was with me was probably no longer than 5 minutes.
BALD EAGLE – Haliaeetus leucocephalus

When we moved to Richland County in 1971, eagles were unheard of. These days, we usually spot one several times a week. They are often in our hay field eating one animal carcass or another, usually dragged and left there by coyotes.  There is a big nest a few miles from our house. These pics were taken June 15, 2015. In the first pic, my husband was focusing on the nest and didn’t even realize he’d captured the adult eagle (seen in the bottom right of pic, sitting on a branch).

EAGLE 2a

 

EAGLE BABIES1aa
I was only able to spot two eaglets in the nest.
WOOD DUCK – Aix sponsa

WOODUCK MAP

 

 

The wood duck
is found all over
Wisconsin.

 

 
These are such pretty little ducks. This female was living in a pond directly below the eagle’s nest in the above photos! She had about six little babies swimming along, but I wasn’t able to get them into the shot. I can’t imagine living under an eagle’s nest is a very safe place for them to be!

WOOD DUCKa

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER – Setophaga pensylvanica

 

These little warblers mainly breed up north. Our county, marked with a red “X“,  is one of the few counties in Wisconsin where this bird does not breed.

 

It was a rare treat to see this little guy in my back yard in May of 2014. These birds do not generally inhabit the lower 2/3’s of Wisconsin, but instead live and breed in the northern third of the state. There is supposedly a small group of them in the Baraboo Hills, but none have been recorded in Richland County.  Since they migrate to Mexico and Central America for the winter, it’s more likely he was just stopping here for a brief lunch and cool drink before heading up north to the Chequamegon and Nicolet Forests.

This little warbler is a spring-time visitor, and he usually disappears quickly.
This little warbler was a one-time visitor in May, 2014.
After hanging around for about 10 minutes, he left, and I never saw him again.
After hanging around for about 10 minutes, he left, and I never saw him again.
COOPER’S HAWK – Accipiter cooperii

I was driving in town and incredibly saw this guy right on the side of the road in a residential area, in someone’s yard. I pulled over but it was difficult to get a pic with passing traffic. Plus, I had my old phone at the time and it didn’t take good photos. The hawk had a dead pigeon.  A Cooper’s Hawk captures a bird with its feet and kills it by repeated squeezing. Falcons tend to kill their prey by biting it, but Cooper’s Hawks hold their catch away from the body until it dies. They’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.

His prey, a pigeon, is dead, and the Cooper's Hawk is trying to decide where to take it.
His prey, a pigeon, is dead, and the Cooper’s Hawk is trying to decide where to take it.
He picks it up and flies to a nearby swingset, where he gets a better grip and then flies out of sight.
He picks it up and flies to a nearby swingset, where he gets a better grip, and then flies out of sight.
SAND HILL CRANE – Grus canadensis

Sandhill-Crane_map

 

North American distribution of the sand hill. The dark pink denotes common breeding areas.

 

 

These cranes have made an incredible comeback here.  Most rides into the country will turn up several of them in a farm field. Our property across the road has a pond and a creek; both are habitat areas for them.  I usually don’t have a camera on me when I come across them in the wild,  but in 2009 I had my phone with me when I was riding my four wheeler down to my son’s house (in the background of this pic), and saw four of them in our hayfield. They were a great distance from me, and the phone was a crappy one, so the pic isn’t good.

2009 SEPT 12 CRANES OVER HAYFIELD

 

GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET – Regulus satrapa

CHESTNUT SIDED WARBLER RANGE MAPa

Some birds of this species migrate south in the winter, and others stay in their northern homes. Since I found this one on April 13, he was obviously a migrant, as none of these birds breed in our county, marked with an “X.”

 

Sadly, this kinglet was another victim of our 8′ wide patio door.

1-1-GOLDEN CROWNED KINGLET

1-1-GOLDEN CROWNED KINGLET 2a

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH – Spinus tristis

Of the three species of goldfinch, Wisconsin is home to the American Goldfinch. These birds stay here year round. In order to live through the frigid, below-zero nights, the birds must consume a lot of seeds, and during periods of heavy snow fall many of these birds will die if they can’t reach seeds on the forest floor. To help combat the cold temps, they grow 1,000 new feathers for winter.

Normally, these birds empty the thistle feeders. Most winter I have four of these feeders up, but for some reason they are not touching them this winter, and instead are emptying the hulled sunflower feeders.
Normally, these birds empty the thistle feeders. Most winters I have four of these feeders up, but for some reason they are not touching them this winter, and instead are emptying the hulled sunflower seed feeders.
I was lucky to be able to snap this pic of a goldfinch which landed on my granddaughter's finger as we were standing in the yard in 2012. It was a young male, and in another blink of an eye he was gone. You can see the wonder on my granddaughter's face!
I was lucky to be able to snap this pic of a goldfinch which landed on my granddaughter’s finger as we were standing in the yard in 2012. It was a very young male, and in another blink of an eye he was gone. You can see the wonder on my granddaughter’s face!
ROSE BREASTED GROSBEAKS – Pheucticus ludovicianus

Starting in 2011 I began keeping notes on when the first hummers, orioles, and grosbeaks arrived. The male grosbeaks always showed up from May 1 to May 5, with the females arriving about a week later.  All of the male grosbeaks have a slightly different pattern of red feathers on their chests. Being able to tell them apart this way, I have been able to count the number of males we have each year. It’s usually between 10 and 16. It’s hard to tell how many different females we have because they are not easy to tell apart. Some years, the grosbeaks are at the feeders all summer, and in other years, they leave by the second week of June. Since a grosbeak’s preferred diet is made up with over 50% of insects, they obviously leave when the insects become more abundant. Dissected grosbeaks were found to have wild and cultivated fruits, peas, corn, wheat and oats in their stomach, but by far the largest food item was beetles!

After watching these birds for a few years I realized that none of them have the exact same red feather pattern on their chests. After a while I was able to tell the males apart by looking at the red chest patters.
Such beautiful birds! If you look at the breast of this bird and the one below, you can see the different pattern of the red feathers.

I captured this pic just as the bird’s feet touched the feeder roof.

The following video shows a young grosbeak eating in the feeder, and it’s suddenly surprised by the arrival of a large purple grackle.

TUFTED TITMOUSE – Baeolophus bicolor

TITMOUSE MAPa
Titmice are most common in the southwest corner of Wisconsin. The county we live in is marked with a red “X” and we have many of them. These birds always look “delicate” to me,  while in fact they are bigger than the goldfinches and pine siskins and many other birds that come to the feeders.  They are also quite bossy when it comes to sharing a feeder with other birds. Titmice love sunflower seeds and peanuts. They seem to prefer eating out of open platform feeders than pulling seeds out of tube-like enclosed feeders. They’ll also eat suet from time to time. In the summer, 3/4 of their diet is insects. One of the remarkable things about titmice is that when building a nest they will use grass, moss, and twigs, but  they’ve been known to pluck hair from woodchucks, dogs, and even humans to line it with!

TITMOUSE 3

 

TITMOUSE 4

 

EASTERN TOWHEE – Pipilo erythrophthalmus            

EASTERN TOWHEE MAP
These birds, sometimes called rufous-sided towhees, are common in Wisconsin. They are large sparrows, and their favorite eating spot is on the forest floor and in thick brush, so they are not often seen even though they are fairly numerous. We almost never see them around in the summer, because they prefer the woods, and in the winter the only time they show up is when there are a few inches of snow on the ground. During periods of snow, they’ll show up under the feeders, trying to find dropped seeds, and they will be in the platform feeders, as in the pics below, but I never see them on the enclosed tube feeders. 
  TOWHEE 7
TOWHEE 6aa

 Please see the page BIRDS 2 to see more bird pics and videos.