New Species

Every time I see a new species of bird on our property, I get excited, and sometimes awestruck. Who knew that birds of all different types would find us? We live in a very rural area surrounded by thousands of acres of land that is mostly dedicated to crops like corn and soybeans. One can find mature trees in hedgerows and along streams that travel through these crop fields, but the majority of the acreage is dedicated to a uni-crop usage which doesn’t lend itself well to native wildlife. When we first moved here nearly two decades ago, we were scolded by neighbors simply for putting in pasture grasses where cash crops had once been the exclusive means of making a living off the land. When we moved here with seventy sheep and two llamas, I had a local farmer sow pasture grasses in our fields. “You ruined that land, you know?” a neighbor informed Robert when they first met.

Back then my intention was to provide grazing land for our sheep so that we could use them to train our herding-working Border Collies for competitive trials. I wasn’t thinking about birds, or raccoons, or white tailed deer. But, when our business aspirations moved in a different direction, we sold the sheep and simply left the land to “naturalize” with the caveat that we cut a hay crop in the larger fields to prevent the overgrowth of shrubby plants.

With the fall migration well under way, I have been able to add a number of new species to my “Birds In Our Backyard” list. Most recently, after filming more warbler species than I thought might ever visit in early Autumn, I’ve filmed a few more – or, I’ve been able to film species that I knew were around through their songs, but not their appearances.

Today, I filmed an American Tree Sparrow. I wasn’t sure if it was anything novel, but my standard practice is to shoot and ask questions later – with the camera, of course. I sort of skipped over the images because I wasn’t sure what it was. Then, I listed to an audio file of a song I hadn’t heard before. I recorded it this afternoon and played it into the eBird app this evening. The guess was “American Tree Sparrow” so I scanned “that sparrow that I couldn’t identify” files and the names matched. What a cutie!

Yesterday, to my absolute surprise and delight, a Belted Kingfisher flew in. I heard him first, with a rattling call. Then, he landed at the top of a tree near our pond. He looked about for a few minutes, flew to another tree, then dove down to the water’s surface and I assume nabbed a snack.

I was also happy to have captured a White-throated Sparrow – albeit the images quality isn’t the greatest. This handsome bird was one of dozens that were hanging out in the hedgerow/underbrush near the feeding station that we put up in the Pond Meadow. I haven’t seen it since, so perhaps it was just flying through.

On the same day that I filmed the White-throated Sparrow, I got a snapshot of a Cedar Waxwing. I have been aching to see one of these beauties, but alas the photo was so nondescript that I had to post it to a bird group at Facebook to get some clarity. I haven’t seen another since that day, even though I put out fresh fruits which the Mockingbirds seem to love, but which haven’t lured in more Cedar Waxwings.

After having heard it calls back in the Spring and again this fall, I filmed my first Tufted Titmouse, . I’m thrilled. It quickly stopped by the feeder, grabbed a seed and took it to a nearby tree to crack it open. This is a striking animal.

There are a couple of birds that I had either heard or filmed before, but I have been fortunate to get better images of quite recently.

The Dark-eyed Junco first appeared at top of a tree, and while the photo was clear, it wasn’t very crisp. Here’s a better shot of this stately bird.

I have gotten increasingly better shots of a Carolina Wren – a bird that eluded me all summer with it’s crystal clear calls, and no sightings.

I’m astonished and excited to add these bird species to my list of backyard birds. Of these recent visitors, I am most excited to have seen the Belted Kingfisher. We have a farm pond – not a stream, and we are several miles from a river. So, the fact that he stopped by for a little bite to eat was exciting. I hope he comes back often!

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