Returnees

I’m still waiting for a few of my favorite birds to arrive, like the Eastern Kingbirds, the Indigo Bunting and the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. But, this past few days I’ve noticed a couple of other returnees.

This is the Brown Thrasher. Yes, what a horrible name to give a bird. First, I saw a single bird at the north end of the property. The following day, while I was sitting at the pond inlet, I saw a pair of Thrashers fly back and forth several times. They are quite distinctive with their rich, cinnamon coloring and the long tail. When I exited the pond area after a couple of hours, I saw the Thrashers hunting in the grass alongside a hedgerow.

Yesterday, I spotted this House Wren checking out one of the new boxes we put up near the Corridor. I have a love-hate relationship with this species. I love that they are quite tolerant of my proximity when I want to get a good photograph. They are cute and active and have a very distinctive song. I hate that they are cavity box nesters that are in direct competition with my beloved Bluebirds. Still, they are a native species that presents its strategy for survival side-by-side with the other native species, so I can’t be a hater.

This cute little guy is a Chipping Sparrow. No, that’s not a stripe down the center of his breast. It’s the shadow of a small branch. They breed in this area, but winter in the southeastern United States and into Mexico. Unlike some of the species, he probably didn’t have to fly too far to get back to my neck of the woods.

The next bird is a species that is migrating through our area. I encountered my first Savannah Sparrow on March 14, 2021 at the far south side of the property, near the pond. I hadn’t seen another until yesterday. I flushed this bird from the grass in the northeast corner of our farm. It flew a short distance to a young Maple tree in the nearby hedgerow. I would have been surprised at how close it permitted me to move into its space, except I recall the same behavior of the bird I saw in March. Interestingly, my home is located in a small band of “Migration” only status for this species, albeit the winter (non-breeding) zone isn’t outrageously far from where I live, and the summer breeding zone dips into northern Illinois.

I’ve been concerned and waiting for our Great Blue Heron to return. Last summer and into the autumn I saw him nearly daily. He frequently hunted in our pond. However, as soon as I entered the area, he would typically take flight – often just to land a hundred feet farther down the pond. But, he hadn’t returned yet this Spring.

I was beginning to worry that he hadn’t made it through the winter. While the zone maps show this species remaining year-round in my area, our pond freezes over and I suppose he moves to a hunting grounds where he can find open water throughout the winter months. Yesterday, I scared the (what I’m going to refer to now as “resident”) Blue-winged Teal couple-plus-friends and they took flight. They typically fly low to a different part of the pond. When they landed at the far south end, near the water’s edge, I saw a Great Blue Heron take flight. I was thrilled! With his massive wing beats, he flew off (probably to our neighbor’s pond.) His departure was so quick that I didn’t get a new photo of him. For that reason, I’m posting one from last year and a recent photo of the BW Teal that caused him to depart before I could get my first photo of the massive heron.

The Red-winged Blackbirds arrived a good month ago, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to get a good shot of a female until recently. The girls are a bit more elusive than their mates. The males seem to enjoy making themselves know by flashing their fancy red-shoulder patches and singing a very distinctive song that carries well and far.

The final photos of a returning species also arrived several weeks ago. But, I had to include the American Robin because its arrival is the definition of Spring! I suppose it is because I live on an old farm, I have a thing for “rustic” photos. When this Robin perched atop the old, red gate (which was here when we moved to this property twenty years ago!) I thought it was a superb illustration of the rustic nature of the property we call home. I was also surprised to see what I believe is red clover in bloom on the second photo. I’d say that’s pretty early, but I’ve seen a few butterflies flitting about, so they need some sort of nectar to source. Looking out my window at this moment, I’m seeing snow flying nearly horizontal, coming from the north. Today doesn’t appear like Spring. But, the arrival of the summer resident birds reminds me that this snow, too, shall pass!

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