Birds In Our “Backyard”

CURRENT TOTAL as of 6/28/2021

103 unique species observed exclusively in our “backyard!”

Below you will find the species of birds that I have filmed or recorded at our farm in Fayette County (south-central) Illinois. To be very frank, I didn’t set out to count species. That was something those “birders” did. I was just happy to be able to travel about our property after several years when pain held me back. After two complete shoulder replacement surgeries and the required rehab, I took my first jaunt around the property which I chronicled HERE.

As my list of birds grew, I felt compelled to keep a record. That turned into a passion to learn about all the species that visit our fifty acres. Our land is comprised of pastures, hedgerows, stands of mature trees, sections of young growth, volunteer trees and shrubs and a large pond. That diversity lends it to supporting many types of birds.

What I have discovered is that there are far more birds in residence or passing through than I would have ever assumed possible. Amazing to me is that I only started keeping this list since July 6, 2020 and when I posted it for the first time on October 18, 2020 I had recorded a total of 65 species.

We have augmented our environment with nest boxes which Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows and House Wrens have used to fledge chicks over the summer. In the autumn of 2020 we installed owl boxes and a large, Wood Duck box, too.

As I discover and film new species, I will add them to this list. I also have a page called This And That where I will post images of birds I am struggling to identify. What I have learned is that wild bird identification is a tricky subject that isn’t wholly based on color or size. Birds often change colors during the breeding season, just to transfer back to a dull expression when it’s important to remain camouflaged. A bird in the wind, or cold can appear bigger, plumper or quite distinct in body shape than those pretty photos in the bird guides, whether they are in book form or on a website. Behavior and location matters in determining a bird’s species, but isn’t a perfect science. Hopefully, I will be able to move the (unknown) species to a proper location on this page with assistance from the expert birders. But, I’ve also learned that the experts don’t all agree.

Most of the birds listed below can also be found on one or (many) more blog pages on this site. If you enjoy the photos here, you may want to explore deeper via CATEGORIES (Images/Wild Birds) or the Archives.

One final detail – I consider myself an early, amateur photographer at best. Sometimes I get lucky. Mostly, I struggle pulling one good, in-focus, decently composed shot out of several hundred images. I am a work in progress. The fuzzy images may be a result of my distance from the subject, the movement of the subject or my inability to hold the camera still! Often, the lighting is just not there for my lack of experience in the realm of photography. Hobbies are not meant to be conquered in a day.

SWALLOWS

Tree Swallow

These lovely birds with the iridescent blue backs and pristine white bellies nest in cavities. A nest box provided by a human is just as good, if not better than the natural option – which might be a hole excavated, but no longer used by woodpeckers. I find it easy to film Tree Swallows once they have set up a nest in one of the boxes we provide, and have posted many photo-essays of the Tree Swallows that live near us.

Photo: This Tree Swallow just delivered a meal of insects to its chicks. This pair fledged two broods from this box in our backyard in June, 2020.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallows make a mud nest which they attach to structures, like (yeah, you guessed it) barns. They also make their nests under the eaves of houses, or any other building that provides some relief from the elements. We have dozens of these little gems flying over the meadows and above the pond as they snatch insects. They often accompany me as I drive around in the golf cart. I believe the vehicle scares up the bugs making it easy pickins’ for the swallows.

Photo: A parent Barn swallow feeding its recently fledged chick on the wing. June 2020. Chick HERE to see many more images from that event.

Purple Martin

Purple Martins are part of the Swallow family. East of the Mississippi these birds tend to use man-made houses as their singular method of nesting. We put up our first Purple Martin house in 2019 and immediately saw occupancy. In 2020 we added a Gourd Tower and have seen chicks fledged from both the standard-build house and the gourds. Their happy sounding chortle can be heard all day long.

Photo: As a social species, Purple Martins nest, roost and fly together. This images was captured July 2020.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Beginning last autumn (2020) I had seen a swallow that wasn’t any of the three that I frequently saw (Barn, Tree and Purple Martin.) But, with just a quick observation as it was flying overhead (typically over our pond), I couldn’t really make a sound identification. In April 2021, I was fortunate to encounter a small group of these birds perched in a tree at the pond’s edge. With the help of some Birder experts, the final ID was made.

Photo: This images was captured April 2021.

THRUSHES

American Robin

Who doesn’t know a Robin? They migrate to warming climates in the winter, and are considered the first sign of spring when they return. I’ve noticed that they may try to dominate a location where Bluebirds also feed. That includes taking a position atop a Bluebird’s nest box. The Bluebird almost always chases it off.

I shot this photo of a male American Robin in early March, 2021. It was the first sign of Spring after a seriously intense, frigid winter.

Eastern Bluebird

I would like to recognize the Eastern Bluebird for my current infatuation with the birds around our property and for restoring my general happiness and well-being. After years of existing in a tiny house that contained the “stuff” for three businesses, we built a new house which I designed mostly around the placement of my office. We put up nest boxes the first spring – which I can see from my desk – and a few days later our first Bluebird couple flitted between the options and finally chose one. All the struggles of the past washed away as I watched them carry long pieces of grass into that hole and position them, just so. Since then, we have not slowed down our dedication to surrounding ourselves with the inspiration and beauty that wild birds bring to one’s soul.

Photo: 4/25/21

Hermit Thrush

The Hermit Thrush breeds in Canada. I filmed this bird during the fall migration. I was located near the apple tree that (after we had picked most of the fruits) I had adorned with fresh apples to lure the fruit eating birds. The sun was being obscured by clouds, and when it shined I hoped a bird would fly into range. The images are so much better with great lighting. Just as the clouds moved off and the sun illuminated a branch directly in front of me, this bird flew into view. It gave me four short seconds to get a good shot, then flew away, never to be seen again!

Photo: 10/10/2020

Wood Thrush

I have been spending time, of late, recording the bird songs in the woodsy-er parts our of property. It is helping me learn to differentiate the vocalizations that more than one species makes at the same time. I just take the recording back to my office and use the eBird app that, usually, will help me determine a species’ call. The app rates its confidence with words like, “Likely,” “Uncertain,” and “Almost Certain.” I tend to only believe it if I get an Almost Certain. Then, I look up the bird and see if the sound I recorded sounds somewhat like the species the app suggests belongs to the song. That’s how I came to suspect we have a Wood Thrush hiding in the underbrush.

Audio: 5/22/21

CATBIRDS, MOCKINGBIRDS, THRASHERS

Brown Thrasher

I first saw this bird in the summer of 2020. The remainder of the observations that year were mostly through vocalizations, and not actual sightings. They seems to be fairly elusive.

Photo: I captured this bird in the trees of a hedgerow when it arrived back in the Spring (April 16, 2021)

Northern Mockingbird

I have observed Mockingbirds in nearly every corner of around our property. The very best vocalist – the one with the most expansive repertoire of songs – resides in our front yard. They are known to dive-bomb cats, dogs and even people who enter their turf. I haven’t had that problem here. They are quite active and I’ve enjoyed watching them teach their chicks the ways of world.

Photo: 11/2020

Gray Catbird

Like the Flycatchers, the Gray Catbird eats insects. That trait can make a bird easy to spot, if he selects an open space up which to perch and hunt. I discovered they also like fruit in the fall. Their vocalizations are amazing! I really like this bird, even though he may seem a bit drab in color. He does have a few deep red colored feathers under his back tail feathers! I guess everyone needs a little sparkle in their life, even if you hide it well.

Photo: 10/10/2020 perched in the apple tree.

FINCHES

American Goldfinch

This lovely, little bird is a year round resident in our area. It is a frequent visitor to bird feeders, especially those that offer thistle seed. I have taken many good quality photos of them eating from feeders on the back patio. But, I am more happy to share a photo of this pretty bird in its natural habitat.

Photo: November 2020.

House Finch

House Finches are sweet birds that I often seen together in pairs, even after the breeding season has passed. I learned that they like apple, after I hung a fruit and found they were frequent visitors. This species is a year round resident and is accustomed to visiting feeders up near the house.

Photo: December 2020

Pine Siskin

I learned of this species when I read about an “irruption” which is a large number of the birds arriving into an area during migration. I had been watching for them and I finally saw about a half dozen of them at the feeder on my patio!

Photo: October, 24, 2020 at the thistle seed feeder.

Purple Finch

This species was experiencing an irruption (when their food supply up north isn’t sufficient and they migrate farther south than normal) in the 20/21 winter season. I hoped, but wasn’t expecting to have one arrive to our place. But, on one day a female arrived, and the next day a juvenile male showed up to a feeder.

Photo: Female Purple Finch February 3, 2021

CARDINALS & GROSBEAKS

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Northern Cardinal

Who isn’t familiar with the image of a Cardinal? This is the Illinois State bird. The males sport a brilliant red color. They have a distinctive song that alerts me to their arrival. I love that they often travel in pairs – the female donning a muted shade of orange – but still with the lovely head plumage that distinguishes them even beyond their color.

Photo: November 2020.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

These are striking birds – well, at least the males are. Their mates don a more camo inspired plumage. I’ve been fortunate to film a juvenile male in his transitional plumage when it arrived at the apple that I hung as a treat for the fruit eating birds.

Photo: Juvenile male with transitional plumage filmed September 2020.

Blue Grosbeak

In July, 2020 I followed the chirps of a bird that was hidden in the leaves of a large maple tree. My patience paid off and I captured images of a female Blue Grosbeak. Since then I have filmed both the male and female and even a juvenile male in transitional plumage. Once I learned to recognize their vocalizations, I realized that there are several Blue Grosbeak around the property.

Photo: Male Blue Grosbeak perched atop a tree. August 2020.

Indigo Bunting

It’s a fast flash of brilliant blue, then they are gone. That’s how I describe the Indigo Bunting. However, I have been fortunate to capture a couple of them before they flitted off.

Photo: July 2020 in a tall stand of weeds that grow outside our backyard fence.

Dickcissel

Little bird with the weird name, once I learned to identify them, I found they were all around. They love to fly to the very top branch of a tree and sing. At times, I feel like they are following me as I drive around the farm, stopping when I stop, to take a perch and belt out their tune.

Photo: May 5, 2021.

FLYCATCHERS

Eastern Kingbird

After Bluebirds and Hummers, I think that the Kingbird is my next favorite. First, you have to love the name. It’s such a regal designation, it’s hard not to make some noble assumptions about this bird. He looks like he’s dressed up in a tuxedo, with a black back and white belly, and the tip of his tail feathers appear to be spats on a pair of formal dress shoes. I have seen these birds hunting from a tree in my front yard, the fence top in my backyard, on a tiny branch by the pond, a fence post near the road and from the lower branch of a tree in the pasture.

Photo: May 3, 2021.

Eastern Phoebe

This little brown bird seems fairly comfortable around human activity. Last year we had one build a nest in the eaves over a back door. I see them in all corners of our property, perched on fences or small branches waiting to nab an insect. Usually, they fly downwards to catch something close to the ground. But, I have seen them fly upwards to snatch a bug on the wing.

Photo: August 2020. This is a recently fledgling that allowed me to get quite close to film.

Great Crested Flycatcher

In the Spring of 2021, I observed a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers checking out our large Duck box on several occasions. Surprisingly, an individual also visited our backyard a few times. This is a species that is described as making a living in the upper canopy of mature woods. So, it was a surprise to see one in the yard. However, as cavity nesters, the visit to the duck box wasn’t that odd. I hope they found a great spot to raise their brood.

Photo: June 25, 2021

Eastern Wood-Pewee

I heard this bird well before I saw it. But, when I did, it was as if saying, “take my photo!” They have a sweet song that gives them their name.

Photo: May 11, 2021.

Least Flycatcher

There is a group of flycatchers in the genus Empidonax that are defined, in part, by a white ring around their eyes. That feature became obvious when I first looked at the photos I took of this cute, little bird. There’s a chance that this is rather a Willow Flycatcher as the two species are quite similar. But, the bird experts who viewed these photos tended to concur it’s a Least. This bird spent many minutes hunting flying insects from the fence and I was able to capture his antics and share them in a POST.

Photo: August 2020.

Acadian Flycatcher

I’m calling this an Acadian Flycatcher because the breeding area for the Least Flycatcher, which is what some folks have suggested it may be, doesn’t extend as far south as I live. The BirdNET app says is “almost certain” that the vocalization is of an Acadian – however some experts disagree and I know the app isn’t fool proof. Since Least Flycatchers are not know to breed in my area, if it’s not an Acadian it could be a Willow Flycatcher. Those two species are easier to distinguish via song, so hopefully next summer I can get a more conclusive recording.

Photo: August 2020.

Acadian Flycatcher 8/2020

Willow Flycatcher

My hope to get a more conclusive recording of the Acadian Flycatcher (above) came true – not exactly. At the end of June 2021 I recorded what the eBird app claims is “Almost Certain” a Willow Flycatcher. Fortunately, this time my recording captured the bird vocalizing multiple times – all of which are considered “Almost certain” to be a Willow. I recorded it in an uncut patch (about 3/4 acre) of tall grass, and there’s even a willow tree in that zone! In contrast, last year, I filmed and recorded what I believe to be the Acadian Flycatcher (above) in a stand of mature trees as it flew across a small corridor between the trees. Two days after recording the Willow vocalizations, I spotted a Willow Flycatcher and got a decent photo – albeit in very dark conditions.

Audio: June 25, 2021 & Photo June 27, 2021

Willow Flycatcher 6/25/21

Cedar Waxwing

The only photo I had of this species was taken in November 2020. I only saw one bird, on one day. Finally I saw another (actually two) on 6/7/2021. They were far, far away in a Willow tree across the pond. So, the images are not wonderful, but I was happy to see a pair during the breeding season. I hope that means I will be able to capture better images of them, soon.

Photo: June 7, 2021.

NUTHATCHES

White-breasted Nuthatch

With as many woodpecker species we have around here, I knew that one day I would spot a Nuthatch. It was late in the day on a mature tree at our old house. That spot is close to more mature trees that run along a creek across the street. I’m happy to have finally spotted this species!

Photo: April 3, 2021

WOODPECKERS

Red-headed woodpecker

Aptly named, this woodpecker makes a living in the mature trees that we have along our property lines. I have been able to record the nest cavity excavation of one pair and posted images and video on the blog.

Photo: June 2020.

Hairy Woodpecker

The few times I photographed this species it was when I was shooting another bird and was oblivious to the Hairy in the same tree. When I reviewed the images, I saw this woodpecker on a nearby by branch! I see the Downy Woodpecker more frequently than this species. I’m happy to have identified the larger of the two.

Photo: August 2020.

Northern Flicker

An interesting fact about the Northern Flicker is that it hunts insects on the ground. You might expect to see a woodpecker type bird in the trees, and of course you can see this species there. The first time I saw one, I spooked it from the ground to the top of a tree. I also filmed it hunting on the ground.

Photo: I captured this image of a N. Flicker in the Ponderosa Pines in October 2020.

Downy Woodpecker

This very cute little woodpecker is quite friendly (has a small “personal space.”) They visit the feeders out in the pond meadow area as well as up by the house. Suet seems to be a favorite for the Downy.

Photo: November 2020.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Curiously, my original text that I posted here about this species mentioned that it was quite aloof and hadn’t come down to the feeders. I guess a winter of cold weather changed that because I’ve been able to film this species quite often at and near the feeding stations – even the ones up by the house. Peanuts and suet are this bird’s jam! I’ve also observed them eating the fresh oranges I put out to attract the Oriole species!

Photo: November 2020.

HUMMINGBIRDS

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The only hummer that resides in our part of the country is the Ruby-throated. Within days of hanging a nectar feeder, we had birds arrive. I have also been visited by hummingbirds when I am driving around the pastures. And, by visited, I mean face to face encounters, not just a fly-by. They whiz up to me, hover for a spell, then zoom away.

Photo: June 2020.This is a male flying in to the nectar feeder.

WRENS

House Wren

I have a love-hate relationship with this species. As a photographer, I appreciate their tolerance for my presence as I can get quite close to their nest box to film. However, they have a nasty habit of “saving” nest boxes by filling them with large twigs, even though they never intent to use the location. I have also been privy to the displacement of Bluebirds from boxes (via killing of newly hatched chicks.) It’s unnerving, even if both species are native and there is bound to be natural competition.

Photo: July 2020.

Carolina Wren

Throughout the spring and summer I heard this bird many time. But, I was never able to catch a glimpse of it until the very end of October 2020. It was on a fence post in the underbrush at the entrance to Jaye’s Pasture. I was able to catch a low quality image. While I continued to film this bird at and around the feeders, I am most pleased to provide a photo of this bird in its absolute natural setting. More photos

Photo: March 2021

Audio:

VIREOS

Bell’s Vireo

After hearing this bird quite often, I finally observed it in late May. There was a pair that were clearly flirting, and I was actually privy to a mating. However, when I arrived home to see what I may have captured on my camera I was fairly certain I wouldn’t have one decent photo, because this bird spends most of its time in the underbrush. When it does show itself, it’s only for a moment. That is not to say that it wasn’t continually singing to let me know where it was hiding! I feel fortunate to have finally see this handsome bird – that, if you ask me, looks like it is wearing a “dolphin smile.”

Photo: 5/21/21

Warbling Vireo

I was tucked away in a little clearing near the north end of the pond, where I had seen (but only marginally filmed) a Warbling Vireo about a week earlier. I heard the song, again. Then, the bird popped out from dense cover. I won’t argue that it’s not the best photo, but it’s better than the one I captured the first time I saw this lovely bird. fortunately, I was recording audios of another bird, and when I reviewed them, the eBird app said this is likely a Warbling Vireo.

Photo: May 19, 2021 Audio below.

White-eyed Vireo

Here’s another little bird that is very difficult to spot although, it’s song is sufficiently loud to know the bird is in the underbrush. Perhaps, I will be lucky one day, like I have been with Bell’s and the Warbling Vireo to catch it on film!

The eBird app also suggests there’s a Kentucky Warbler singing in this clip. If you can confirm that, please leave a message in the Comments sections below!

Audio: May 22, 2021 Audio below.

BLACK BIRDS

Red-winged Blackbird

This is not a scarce bird. We have a large pond and they love to nest all around it. The image and sound of Red-winged Blackbirds clinging to cat tails around the pond is a common sight. For me, it is a pure illustration of “nature.”

Photo: May 20, 2021: Male Red-winged Blackbird.

Eastern Meadowlark

These birds are very plentiful around our place. They sing constantly and can be found nabbing insects off the ground from our mowed yard to the taller grasses in the meadows. They often take a position atop the large, round hay bales when the “hay guy” leaves them in the field.

Photo: June 2020. I was filming a House Wren nest that was in that same tree, when the Meadowlark arrived. I rarely see them in trees, so was fortunate to get this perspective.

Baltimore Oriole

Finally, I have been able to attract these lovely birds to slices of fresh oranges and trays of grape jelly! This handsome dude and his mate have become very frequent diners at the apple tree in which I have hung fresh citrus.

Photo & Audio: May 12, 2021.

Brown-headed Cowbird

This species is native to our area, but it gets a bad wrap for a strange method of reproduction. Rather than using all those resources to build a nest, incubate eggs and then feed all those hungry mouths, the female of this species chooses to lay an egg in the nest of an unsuspecting bird. The “foster” parents then raise the cowbird chick, which apparently can out-compete the rightly kin of the fosters.

Photo: March 2, 2021

Orchard Oriole

This is a strikingly handsome bird. You’d never know that the female was the same species. She’s a lovely yellow color. I saw this bird (and a female) on one of my first jaunts around the farm after recovery from my dual shoulder surgeries. I was finally pain free and could endure a ride in the golf cart. I could consider seeing this bird as my christening to birding.

Photo: June 2020.

Common Grackle

I caught this bird in the perfect light to illustrate that this is not just another blackbird. Although I read many posts in social media from folks who have a great disdain for this species, I absolutely love them.

Photo: March 3, 2021

Bobolink

I almost didn’t take a photo of this bird. In the late afternoon sun, quite near the pond, I figured it was probably a female Red-winged Blackbird. But, something told me, “Take the picture!” The zone map at AllAboutBirds shows the delineation between migration and breeder to be fairly close to our location. It’s would be great if this bird stuck around for the breeding season, but he’ll probably move farther north for the summer.

Photo: May 3, 2021

SPARROWS

White-crowned Sparrow

These cute little birds migrate north and breed in northern Canada. But, Ive recorded them throughout the winter months and nearly through the end of May!

Photo: December 2020.

Song Sparrows

These year-round residents can be found all around our property – close to the house, and out in the field. While they don’t visit the feeders, they will pick up seeds on the ground under them. The photo is of a Song Sparrow taking food to a nest built in a grassy mound on the ground.

Photo: I took this photo in April 2021.

Chipping Sparrow

This species spends the breeding season in our area, then migrates to warmer weather in the winter. I often spot them on the ground, hunting up their meals.

Photo: July 2020.

Dark-eyed Junco

These stately little birds spend the breeding season up in Canada, but winter in my area. They are not always easy to spot, as they forage on the ground.

Photo: March 1, 2021

Eastern Towhee

I hope one day to actually spot this lovely bird. But, for now I will have to simply include a couple of video recordings that I made of it. One was recorded on 7/30/20 and the other on 8/22/20. They were also in quite different locations on our property.

Photo: July 2020.

Field Sparrow

This is a diminutive bird that isn’t always easy to spot. I took the adjacent photo in early April on the first day I also heard this species’ vocalizations. He was at the base of a seed feeder in the pasture. Their song is very distinctive, and some refer to it as the sound of a bouncing ping pong ball.

Photo: 4-5-2021.

White-throated Sparrow

In November 2020, I filmed one White-throated Sparrow. I never saw another one until the DEEP FREEZE event in February 2021 when a few showed up on our patio where we were offering lots of food, and water to the birds.

Photo: February 2020.

American Tree Sparrow

Such a cute little Sparrow. It showed up in a tree near one of our feeding stations. I almost didn’t film it as there are dozens of birds flitting about, in and out of the trees, back and forth to the feeder. But, lucky for me, I did and was able to identify it, too! I also recorded this bird up on our patio when we offered ample food and fresh water during the deep freeze of February 2021.

Photo: November 2020.

Fox Sparrow

It took the Deep Freeze of February 2021 for the Fox Sparrows which I’ve heard on our property to venture up to the house where we were offering plenty of food and water.

Audio: November 23 & again 24, 2020.

Savannah Sparrow

The Guides shows that this cute little sparrow with the yellow marks below its eyes winter south of my location, and breed north of here. We are only in the path of its migration. I feel fortunate to have spotted it at the far south end of pond. I was surprised how still it remained while I tried to film it through the branches of the shrub in which it was perched.

Photo: March 3, 2021

Swamp Sparrow

To find a Swamp Sparrow, look at wetlands. That’s what one guide proclaims. I saw this bird at the north end of our farm pond, which is fed by the run-off of rain. With as much precipitation as we’ve had recently, I understand why that little, wet habitat had attracted this bird. Swamp Sparrows are shown to spend the winter here, but this bird will make its way up north for the breeding season.

Photo: March 20, 2021

Vesper Sparrow

This is a Vesper Sparrow. Until I took the photo and tried to identify it, I actually didn’t know there was such a bird. I’m happy it’s here. The Range Maps show it comes to our location to breed. I hope it sticks around – with a mate – and I get the chance to film it again. This photo was taken at quite a distance in late afternoon light.

Photo: April 4, 2021

Lincoln Sparrow

What a surprise it was to film a little brown bird under the apple tree at the end of the corridor, and learn it was a Lincoln sparrow. This species only migrates through the area. I was situated near the apple tree because we hung orange slices there for the Orioles and the next morning they were cleaned out – no pulp remaining. I hoped to see the bird(s) that feasted on he fruit. Instead, I saw this Lincoln Sparrow hop onto a low branch. Lucky me.

Photo: May 10, 2021

Grasshopper Sparrow

I have been hearing this incredibly subtle sound for a while. This species is described as hanging out low to the ground, rarely showing itself. There are usually other birds vocalizing when I hear the little buzzing sound, so capturing it is not easy to do. The eBird app and my review of other recordings give me some confidence that this is the call of a Grasshopper Sparrow. Hopefully, one day I will get a photo of the species.

Audio: 6/5/2021

recorded 6/5/21
Recorded 6/7/21

House Sparrow

This is an invasive species that has adjusted to living near human establishments across the country. Their most notable negative impact on other species has to do with the fact that they are nest-hole dwellers, and compete with species like the Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallows for nest sites. This has had a negative impact on the populations of those species.

Photo: October 2020.

CUCKOOS

Yellow Billed Cuckoo

I didn’t even know there was such a bird in our location. And it seemed somehow very exciting to learn about it. After snapping a photo of what I thought was an Eastern Kingbird (from about 200 feet away), I later realized I had taken a picture of a Yellow Billed Cuckoo.

Photo: July 2020.

WARBLERS

Common Yellowthroat

This was the first Warbler species I identified on our property. It took me several days to hone in on, first the sound as they chirped their way around the underbrush, and next the speed with which they flitted about. I believe this species pressed me up one notch in the amateur photography scale. That’s not because the images I took of this species were spectacular, but because I learned a new level of patience and skills to even find the bird to film!

Photo: June 2020.

Tennessee Warbler

Catching this bird was a freebie. I set up a trail cam by the apple tree in an attempt to catch the night critter that was stealing fruit. Instead, I was able to isolate a few frames of this pretty bird that only spends a few days here during migration.

Photo: September 2020.

Nashville Warbler

This bird was moving through during the fall migration. So pretty!

Photo: October 2020.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

You can’t be more specific with a name! However, that yellow rump doesn’t always present in photos – depending upon the angle. I’m glad I got this view so that it was easy to identify. This is another bird that migrates through.

Photo: October 2020.

Orange Crowned Warbler

I had to have an expert help me identify this bird. It’s not terribly distinct, and clearly doesn’t always don an orange crown. I found it confusing with some of the other warblers – but no less lovely.

Photo: October 2020.

Palm Warbler

It’s always exciting to encounter a new species. But, after I was helped with the identification of the first Palm Warbler I filmed during the fall migration, I began spotting them all over the property. I even created a blog post with photos.

Photo: October 2020.

Yellow Warbler

I was at the north end of the pond, where there are a lot of mature trees with shrubs at their base. I saw and filmed a little yellow bird, but when I looked at the file it was just a yellow blob. My camera had focused on a branch just behind the bird. Dang. A few days later, I was in the same location. There were many bird songs all layered on top of each other and I decided to simply record and extrapolate later. One of the birds that eBird app IDs was the Yellow Warbler.

Audio: May 10, 2021.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Based on the sort of environment this species prefers, I knew that one day I would see or hear one at our property. That prophecy came true at the end of June 2021. I was at our pond and began to hear an unfamiliar bird song. My eBird app wasn’t launching well, so I had to wait until I returned to my office to sleuth out the individual that was singing. That happened sooner than usual, because a “red cell” storm front was arriving, so I hurried home. It didn’t take long to feel confident that this vocalization belongs to a Yellow-breasted Chat. Now that I know where it was singing, I hope that I can catch a photo of it, soon.

Audio: June 28, 2021

DUCKS & GEESE

Northern Shoveler

Who knew this was even a species? Not me. When I first saw it floating along with three smaller ducks, I couldn’t wait to look up its name. Shoveler makes sense, as it uses that massive beak to feed on the bottom in shallow ponds.

Photo: October 2020.

Blue-winged Teal

We have had a pair of Blue-winged Teal (and occasionally a few of their friends) on the pond much of the Spring. I’m hoping they have a nest and will raise their chicks here.

Photo: April 16, 2021.

Green-winged Teal

This duck was hanging out, alone, for a day on our pond.

Photo: October 2020.

Pied-billed Grebe

This not-a-duck stopped by for a couple of days, all alone at the very end of October. When researching this new species, I learned that in Latin “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks.” This anatomical design serves birds that dive for their dinner. This Grebe might hunt fish or amphibians under water.

Photo: October 30, 2020.

Ring-neck Duck

The Spring migration brought this cute pair of Ring-neck ducks to our pond. I had never seen this species before, and it became #84 on my list of Birds in Our Backyard!

Photo: March 21, 2021

Wood Duck

This handsome male Wood Duck was in the pond without a mate. I hoped it meant that his gal was in our Duck Nest Box that we put up last autumn right nest to the pond. There after, I saw a male and female Wood duck on the pond, and I have seen a lone duck fly near the large, partially rotten oak tree that sits on the west side of the pond. I wonder if she has a nest, but it’s hard to say as I only see the lone duck flying ocassionally.

Photo: March 31, 2021

Canada Goose

These majestic birds stop by our pond quiet often. But, it’s often after sun down. There’s a pair that seems to pond-hop between my neighbors’ ponds and ours. They are quite flighty when they sense my approach.

Photo: April 2021

Hooded Merganser

I saw three ducks at the far side of the pond as I entered the area. As soon as they heard my golf cart, they began to paddle farther away. I snapped a few photos before they flew off. I was at a complete loss identifying them – probably because the “good” photos that are posted in Guides show the “hood” in its most erect position, and the birds I filmed barely showed the flattened feathers on the back of their necks. These birds are hens. This observation became then 100th species I recorded on our 50 acre parcel of land in Fayette Co, IL.

Photo: May 26, 2021

CHICKADEES

Black-capped Chickadee

I love this little bird. Their vocalizations remind me of the Zebra Finches my sister kept as pets when we were kids. I haven’t found it easy to film them, as they move quickly from place to place – even though they will land fairly close to me.

Photo: December 2020.

Tufted Titmouse

A frequent visitor to the feeding platform we have out in the pond meadow, this species has a call that I have learned. They are not “sit still while Tammie focuses the camera” sort of birds. Rather, they fly in, snatch a seed, then take off again. They are known to store food in a cache that they use througout the winter.

Photo: November 2020.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

This bird’s vocalization caught my attention because I didn’t recall ever hearing it before. I was sitting near the pond on an overcast day about an hour before sunset when I hear the nasal rasp rising above the sound of the chorus of frogs. The eBird app ID’s this vocalization as the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. I hope I get the chance to see this bird because they look very cute in the photos I’ve seen.

Audio: May 19, 2021

GROUSE and QUAIL

Northern Bobwhite

It is far easier to hear the presence of this bird than to see it. They sing their very characteristic song from underbrush and hedgerows, but rarely make a trip into the open. However, I’ve been fortunate to snap a couple of shots of a nice couple that was venturing into the clearing. Check out this post that has more images of the Bobwhite.

Photo: July 2020.

JAYS & CROWS

Blue Jay

The Blue Jay has a reputation for being a bully in the bird world. I happen to really like this species. I haven’t noticed that they are any more pushy at the feeder, where they covet the peanuts we offered in winter.

Photo: March 2, 2021

European Starling

This is an invasive species that was released from a zoo in the late 1800’s. It thrives, and does well in urban settings as well as rural areas. During the February 2021 Deep Freeze, many Starlings showed up to take advantage of the food and fresh water we offered to the wild birds.

Photo: February 2021.

American Crow

I hear crows more than I see them. During winter they can’t hide in the trees as easily. They often assemble in large groups and are quite vocal. As a kid, we cared for an injured crow and it ended up becoming a bit of a pet and a pest as it demanded breakfast very early in the morning by tapping a small metal dish on the kitchen window! I adore crows.

Photo: December 2020

PIGEONS & DOVES

Mourning Dove

This species may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but they gain my favor because they are so often seen together, even outside the breeding season. They appear to be very devoted to each other and I find that endearing.

Photo: February 2021 During the Deep Freeze event many Mourning Doves arrived to the patio where we offered ample food and fresh water to the wild birds.

FALCONS

American Kestrel

This is the only falcon that I might observe in our area. And, I’m happy to see him. Back in Wisconsin, there was a Kestrel that hunted around my little farm. They are daring little birds of prey.

Photo: November 2020. I hope to get a better image of this bird if it makes a nest in one of the nest boxes we have provided! Fingers crossed.

VULTURES & HAWKS

Turkey Vulture

These massive black birds with the unattractive faces, can be seen standing in the middle of the country roads eating the carrion of car impacts.

Photo: September 2020. This huge bird was sitting atop the hay bale then took flight. The round bales are around six foot wide. That helps to measure up this bird’s wingspan, which I would put at around that same width.

Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk is a year round resident in our area. Many times I have seen “our” hawk fly from the largest tree at the northeast corner of the property when I move into Jaye’s Pasture. It will often make a loop and settle in the large tree at the southeast corner.

Photo: March 21, 2021

Red-shouldered Hawk

My neighbor alerted me to a Red-shouldered hawk nest in a large hickory tree. I set up my camera and waited. After some time the female returned to the nest with a rodent and I saw a couple of small, fizzy white head pop up.

Photo: 4/22/2021.

Cooper’s Hawk

I have seen this small hawk around the property many times, but I have never had the chance to get a decent photo. That is not to say that the adjacent photo is even decent, but it is sufficient to be able to identify this bird as a Cooper’s hawk. This bird has landed directly outside my office window on the top rail of a fence. I suspect it was that brave because there are bird feeders for the small, song birds on the patio.

Photo: February 2020.

Bald Eagle

I usually don’t even try to film hawks that are flying overhead. My camera skills don’t match the task. But, I thought I’d give it a try even though it was overcast and the bird was flying quickly. I’m aware of a Bald Eagle nest about 3 miles from our place. We have seen them in barren fields, especially in winter. But, I truly never thought I’d capture an image (albeit pretty grainy) of one flying over our property.

Photo: November 2020.

Osprey

5/3/2021: I was tucked away in a small wooded area near the pond hoping to film migrating warblers. I sighted a large bird flying overhead. At first I thought it was a very large water bird (heron etc…) It had a white underbelly and was flapping its wings frequently (not like a hawk that is more prone to soar.) All of a sudden, it pulled its wings into its body, focused directly downwards and dropped into the water. The impact with the water was obscured from my sight due to the trees, but I heard a very large splash. I moved to the water’s edge to hopefully catch a glimpse, when I over the tree tops, flapping powerfully and carrying a large fish in its talons! After research and assistance from expert birders, I’ve identified the bird as an Osprey. I typically do not include any birds on this “backyard” list without a photo or audio recording, but this is an exception I am willing to take for a very special, and Illinois endangered species.

KINGFISHERS

Belted Kingfisher

This is a species I never thought I’d see on our property. We have a farm pond. There’s no running stream, and we don’t live close to a river. But, I’m not complaining. I heard this bird, then saw it. It has a raspy call and an interesting flight pattern. It landed in a tree near the pond, and eventually flew down and grabbed a snack. This is a male. The females have additional rust colored markings on the chest.

Photo: November 2020.

SHORE BIRDS

Killdeer

This species is quite common in flat agriculture areas like our. We often see them standing in the middle of a country road at night. The car’s headlights catch them taking off far later than seem optimal for total safety.

Photo: 5/24/2021

Solitary Sandpiper

I had to get some help identifying this single bird that hung out by the edge of our pond on the same day that I saw the Northern Shoveler and its three Blue Wing Teal buddies in early October. I would have never spotted it had I not been sitting filming the ducks. This photo was taken from about 400 feet away. It appears to have a solid, gray-colored back but the images I’ve seen in bird guides suggests it has a more mottled back. I’m going to assume the distance played tricks on me.

Photo: October 2020.

Wilson’s Snipe

Here’s a bird I never thought I would see on our property. This is a very interesting shorebird. It shoves its long beak into the wet soil at the water’s edge looking for a meal. I was very excited to capture these three Wilson’s Snipes at our farm pond.

Photo: November 2020.

Sora

The Sora is a Rail (Family Ralidae.) Based on what I’ve read, it is a very elusive bird that prefers to remain under the cover of the marsh grasses. I spotted this one (and a second bird) in the small inlet of our pond where there’s a stand of cattails. The zone map shows that these birds are on their migration, so I feel fortunate to have encountered them – and snapped a few photos!

Photo: April 18, 2021. This bird has nabbed a snail.

American Coot

Although it looks like a duck, the Coot is a Rail (Family Ralidae.) I observed my first Coot on our pond on 4/28/21 during rainy weather, and when I didn’t have a camera with me. I hoped it might be there the next day, and although it was still very overcast, I saw the solitary bird foraging for large beaks-ful of aquatic vegetation.

Photo: April 29, 2021. This bird becomes my 90th species I have observed in our “backyard.”

HERONS & IBIS

Great Blue Heron

Although I had seen it, I hadn’t been able to film the Great Blue Heron that frequents our pond. Eventually, he seemed to habituate to the sound of my golf cart. The remaining herons and ibis that could reside in my zip code are probably going to be significantly more challenging to encounter at our farm.

Photo: August 2020.

Great Egret

Robert was driving by the pond when he saw this magnificent, white bird wading at the inlet on the west side of the pond. Unfortunately, he only had a cell phone camera with him. But, based on the tall stature and (seen even more so in another photo) the bird’s light build, we have concluded it is a Great Egret. A week later, I scared up a bird off the pond and it flew to the very top of some mature trees – a great distance away. Even though it was very overcast, I was able to get a good enough shot to confirm this is, indeed, a Great Egret.

Photo: May 17, 2021.

Green Heron

I filmed this bird landing at the top of a tree at the south end of the pond – way back in August 2020. As I was updating this page in November 2020, I remembered I was fortunate to get a quick snapshot of this heron.

Photo: August 2020. I was shooting into the afternoon sun. Lucky for me, I actually had my camera set on video record as I was trying to capture a bird vocalization when this big bird flew over!

That concludes the list of birds that have visited our “backyard” which I have evidenced via photograph, audio recording or (if I’m absolutely certain) through direct observation. I am amazed how many birds I’ve recorded.



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