CURRENT TOTAL as of 5/5/2022
125 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 itself to supporting many types of birds as well as other species like white-tail deer, cottontail rabbits, red foxes, raccoons and opossums.
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.
While the farm land has slowly grown more wild, we have augmented our environment with nest boxes which Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows and House Wrens have used to rear their chicks over the summer.
Observing and filming these birds negotiate the complex, demanding, spectacular and sometimes heartbreaking relationship of parenthood is both a privileged and a joy.
I never know what amazing moment in time I may observe during one of my outings. I enjoy sharing these special images in posts on this blog.
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. When I am fortunate enough to capture a better image of a species, I try to replace the poorer quality photo.
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.
Photo: Parental duty – one arrives with new food for the chicks while the other parent takes off to hunt down the next meal. 4/21/22
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. 6-22-22
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. In 2022 we added additional housing to accommodate the growing colony. Their happy sounding chortle can be heard all day long.
Beginning in Autumn 2020 I began observing a swallow species that wasn’t any of the three that I frequently saw (Barn, Tree and Purple Martin.) In April 2021, I was fortunate to encounter a small group of these birds perched in a tree at the pond’s edge and snapped a few pictures. With the help of some Birder experts, the final ID was made.
Photo: This image was captured April 16, 2021.
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 in July 2021.
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 could 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.
The Hermit Thrush breeds in Canada. I filmed this bird during the fall migration as it was heading to warmer surroundings. I was positioned near a tree that I had adorned with fresh apples to lure the fruit eating birds. The sun was being obscured by clouds. Just as they 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! It felt like an “angels singing” moment.
By using a bird ID app, I can identify the the bird songs in the woodsy-er parts our of property, where they are harder to spot. That’s how I came to know we have a Wood Thrush hiding in the underbrush.
When I heard a repeating short bird call coming from a stand of weeds, I turned on my camera’s video function to capture it. The Merlin app determined it was a Swainson’s Thrush that was migrating through! I’ve attached the audio file below.
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. The following years, I learned to spot them where they choose to nest in a few places around our property. This bird is carrying a mouthful of insects and grubs to chicks back at the nest which is hidden in the thicket.
I have observed Mockingbirds in nearly every corner of our property. They are one of my favorites.
The bird shown here is a youngster. I was very happy to see it in August 2022. It was only one of a few Mockingbirds I saw that year and I was a bit worried the species had not survived well during the Polar event early in the year.
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: 6-24-22 with a bill sticky with wild berry juice from wild fruits (like raspberries and mulberries) that grow around our place.)
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: February 15, 2022.
House Finches are sweet birds that I often seen together in pairs, even after the breeding season has passed. I have observed them eating apples in an old tree near the barn. This species is a year round resident.
Photo: February 15, 2022
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. This typically happens when food sources in their primary range are depleted. Knowing that they might come as far south as we live, I had been watching for them and I finally spotted about a half dozen of them at the feeder on my patio!
Photo: October, 24, 2020 at the thistle seed feeder.
I’ve only see this species three times – twice in 2021 during the Polar Vortex and again in February 2022 during snowy and cold weather. They are quite lovely little birds, and I feel like it’s a special moment when one comes for a visit.
Photo: Purple Finch February 13, 2022
The Common Redpole was experiencing an irruption (when their food supply up north isn’t sufficient and they migrate farther south than normal) in the winter of 21/22. Even though it looked more like a Hoary to me, I assumed this bird was a Common Redpoll, because the Hoary’s range is much farther north. However, in June 2022 the Illinois Ornithological Records Committee confirmed this is a Hoary Redpole, placing it one of the most southern sightings in Illinois.
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: February 7, 2022
These are striking birds – well, at least the males are. Their mates don a more cammo inspired plumage. I’ve been fortunate to film a juvenile male in his transitional plumage when it arrived at the old apple to pick at the fruits.
Photo: Juvenile male with transitional plumage filmed September 9/27/2022.
The summer of 2022 was my year to finally take a few decent shots of this very striking bird. We must have just what these birds want for their summer location, as I hear them just about everywhere around the farm.
Photo: Male Blue Grosbeak perched atop a tree. August 18, 2022.
It’s a fast flash of brilliant blue, then they are gone. That’s how I describe the Indigo Bunting. On occasion I have been fortunate to capture a few shots before they have flown off.
Photo: July 2021 in a tall stand of weeds that grow outside our backyard fence.
Little bird with the weird name, once I learned to identify them, I noticed they were all around. The males 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. The bird pictured is a female and isn’t as brilliantly colored as a male. She and her mate were seemingly doing some remodeling of their nest when I encountered them. It was obvious to me that they were taking the job very seriously.
Since I began using the Merlin app to help identify unfamiliar bird songs, I sometimes get a surprise, especially when there are several birds calling at the same time. I had a few Summer Tanager “hits” when using the BirdNet app last in 2021, but that app doesn’t record the results as well as Merlin, so I had no verifiable records of it.
Photo: August 8, 2022.
After Bluebirds and Hummers, I think that the Kingbird may be 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.
This somewhat drab, 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. The bird in the photo is panting because it was so hot the day I captured its beauty.
Photo: August 19, 2022.
In the Spring of 2021, I observed a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers checking out our large Duck box on several occasions. This is a species that is described as making a living in the upper canopy of mature woods. As cavity nesters, the visit to the duck box wasn’t that odd, but I thought it was a bit large and low to the ground. In July the bird in the photo landed not far from me for just sufficient time for me to capture one image.
Photo: July 6, 2021
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. This bird has a favorite tree in the yard of our old house from which it hunts. I see it there nearly every day during the summer.
Photo: September 24, 2022.
There is a group of flycatchers in the genus Empidonax that are defined, in part, by a white ring around their eyes. In that genus, there are a few species that could show up at our location, and they can be a challenge to differentiate. For that reason, I typically look to the experts to provide a best guess, and the consensus for the bird in the photo was was Least Flycatcher.
Photo: August 22, 2022.
This is a lovely species that has spent the breeding season here all three years I have been observing the birds (2020-2022). I have been able to record its call, which is said to be the best way to identify it from other, similar looking flycatchers.
Audio: June 25, 2021 & Photo June 27, 2021
Our property must be a good place for Flycatchers to make a living, or stop during a migration because I’ve observed several species. In July and August 2022, I had the pleasure of watching a Willow Flycatcher several times, and then I saw another similar-but-not-the-same appearing bird hunting off a fence. Merlin app identified the bird as an Alder Flycatcher.
Photo: Aug 2, 2022.
I have been hoping to get a good shot of this remarkable bird for three years. Finally, I spotted one at the very top of a young oak tree in mid-August.
Photo: August 17, 2022
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! Hopefully one day I’ll get a clearer image.
Photo: April 3, 2021
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: July 26, 2022.
There’s a curious story about the photo, here. In 2020 and 2021 I had been fortunate to film this species a couple of times, but the images were not stellar. Hairy Woodpeckers are very similarly marked to Downy Woodpeckers, but the Hairy has a longer beak and is also less commonly observed (mainly because it’s a shier bird.) Whilst looking back in my records for a photo of a wholly other species, I saw this wonderful photo of a Hairy woodpecker that I had no memory of taking. It turns out that’s because I had documented it as “Downy.” I think it was only with the added time filming birds (and the Downy quite often) that I was able to quickly realize my error.
Photo: April 11, 2021.
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. The bird in this photo was checking out the suet that we had put out at a feeder in our Pond Meadow.
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: February 6, 2022
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!
If you look carefully, you can see a bit of red on its belly between it’s legs.
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: 8/12/22 Female feeding from naturally growing Milkweed.
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. But, when I get to observe how hard these little birds work to raise their broods (just like any other species) I can cut them a little slack.
Throughout the spring and summer of my first year traveling around the property, I heard this bird many times. But, I was never able to catch a glimpse of it until the very end of October 2020. Since then I’ve captured images of this cutie more and more. This photo was taken fairly close to the house where we offered suet during the very cold winter, which this bird seems to relish.
Photo: January 6, 2022
After hearing this bird quite often, I finally observed it in late May, 2021. There was a pair that were clearly flirting, and I was actually privy to a mating. I consider that a very rare circumstance. This bird spends most of its time in the underbrush. When it does show itself, it’s only for a moment. I feel fortunate to have finally see this handsome bird – that, if you ask me, looks like it is wearing a “dolphin smile.”
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 (and only other) 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.
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!
Audio: May 22, 2021 Audio below.
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.
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.
Eastern Meadowlarks are quite common around our place. However, I had never seen a Western Meadowlark. They are two species that look quite similar and the reference guides tend to suggest the best way to determine the species is through the song. On February 12, 2023 Merlin identified a Western Meadow Lark song a few times, as well as the common Eastern species. The Western species is shown to spend the non-breeding time in my zone, although I suspect its quite rare.
Merlin Audio Recording: 2/12/23
I heard this species for a season before I saw one. When I put out a grape jelly feeder and slices of fresh oranges, my ability to spot them increased significantly. This handsome dude and his mate have become very frequent diners at the tree in which I have hung fresh citrus.
Photo & Audio: May 4, 2022
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 lays her eggs in the nests of unsuspecting birds. The “foster” parents then raise the cowbird chick, which apparently can out-compete the rightly kin of the fosters. If one examines all the various ways that animals and plants make a living on Earth, I cannot impose morality into the processes of Mother Nature. I think these birds are beautiful.
Photo: February 7, 2022
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 6, 2020.
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
I almost didn’t take a photo of this bird. In the late afternoon sun, obscured by the leaves in a tree 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
There was a large flock of birds chattering in a stand of mature Osage Orange trees as I moved into the area. I heard Red-winged Blackbirds and another vocalization I did not recognize. When I used the Merlin App, it reported the song belonged to the Rusty Blackbird. I recorded the calls but wasn’t able to focus in on a bird in the shadows of the trees. I captured the calls on 3/29/23 and 4/2/23. Audio recording below. The video below that, I believe, is the large flock of the Rusty Blackbirds.
AllAboutBirds states, “Rusty Blackbird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species.” I’m happy to have experienced their visit.
Photo: March 29, 2023
These cute little birds breed in northern Canada. They arrive in our Fall fairly early, and I’ve recorded them sticking around until the end of May before heading north in Spring!
Photo: February 4, 2022.
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 21, 2021.
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. They also make their nests in our rose bushes.
Photo: May 2022.
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. This photo was taken during a very cold winter day, up close to the house where we provided thawed water to drink and lots of seeds for the birds.
Photo: February 7, 2022
I hope one day to actually spot this lovely bird. But, for now I will have to simply include a couple of audio 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.
This is a diminutive bird that isn’t always easy to spot. They are year round residents, here. In summer I often hear them singing. Their song is very distinctive, and some refer to it as the sound of a bouncing ping pong ball.
Range maps show that this species winters in our area then travels north into Canada to breed. I enjoy seeing them about the same time as the White-crowned sparrows arrive in the Fall.
Photo: April 6, 2021.
Such a cute little Sparrow. I have a hard time spotting this little bird, although my Bird ID app often hears them mostly around our pond area. However, deep freeze events will draw them up to a feeder by the house which is when I filmed the bird in this photo.
It took the Deep Freeze of February 2021 and February 2022 for the Fox Sparrows to venture up to the house where we were offering plenty of food and water.
Photo: February 6, 2022
Audio: November 23 & again 24, 2020.
The Guides shows that this cute little sparrow with the yellow marks above its eyes winters 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
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 had at that time, I understand why that little, wet habitat had attracted this bird. Swamp Sparrows are shown to spend the winter here, and breed further noth.
Photo: March 20, 2021
This Vesper Sparrow was picking around in the culvert in early Spring. It’s camouflage was so successful, that to locate it in the view finder in order to focus upon it, I had to wait for it to move so I could catch it and snap before it hopped off. There were two of these beauties foraging together.
Photo: March 30, 2023
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
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.
During the fall migration I filmed this bird only to find out it was a bit out of its typical path of travel. I feel fortunate to have had it come for a visit on its way south.
I wasn’t ever expecting to see this species stop by during it migration. This species breeds in the far north tundra. It landed in a tree near our pond when I happened to be sitting in the area and was quick to turn my lens towards it before it flew off.
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.
I didn’t even know there was such a bird in our location. And it seemed somehow very exciting to learn about it, I suppose because of its curious name. 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.
This bird spends its non-breeding season in my area. It has a fairly high pitched song, which can be hard to hear through other background noise. But, when the Merlin app repeated the “hit” and I listened to it’s song, I am confident that there was a Golden-crowned kinglet in the area as I sat filming the White-crowned sparrows that had returned for the season, as well.
When I first began filming the birds on our property, I often had no clue what sort of bird it might be. Fortunately, some folks helped me along the way, but sometimes, I never went back into the files to update the bird’s identification. Instead, I just designated it as UNK for unknown. I recently began going back to those files and discovered that I had filmed this Ruby-crowned Kinglet back in 2020. You can even see a bit of ruby upon its head.
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!
Catching this bird was a freebie. I set up a trail cam by an 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.
This bird was moving through during the fall migration. It required a quick response to capture the image (especially with my amateur skills.) I was very lucky that I could at least identify the species, even though the image isn’t terribly clear. So pretty!
Photo: October 2020.
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: March 3, 2022.
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.
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.
When I recorded the Northern Waterthrush during the fall migration, I had just moved into the long corridor between two stands of well over-grown land. I heard a couple of sounds I was not familiar with so I started the Merlin app. I was excited to see the Hairy Woodpecker show up – they are year round residents. Another bird just passing through turned out to be a Hermit Thrush (which I filmed in a previous migration.) I wish I had been able to see this Northern Water Thrush.
Recording: September 20, 2022.
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.
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
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.
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.
This duck was hanging out, alone, for a day on our pond.
Photo: October 2020.
The first time I saw this not-a-duck, an individual stopped by for a couple of days, all alone at the very end of October 2020. 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. Since then, I’ve seen the species during migration a few times, including this cute pair.
Photo: April 12, 2022.
The Spring migration brought this 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
This handsome male Wood Duck was in the pond without a mate. I hoped it meant that his gal was nesting nearby. I have seen both a male and female Wood duck on the pond as well as very close to the large, partially rotten oak tree that sits on the west side of the pond. I suspect that they use a cavity in that old tree to rear their chicks.
Photo: March 31, 2021
I often hear ducks fly by or landing in our pond. But, I’m not always nearby to film them. Merlin App captured the vocalizations of a Malard when I was recording a few hundred feet from the pond, but I didn’t catch a glimpse of teh bird.
Audio Recording via Merlin app: January 10, 2023
Back in May, 2021, a small group of females became then 100th species I recorded on our 50 acre parcel of land in Fayette Co, IL. I was fortunate to catch the more striking male (along with a couple of hens) visiting our pond a year later.
Photo: April 13, 2022
These majestic birds stop by our pond quiet often. But, it’s usually just 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 25,2021
I have decided to include species that fly by or fly over, even if they don’t land on our property. I observed these flocks of snow geese flying over on several occasions, but I simply can’t capture the flocks as they travel with my skills or cameras. I also don’t have the skills to identify which species of goose I am hearing. But, Merlin app has that capacity.
Audio via Merlin: Jan 3, 23 and Jan 14, 23
Merlin app identified the species of geese that I recorded as they flew overhead. Along with the Greater White-fronted, Merlin captured the sounds of Cackling geese, which is a species that sometimes flies with other species during migration.
Audio via Merlin: 2/5/2023
This species tends to fly with other species, and Merlin app captured it along with Canada Geese as well as Greater white-fronted flocks that were flying over when I was out birding on our farm.
Audio via Merlin: 1/3/23 and 2/5/2023
Our property sits almost exactly on the line delineating the ranges for the Black-capped Chickadee and the Carolina Chickadee. I am not certain this is a Black-capped Chickadee in this photo. If it isn’t a Black-capped, then it’s a Carolina.
I began using the Merlin app to help identify bird songs. At that time, I discovered that Merlin recognized the vocalizations of both the Carolina and the Black-capped species within a month of each other on our property. The Black-capped was recorded on 8-8-22 and the Carolina was recorded a month later on 9-8-22
Photo: Screen captures Aug and Sept 2022.
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. So, while they are quite common, they are not easy to film. They are known to store food in a cache that they use throughout the winter.
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. And, comparing it to what I’ve listened to on reference sites, I am fairly certain of that identification.
Audio: May 19, 2021
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.
I’ve seen wild turkeys all around our “neighborhood” which is about a 4 square mile area of neighboring farms and crop land. But, I hadn’t seen one on our property until July 11, 2022. And, then I didn’t get a clear shot at the bird. It was in my neighbor’s crop field (soybeans) and crossed through the hedgerow where I lost it in the mature trees. I made the wrong guess as to where it would come out and wasn’t ready to aim my camera where it entered our pasture, then ran along the fence and eventually did a short flight-hop over the fence into the other neighbor’s corn field.
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: December 18, 2022
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 5, 2022
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: August12, 2022
While moving through a large, open field (Jaye’s Pasture) I heard and then saw a crow flying overhead. My visual identification told me “oh, it’s an American Crow” but immediately there after I thought, “what’s wrong with his voice?” It sounded hoarse. I quickly launched the Merlin app and discovered it was a Fish Crow. I see crows flying over our fields almost daily at certain times of the year, sometimes from indoors when I’m not able to hear them. I can’t say this single bird is the first Fish Crow that traversed our property, but it’s the first I learned to recognize by its call.
Photo: March 29, 2023
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.
This species is most often seen in cities, around fountains or perching on window ledges of large buildings. But, they also make a living in rural areas, especially where grain is harvested and stored – as they tend to eat off the ground where the grain may be spilled. I see these birds fly by on occasion, usually in a small flock. They are not common, but there is a grain weigh station about five miles from us, as the crow (or pigeon) flies. And I suspect that is where they spend most of their time.
Audio identified by Merlin App: January 14, 2023
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. Typically, I like to present photos where the bird is in the most natural setting (a branch rather than a bird feeder, as an example.) However, this bird routinely uses the power lines from which to hunt, and I consider them part of a Kestrel’s “natural” strategy for survival.
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. The photo presented here shows four of the nine Turkey Vultures that came to pick at the remains of a White-tailed deer fawn carcass in our meadow. It was the unfortunate victim of the hay cutter. Our Hay Guy simply didn’t see it hiding in the tall grass. Nature can seem cruel, but one deer’s loss is a Turkey Vulture’s win.
The Red-tailed Hawk is a year round resident in our area. We have both Red-tailed and Red-Shouldered hawks on our property. I haven’t been as successful getting a decent photo of a Red-Tailed hawk, albeit I have heard them often. The photo was taken through my office window at quite a distance when I spotted a Northern Harrier mobbing it. It’s not close to being in focus, but it’s red tail offers its calling card, nonetheless.
This is the most common larger hawk species that I see around our place. I think there are at least two nesting pairs spread across our property, and I know there’s another few pairs within a few miles of our land.
Photo: 9/29/22. This remarkable bird landed atop a very long, exempt post (about 16 foot high), just briefly enough for me to take a couple shots before it flew off again.
From my desk in my office, I watched a Red-tailed hawk land in the Ponderosa Pines about 450 feet from where I sat. At that distance, I didn’t know what species it was. Although it was overcast late in the day, I decided to try to film it through the window for a definitive ID. Within a minute or so, another smaller hawk arrived and mobbed the larger, stationary bird a number of times before flying off. I was lucky to catch the antagonist bird in the frame several times. It was a Northern Harrier, and the first time I had ever seen one here. This photo is of that single bird, but offering front and back for ID purposes. The white band above the tail feathers and black tipped wings helps confirm the identification.
Photo: December 19, 2022.
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. I’m going on the flat head and rounded tail feathers to distinguish this from the similar Sharp-shinned hawk.
Photo: February 26, 2021.
I observed this bird perched in in small tree not far from a platform feeder in the north pond meadow. With help from a seasoned birder, it was identified as a Sharp-shinned Hawk with the following description:
“Good shot of the tail feathers which are all the same length, as well as the tiny landing gear, bill plopped lower on the head with a sharp transition from forehead to bill, and warm, varied facial colors.
Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk”
Photo: December 9, 2022.
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 nearby barren fields, especially in winter. But, I truly never thought I’d capture an image (albeit pretty grainy) of one flying over our property. Since then, I have observed Bald eagles flying very close to the ground near and over our pond two other times. They are so much bigger than the other hawks that it’s hard to be confused.
Photo: November 23, 2020.
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. 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 over the tree tops, flapping powerfully and carrying a large fish in its talons, it flew!
In July and August 2022, I also observed an Osprey three times but wasn’t able to film it. Each time it also vocalized. I eventually caught an audio record of it using Merlin.
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. Since then I have spotted them many times hunting our pond. This is a male. The females have additional rust colored markings on the chest.
Photo: April 19, 2022.
I have heard owls calling often – mostly in the woods that line the (typically) dry creek bed at the southern most part of our farm. To me, it sounded like the “who cooks for you,” call of a Barred Owl. But, I have been unable to catch a recording to confirm. And, I”m not an expert, so I don’t want to assume.
In mid-August, near the old barn, we hung a jelly feeder to attract the fruit eaters like Orioles, Gray Catbirds and even the Grosbeaks. We put up a trail cam to discover what birds might take advantage of the treat. The first night we captured the call of a Great Horned Owl, which I identified by running the trail cam video alongside the Merlin App and confirming using audio files at reference sites.
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. But, they also spend time on the edges of our pond and in our fields.
Back in 2020 I got an unclear images of this same species from across the pond. I needed help identifying it, then. But, this time I knew not just based on the distinctive white eye ring, but the solitary nature of this visitor.
Photo: April 26, 2022.
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 2, 2020.
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.
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.”
Just passing through. Six of these love birds stopped by during the Spring migration.
Photo: May 4, 2023.
This bird is a frequent visitor during the summer months where he hunts in the shallows of our pond. I have also spotted two birds her at the same time.
Photo: August 2022.
I’ve only seen this species a few times at our farm. This handsome bird was hunting in the shallows of the pond where he had nabbed a small catfish. I was able to capture many photos as he flipped it about in his bill in order to position it best to make its way down his long neck.
Photo: August 21, 2022.
I filmed this bird landing at the top of a tree at the south end of the pond – way back in August 2020. It is obviously not the best quality image, but I feel lucky to have captured it, at all!
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. As I have done so, I have also accumulated so much knowledge about the birds and more importantly, I have learned about species that I know know could visit our place. I keep my eyes open for them!