Birds In Our “Backyard”

CURRENT TOTAL as of 5/3/2021

92 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. I suspect that winter and spring will present additional species. If I reach 80 species, I will be awestruck.

We have augmented our environment with nest boxes which Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows and House Wrens have used to fledge chicks over the summer. This fall we have installed owl boxes and a large, Wood Duck box, too. Come Spring, I hope to see other species taking advantage of the nest boxes.

As I discover and film new species, I will add them to this list. At the bottom there’s also a space where I will add photos of birds that 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 “UNK” (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

Swallows make their living by catching insects while in flight. I absolutely love watching swallows soar. We have three types of swallows at our home. All of them nest near our house, which makes them easy to observe. If I were a swallow, I’d be the Barn Swallow because it is the one with the most adept aerial acrobatic aptitude. They are absolutely brilliant in flight.

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, snatching 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

Thrushes are small to medium-sized ground living birds that feed on insects and fruit. E-bird lists three of them for my area.

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, which isn’t the case when a species like the Song Sparrow or House Finch might land on top of the Bluebird box.

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. It offers a view of the pond meadow and Jaye’s pasture beyond that. 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 (March 2020): This pair took residence of a box in my office yard and fledged a brood of four chicks.

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

CATBIRDS, MOCKINGBIRDS, THRASHERS

This group of birds was new to me when I began taking notice of the birds around me. I have ended up truly adoring the Gray Catbird and there’s not much more entertaining than listening to a Mockingbird broadcast his huge repertoire of vocalizations.

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. And, I photographed one bird eating an apple that I hung to feed the wild birds. 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

Finches are smaller sized birds, with conical shaped bills which help them to eat seeds and nuts. We provide nyger (thistle) seed in feeders at our backyard feeding station. It works well to attracts these lovely birds.

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. And, I have taken many good quality photos of them 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

These are colorful birds that, in my experience, make their presence known, not just through their visual appearance but also by their vocalizations. E-bird lists seven species in this category, and I have filmed five of them. These birds have heavy beaks which they use to crack seeds. For this reason, it’s not uncommon to see them at backyard feeders where seeds are often the most likely food source offered to wild birds.

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 learned 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: July 2020.

FLYCATCHERS

This is a group of birds that I particularly enjoy mostly because they make themselves obvious. They hunt insects, often from a stationary position. As they remain fairly still, they tilt their head this way and that until they spot it! Then, they make their move, zip to the ground and nab the critter. This action, that is contained in a fairly confined space, makes observing them fairly easy. They often retreat to the spot from which they took off to eat their meal.

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

Here’s a bird with a name that tends to elevate it to a higher level than, say, Lesser, Least or Common. But, I have to say, I struggle to tell it apart from some of other birds in its category like the Wood-Pewee or Eastern Phoebe. One day, i suspect I will laugh at such an undiscriminating eye. After all, I can tell three Golden Retrievers apart from each other, when some people struggle telling a Labrador Retriever from a Golden.

Photo: June 2020.

Eastern Wood-Pewee

After hearing this bird’s call for a few months, I finally caught it on film – even if it’s a silhouette.

Photo: July 2020.

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 or Willow 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 is likely 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.

Cedar Waxwing

I am thrilled to have captured an image of a Cedar Waxwing. I actually didn’t know what bird I filmed and needed to ask someone for assistance. The photo is not great, but it’s good enough to claim this species as another I can add to the birds that visit us. I shot this photo near the new feeder station we put up in the Pond Meadow. We put grapes out on the flat seed station to entice this lovely bird to come out of the shadows! I hope I can upgrade the image, soon!

Photo: November 2020.

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

During the summer months I heard, but rarely saw these birds. But, with the coming of late autumn, I have been able to spot them more frequently.

Red-headed woodpecker

Aptly named, this woodpecker makes a living in the mature trees that we have along our property lines.

Photo: June 2020.

Hairy Woodpecker

When I discover this bird, it’s often after I return to my office, download the SD card out of my camera and begin to review the images. Several times, I was shooting another bird and the Hairy is in the same tree – but much less obvious.

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 bird flew into our feeding station in the Pond Meadow when I was within 15 feet of it, and Robert had driving up in a van to help set up another feeder – and was standing a mere ten feet away. The bird seemed to have no concern for our presence and, in fact, his arrival brought in a number of other birds. I thought perhas they felt that if he was willing to settle in, it was safe for them, too!

Photo: November 2020.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I was able to update the photo of this bird to something a bit more conclusive. I’ve now seen this bird quite frequently. Although I have put out suet and peanuts, I haven’t yet seen it at the feeder. But, this photo was shot near where the other birds were snacking. Maybe, he’s just getting up his courage.

Photo: November 2020.

HUMMINGBIRDS

The only hummer that resides in our part of the country is the Ruby-throated. Second only to Bluebirds for boosting my personal joy-factor, the visitations of hummingbirds truly enhance my life. Just days after we hung our first feeder, the tiny jewels began to arrive. What I learned was that they do not fear humans. Rather, I suspect they live in a different time phase (like one might learn about during an episode of Star Trek.) Sitting on the patio where the feeders are hanging can make me feel as if I am watching a game of Quidditch, the flying broomstick sport observed in Harry Potter movies! They zip and zoom and chatter to each other while performing feats of flight that seem, at times, impossible. We learned early on that males will claim the territory containing a feeder, so we now have many feeders positioned all around the house. 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. I’ve thought that I should hang a feeder off the top of the golf cart because it seems they are wondering why there isn’t one!

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

There are four Wren species that could be observed in my location. These are little birds with fairly bold personalities.

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

I’ve only heard this bird, but during the summer, I heard it frequently

Audio: You will also hear a Bobwhite in the background.

BLACK BIRDS

I find this category quite interesting because most of the birds aren’t black – or at least not completely black. There are seven species listed at E-Bird for my area. I’ve never seen or heard a Bobolink. But, I’ve at least seen (if not filmed, the remainder of the list.)

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.

Photo: March 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

I have heard what I believe (and BirdNet App supports) is a Baltimore Oriole. However, until laste August I hadn’t been able to capture it on film. Although it’s not a great images, I’m fairly certain this is a Baltimore Oriole.

Photo & Audio: August 2020.

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

Photo: June 2020.

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.

Common Grackle

I caught this bird in the perfect light to illustrate that this is not just another blackbird.

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

I used to think of any small, mostly brown bird as “just a sparrow.” But, I have come to know that’s not the case. These different species have unique personalities and motives for survival. I know find them quite attractive.

White-crowned Sparrow

These cute little birds migrate north and breed in northern Canada. But, before that, they arrive here and spend a few weeks eating the seed we offer. As much as Robins returning in Spring, the short visit of these birds tells me the seasons are changing.

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 hte trees, back and forth to the feeder. But, lucky for me, I did and was able to identify it, too!

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

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

Until the summer of 2020, I don’t recall ever having seen a Warbler. To me, they were elusive treasures that only Birders sought to encounter with their high powered binoculars while traipsing through the under story of large trees. Warblers were small and fast – too fast for me to film. Then, one evening I sat down at my computer, plugged in the SD card I had extracted from my camera, and began to look at all the images for the day. Too blurry. Too dark. What the heck was I trying to film? I have to say that of the hundreds of photos that I take, less than ten percent end up to be anything of value. The crappy pictures outweigh the good one so disproportionately that I often fail to truly examine an image before I slide to the next. My first photo of a warbler almost dropped to the cutting room floor. But, there was this flash of yellow that caught my eye. Until the fall migration, my list of warblers remained at one (the Common Yellowthroat.) But, the arrival of autumn changed all that.

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.

DUCKS & GEESE

I have a deep, comforting memory of a group of about a dozen Canada Geese doing a “fly over” and then floating to a landing on our pond. We were saying good-bye to our beloved Lexie at the willow three by the pond – which is where many of our precious ones are burried. I felt as if those geese were part of the intimate send-off. Our pond is of substantial enough size to invite a flock to spend the night. We’ve had many duck and geese visitors over the years. But, I never thought to photograph them. Hopefully, the diversity of species will continue and I will be able to post photos here.

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. But, alas, after reviewing a trail cam we put up, we discovered a pair of Northern Flickers may be using the box. I haven’t seen the Wood Duck again.

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

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. I hope they stay the winter! Perhaps I can get that one great shot.

Photo: December 2020.

Tufted Titmouse

I recall hearing this bird in Spring and my husband said he saw one back then. I’ve been hearing them, again this fall, but had not seen one until we put up the feeding station in the Pond Meadow. I was very excited to see this bird show up, but was so afraid it would flit off before I could focus, that I didn’t get the images I wanted. Since they tend to create a cache of stored seeds for winter, I hope I will see it again when it comes shopping. For now, I’m happy to add a new species to the list!

Photo: November 2020.

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

This is a group of birds that attract me – I suppose because of their superior intelligence. I love the sound of crows in the autumn.

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. But, it’s now winter and they can’t hide in the trees as easily. They tend to be assembling in large groups and are quite vocal.

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. When we purchased this land we were told by the realtor that those trees were planted specifically to provide property markers!

Photo: March 21, 2021

Red-shouldered Hawk

My neighbor alerted me to a Red-shouldered hawk nest in a large hicory tree. I set up my camera and waited and 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 ot 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 are horrible. 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: July 2020. This new little Killdeer was all alone outside my backyard fence. It seemed very vulnerable, especially since our neighbors’ cats often hunt in our fields. Soon, a parent flew in to offer a level of stewardship to the wee one.

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. However, I have seen a white egret type bird that I assumed was a Cattle Egret only because it was the only white egret I knew at the time. It was probably during the migration season. I’m thrilled to be able to present the heron that fishes in our pond.

Photo: August 2020.

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.


I am hoping someone can help me definitely ID this sparrow. I flushed it from the ground in a grassy pasture on 5/1/21. I am assuming it’s a Savannah sparrow, but I suppose it may be a White-throated Sparrow. A week earlier I flushed a Savannah Sparrow out of the tall grass in a different area. The first Savannah Sparrow I filmed was March 14, 2021 I’m curious if someone can help me understand if these birds are actually migrating through, or is it possible that (at least the one I filmed on May 1) is breeding in this location. These photos are not very good, but I hope they are clear enough to make a good ID.


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