Apple Tree Trail Cam

A couple of days ago I posted photos that I took of a juvenile Red-breasted Grosbeak that was snacking on an apple I hung in a tree. Here are some Trail Cam video recordings of that bird, as well as other visitors to the tree in the 24 hours after I set up the camera.

In this first clip you can see the Red-breasted Grosbeak picking at the apple in the center of the frame, but more interesting to me is the bird that is jumping from stalk to stalk of the weeds in the left foreground. I’m struggling to identify it. Perhaps it’s a Philadelphia warbler?

Next, a Northern Cardinal is perched on a branch below and left of the apple when a Rose-breasted Grosbeak flies into the tree and then moves to the apple.

The next shows an adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak snacking on the apple. This is the only clip with an adult male.

This clip provides an interesting bird song, small birds hopping near the bottom (perhaps the ones that are singing), and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak eating the apple.

File 60, below, shows two juvenile Grosbeaks and an unidentified bird song in the background.

Next, two Grosbeaks.

58 starts with the quick exit of a very small bird with a bright red patch of color, two juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and near the end, a little flycatcher species shows up on a branch at lower right.

File 114 has two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (one at the apple, one lower and to the left which flies up to a higher branch) as well as a Northern Cardinal sitting on a lower branch in the lower right.

Although there are other bird species in the area that might enjoy eating the apples, in the 24 hour
duration the camera was active which yielded 220, 30 second clips (many of which were just triggered by a blowing weed or perhaps a bird fly-by that wasn’t captured), I only saw Rose-breasted Grosbeaks eating the apple. There appeared to be one male and at least one adult female, as well as two or more juveniles. These birds are either preparing to migrate from this area, or they are migrating through from up north. I did see a few Rose-breasted Grosbeaks here during the summer, breeding months. Perhaps these are the resident birds preparing for their trip south.

It’s obvious that putting the Trail Cam even closer to the action will yield more interesting videos. The camera that produced these clips was mounted about five feet from the apple. Tomorrow we are going to move it even close, after we re-charge the apple supply, as it was nearly gone this evening when I checked after teaching the weekend class.

If it’s worth sharing, I’ll upload the new images!

Got It!

A few days ago I posted some pictures of partially eaten apples in the corridor area of the farm. We harvested most of the fruit a while back, but we left the apples that Robert couldn’t reach. I knew they would not go to waste. Some critter would take advantage of the sugary energy.

We put up a trail cam to see what might be snacking on the fruit, but the first night was a bust due to condensation on the lens. Nonetheless, the apples were about 7/8 consumed, so clearly something had enjoyed them. Most people posted that squirrels were probably the culprit, but truly, we don’t have many squirrels around, so I thought we might discover a different customer. We set up the camera again. To sweeten the pot, I pressed a piece of wire coat-hanger through a fresh apple and hung over a branch in the tree.

In reviewing the 30 second clips, we had a bit of success. On a few clips a curious bird with a red breast and some black and white markings over his back showed up. The head wasn’t red, so it wasn’t a red-headed woodpecker. The red covered too much of the bird’s chest to be one of the woodpeckers. The camera was too far from the tree and the resolution a bit too low to truly get a good view of the action. I did a search for “birds with red markings” and while I had a good idea, the markings did not completely mesh up with my supposition.

This afternoon I took the trail came back out for a second go-around. Then, I sat in silence for an hour, camera in hand, waiting to see if anything might show up. I had nearly given up when there was activity in a very mature infertile apple tree about thirty feet up the corridor. Four, maybe five birds were milling about at the very top, deeply hidden in the leaves. I shot where I saw the activity but didn’t know if I’d capture anything until I got back to my office and enlarged and scanned them.

To my surprise, I saw something I wasn’t expecting. At the far upper left corner of the frame – which wasn’t close to where I had seen the other activity – was a blue-ish bird.

I think the beak is too large to be an Indigo Bunting. My best guess is that this is a juvenile Blue Grosbeak. Let me know what you think.

Here’s the bird that I captured in that same tree, where I had seen the activity and focused my camera.

Let’s get back to the apple I hung in the smaller tree as a lure. After an hour of patiently waiting, I put down my camera and grabbed my cell phone to send a text to my husband [didn’t see anything – on my way home], when all of a sudden I saw the apple shift a little. Three, perhaps four birds flew into the tree, but I focused on this juvenile male snacking.

After that incredible bird flew off, one of the others that had been higher in the tree flitted down to a lower branch. I couldn’t tell whether it was a female or a juvenile. Then I looked at the final shot as he flew off. The red under his wings may have confirmed it was another juvenile male. I have read that a female doesn’t have such a intense hue of red under her wings.

The trail cam remains pointed towards the apple in hopes that it will catch some better video of the activity. It was running when I was taking these photos, but I left it out to possibly catch a critter of the night that may also have found the fruit. We have a busy weekend of teaching a Service Dog class. But, if I get some good video off the trail cam I will share it here next week.

I had such a nice experience catching this bird as he transforms from his colors of youth to his adult plumage.

The Tale of Two Flycatchers

A couple of days ago I encountered an unknown flycatcher on a fence between Sham’s Paddock and Jaye’s Pasture – which is about centrally located on our property, and surrounded by recently cut pastures. It was obvious the bird was a flycatcher first, by it’s body style and then by its behavior. Perched on the wire, the little bird occasionally tiled his head in observation. Then, drawing his wings up a bit, almost achieving a stalking appearance, it would take off to nab its prey. Often, that was a bug hovering just above the ground. But, the little bird also looked skywards and flew straight up to catch its snack.

I don’t know what species this flycatcher is, but based on the fact it appears to have a light ring around its eyes, I am guessing it belongs to the Empidonax genus. The birds of that genus that would possibly be in my area at this time are the Willow Flycatcher, the Acadian Flycatcher and the Least Flycatcher. The Willow flycatcher is defined by both and the Audubon site as breeding in my area, and they could both be migrating through at this time. Neither the site note the Audobon site show the Least in my area during the breeding season. However, it may be migrating through. Both sources show my area as a common breeding zone for the Acadian Flycatcher. And although the birder experts have suggested I am not accurate in my evaluation, I believe that I’ve filmed Acadians hunting in the corridor area which sits between an area of mature trees and scrub brush and another area of medium growth scrubby land. Which ever it may be, those three species are quite similar in appearance and the birding experts tell me that it’s only by hearing their vocalizations that one can make a definitive identification.

What I do know is that I have observed many of these little flycatcher birds on the property all summer long, and I continue to be enamored by them. I’ve also seen many Eastern Phoebes quite often as well as heard and less frequently observed the Eastern Wood Pewee.

I can’t say they are all exceptional quality images, but I believe they are worth sharing. And, if nothing else, these photos should inspire awe regarding the incredible flying skills of this little bird. Enjoy.

At one point, this bird was joined by another. I think it may have been a young E Phoebe. Phoebes are described as having all black beaks, larger heads and an absence of wing bars. If you would like to weigh in on the identification of the Empid or the second birds, please do!

With autumn the sound of crows and bluejays fills the crisp air. It is my favorite season in so many ways. But, the little flycatchers aren’t ready to leave here, just yet. They are welcome to stick around as long as they see fit. Then, I’ll just have to wait for their arrival, again, next spring. Come back soon!

an Apple A Day?

Well, not quite an apple a day. Apparently, some critter(s) are eating their fruit judiciously.

There are two apples serving the wildlife

This is the apple tree in the corridor where I see many types of birds. I have seen a deer and her fawn in the area, as well. And, by the looks of the bites, this may be something like a raccoon. The apples are hanging around 6.5 feet off the ground, so a deer would have to stand on her back legs (which they can do to get something tasty like an apple.) But an opossum or raccoon would find it easy – but not easy “pickings” because the apple remains on the tree!

I believe a Trail Cam is in order. Maybe we can make the time to get that set up today!

A Moment In Time

Every once in a while I get lucky and the shutter opens at just the right time. These are Northern Mockingbirds.


Today was a brilliant day. The skies were clear. The air was warm – yet I could still tell it’s was no longer summer. There’s a feeling that says harvest and get your cozy sweaters ready!

As I looked around under the cloudless blue sky I saw a sea of yellow. The goldenrod is in bloom. In every direction that I look on the property, I see goldenrod gently waving in the breeze. Yellow is such a cheerful color. It’s hard to be sad around yellow.

To be honest, I didn’t know anything about Goldenrod until I did a bit of research. Quite curiously, the very first hit on Yahoo was a WebMD page. Apparently, this plant is often referred to as an herb which has some medicinal qualities. Who knew? A Healthline page states, “The herb’s Latin name is Solidago, which means ‘to make whole or heal’ and reflects its use in traditional herbal medicine. Goldenrod is most often used as a supplement for improving urinary health and reducing inflammation.” These sites offer both the potential benefits and also the required precautions of using the herb. Do your homework if you want to ingest it! But, apparently it has been used for hundreds of years as a health aide.

At a couple of home and garden sites I found information about how to utilize it’s bold, yellow color in a perennial garden! What? I thought it was a weed a.k.a. wild flower. Apparently, some people actually purchase and cultivate it. That makes me feel fortunate that Mother Nature provides it to me for free! Through the power of the internet, I also quickly learned that it is a native plant and that there are over 70 species of the autumn blooming plant found in North America.

Without the assistance of any outside reference, I learned today that Goldenrod attracts honey bees! I have filmed a few different species of bees and wasps in the past couple of years. I did a bit of research to find out that there are 77 bees, ants and wasp species in Illinois. The bees that I have captured on film are the Common Eastern Bumble Bee and the Eastern Carpenter Bee. I was very excited to see Honey bees today. And, I saw quite a few buzzing around the sea of yellow! When you examine Goldenrod up close you can see what attracts nectar seeking insects. They appear to be a compilation of hundreds of little flowers.

Goldenrod and Honey Bees were not the only yellow beauties I observed today. At the south end of the West Hay field yellow butterflies were flitting about in large numbers. I was in that area to film a new Bluebird Nest box that we put up, yesterday so that it will be avaiable in early spring, before we may want to slough throught the mud and cold weather to put it up. In this photo, you can actually see one of those lovely, yellow butterflies captured flying by the box.

I believe this butterfly is called a Clouded Sulphur.

I also saw a Common Buckeye butterfly that clearly has seen better days. Yet, framed by the goldenrod, it looks perfect.

Even this spent wild flower, upon closer inspection, was flaunting a golden hue.

Surrounded by splashes of Goldenrod, these cattails pop.

Apparently, allergy sufferers often confuse Goldenrod with Ragweed because they bloom at the same time. However, the two plants are clearly quite different in appearance. So, let me dispel that rumor – which, to be wholly honest, I never knew existed until today!

Rough Day

When you are three weeks old and people expect you to pose for too many photos!

A Plant’s Offering

It’s the middle of September. Soon temperatures will drop and it will be time to don a nice, comfy sweater during my drives around the property. Field corn is drying up and will be ready for harvest, soon. I love this image of the corn field just east of our property line. When the weather forces me to remain indoors, I believe I might try my hand at a watercolor painting of this subject.

And, while much of the flora is preparing for winter’s wrath, new growth presents itself. This fresh sprout of red clover is taking advantage of sun that reaches the soil, now that the second hay crop was cut from the fields. Clover fixes nitrogen in the earth and provides other natural advantages.

The new clover produces flowers, and those flower provide nectar for many types of insects and birds.

I was very happy to see the bee moving lazily from blossom to blossom. Apparently, this interesting iridescent beetle was also taking advantage of the nectar. I have even seen hummingbirds feed from clover flowers. I also captured a Common Buckeye butterfly flitting around. But, curiously, it was visiting a grass plant that had gone to seed. Interesting.

I like this next image of that same butterfly because it contains the curled grass that adds a bit of character to the shot.

Before human settled here, this area was primarily grass prairie. I recently learned that the word prairie means meadow in French. HERE is good, quick reference about the history of Illinois prairies. When I look closely I can see many varieties of grass in our fields. Here are a few that I filmed on my jaunt, yesterday.

I see this plant here and there, and it always makes me smile. It’s tiny, but bolt in its color choice. I looked it up and learned it is called “lady’s thumb.” It is a member of the buckwheat family!

These little daisy-like flowers bloom throughout the summer, and they are still going strong in a few places around the property in mid-September.

Everywhere I look, I see goldenrod in bloom; undulating waves of yellow.

In every inch of the prairie plants are offering their bounty to the wildlife that will survive the upcoming winter on their seeds. I am grateful that we can offer this place to the wildflowers and grasses so that they can feed the animals that bring me such joy.

Gray and Red

I heard the bird before I saw it. Years ago, I used to force my husband to go into the wooded area across the street from our old house when it heard the sound, begging, “please, find that kitten. It sounds like it’s stuck in a tree!” Now, I know that vocalization belongs to a Gray Catbird – quite aptly named.

Again, I find myself wishing I had taken more than the introductory botany class in college. I saw this bird eating the red berries off a large bush. I just don’t know what sort of shrub that might be. I did a bit of research and I believe it may be a Fly or Dwarf or European Fly Honeysuckle (family Caprifoliaceae.)

The first photo provides details of the bush, with a couple of very populated branches of berries on the left, and the bird on the right.

While I was watching the Gray Catbird, I also saw an Eastern Meadowlark and a young Northern Mockingbird. Both of them were perched at the tops of nearby trees.

Birds and Berries

My budding hobby of birding has lead to a number of other avenues of learning about the natural world around me. As I shared in an earlier post or two, we have left our property to “go natural” except for the large fields that we have cut twice a year for hay. It doesn’t produce much profit, but it keeps the pastures from becoming too scrubby. Still, the hedgerows and a few other areas which the “Hay Guy” doesn’t find valuable, are left to an even more “natural state.” That allows many sorts of plants to grow and flourish.

I’m not much of a botanist. But, on occasion, I find a plant significant or interesting enough that I try to identify it. It was photos of a couple of juvenile Northern Mockingbirds that I took this afternoon which spurred me to research a plant that has been here for as long as we have lived on this land. In the first couple of years of our residence here, I had a flock of free-range chickens. I enjoyed them, but after a while they began taking their dust baths right up next to the house. It changed the slope of the soil, and well, Robert believes it is what caused our basement to flood. So, we found a new home for the flock and my egg purchase turned back to the grocery store.

What I remember quite vividly about the chickens, was that they were highly attracted to a weed plant that grew here and there – often capitalizing on the safety of a fence line. When the plant produced berries at then end of summer, the chickens would fly up to grab them as a snack. Today, I watched a young Mockingbird nabbing the berries of that same plant. It prompted me to identify the purple stemmed bush before I posted these photos.

I wasn’t sure if this unidentified “weed” was an invasive species or native. I was happy to discover it’s native and makes a living across most of the United States. It is called pokeweed (Phytolacca americana.) Much like my former chickens, this Mockingbird seemed quite attracted to the berries, which appear green in these photos, but they ripen over time to a deep purple, and eventually a deep brown color.

If you are wondering why the background has vertical stripes, that’s actually the corrugated metal barn that is about 30 feet behind where this pokeweed was standing in a field of shorter grasses. The metal is gray, so I’m not sure what sort of lighting was going on to produce green shadows, but it is actually an interesting effect.

Pokeweed is a large plant. I read that it can grow to be up to seven feet tall. But, it dies back completely in winter, leaving behind a skeleton of dried branches, which I suspect make for good perches for the birds that stick around in winter. Here’s a photo of the pokeweed plant with the Mockingbird on the left, to provide a size reference.

There were several Mockingbirds in this area, today. Here are a few more photos that are worth sharing. This is a young bird. I could see the yellow tint around at the corners of its beak in a few images. It’s amazing how well camouflaged he in on the dead branches of this tree.