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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Greater Prairie-Chickens Booming!

We left at 3:30 a.m. to arrive predawn and stealthily crept through the chill darkness to wait at our blind. The faintest light appeared...slowly the males came...the dancing and the booming, reverberating-through-your-body, other-worldly sounds began. We were watching the lek mating rituals of Greater Prairie-Chickens.
Males gather and display at their mating grounds each spring. They rapidly stamp their feet and produce the booming sounds by inflating the orange air sacs on the sides of their neck, the sound comes from air passing through the syrinx and is amplified by the sacs, an extension of the esophagus. Males also make cackling and whooping noises. Females then arrive and decide which male to mate with, while the males compete for females. Females usually choose older, more experienced males with longer legs, larger eye combs, and the best territories within the lek. After mating the females nest and raise the young themselves.
This took place a number of years ago (when we were with our friends Gary and Diane Cole) at the Prairie Ridge Natural Area, Illinois, the only remaining place east of the Mississippi where Greater Prairie-Chickens, a declining species, can be found on their historical grounds.
You can listen to the sound of the Greater Prairie-chicken here


Monday, March 14, 2022

American Woodcock Astounding Behavior!!

 "Peent!!" Go listen for the nasal call of American Woodcocks, who are returning to their breeding grounds across much of the eastern U.S. and very southern Canada. Wow, what a great bird!! Those shoe button eyes on top of its head allow it to look for predators while it feeds on earthworms with its bill stuck in the ground.

One of the most astounding things about woodcocks is the males' courtship display. After giving multiple "peents" he rises in the air in a spiral, hundreds of feet high and you could hear his wings making a twittering sound. At the very top of his flight, he makes a canary-like chirping for several seconds, as he begins his descent. After landing, he begins his "peent" calls again.
Male woodcocks do courtship displays, at dusk and dawn, in open fields, hoping to attract as many females as they can. Females go to the fields, choose and mate with a male, then go into the woods and nest and raise the young by themselves. The young are born fully feathered and can walk and soon feed themselves.
If you live near open fields you can go and listen for woodcock displays and witness this amazing woodcock behavior for yourself. Getting more deeply into the lives and behavior of the birds around you takes you out of your world and connects you to something larger. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Red-winged Blackbirds have returned!!

 Here's how I was greeted this morning, "okaleeee." A Red-winged Blackbird made my day. Birds have a way of doing that, embrace it!

Monday, March 07, 2022

Purple Finches are On the Move!!


                                     Purple Finch eBird map March 2022
                                                  House Finch males
Purple Finches and goldfinch at top.

Beautiful Purple Finches seem to be on the move. Purple Finches breed across Canada, the upper Midwest, the northeastern quadrant of the U.S., and down West Coast areas. However, they winter down through the Gulf Coast states. Here's an eBird map of where they are now. Don't be fooled into thinking you have Purple Finches when you are seeing House Finches. House Finch males have more heavily streaked flanks and red color more limited to head and breast, females have plain brown faces, not the whitish eyebrow line of female Purple Finches.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Happy Bluebirds!


Come along with me my love,
And we will roam the sky;
We'll fly across the meadows,
And soar o'er mountains high.
We'll drink of streams' pure waters;
Chase butterflies and bees;
And when we tire of this, my love,
We'll rest in shady trees.
Then we will search in earnest,
Each nook and cranny wide;
Where we can raise our family,
Together, side by side.
There it is, my dearest love,
Well, goodness! Bless my soul!
Just waiting there for us, dear one,
Our house upon a pole.
A kind and careful craftsman
Has built it strong and true;
DO enter into it, my love,
And I will follow you.
Katherine M. Braun
"Bluebird Honeymoon"
And from Henry David Thoreau, Journals–March 2, 1859
"Princes and magistrates are often styled serene, but what is their turbid serenity to that ethereal serenity which the bluebird embodies? His Most Serene Birdship! His soft warble melts in the ear, as the snow is melting in the valleys around. The bluebird comes and with his warble drills the ice and sets free the rivers and ponds and frozen ground. As the sand flows down the slopes a little way, assuming the forms of foliage where the frost comes out of the ground, so this little rill of melody flows a short way down the concave of the sky."
When I wrote Stokes Bluebird Book: The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds in 1991, I included some poetry and special quotes on bluebirds in an early chapter because bluebirds are one of the most beloved songbirds who inspire and enchant millions. Birds are so much more than just their colors, wing measurements, sounds, life history information; they're winged spirits who touch our souls.