Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Yard Birds

Yesterday was one of the birdiest days in the backyard that I've had the pleasure to enjoy in a long time. I got home from work and spent almost an hour wandering around with binoculars and camera. I even saw a couple of birds that I couldn't identify, but thanks to my good birding friend Hap in New Hope, he was able to positively ID these birds for me -- even with these fairly crappy photos I attached to his e-mail. While neither of them are lifers, both are first-time additions to my backyard list.

Hap identified this one as an Eastern Phoebe. I knew it was some sort of a flycatcher, and before it turned on the branch, I was able to note that it had a light yellow wash on its belly. It was a fairly large bird, in fact I first thought it was an Eastern Kingbird when I saw it land in the tree, but the tail was wrong. All spring and summer I hear phoebes singing in the woods up the street from our house, and they've probably been in my backyard before, but this time I was lucky enough to actually see one!

Farther out in the yard, I spotted this bird (about the size of a red-winged blackbird) in the top of an apple tree. At first the coloring reminded me of a female or juvenile Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (and they're still hanging around here). But after I looked at it closer, the beak and head were all wrong for a grosbeak. I scoured my field guides, finally decided it must be some sort of a sparrow, and included these photos in my e-mail to Hap. What do you think it is??
If you answered "Female Dickcissel," you would be correct!

Actually, I was pretty darn excited to know that I have finally had a Dickcissel visit my backyard, and here's why...... Several years ago, when I stopped mowing that 1-acre patch in the backyard, the reason I gave Mr. Johnson was that it would help save on gas and lawn mowing time, but my ulterior motive was to create a wild grassland area that might attract dickcissels and meadowlarks. To date, I have not seen either bird in the backyard, however some undeveloped industrial areas a few miles north of us have dickcissels hanging around all summer, so I guess my backyard might have been a quick stopover on fall migration.

Thanks again Hap! I'm so grateful for your help with identifying these 2 birds.

And on a totally unrelated note and for my Minnesota blog readers only, here's a link to a really cool mapping site (North Star Mapper) that I got last week from Margaret at the Minnesota DNR. She had sent me an e-mail asking for the "exact" location of where I'd seen the Loggerhead Shrike earlier this summer. I was able to use this site to give Margaret the specific X, Y, Latitude and Longitude coordinates of the bird's location for the DNR's records of this rare Minnesota bird. I was also able to use the site to get a good aerial look at my own backyard!


Gaelyn said...

Seems like you were being extra observant. How very cool to see birds you know are around but haven't seen in your own back yard. I'll bet you'll see more of them there now. I really like the idea of allowing the wild grasses to grow for all kinds of habitat.

Kelly said... lucky duck!! I would love to have a Dickcissel visit my backyard. Sounds like your naturalizing your backyard has paid off. I've been watching for Dickcissels all summer at different meadows and fields around Cincy but have not seen any this year.

Jayne said...

How exciting Ruthie! I have to admit, I'd never even really heard of a Dickcissel! Off to my field guide to look that one up!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Gaelyn,
I don't think more observant, just more patient--walking slower and standing still improves my chances to see birds.
Our neighbor stopped mowing years ago and at first I was irritated because their yard looked so crappy--full of weeds and grass up to your knees, but now, in conjunction with my unmowed acre, there's a total of almost 4 acres of wildlife habitat. I have to think that's been a major contributing factor to the increase in wildlife and birds we see in the backyard now.

Thanks Kelly. The Dickcissels aren't really that common around here either, but once you find them, you're pretty much guaranteed they will be in the same areas year after year. I love hearing their calls. Good luck to you in your quest for them.

Hi Jayne,
I saw and heard my first one about 5 years ago, out in a rural habitat area in Fillmore County. If you can find Eastern Meadowlark habitat, you may be lucky enough to find Dickcissels too.

Richard said...

I have lots of Phoebes around but normally only see them in spring and fall. Think a large number stopped by on their way south. Never seen the Dickcissel yet but always on the lookout.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Congrats on the new yard birds! I've never seen a Dickcissel!
I agree that we are so lucky to have Hap's help on ids. I always learn something from Hap.
(Hi Hap!)
I'm going to check out that mapping site. It sounds interesting!

eileeninmd said...

Congrats on your new yardbirds. I have not seen the Dickcissel as of yet. Maybe soon.

Birdsong said...

I had a 'fall migration' day like that last week, after unusual heavy rain.. seems a change in the seasons has brought you some real finds!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Richard,
You will probably hear the dickcissels before you see them. They're really enthusiastic singers. That's how I got to know them.

Hi Lynne,
Next summer if you get a chance to come down this way, I'll show you dickcissels and maybe that loggerhead shrike too (if it comes back here again)

Thanks Eileen. To see the dickcissel though, you'll have to plan a trip to the Midwest next summer. They don't generally range much farther east than Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Come to Minnesota if you want to see one for sure! I'll show you where they hang out.

Hi Birdsong,
The day I saw all the birds was a moist and gray day too. Now this afternoon the wind is roaring out of the northwest! I'm sure any birds even considering migrating are taking advantage of this tailwind.

Robin Ripley said...

Great idea to leave the area unmowed to attract birds. Yep, it's all about habitat. Sadly, around here unmowed field=snakes. With chickens and little dogs, we have a mowed field.

(Missed you! I've been bad about visiting around.)