Barred Owls in the 'hood
The first time we found nesting Barred Owls was in the spring of 2010. This species doesn't build a nest, but will use tree cavities or old hawk or squirrel nests. We had seen a pair actively guarding the crotch of a pin oak tree, chasing squirrels away. On 5-16-10, a young nestling was seen peeking out of the hole.
The following day, the young bird climbed up out of the cavity for a better view of the new world it was about to enter.
On 5-18-10, it was time to spread its wings! It would attempt to fly, then ascend another tree by using its bill and talons to grab onto the bark and flap its wings to climb up the trunk. It was quite a memorable evening as we watched this young bird explore the trees.
The ever watchful female was close by, guarding its offspring. Jump ahead eleven years to this week.
On Saturday, 8-21-21 around 7:15 a.m., a Barred Owl flew from the maple tree down to the stream bed of the pond. Took this photo through the gazebo screen with my phone to document. It went down to the water and then I was able to go inside without disturbing it.
Hmmm, I thought. "He wasn't fuzzy, was he?" Well, its head certainly was.
The bird hunted from the sugar maple and then flew to the east slope, working on low branches. A couple days later, it was back in the pond cypress, shaking water off its feathers and preening. In the comparison photo below, it's pretty clear we have a new kid on the block!
This young owlet was curious and energetically explored our woodland, including the Bubbler area. This all happened just after noon in the brightest part of the day on Monday, 8-23-21. It was hot and humid, but as you'll see in the video, the bird found its own way to cool off!
What a hoot!
To learn more about Barred Owls, check out this page:
Into fall migration!
The first cool front of August followed a very warm week. A lot of robins were seen at the bubbler, and like this immature bird, they were panting to release heat. Northern Flickers pushed in for their turns at the crowded basin.
A Blue Jay squawked and splashed, getting in several times, enthusiastically drenching its feathers. Thursday evening, the storm front moved through with strong winds and rain, the temperature dropped twenty-five degrees. Saturday, the robins had moved on and our first migrants showed up.
Did you find the bird? It had grabbed a small winged insect to eat. It's a female Kentucky Warbler, first female that I've seen here.
The warbler found more to eat, then bathed and flew to the native hydrangea to shake its tail feathers and preen. Just as it finished, another bird flew in.
This was a female Scarlet Tanager, probably a first year bird. The plumage of this species is a bit greener than the Summer Tanager's orangey hue. It's a bit smaller bird and the bill is also proportionately smaller.
Usual suspects continue to visit the feeders and the garden. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are looking a bit ragged! Goldfinches have been busy at the coneflowers.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies have been at the coneflowers, too. The females can be black or yellow. Monarch caterpillars are still feeding on the Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and another butterfly has been ovipositing on the plants.
A male American Bumble Bee was found gathering pollen at the Ironweed (Vernonia arkansana).
(I had misidentified this bee. Thanks to Kathy Bildner and James Faupel for correctly identifying it for me!)
An Eastern Cottontail Rabbit was enjoying violets near the bubbler. There have been several in and out of the garden on a regular basis. Now, do you recall the old cowboy song, "Home, Home on the Range." That came to mind as I watched this doe and its two fawns this morning.
So we wait for the next cool front...
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I believe we are made to connect with nature and we are extremely fortunate when we come to appreciate that healthy connection.
I try to spend some time outside every day. Often, I'll have a subject in mind to photograph and study and then that idea is quickly upended by the discovery of something new, right under my nose. Thursday, I had hoped to catch a young hummingbird at the Cardinal flower. It was a lovely, cool morning yet somehow, the bird knew the nectar was not available. It was going to some buttonbush and salvia blooms that were in more sun. So, I looked around.
A tiny critter moved on the Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) about 10 feet in front of me. At first I thought it was a spider, but no, it was a true bug that we had not seen before, a Spined Assassin Bug (Sinea diadema). Read more about this beneficial insect predator here:
We were having lunch later that day in the gazebo when I saw a Monarch fly north out of the garden. Dan saw another on the Marsh Milkweed, and I went down to find that it was a female. The butterfly laid several eggs before going back to sipping nectar. This new generation will be the butterflies that complete the migration to Mexico.
A Familiar Bluet damselfly was flitting around on the Coral Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) in the breeze. It's no wonder that these insects inspire artists and moviemakers with their fantastical looks.
Earlier in the week, the Barred Owl was back in the Roughleaf Dogwood next to the deck. We had heard both of the owls the night before, just outside our window. It stayed until about 11:30 a.m. when a Blue Jay spied it and started making a racket. We have been hearing them more often but still not sure if they had any young.
Several of you have commented on how "cute" the fawns were in the last post. Well, my friends, we must face facts. "Cute" fawns do grow up and our neighborhood is now inundated with White-tailed Deer. There are no natural predators, i.e. wolves, to keep their numbers in check and that fosters disease in the resident herd. Last February, we saw firsthand a doe that was so sick it could no longer stand, flailing its legs in the air. It was not a pretty picture on a Sunday morning. The doe had to be put out of its misery by our local police officers. We thanked them, surely that was beyond the call of duty. No, as it turns out, they get calls like ours often.
This is the first year that we have seen these bucks with their large racks of antlers so early in the season. Half of the homes in the neighborhood have family dogs, so you can guess where the deer tend to concentrate.
We have put up with some loss of vegetation, but decided it was time to restrict their movement in the Bubbler Area before the hormones kick in with the imminent breeding season. So, Dan partially fenced off the area. We'll see how this works. So far, so good.
The birds have adapted, even using the fencing to perch on. Squirrels and raccoons can still get underneath because Dan positioned it high on the stakes. The buck decided to hunker down and wait to see if we'd take the fence down. No joy there.
The hummers are enjoying all the blooms right now as they chase each other through the yard. My favorite annual is the Fuchsia Gartenmeister, which closely resembles the Coral Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). The birds love it, too. The Fuchsia blooms from late spring til frost, producing flowers as the Coral Trumpet wanes.
This young hummingbird zoomed right in to sip at the native Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).
Ironweed (Vernonia arkansana) is just blooming and it soon will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. American Goldfinches are finding Purple Coneflower seeds to eat.
We've had a nice break from the heat, but there are still warm summer days left to enjoy.
Stay cool and stay well!
It's time for Answers!
It helps to look for field marks such as wing bars, eye-rings that are split or complete, leg color, etc. Females of each species are often duller in plumage. Best of luck and have fun!
Yellow-rumped Warbler - yes, this one is a little tricky because this female is not showing off its named-for diagnostic field mark.
Blackburnian Warbler - this bird is a first year female, it has very pale markings.
Tennessee Warblers - these are first fall birds and they often come in small flocks together.
Orange-crowned Warbler - a first fall female with dull, grayish, streaky plumage and whitish split eye-ring.
The next series of photos are followed by labeled photos with the answers on them.
Yes, that is a real photo! Migrating birds often travel in mixed flocks. Think about 'safety in numbers'. Hope you had some fun learning about these special tiny birds. They'll be showing up very soon. Now, for a few of the latest sightings here at Shady Oaks.
A young Red-shouldered Hawk was seen one day, hunting near the garden.
The Northern Flickers had a successful brood of at least 3, two males and a female. The female is shown first after bathing, the two males follow. One of the males has a bit darker markings and perhaps it's the older nestling.
That flicker has been after the Roughleaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii) berries. It's the first time I've seen a woodpecker species go after them.
The American Robins showed up the other day and they were all over them, too. There were at least 36 robins here, and I even saw two young Eastern Bluebirds near the pond, the first young birds of the year. I suspect the bluebird family wanted to get in on that action, but there were just too many robins around. In the following video, a robin is in the upper left corner working on the berries when two does and two fawns come in.
Last but not least, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers are starting to pick up. They are chasing each other at the feeders and through the garden, too. I watched a young bird at the Black-and-Blue Salvia, then it went on to the Pickerel, Indian Pinks, and Cardinalflower blooms. This cool front today may bring more in as well.
Enjoy the migrating birds!
Lesson #1: Enjoy every bird!
Truth is, you'll hear more birds than you see,
and you'll see more birds than you can possibly photograph.
Birds began coming to the Bubbler within a few days after it was completed on 10-22-2000. After a visit by a Varied Thrush on a wintry day in 2003, the tenth record of this species in Missouri, it became time to put aside colored pencils and document birds with photographs. Dan helped me get set up with a digital camera. It was our introduction to the digital format of photography, with the camera connected to a spotting scope. It was cumbersome, it was slow and it was certainly challenging to focus on fidgety little birds! It did teach me patience, however, and ready or not, the birds kept on coming. Blackburnian and Chestnut-sided Warblers have always come down through the trees to enjoy the water feature. These images were some of the first taken with that digiscoping setup.
Spring is always exciting because these neotropical migrants are in their vibrant breeding plumage. Fall is another story entirely. Some species look about the same, and some have molted into a duller version of themselves that almost looks like a totally different bird.
These composite photos display the changes in their attire that are protective camouflage as they return to winter homes. It helps them blend ever so easily into the softer greens, yellows and rusty shades of autumn. This attribute also makes them more difficult to watch and identify as they move along the branches and grab caterpillars off the native plants. Add in the new first year birds of each species, and well, it's enough to make one's head spin!
Now, I have not seen every warbler species in every year. But over the 25 years we've been here, I have seen all 36 of the most likely warblers to be seen in our area. This is the third year that we've listed 29 species. Adding another species this fall would set a new record for our sanctuary. Yellow-throated, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, or Hooded Warblers might show up. A rarity is possible. The photo above shows a first year female Blackpoll Warbler that was here on 10-4-13, a third fall record for this species in Missouri. Doesn't it look similar to the Bay-breasted Warbler above it? Its orangey legs are key to separating it from the other species, and though only one photo was taken, it was enough documentation for that record. Most Blackpolls migrate much further to the east but it is likely that there are more in Missouri that get lost in the shuffle. Our yard does seem to be a "migrant trap" and is just very attractive to these tiny birds.
For those who would like to take the Fall Warbler challenge, here are a few quiz photos. Answers will be posted next time!
You may also want to check out this updated gallery to study the birds and search for the answers. It will open in a new tab for comparison.
Remember to enjoy every bird!