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05/12/12
Illinois yard birds
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Illinois, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 4:44 pm

The car can serve as a very effective blind (or hide). One morning earlier this week, with thunder in the background, I drove around the vacant block in front of our northeastern Illinois condo. We are partially surrounded by three city block-sized parcels of land that, within the next week or so, will start to be built up into townhouses. In what was formerly a cornfield, roads and utilities had been installed and 44 of the planned 144 units were finished before the housing slump halted development in 2006.

This is the view from our front door, looking west. Not very pleasing to most folks, but I enjoy all the birds that visit and nest there. After the snow melts and the spring rains come, several large puddles (”fluddles”) attract ducks, geese, cranes and wading birds. The utility markers serve as perches for a variety of prairie birds.

Illinois Front yard 20120510

Earlier that morning, I had heard both a Spotted Sandpiper and a Vesper Sparrow singing. Both have nested here in the past, but within a few days, ground will be broken for the remaining 100 new townhouses on this site. Almost immediately I found the sandpiper atop a favorite rock pile, but it flew away as I readied my camera, only to be replaced by a Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow 20120506

The amount of yellow in their eyebrows differs in the several subspecies that breed across the US. The local birds have very prominent yellow brows.

 Savannah Sparrow 3-20120506

I found the sandpiper again further away in a fluddle across the street.

Spotted Sandpiper 20120506

The sandpipers have nested in the vacant lots every spring since we moved here in 2007. Last year, this one posed on a rock pile.

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) 20110522

I had given up the search for the Vesper Sparrow, but stopped in front of our condo to get the mail that I forgot to pick up the day before. I heard it singing on another rock pile and drove back. It posed briefly before disappearing, just as rain started falling.

Vesper Sparrow 2-20120506

This streaked Vesper Sparrow shows its characteristic white outer tail feathers and a reddish shoulder patch.

Vesper Sparrow 20120506

Other species that have nested in this field in past years include Killdeer, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Dicksissel, Song Sparrow and Horned Lark. I had not seen the latter species until a couple of days ago. It’s sad to think that their homes will probably be gone before the end of breeding season.

I photographed an American Kestrel from our front door as it hunted for grasshoppers.

American Kestrel 2-20090821

This Eastern Meadowlark appeared to have a swollen ‘ankle.”

Eastern Meadowlark 20110522

A pair of Red-tailed Hawks shared a street light pole.

Red-tailed Hawks 20110706

Late that afternoon, we were leaving our condo to join our daughter and family for dinner. Mary Lou suggested I put the camera in the car instead of storing it in the trunk, as almost every time we pass the vacant lot in front of our building we see interesting birds perched on the posts and rock piles along the road. Sure enough, this Horned Lark posed for several minutes in perfect light.

These are the first photos I have processed on my new wide-screen LCD monitor, a gift from our son-in-law. It is attached to the clunky laptop, and in reviewing my recent shots on FLICKR I can see how poorly I have been able to gauge their quality on the laptop’s murky screen. I also have switched from shooting in RAW, as the laptop’s memory can barely handle the large file size.

Horned Lark 2-20120511

Horned Lark 3-20120511

Horned Lark 20120511

In our daughter’s back yard, as  I was BBQ’ing fajitas, I heard a Savannah Sparrow singing. I ran for my camera and caught the Savannah Sparrow perching on the fence rail. As I was taking this shot, it stopped moving and cast an anxious glance skyward.

Savannah Sparrow looking up 20120509

I also looked up to find a Red-tailed hawk soaring overhead, hardly a threat to so small a bird, but enough to trigger its instinct to freeze in place to avoid detection.

Red-tailed Hawk 20120509

A Chipping Sparrow displaced the Savannah Sparrow on the fence and then perched on the tip of a small Blue Spruce tree in their next door neighbor’s yard.

 Chipping Sparrow 20120509

13 Responses to “Illinois yard birds”

  1. NatureFootstep Says:
    so many beautiful birs shots. I´m amazed. :)
  2. Eileen Says:
    Ken, I love all the beautiful sparrows and the Meadowlark. As usual, wonderful post and photo. Happy Birding!
  3. Hilke Breder Says:
    Amazing photos, Ken. So sharp, such detail; I would say textbook quality!
  4. Mick Says:
    Such a different set of birds from your other place. I hope some of them stay around after the building work starts close by.
  5. springman Says:
    Hey Ken, Your shots are looking pretty good on my murky lap top monitor! True enough though, I’d rather view pictures on my moms Ipad. I think there is a real tendency to over sharpen when your editing on an older laptop. Amazing that there is that much bird life in those meadows.
  6. Mary Howell Cromer Says:
    You got some super image captures, splendid~
  7. Aria Says:
    Such agreat number of beautiful birds. Adorable American Kestrel and th e golden eyebrows on the first sparrow are so fetching.
  8. Boom & Gary Says:
    Another great series!!Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.
  9. fjällripan Says:
    Great post!! I like all the photos of the beautiful birds!! :)
  10. Pat Says:
    Just wonderful shots, Ken!
  11. Gemma Wiseman Says:
    Beautiful, fascinating detail of the birds! Especially love the amazing lark poses! Enchanting!
  12. Larry Jordan Says:
    Amazing snaps Ken! The yellow brow on that Savannah Sparrow is much brighter than ours out West. It’s gorgeous. A most excellent shot of the Vesper Sparrow, what would be a lifer for me! A cute pair of RTs on the light post and the first shot of the Horned Lark really shows its namesake well. I love the pose of the Savannah on the rail and your Chipping Sparrow should be published in a guide book!
  13. Adam Says:
    Really stunning shots, and so many different birds.

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