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07/20/12
Birds nesting for the last time
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Illinois, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 8:31 pm

I find it so relaxing to look out on an open space. Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, our sky was defined by the roof lines of neighbors’ houses (see my theological musings in this post: The Earth is Flat).  While living in Dallas, Texas, our home was hemmed in on all sides by privacy fences.

No surprise that when we retired to New Mexico, I selected a lot with an expansive view of the forest and distant mountains, and designed a home with windows placed to take maximum advantage of the scenery.

Moving to Florida and desiring another window on the natural world, we limited our choices to homes on the water. When deciding on a second home in Illinois, we were less selective because we regarded it as a substitute for a hotel room when we visited our family there, a “crash pad.”

Here’s our front yard with an added “twist.” This is the view to the south from our front door as a storm front moved in from the west in late June. The single family homes in the background are newly constructed.

Cloud South end HDR 20120629

A wall of shelf clouds preceded this severe thunderstorm, on June 29, 2012. The spaces between the cloud layers created white ribbons that stretched 180 degrees across the sky from north to south. This is the view looking north as the clouds advanced.

Cloud North end HDR 20120629

As the storm rolled in, a Horned Lark, perched on a faded utility marker in front of our home, allowed my close approach as it braced against the wind.

 Horned Lark 2-20120629

Earlier in the spring, the male Horned Larks performed their flight songs as the females perched nearby.

Horned Lark hovering 8-20120601

Our Illinois town home was part of a planned 140 unit development, but hard economic times caused the builder to abandon the project after constructing only 40 units. Building codes required that the infrastructure had to be completed before the first homes could be built. All the topsoil was scraped off a former cornfield, an area the size of three city blocks. Before the project was halted in 2007, roads had been graded and paved, street lights installed, and utility service lines were run to the sites of each of the planned living units.   As an unintended side effect of the developer’s misfortune, the disturbed land has now had about 8 years to return to grass.

To reduce the threat of wild fire, local codes also require the vacant land to be mowed at least once a year. This eliminates growth of tree seedlings and also encourages the ground cover. Our “back yard” now hosts quite a variety of bird species. Unfortunately for the birds, the renewed demand for housing has caused the developers to resume plans to complete construction of the remaining units. Groundbreaking was scheduled to begin this spring, but so far nothing has happened. Perhaps financing is again an issue. Hope springs eternal!

This past week a family of two adult Sandhill Cranes with their twin colts attracted my attention with their raucous calls. They probably nested at nearby Nelson Lake. I took this photo from our front doorstep. All these photos were taken within a few steps from home.

Sandhill Crane family in yard 20120711
 

The delay in construction has allowed our local birds at least one more breeding season. Spring rains create temporary puddles (local birders call them “fluddles”), attractive to Spotted Sandpipers that remain to nest here.

Spotted Sandpiper 3-20120515

While they do not breed here, other waders such as this migrating Solitary Sandpiper also stop to forage in the fluddles.

Solitary Sandpiper DARK 20110821

In addition to the larks and sandpipers, the open fields are host to the nests of Savannah Sparrows, …

Savannah Sparrow 20120601

…Vesper Sparrows, …

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) 2- 20100410

…Red-winged Blackbirds, …

Red-winged Blackbird 20120601

…American Goldfinches, …

American Goldfinch on thistle 20120601

…Eastern Meadowlarks, …

Eastern Meadowlark 2-20100426

…and Killdeers, here engaging in a courtship display.

Killdeer courtship 20120601

9 Responses to “Birds nesting for the last time”

  1. Laurence Butler Says:
    Great post Ken, Y’all had a bird paradise around your home. It’s a shame it’ll be gone soon, but you’ve got plenty of great shots and great photos to remember it by.
  2. Stewart M - Australia Says:
    Hi there - I love the birds - but that sky is great! (Maybe the birds win on a point’s decision - but it’s not clear cut!) Stewart M – Australia PS: sorry about the lack of thumbnails this week – will get it right for WBW # 3
  3. Boom & Gary Says:
    Beautiful Post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.
  4. Pat Says:
    What great captures of that ominous sky! Lovely bird shots.
  5. Modesto Viegas Says:
    Very good post!!!
  6. Mick Says:
    A great series of beautiful birds. I hope the empty spaces around your place don’t fill up too quickly!
  7. Mary Howell Cromer Says:
    Oh MY!!! Those storm clouds, your bird images, everything in this series is quite wonderful and I just keep scrolling back up to those storm images, whoosh~
  8. ken schneider Says:
    Thank you all! I do have hope that the delay in clearing the land means that the construction may be postponed indefinitely. There was great hype about getting all the construction framed in by October. They even bragged about agreements with the local building code office to have same-day inspections. The delay seems catastrophic for the speculators.
  9. Hanne Bente Says:
    Hello Ken. Great pictures you show - incredibly beautiful blog. Thanks for the comment on my photo blog to my reflection. Wishing you a good weekend :) Hanne Bente

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