With this post I have begun migration of my blog to a new site:
I love the texture of weathered old barns. This one is on our way to the cornfields out west of our Illinois condo.
It has been an eventful two weeks since our son-in-law Roly, while deer hunting in North Carolina, fell 20 feet from a tree stand and broke bones in both of his legs. He was admitted to a rural hospital and transferred to Raleigh. After being stabilized he was transported back to Illinois and underwent surgery a few days ago (ten screws, a metal plate and a bone transplant in his right knee area, and two big pins in the other ankle).
We had planned this unusually late trip up north because he celebrated a milestone birthday on Thanksgiving Day (which also happens to be the 55th anniversary of the day I proposed to Mary Lou!). Roly is now back in his home in a hospital bed in the great room, as he is unable to walk or climb the stairs.
He took a “walk” outside for the first time on Thanksgiving morning, with his daughters, brother, cousins and his two Tibetan Mastiffs.
The house is abuzz with relatives in from Florida and Connecticut as well as well-wishing neighbors and friends. As it turned out, it was lucky that we were here to help our daughter take care of their two daughters. His parents arrived just after the injury and will stay on to help out, so we do not feel bad leaving them for sunny Florida. We are more than ready for some mild weather!
Most of our birding has been watching the feeders from the windows and back deck of their home, as Black-capped Chickadees carried sunflower seeds off, one at a time, to crack them in the trees.
The dark “bibs” of male House Sparrows have been overgrown by gray winter fluff.
When Blue Jays arrive at the feeder, all other birds retreat.
We did get out into the field several mornings. Some “outdoor” highlights of the final weeks in Illinois included taking the granddaughters to a park a few doors from their home to see the Bald Eagles that have nested there for the past couple of years. The nest tree is just across a busy thoroughfare, opposite Hawk’s Bluff Park in Batavia. The girls crept up as far as they could to get a better look at a roosting eagle.
The park includes a woodland with some big old oak trees.
We watched the eagles until nearly sunset, when it suddenly turned very cold.
A few days before, I was with another birder when he discovered a pair of Long-eared Owls in a grove of evergreens. They were roosting near an old nest that included some fresh vegetation, suggesting that they may be setting up housekeeping. Like some other owl species, they may nest as early as late winter. We are sworn to secrecy about the location of the owls, as they are rare enough to induce crowds of birders to enter the sensitive area of their roost.
We took a few photos and quickly left them in seclusion. The camera’s automatic focus did not work because of the branches in front of the owls, and my vision is not clear enough for proper manual focusing. I was so intent on trying to focus on their eyes that I did not realize that my shots did not include the lower parts of their bodies! Although Mary Lou and I had seen Long-eared Owls previously, this was my first photo opportunity.
Mary Lou and I returned to the cornfields and this time got much better looks at Lapland Longspurs. We used the car as a blind and drove slowly toward the flock. We failed to sight any Snow Buntings, though another birder photographed one at the same location a day later.
We did see a female Rusty Blackbird foraging among the corn stubble.
A brief walk in nearby Prairie Green Wetlands preserve in Batavia produced these three Sandhill Cranes.
Numerous Canada Geese flew overhead. As common as they are, I find them beautiful in flight.
American Tree Sparrows have arrived from the north.
The tree sparrow has a rather bright brown line behind its eye that does not extend to the area in front of the eye, nicely shown in this photo.
Among the flock of nearly a dozen was a single Swamp Sparrow. Note its pale throat, the more extensive gray area on its face and the dark “mask” created by the dark edges of its cheek patch.
The somewhat similar Chipping Sparrow (photographed in our daughter’s back yard) has a dark line that passes through to the front of its eye.