Friday, November 23, 2012

Parting shots-- eagles, owls and longspurs

With this post I have begun migration of my blog to this new site:
(Note the hyphen in "rosy-finch" to avoid visiting a Japanese site!)
My previous blog archives will still be available at, but I have had to turn off the comment feature because the other ISP lacks effective defense against comment spam. It has gotten so bad that I often receive over 300 comments daily and must spend much time trying to weed out the legitimate comments among all the spam, much of which has objectionable content.

There may be a few bumps in the road as I become familiar with the new system,
 so I ask readers to be patient. I will turn off word verification and trust the new host to do a much better job of filtering out the spam. 
Please direct any comments to this new site, or contact me directly if necessary.
Thank you!

I love the texture of weathered old barns. This one is on our way to the cornfields out west of our Illinois condo.

Old Barn HDR 20121111

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.

roly wheeling 2-20121122

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.

Black-capped Chickadee 20121117

The dark "bibs" of male House Sparrows have been overgrown by gray winter fluff.

House Sparrow male 20121117

When Blue Jays arrive at the feeder, all other birds retreat.

Blue Jay 20121117

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.

Mooseheart Bald Eagle 20121116

Nietas watching eagles 2-20121118

The park includes a woodland with some big old oak trees.

Old Oak HDR 20121118

We watched the eagles until nearly sunset, when it suddenly turned very cold.

Batavia Sunset HDR 20121118

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.

Long-eared Owl COREL 1-20121103

Long-eared Owl COREL 3-20121103

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.

Long-eared Owl 2-20121103

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.

Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) COREL 4-20121111

Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) COREL 2-20121111

We did see a female Rusty Blackbird foraging among the corn stubble.

Rusty Blackbird female 3-20121115

A brief walk in nearby Prairie Green Wetlands preserve in Batavia produced these three Sandhill Cranes.

Sandhill Cranes 20121115

Numerous Canada Geese flew overhead. As common as they are, I find them beautiful in flight.

Canada Geese 20121115

American Tree Sparrows have arrived from the north.

American Tree Sparrow 20121115

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.

American Tree Sparrow 20121120

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.

Swamp Sparrow 20121115

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.

Chipping Sparrow 3-20120509



  1. I hope the new format works out for you Ken. Blogger has worked well for me for several years and things have improved. Let me know if you're ever wanting to do something with it and just can't figure it out and I'll see if I can help. I've updated your BiF profile, links, and RSS feeds so that all of your posts here show up on the BiF Facebook page and Twitter.

  2. Thank you, Robert. My old blog was bare bones-- no gadgets, no flexibility in format, and worst of all, no protection from comment spam. Now I must learn more about Blogger features. Next job is find out how to put in a subscription link for the rss feed. Snow flurries this evening and 20 degrees expected overnignht. Back to Florida in the morning!

  3. Oops! I just found the link to the rss feed. I had installed it already without even trying!

  4. Wonderful post, Ken, with great pics of Illinois birds! Looking forward to next post from Florida. Congrats on joining Blogger. It's been years since I have gotten any real spam. The only one I am getting now is an occasional comment from "anonymous" with link to a commercial website which I delete.

  5. Lovely birds and old barn. Sorry to hear about your sil's accident, that is no fun at all. Also sorry to hear all the pblms with spam you are having; hope the virtual migration cures that problem. And wish you good luck with your real migration to sunny Florida -- we're just about ready to fly south too. And we too are ready for SUN!!!!

  6. @ Hilke-- Thanks for the feedback about spam. I turned off comments on my old blog and just checked-- it has 124 new comments, all spam! Need to talk to tech support.
    @ Sallie-- Hurry down! It was 20 degrees this morning when we left Chicago on an 8 AM flight. Landed at noon in Fort Lauderdale at 76 degrees, but now it is down to 62 at 8:00 PM, with 57 expected when we hope to get out on our patch around sunup tomorrow! Torn between watching the Notre Dame- USC game or just turning in with the windows open.

  7. The new site looks great, Ken. Wonderful bird pics, especially those owls. How lucky for you to be able to photograph them! Glad your son-in-law is on the mend.

  8. Great series!! I'm a sparrow fan!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  9. Thank you for taking us birding "up north" before you migrated! Terrific images. Welcome home.

  10. Your son-in-law seems happy enough now Ken - he had a bad fright I would think. Good to see you introducing your granddaughters to nature with the Bald Eagle a good subject for them to appreciate. Good pics of the owls and as you say those Long-eared can be be fairly long in the body too. We have the same problem here when they are located at roosts - too many people want to see them, and because the owls are actually very hard to see from just a few yards away the birders are likely to walk right into the roost without realising it. Fingers crossed, I don't have a major problem with spammers on Blogger but always view comments first to weed out any that get through.

  11. Glad I found your new blog, Ken.. it looks terrific.
    Nice that Roly is recouping at home.
    Thanks for sharing your northern birds!

  12. Terrific shots, love that owl!

  13. What a lot of excellent photos of your birds, Ken!
    Love the owl and the last photo is spectacular!
    Sorry for your son-in-law, hope he will soon get better!
    Greetings Pia

  14. always enjoy your photos! the chipping sparrow is GORGEOUS! the eagle and owl shots i am envious of! i am glad your son-in-law is doing better! how terrible!

    and i am adding your new site to my reading list, finally!

  15. Another great series of photos. I like the photo of the little granddaughters enjoying views of the eagles. The Owl was a very special find.

  16. Hi Ken, sorry you were getting so much spam at the other site. Awesome birds and photos on this post. The Owl is my favorite and I would love to see the Longspur. I hope you SIL recovers quickly. Happy Birding!

  17. Great photos, and a perfet post for WBW!
    Well done!

  18. Wonderful pictures of the owl - but I really like the small people bird watching - thats what we need kids to do!

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW - Stewart M - Melbourne

  19. Thanks all, for the well wishes and encouragement!

    @ Phil & Eileeninnd

    Thanks for the added reassurance about the lack of comment spam with Blogger. So far I have not gotten any, though I just looked at my old site and there are over 200 posts in the moderation queue since yesterday, ALL spam. I will avoid using word verification as long as the spam filters are so effective.

  20. I think house sparrows have taken over the world!! Yet to see a tree sparrow - they're not that common downunder - so great to see the differences between the species shown so beautifully!! AND ... love the sunset shot - magnificent!

  21. @Red-- It is interesting that the House Sparrows are struggling to survive in some parts of the world. They are quite dependent upon humans. I saw only one over an 11 year period in my mountainous New Mexico backyard. Here in South Florida they have never appeared in my neighborhood (for me to see, at least). Yet they are found in the downtown areas of both NM and FL.

  22. Great series!! I'm a sparrow fan!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River.printing in nj .


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