Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mixed feelings about leaving winter behind

As our most recent visit to NE Illinois draws to a close, the visions of Snow Buntings, Northern Shrikes and Snowy Owls that danced in my head are beginning to fade. While time afield has been limited by the weather and our duties, we have had a few opportunities to drive out to vast areas of corn fields a few miles west of Batavia, where we have been staying in our daughter's home. She and her husband made progress in their recovery from recent injuries. Thankfully, she is now able to drive their two daughters to school. Since this was the most critical task we had to perform for them, there is now less need for our continued presence.

When we arrived in early February there were a few clear days before the snow and cold set in. We did not find our target birds, but this old barn was an attractive subject.
Barn HDR 2013024
We visited the banks of the Fox River and found flocks of Common Goldeneyes.
Common Goldeneye 20130214
The males were performing courtship displays, fluffing their head feathers and pointing their bills straight up to the sky. The females acted as if they were not impressed by this amazing feat.
Common Goldeneyes courtship display 3-20130214
Several Bald Eagles flew over, including this immature bird.
Bald Eagle 20130214
The ducks took flight at the sight of the eagle...
Common Goldeneye in flight edit 20130214
...but soon settled back down on the river.
Common Goldeneyes landing edit 20130214
Several Common Mergansers were also present.
Common Merganser 20130214
Most of our "birding" was at the feeders in our daughter's back yard. Before the snows came I could get good shots of Northern Cardinals and Black-capped Chickadees from their rear deck.
Northern Cardinal 20130218
Black-capped Chickadee 20130218
Then came the snow. Agramonte, their 100+ pound Tibetan Mastiff really enjoyed falling asleep under a blanket of the white stuff.
Agramonte 20130227
The snow has been deep enough to block access to the feeder on the other side of the fence. Now the little plastic barn feeder that hangs just off the deck is the only one in operation. This does bring the birds closer, but they must be photographed through double-paned glass windows. Therefore my images are mostly soft and blurry. What else is a birder to do when house-bound?

The local throngs of House Sparrows were joined by Dark-eyed Juncos...
House Sparrow 20130305
Dark-eyed Junco crop 20130223
...the Northern Cardinal...
Northern Cardinal 3-20130305
...more chickadees...
Black-capped Chickadee 20130305

Black-capped Chickadee 2-20130305
...and a flock of American Tree Sparrows.
American Tree Sparrow 20130227

American Tree Sparrow 20130228

American Tree Sparrow 3-20130227

American Tree Sparrow 3-20130228
Dried cherries clung to two trees in the back yard, attracting juncos...
Dark-eyed Junco 2-20130227
...American Goldfinches...
American Goldfinch 20130225
...and American Robins.
American Robin 20130302
When the roads were cleared we ventured out to the cornfields.
Cornfield HDR 201300302
Mary Lou usually accompanied me, as I can depend upon her sharp eyes to spot little flocks in the snowy fields, if they are present. So far we have found only Horned Larks and a single Lapland Longspur. I have had to settle for distant views and soft images of both species.
Horned Lark 20130225
Lapland Longspur 20130228
Early one afternoon I drove out alone and Mary Lou missed the best sighting. I spent about an hour scoping out the cornfields in Sugar Grove, west of Batavia, again looking for Snow Buntings. None were to be found, but I saw this Coyote.
Coyote cropped 20130225
Two Northern Harriers swooped over it, one a subadult male and the other presumably an immature female. 
Northern Harrier 20130225
The harriers  exchanged places on a fence post and watched the Coyote as it passed by along the hedgerow.
Coyote and female harrier 2-20130225
The Coyote moved directly to the north, and when about 0.7 miles away (per Google Earth) it turned to the left and started chasing two deer along a farm road. The Coyote ran after them in two sprints, then stopped. The deer looked back at the Coyote on the road.
Deer look back at Coyote 20130225
The Coyote gave up the chase and simply turned around and walked away.
Coyote gives up chase 20130225
The two deer were joined by another that came out of the high grasses along the track. They watched the Coyote for a few minutes and then walked back along the same path and disappeared behind the hedgerow.
Third deer joins them 20130225
I just know that as soon as I get back to Florida I will start reading about all the Snow Buntings that are flocking in these corn fields! And shrikes? Snowy Owls?


  1. i'm laughing at your 'seeing the future' angst. :)

    ah, well... your photos are still great, even through glass.

  2. Thank you for sharing your images from "up north"! They're great!
    Try not to think about what you'll miss but what treats are in store for you here in Florida! Blue skies, warm temps, birds of all colors!

  3. Those goldeneyes are just so entertaining when there are females around right now. All that puffing and cooing seems to impress none, just us birders. Some interesting observations with the Coyote there Ken, the birds and the deer keeping a watchful eye.

  4. Great shots! I love the coyote.

  5. Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  6. A beautiful winterscape with the corn fields, the snow, the barn, the coyote, the fabulous dog........and the variety of birds!!! I'm glad you pointed that out that that was an immature bald eagle 'cause I would've guessed a golden eagle.

  7. WAU - what a nice post with both birds / a beautiful dog and wolf.
    Here in Denmark has been seen / photographed wolves. One has bitten approx. 30 causes death. We have not had wolves in this country the last 200 years, not until in November 2012, there was found a dead wolf in Thy - Southern Jutland. Since there has been seen a few wolves in a plantation about. 25 km from where we live. Thanks for the comment on my blog :) Hanne Bente

  8. Those goldeneyes are amazing. I don't think we get them here in central Florida? Love the dog in the snow shot!

  9. A great series - the coyote and deer are especially interesting to me.

  10. A lovely serie of photos! Well done!

  11. Great series of birds and critters. I am sure your daughter loved having you two there to help out. The Goldeneyes are wonderful, one I am hoping to get shots of. And the dog is a beauty! Wonderful post, Ken!

  12. Wow, what a great series! That's a handsome coyote. The ones around here are pretty straggly looking.

  13. Glad your daughter is recovering (I don't know what happened before)
    You show very nice and interesting pictures here, I can't choose anyone special, they all are.
    Greetings from Sweden and Pia

  14. Wonderful series! Incredible views of the coyote/deer...but I love the birds the best. You really saw a lot of them up there in the great frozen north (and your pics through the window are as good as most people get in perfect circumstances). And you know you'll see all kinds of birds when you get back here where you belong :>)!....

    So glad to hear that the recovery went well.

  15. Wow, what a great series and the story that goes with it is wonderful. To see the Coyote so close and be able to track and watch it a bit must have been thrilling~

  16. Great set of pictures. How is it possible to bend your neck like that??

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW

    Stewart M - Melbourne


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