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May 30, 2020

3/23/2020 1:16:00 PM
Nothing like breakfast with the birds
Outdoor Notes
Neil Case

The sky was getting light in the east when I got a bowl of cereal, a glass of orange juice and sat at the dining room table.

It was nearly dark in the dining room but I didn't turn on the light. I didn't want the light disturbing the birds at the feeders outside the window.

I have four feeders outside the dining room window - a platform bird feeder, two suet feeders and a peanut feeder.

There was a female cardinal on the platform feeder when I sat down. Another female cardinal landed on the platform feeder, then a black-capped chickadee, a white-blasted nuthatch and another chickadee.

A nuthatch landed on one of the suet feeders and a chickadee on the peanut feeder. Another female cardinal landed on the platform feeder, more chickadees and nuthatches, two tufted titmice and a blue jay. A downy woodpecker landed on one suet feeder, a red-bellied woodpecker on the other.

A male cardinal landed on the platform feeder and the females cardinals flew. They dropped down and, standing, I found female cardinals, likely those that had been on the platform feeder, on the ground below. With them were two dark-eyed juncos and a mourning dove.

All those birds are common in winter in northern Indiana. The cardinal, the chickadees, nuthatches and titmice are common birds year-round in Indiana. But where were the house sparrows and starlings, also common year-rounders in Indiana?

House sparrows and starlings flew in soon after, when the sky was light. The sparrows crowded the platform feeder, the starlings crowded the suet feeders. With the sparrows came three male red-winged blackbirds.

Red-winged blackbirds are spring arrivals although male redwings have been around a couple weeks or more. Out in the cattails around the marsh at the edge of our pasture are dozens, perhaps a hundred or more, male red-winged blackbirds. But no females.

When their nesting season end,s male and female redwings gather in separate flocks, then remain separated, segregated, through the winter and early spring. Males return to their nesting areas earlier in spring than the females and are in territories singing for mates when the females return, except when they're visiting my bird feeders.

Two purple finches, a few goldfinches, and two cowbirds flew in to the platform feeder that morning while I watched while munching cereal and sipping orange juice. There were many more goldfinches flying in and out to a thistle feeder outside a kitchen window I knew.

A chipping sparrow flew in, a common bird in summer but the first chippy I had seen this year.

A few other animals also come to my feeders but not that morning. I have seen fox, red and gray squirrels on the platform feeder and a red squirrel on the peanut feeder but not that morning. I have seen a raccoon occasionally, once two together on the platform feeder. I have seen an opossum on the platform feeder.

When I finished eating my breakfast I decided to go for a drive, to look for birds along country roads, to make it a day of birding, not just a day of breakfast with the birds.

I saw the swans on our marsh, mute swans, year-round residents except when the marsh is frozen over. I saw a sandhill crane standing in a pasture.

I saw several small flocks of Canada geese. I slowed and stopped at most lakes, marshes and flooded fields hoping to see mallards and buffleheads and blue-winged teal and other ducks but didn't see one. When I stopped by a wetland I also looked and listened for common yellowthroats but didn't see or hear any.

I did see several eastern bluebirds, some vultures, a few red-tailed hawks and, three killdeer and, of course, many crows.

(Case can be reached at neilcase@ligtel.com or 0439 S. 50W, Albion, IN 46701.)

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