Bird Roll Call: February 11, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Blue jay
  • Canada goose (overhead)
  • Carolina wren (heard)
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Eastern bluebird
  • European starling
  • Great horned owl (heard)
  • Gull sp. (overhead)
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Northern flicker
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • White-throated sparrow

It was 13 degrees out and snowy this morning. Snowflakes collected in the silver maple’s shaggy bark. American goldfinches were everywhere. The pair of bluebirds came early, just before 7 a.m. and again at about 8:30 a.m. I saw the squirrel with one eye, whom I haven’t seen for several weeks. The house finch with missing wing feathers didn’t make an appearance today. This has me worried. I don’t think he made it through the cold snap. With so many missing feathers, the odds were against him.

Location — in my backyard.

Bird Roll Call: February 10, 2018

  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1
  • Belted kingfisher2
  • Black-capped chickadee1
  • Blue jay1
  • Canada goose3
  • Dark-eyed junco1
  • Downy woodpecker1
  • Eastern bluebird1
  • European starling1,3
  • Gull sp.1,3
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Mourning dove1
  • Northern cardinal1
  • Northern flicker (two males)1
  • Pine siskin1
  • Red-bellied woodpecker (male and female)1
  • Red-tailed hawk1
  • White-throated sparrow1

I woke late. Several house finches were already piled into the dogwood for a mid-morning nap. The male red-bellied woodpecker was filling a rotted-out sweetgum branch with food. Squirrels were purging old material from their nest in the other sweetgum tree. The detritus fell to the ground and scared the dark-eyed juncos.

A red-tailed hawk made a brief appearance, and the birds only acted half scared. This hawk looked much younger than the last one who visited. Its eyes were barely pigmented enough to be called citrine, and its feathers were in pristine condition. The hawk didn’t stay long. After it left, the songbirds returned to their business which, on a frigid day like this, amounted to eating as much as possible to provide the calories needed for the long, cold night ahead. I read that birds can lose up to ten percent of their body weight on winter nights. Foods like suet, peanut butter, and sunflower seeds provide the fats that are essential this time of year.

Two male northern flickers arrived in the yard at about the same time. They seemed to size each other up. I don’t know if these are the same two males who were vying for the female’s attention a little while back or if the area is overrun with these fellows. The two sat on the fence together for a little bit then separated and did their own thing, one staying on the fence and the other foraging in the garden despite the mild protestations of mourning doves.

Eastern bluebirds arrived in the afternoon. I put peanut butter bits out for them, but they haven’t found them yet. They primarily visit for the water, which is in short supply when everything freezes.

My partner and I went out looking for a suitable branch to append to the main feeder pole. We ended up behind a lawn and garden store in an area that overlooks part of Indian Creek. I stepped to the edge of the cut bank just as a belted kingfisher flew across the water with a fish in its mouth. We rounded out the day with a few Canada geese before returning home with a branch that had broken off a flowering tree in a Walmart parking lot. It wasn’t easy to cram the branch into the car, but it was worth the effort. The birds are going to love their new perch.

Locations — in my backyard, at Indian Creek near 103rd and Roe, and at Indian Creek near 103rd and Metcalf.


1. Seen at home
2. Seen at Indian Creek near 103rd and Nall
3. Seen at Indian Creek near 103rd and Metcalf

Bird Roll Call: February 9, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin (including a leucistic male**)
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Blue jay
  • Canada goose (overhead)
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • European starling
  • Gull sp. (overhead)
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Northern flicker
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • White-throated sparrow

I saw a leucistic male American robin at the birdbath while I was outside with my dog. His head was fully pigmented, but his breast, belly and back were covered in white patches. I heard an American goldfinch’s call for the second time in as many days. I looked up at the sweetgum tree and saw a male goldfinch sitting on a branch, talking away. Four white-throated sparrows were present today, which is more than I’ve seen in the yard for some time.

Location — in my backyard. A double asterisk indicates first sighting in my yard.

Bird Roll Call: February 8, 2018

  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1
  • Black-capped chickadee1
  • Blue jay1
  • Canada goose (overhead)1
  • Carolina wren (heard)1
  • Cooper’s hawk1
  • Dark-eyed junco1
  • Downy woodpecker1
  • Eastern bluebird1
  • European starling1
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Mourning dove1
  • Northern cardinal1
  • Northern flicker1
  • Pine siskin1
  • Red-bellied woodpecker (male and female**)1
  • Red-tailed hawk1,2
  • Rock pigeon2
  • White-throated sparrow1

Thanks to my new camera, I finally got good photos of the accipiter who frequents my yard. Now that I can see details that I couldn’t make out before, I believe this is actually a Cooper’s hawk, not a sharp-shinned hawk.

The male red-bellied woodpecker had a female with him today. That’s the first time I’ve seen a female in the yard. Very exciting.

I saw the male and female bluebirds at the birdbath just before eight this morning. I saw the male again about an hour later.

Locations — in my backyard and while driving through town. A double asterisk indicates first sighting in my yard.


1. Seen at home
2. Seen while driving

Bird Roll Call: February 7, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • Blue jay
  • Carolina wren (heard)
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • European starling
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Pine siskin
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • White-throated sparrow

I spent most of the day in bed and wasn’t able to watch birds today for as long as I would have liked.

Location — in my backyard.

Bird Roll Call: February 6, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • Bald eagle (overhead)**
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Blue jay
  • Brown creeper**
  • Canada goose (overhead)
  • Carolina wren
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Eastern bluebird
  • European starling
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Northern flicker
  • Pine siskin
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • White-throated sparrow

A brown creeper visited the yard for the first time today, moments before the first bald eagle I’ve seen in our neighborhood flew overhead. The eastern bluebirds visited again. That makes three days in a row. They are spoiling me.

A male northern flicker landed on the utility line early in the day, followed by another male. The two flew off together. As the morning wore on, birds fluttered all over the yard. Dark-eyed juncos zipped around the neighbor’s crabapple like stunt planes. The Carolina wren ate from the upside-down suet feeder. A junco tried to imitate the wren but wasn’t able to navigate the upside-down perching maneuver. Later, when he was done eating, the wren dropped to the ground to scoop snow into his bill.

The birdbath breathed mist into the air. Dark against the light sky, a blue jay flew above the trees with a peanut in its mouth.

Location — in my backyard. A double asterisk indicates first sighting in my yard.

Bird Roll Call: February 5, 2018

  • American crow (overhead)
  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Blue jay
  • Canada goose (overhead)
  • Carolina wren
  • Cooper’s hawk
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Eastern bluebird
  • European starling
  • Gull sp. (overhead)
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Northern flicker
  • Pine siskin
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • White-throated sparrow

I woke to rabbit tracks crisscrossing the yard, along with areas where the snow had been nosed away so the rabbit could graze on the grass beneath it.

The male and female bluebirds returned. Our birdbath must be one of the only sources of water in the area. I saw them three times throughout the day. Each time, I clapped with joy.

At least one dozen mourning doves took off suddenly and flew over the house. The Cooper’s hawk was perched high in my neighbor’s silver maple. When a Cooper’s hawk arrives, the term birdwatching becomes literal: You are suddenly watching just one bird, the one who has scared off all the others.

After about an hour, the littles started making their way back. They didn’t realize the hawk was still standing sentinel in the tree. Dark-eyed juncos, house finches, northern cardinals, and white-throated sparrows hopped along the fence railing and kicked at the ground. Both chickadees visited the feeders. I was happy to see that they made it through the frigid night. (I saw the Carolina wren later as well, another species that’s especially fragile in extremely cold weather.) One of the chickadees saw the hawk and mounted an attack. It was mob behavior without the mob. Though there wasn’t another bird in sight fighting off the hawk, the chickadee wasn’t deterred.

Birds shot through the sky, veering off course as soon as they saw the hawk. Blue jays arrived and sounded their alarms in unison. The hawk flew off to the east.

A blue jay landed in the sweetgum and found the red-bellied woodpecker’s stash of food in the jagged remains of a branch. I knew that spot wouldn’t remain concealed for long. I suppose the jay earned a reward for protecting the other birds and getting the hawk to move on.

I started taking pictures of the birds. Alarm calls rose and fell throughout the morning and into the afternoon, leaving the yard bereft of birds for swaths of time. But overall, the yard was bustling. By the end of the day, twenty-one species had either come for a visit or flown by overhead. It was a good day.

Location — in my backyard.

Bird Roll Call: February 4, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Blue jay
  • Carolina wren
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Eastern bluebird
  • European starling
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Northern flicker
  • Pine siskin
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • White-throated sparrow

Today, I looked up at one of the sweetgum trees and thought squirrels had built a nest on a low branch. The nest was actually the red-tailed hawk. I got out my new camera and took dozens of photos. The images allowed me to see much more detail than I could have otherwise. The luminous amber eye. The back feathers frayed into the shape of throwing stars. The look on the hawk’s face when blue jays were diving at its head — not irritated but something closer to hurt or disappointment.

The songbirds didn’t scatter at the hawk’s presence. They maintained a respectful (and safe) distance in the bushes and trees lining the fence. Once the blue jays succeeded in driving the hawk away, the birds emerged.

It started to snow, teasingly at first and then with conviction. The red-tailed hawk came back and sat like an urn in the neighbor’s silver maple. None of the songbirds were bothered by the raptor’s presence. Perhaps the weather was bad enough for everyone to agree to share the same space.

Dark-eyed juncos hopped through the new snow like children. I took photos of the juncos, the male northern flicker, the red-bellied woodpecker, half a downy woodpecker (she was moving too fast for me to catch her in the frame), and several house finches, including the one who is missing several wing feathers.

Looking at the photos later, I saw that the northern flicker’s breast and belly have the appearance of hearts instead of spots — dozens of tiny valentines saying to the female who passed him over, “Pick me, pick me.” Maybe that’s what his plaintive cry means. “Kyeer, kyeer. Kyeer, kyeer.” Pick me. Pick me.

I am so in love with these birds. Their lives are beautiful, complicated, and heartbreaking. I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow.

I almost forgot to mention that two eastern bluebirds visited the yard today. Such a wonderful surprise!

Location — in my backyard.

Bird Roll Call: February 3, 2018

  • American crow3
  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1,2
  • Black-capped chickadee2
  • Blue jay1,2
  • Carolina wren (heard)2
  • Canada goose2
  • Cooper’s hawk1
  • Dark-eyed junco1
  • Downy woodpecker1,2
  • European starling1,2,3
  • Golden-crowned kinglet2
  • Gull sp.2
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Mallard2
  • Mourning dove1,2,3
  • Northern cardinal1,2
  • Northern flicker2
  • Pine siskin1
  • Purple finch2
  • Red-bellied woodpecker1,2
  • Red-headed woodpecker (heard)2
  • Red-tailed hawk2,3
  • Rock pigeon3
  • Tufted titmouse2
  • White-breasted nuthatch2
  • White-throated sparrow1
  • Wood duck2
  • Yellow-rumped warbler2

I watched birds in the morning, as usual, but was distracted by my new camera. I wanted to learn enough to be able to take it to Leawood City Park so I could photograph the red-headed woodpecker.

I made it to the park in the afternoon, camera in tow. Though I heard the woodpecker in its usual spot, I couldn’t locate it. I did see a golden-crowned kinglet. I tried to photograph it and quickly realized the difficulty of that undertaking. The position of the sun was causing problems. The bird was moving too quickly. I couldn’t get the camera pointed where I needed it to point. I came home with images of empty trees, no kinglet anywhere in sight.

Locations — in my backyard, at Leawood City Park, and driving to and from these locations.


1. Seen at home
2. Seen at Leawood City Park
3. Seen while driving

Bird Roll Call: February 2, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Blue jay
  • Carolina wren
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • European starling
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Northern flicker
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • White-throated sparrow

A blue jay sang a two-note call while grabbing peanuts from the wreath feeder.

Two jetstreams drifted through the sky. I wondered if the red-tailed hawk was tracking them, still curious about what they might be.

The female northern flicker visited the yard. The male who’s been pursuing her wasn’t far behind. She ate from a suet feeder out of his sight. Impatient, he tapdanced up and down a branch looking for her. She flew away. He followed.

My new camera arrived today. It’s a superzoom that’s commonly used for birding. I spent most of the morning getting it set up. I got some delightful photos of the Carolina wren, decent photos of the American goldfinches, and blurry photos of a pine siskin. My partner took several adorable photos of the house finch who has peach and pink plumage instead of the typical red coloration. I’ve read that the variation has something to do with diet, though I don’t know the specifics.

Location — in my backyard.