Bird Roll Call: March 23, 2018

  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1
  • Blue jay1
  • Black-capped chickadee (heard)1
  • Common grackle1
  • Dark-eyed junco1
  • Downy woodpecker1
  • European starling1
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Mallard2
  • Mourning dove1
  • Northern cardinal1
  • Northern flicker1
  • Pine siskin1
  • Red-bellied woodpecker1
  • White-throated sparrow1

I had to take one of the suet feeders down because the starlings were mobbing it. As soon as it was gone, the downy woodpeckers started spending more time at the nearby upside-down suet feeder. I didn’t realize how much the starlings’ presence was bothering them. The blue jays have no use for my peanut feeder now that it’s warmed up and there’s other food available. They fly away now when I come out to fill it. I miss seeing four of five of them flying to the feeder at once.

Tonight, my lawn was littered with juncos, white-throated sparrows, and mourning doves. Cardinals, finches, and sparrows crowded the feeders. I never feel alone when birds are near.

Locations — in my backyard and while driving across town.


1. Seen at home
2. Seen while driving

Bird Roll Call: March 18, 2018

  • American crow1
  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1,2
  • Black-capped chickadee1
  • Blue jay1,2
  • Bufflehead (three pairs)2
  • Canada goose2
  • Common grackle1,2
  • Dark-eyed junco1,2
  • Downy woodpecker1,2
  • Eastern bluebird2
  • European starling1,2
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Killdeer2
  • Mallard2
  • Mourning dove1,2
  • Northern cardinal1
  • Northern flicker1
  • Pine siskin1
  • Red-bellied woodpecker1
  • White-throated sparrow1
  • Wood duck2

Today, I saw two American robins leaping off a neighbor’s roof over and over again. They would land on the roof, run over to its edge, leap down to the ground, and fly back up to the roof. While all of this was going on, a blue jay was riffling through leaves in the home’s gutter. It was all very enteratining.

I also saw a male northern cardinal feed a safflower seed to a female. He flew over to the fence where she was perched. She responded by hopping away from him. He pursued her and extended his seed-filled beak. She took the seed and held it in her beak until another male flew to the other side of her. She dropped the seed and flew away.

At Meadowbrook Park, we saw a dead mallard lying by the trail. The red-tailed hawk perched in a nearby tree told us all we needed to know. The hawk wasn’t able to return to the duck, at least not while we were there, because it got caught up in what appeared to be an altercation with two other red-tailed hawks.

Locations — in my backyard and at Meadowbrook Park.


1. Seen at home
2. Seen at Meadowbrook Park

Bird Roll Call: March 17, 2018

  • American crow1
  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1,2,3,4
  • Belted kingfisher (heard)3
  • Black-capped chickadee1,2,3
  • Blue jay1,2
  • Brown creeper1,2
  • Bufflehead (three pairs)4
  • Canada goose1,2,4
  • Carolina wren1
  • Common grackle1,3,4
  • Dark-eyed junco (including both pink-sided** and slate subspecies in yard)1,2,3
  • Downy woodpecker1,2,3
  • Eastern bluebird2
  • Eastern phoebe2
  • European starling1,2,4
  • Fox sparrow1
  • Golden-crowned kinglet**1
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Great blue heron3
  • Killdeer (heard)2
  • Mallard2,4
  • Mourning dove1,2,4
  • Northern cardinal1,2,3
  • Northern flicker1,3
  • Pine siskin1
  • Red-bellied woodpecker1,2,3
  • Red-winged blackbird (male)1,3
  • Song sparrow2
  • Tufted titmouse3
  • White-throated sparrow1
  • Wood duck2
  • Yellow-rumped warbler2

I saw my first-ever golden-crowned kinglet in the yard this morning. I also saw two birds in the yard for the second time ever: a brown creeper and a fox sparrow. The blue jays have been coming closer and closer to me as I fill their peanut wreath each morning. Today, one landed on the fence just a few feet away. The bird chattered at me, first in two notes followed by two more notes a half-step lower than the first pair, then — as its impatience grew — in four longer, repeated notes. I responded by calling “peanut, peanut” in a descending half-step, which I’ve started doing whenever I am filling the feeder. Beofore I even began walking away, the jay was slipping a peanut from the wreath. Four more jays followed suit when I was at a safe distance.

It was colder today, which might explain why the pine siskins returned. They stayed all day long. My last sighting of them in the yard was March 7 and, before that, February 19. Among the dark-eyed juncos, I spotted my first pink-sided subspecies among the slate-colored birds who usually visit.

My partner and I saw a leucistic yellow-rumped warbler with a nearly all-white head at Leawood City Park. An eastern phoebe was flying low over the lake at the park hunting for insects. I was able to view the bird for a long time, which will help me identify the species in the future. Eastern bluebirds and yellow-rumped warblers flitted about on the rocky shoulders of the creek.

Locations — in my backyard, at Leawood City Park, at a local creek, and at Meadowbrook Park. A double asterisk indicates first sighting in my yard.


1. Seen at home
2. Seen at Leawood City Park
3. Seen at a local creek
4. Seen at Meadowbrook Park

Bird Roll Call: March 16, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Blue jay
  • Carolina wren
  • Common grackle
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • European starling
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • Red-winged blackbird (male)
  • White-throated sparrow

It was a rainy day, and I didn’t spend as much time as usual watching the birds. I did take peanuts out for the blue jays mid-morning. Three jays landed in the nearest tree and began chattering at me, something the sounded like a combination of delighted and demand tones. In the afternoon, the entire neighborhood was flooded with alarm calls from birds. A red-tailed hawk was flying from one house to another in a loose spiral. All day long, the male red-winged blackbird sang his song and its variations. I kept the window cracked so I could hear him.

Location — in my backyard.

Twitter: Geometry

I found a heronry today near my home.

Birds froze to things last night: utility lines, branches, feeders. They left feathers behind when they flew away.

Geometry: two northern flickers — one on the utility pole, one in the sweetgum — and me, below, standing between them.

A European starling found a white feather and dropped it in the birdbath.

A blue jay used a peanut shell to bully other blue jays. He wielded it like a little sword.

Overhead, a single herring gull flew behind several ring-billed gulls.

I am as fussy as an American goldfinch.

I don’t know where the birds go at night, but I want to go there, too.

Songbirds slid off iced branches this morning.

The correct image is always a seed — it contains its own explanation, and defines itself. — Charles Wright

The ground has thawed. Squirrels play in the wet grass.

Morning: A squirrel drags a dried hydrangea blossom to his nest in the silver maple.

The grackles arrived this morning. In the near distance, hundreds of Canada geese are moving north. Only a handful of juncos remain. One sings from the back fence.

I hear tapping on a nearby tree. Two red-bellied woodpeckers jag through the air. They needle the sweetgums then disappear.

I am mildly interested in leaving the house but only to go watch birds somewhere else.

Sunny and warm. Clear skies. Two geese fly past the tornado siren tower.

I live knowing there is a Turin horse in my future, a suffering so great it will finally break me.

Twitter: Bird Blind

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing / and rightdoing there is a field. / I’ll meet you there. — Rumi

I imagine the field of no-ideas rustling with sparrows.

I’ve decided to come home to myself. I’ve been away too long.

I mean, my body has already come home to itself. My mind just got wind of it and is trying to take all the credit.

I feel a twinge of sadness when the American goldfinches fly off to my neighbor’s pin oak.

I feel bad about playing with boas when I was younger. I take feathers seriously now.

I waited all morning for the eastern bluebirds.

I watched birds for years without seeing them.

My house has become a bird blind.

I woke to bluebirds.

A yellow ball flies through the air: children playing.

The more I watch trees, the more I dream of trees.

Backlit birds and a bright gash in the dark sky.

A chipmunk scuttles home before the storm.

A blue jay covers a peanut with leaves before going back for another.

I don’t want to look at birds because I want to anticipate looking at birds.

The rain falls whether you think about it or not.

A wet house finch sings from my windowsill.

Bird Roll Call: February 19, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Blue jay
  • Canada goose (overhead)
  • Carolina wren (heard)
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • European starling
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Northern flicker
  • Pine siskin
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • White-breasted nuthatch
  • White-throated sparrow

The day was dark and stormy. I love the way birds behave in this weather, not panicked but animated, driven. A bright gash opened behind the trees, backlighting the birds. It seemed to prompt my favorite chipmunk to return home before the weather got any worse. A blue jay covered a peanut with leaves. A house finch slipped on the wet roof. Another blue jay unleashed the dreaded hawk alarm. American goldfinches flittered like moths.

Location — in my backyard.

Bird Roll Call: February 17, 2018

  • American crow3
  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1
  • Blue jay1
  • Canada goose (overhead)3
  • Dark-eyed junco1
  • Downy woodpecker1
  • European starling1
  • Great horned owl (heard)1
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Mourning dove1
  • Northern cardinal1
  • Northern flicker (male and female)1
  • Pine siskin1
  • Red-bellied woodpecker (male and female)1
  • Red-tailed hawk2,3
  • White-throated sparrow1

Sleet covered the ground. It was dark and thirty-five degrees. In the distance, the birds were shadows moving among branches. A dozen European starlings flew to the east, blotting the sky. Blue jays followed. American goldfinches scattered like flecks of gold tossed from someone’s hand. A drenched squirrel sifted through wet sunflower seeds littering the ground. A house finch, a dark-eyed junco, and a white-throated sparrow sat in the lilac at the back of the property as if its bare branches could provide protection from the rain.

Birds funneled back slowly, starting with the juncos. Six white-throated sparrows scratched at the cold soil. A northern flicker and downy woodpecker landed in one of the sweetgum trees at the same time. A house finch sang from his perch on the sunflower seed feeder. The sky grew lighter.

Locations — in my backyard, at Meadowbrook Park, and while driving.


1. Seen at home
2. Seen at Meadowbrook Park
3. Seen while driving

Bird Roll Call: February 15, 2018

  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1,2
  • Belted kingfisher2
  • Blue jay1
  • Canada goose (overhead)1,2
  • Dark-eyed junco (heard at MP)1,2
  • Downy woodpecker (heard at MP)1,2
  • Eastern bluebird2
  • European starling1,2
  • Gull sp. (overhead)1
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Mourning dove1,2
  • Northern cardinal1
  • Northern flicker1
  • Pine siskin1
  • Red-bellied woodpecker (heard at MP)1,2
  • Red-tailed hawk2
  • White-breasted nuthatch1
  • White-throated sparrow1

A blue jay imitated a starling today, repeating a mechanical two-note vocalization as it scanned the yard looking for peanuts. At 8:30 a.m., I opened the window and listened to the church bells. In the early afternoon, I heard a dark-eyed junco singing and chipping in a way I’d not hear before. A male northern flicker drummed loudly throughout the day on various surfaces. Some of them sounded more like metal than wood.

At sunset, my partner and I took our dog out for a walk at the park across the street. We saw a red-tailed hawk who was probably still a light morph but who had darker markings than the ones who visit our house. Its eyes were dark, too, like smokey quartz, which is indicative of an older bird. We kept walking and ran into a pair of eastern bluebirds who were exploring an old woodpecker nest as a potential nesting site. I hope they find it suitable.

Near one of the park’s interconnected lakes, we came across a female belted kingfisher sitting on a stone wall. She’s probably the same one we saw in that location back in December. As we walked away, we heard her rattling from one side of the lake to the other while male mallards pumped their heads and performing a move called “head up, tail up” to impress females. Several bluebirds darted from another lake to a nearby tree. A train whistled in the distance.

Locations — in my backyard and at Meadowbrook Park.


1. Seen at home
2. Seen at Meadowbrook Park

Twitter: A World of Wounds

One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise. ― Aldo Leopold

I enjoy feeding the birds.

A murmuration of starlings buzzed the cars on I-35 today.

The female northern flicker appears to have selected one of two suitors. The rejected male spent the day looking for the female. He sat in my yard calling for her. “Kyeer, kyeer. Kyeer, kyeer.”

The red-tailed hawk returned to the yard this afternoon. I have a crush.

These birds are my commitment remaining in the present.

I heard a blue jay cheep like a small songbird at the red-tailed hawk today. I’ve never seen that approach before, and I have no idea what informed the behavior.

I just played Vivaldi on my flute for the house finches.

Many people have an idea of what a bird is, but because they don’t pay close attention to birds, they don’t know what an actual bird is.

If you don’t pay close attention to birds, don’t write about them. Certainly don’t snare them in your nondescript haiku. Real birds deserve better than what you have to say about them.

I like men who walk their dogs in the woods.

Two paths trisect the snow-mantled yard: one to the birdbath, another to the bird feeders.

Juxtaposition: a brown creeper on the sweetgum, a bald eagle in the sky.

When I grow up, I want to spend all my time with birds.