Bird Roll Call: March 24, 2018

  • American crow1,3
  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1,3
  • Bald eagle3
  • Blue jay1
  • Brown creeper (two)1
  • Bufflehead (three pairs)2
  • Canada goose3
  • Carolina wren (heard)1
  • Common grackle1,3
  • Dark-eyed junco1
  • Downy woodpecker1
  • European starling1,3
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Mallard2,3
  • Mourning dove1,3
  • Northern cardinal1,2
  • Northern flicker (male and female)1
  • Pine siskin1
  • Red-bellied woodpecker1
  • Red-tailed hawk (two flying together)3
  • Red-winged blackbird3
  • White-breasted nuthatch1
  • White-throated sparrow1

There were birds all over the yard today. It was wonderful. I put a new suet feeder out, one that’s starling-proof. The downy woodpeckers and northern flickers checked it out, but they aren’t sure how to get at the suet.

The male and female northern flickers perched in one of the sweetgum trees for a long time. The wind mussed their feathers. They looked like they weren’t sure what to do next. Dark-eyed juncos and white-throated sparrows hopped around on the lawn like robotic toys. American goldfinches and pine siskins amiably shared the two nyjer feeders. Common grackles, house finches, house sparrows, mourning doves, and northern cardinals occupied the pole feeder all day. In the evening, a male white-breasted nuthatch bustled up and down one of the sweetgums. A bit later, two brown creepers scaled the shaggy bark of the silver maple. As the sun set, I heard a Carolina wren singing day into night. He must have had a good meal to sing like that.

I saw several birds while my partner and I ran errands in the morning. The most notable was a bald eagle flying over 103rd Street just east of Antioch with a squirrel in its talons. I believe I also saw several juvenile bald eagles in the sky in Shawnee, Kansas.

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


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

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 19, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Blue jay
  • Common grackle
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • European starling
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Pine siskin
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • White-throated sparrow

It was a raining this morning, and I had things to do that didn’t involve observing birds. Still, I saw a few. It was fun watching them come out to eat and play when the rain stopped. The red-winged blackbird was absent, as was the case yesterday. I assume he’s moved on. I put grass seed down yesterday afternoon, and the birds (mainly the juncos with a little help from the white-throated sparrows) ate it all today. So it is when your yard is full of birds. The bunny who has been munching on the grass at night made a daytime appearance at the back of the yard, where old iris leaves were on the menu.

Location — in my backyard.

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

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.

Bird Roll Call: February 20, 2018

  • American goldfinch1
  • American robin1
  • Black-capped chickadee1
  • Blue jay1
  • Canada goose (overhead)1,2
  • Cooper’s / sharp-shinned hawk2
  • Dark-eyed junco1,2
  • Downy woodpecker1
  • European starling1
  • Great blue heron2
  • Gull sp. (overhead)1
  • House finch1
  • House sparrow1
  • Mallard2
  • Mourning dove1
  • Northern cardinal1
  • Northern flicker (heard)1
  • Red-bellied woodpecker (male and female)1
  • White-throated sparrow1

It was cold and sleeting. Winter weather, through and through. A European starling bathed in the birdbath. A squirrel slept on a branch with his tail wrapped over his head like a turned-up collar. The dark-eyed juncos’ tails were frozen in all manner of configurations: open fans, half-open fans, broken fans. The Carolina wren flew over to visit with me as I was filling the wreath feeder with peanuts.

Later, my partner and I went for a walk at a local creek and came upon a heronry. It was an exciting discovery.

Locations — in my backyard and at a local creek.


1. Seen at home
2. Seen at a local creek

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

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 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.