Friday, September 05, 2008


Photograph D. Browne
Pale Male on the Linda building with a squirrel.

It's been a rough breeding season for the birds in Manhattan and southern Wisconsin. More on that in a later post but in the meantime I'd like to know how things went in other areas so write in (click on Contact Me on the main page) so we can all hear about your birds.

To start things off, I asked R. of Illinois how things went in her neck of the woods. Her contribution to the story follows--

This year my yard wrens had two broods - one in the first brood and two in the second brood and the youngster from the first brood was assisting in the care and feeding of the second brood (bringing insects and cleaning out the poop sacs).

My sparrows usually have three broods, but only had two this year, but they were both in the spring / early part of the summer before it got dry. Also we had a severe windstorm in late June (an 82 mph gust), that sheared off 100 year old trees at the ground level, and that may have destroyed a lot of late clutches.

I have seen only one adult robin in this past spring, and no juveniles this year at all. Not a single blue jay or cardinal so far, but generally I see the cardinals more in winter. West Nile has devastated both their populations here.

My mourning doves had two healthy rambunctious babies, and that is about normal.

I have seen the East Peoria redtail pair soaring (when I drive through that area) but since I live 7 miles from their territory, I don't really know what/how they are doing. A friend/coworker, Lana, lives very near their nest/territory and has seen one juvenile in her area this year, successfully hunting baby rabbits in her large back yard.

I don't think I live near a redtail nest, but there are redtails somewhere in the area because I have occasionally seen a singleton soaring as I am driving somewhere. I am sure there are Coopers here, but I haven't seen them, or didn't recognize them. Despite my multiple feeders and yard birds, it was only last year when I saw a juvenile redtail perched on my arbor, and nary a yard bird in sight (in the bushes, no doubt). I hang all my feeders from either my awnings or the tree, so the birds are protected overhead from dive bombing in some small portion. I have found no signs of cat predation either, this year, and usually I find at least 2-3 piles of empty feathers every season. Not one so far this year.

What I am noticing that seems odd, is that a high proportion of the sparrow juveniles this year seem to be females, with only a few having that black bib coming in. Have no clue what that means, if anything. The juvenile sparrows of both genders this year have been very aquatic, spending much time in bobbing and splashing and playing leap frog in the bird baths, but perhaps our cooler than normal summer has increased their activity, or, perhaps, our cooler than normal summer has me with my window shades not drawn against the heat and I am just seeing more than I usually do in mid to late summer.

About five years ago a local farmer poisoned a large corn dump to kill crows, and birds of all feathers were dropping from the skies, literally, for weeks and weeks in the Morton area. My yard bird sparrow population dropped from dozens to three and I often would find a dying or dead bird in the tray feeders. Made me so sad and sick. The farmer was fined $50 and his knuckles barely rapped.

That is very strange about juvenile robin's making the migration...and it seems logical that the severe storms wiped out a lot of nests in spring and they double clutched, only I didn't know that robin's did that, or never noticed it before, but I can't say I have ever seen a juvenile robin in the late summer or fall.

I have seen no cowbirds this year, so far, but I think I usually see them mostly in fall and winter.

No big crows (ravens? HUGE big black birds, bigger than a good sized cat) on the scene this year so far either, and usually at least once every late summer, they come and scare the bejesus out of my yard/feeder birds for a few days.

It has been a very dry late summer here, in fact, our August was the driest on record, and perhaps that does explain the lack of robin sightings. Gustav left us with heavy rains for 36 hours the past two days, and the ground is actually soft and spongy again, but likely the robins have already gathered to head south, or maybe were south all along, or wherever was getting rain.

Here the crops are doing well. Corn and soybeans. The plentiful rains in spring gave them their good start and generally drought in late summer does not affect them much. The pumpkins are not so large this year but that would be because of the dry August, I think. (Libby's has a pumpkin processing plant in Morton and Morton calls itself the Pumpkin Capital of the World.)

Things are changing, in terms of what I am seeing in the yard and garden birds, but I don't know what it means or how significant it is, but I do think it means something. I have had more bumble bees the past two years, but that may be a result of garden plantings. Squirrel and raccoon populations seem stable. No skunks in decades. One firefly spotted about 12 years ago.


Many thanks! Very interesting as the situation is different in southern Wisconsin which is not all that far from R. in Illinois.

I'll be out of computer contact for Saturday, but things will be cooking again on Sunday. Don't forget to send in your local bird report for this season so they can start going up on the Sunday blog!

Donegal Browne

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