Last night as I was filling the feeder, I spotted Carl’s girlfriend, Carly, peeking at me from the neighbor’s yard. I called her over as I was opening the garage door, figuring she would go to the feeder, but that’s not what happened at all! I proceeded to pull the car into the garage and as I was closing the garage door I heard a tiny little cardinal chirp behind me. I turned around to investigate, and it was her, clinging to a low hanging branch right next to the garage, waiting patiently for some peanuts! I laughed all the way into the house and to the back door, where I found her looking in the window from her favorite peanutty perch!
Another season of birds of the bog has come to a close, and what an amazing season it was! Some new discoveries we made this year include an Osprey and an Ovenbird, a Warbling Vireo and a Blue-headed Vireo. We saw a Summer Tanager and a Solitary Sandpiper. There was a Golden-winged Warbler and a Cape May Warbler, those were good days! I got some amazing photos of the Scarlet Tanagers and Eastern Towhees this year; two of my favorite birds. The Pileated Woodpeckers were extremely cooperative this year, even showing up in my back yard several times! The waterfowl put on a good show this year as well, we saw mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, shovelers, buffleheads and a whole bunch more. There’s a ground hog living in the woods, who knew!?!? Even the squirrels seemed to take some time out of their busy schedules to mug for the camera. I’d like to thank all of you for following along this season, and here’s to a successful bird and squirrel filled season three!
Birds of the Bog Season Two is now available in the Apple Bookstore! And it’s only $2.99! And there’s a handy-dandy link to it below! Sorry, I’ve been watching infomercials.
I used to love flipping through this old bird book, a 1964 Peterson’s Field Guide, with all its colorful illustrations, pen and ink drawings, and silhouettes. That was a long, long time ago; back then I never dreamed that I would one day be creating my own bird books using photos that I took myself! I’d been working diligently on my new book, Birds of the Bog Season Two, for a month when I had the brilliant idea to create “a few” silhouettes and sprinkle them throughout the book. Three weeks later I have 85 silhouettes and another brilliant idea! Create a silhouettes page and put it in the back of the book just like that old field guide from 1964. I get goosebumps every time I look at this modern version of the silhouettes page because it instantly transports me back to the 70’s, to a simpler time when the magical powers of a bird book were all-consuming to a little kid who liked birds.
The Brown Creeper is a mysterious little bird, revealing itself almost as if by magic, as the bark of a tree coming to life and climbing upward, always upward. These creepers spend winter throughout most of the U.S. and it’s always a real treat to see one. Such a quiet and well camouflaged little bird, I usually feel like my eyes are deceiving me when I see the bark of a tree start to move unexpectedly. Specialized, pronged tail feathers, much like those of a woodpecker, are what allow this little dude to climb up the side of trees, and climb he does! Always up, looking for insects and spiders, and then flying down to the base of the next tree. Now, spiral I get, but why on earth a group of creepers is known as a sleeze is beyond me!
I went looking for birds today and wasn’t having much luck. Usually in situations like this I can fall back on something positive about the adventure, but not today, it was just cold and miserable. But then, on my way out of the woods, I spotted them. A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers playing tag in a tree just up ahead. They were having so much fun frolicking that they hardly noticed me. Normally that’s a good thing, I can get nice and close, but if they don’t ever look my way I might not get any decently posed photos. Just before they moved on though, he posed perfectly for me and then found something delicious to slurp up!
I’m not sure why it surprises a world-class wilderness explorer of my caliber to see an Eastern Bluebird in the winter, they don’t ever leave here!!! Perhaps they are sort of symbolic of spring to me, I dunno. I suppose if you tilt your head, close one eye and squint with other, this photo becomes somewhat reminiscent of spring. Nope, it really doesn’t. I can still tell it was twenty degrees outside and this bluebird wanted to crawl up in my big fuzzy cap for a nice warm nap!
A long time ago, when I was a world famous artist studying at The Art Institute de Harrison Elementary, covered bridges were my favorite subject, my specialty really. But I always got hung up on the road leading into the bridge, I could never quite get the perspective right. I’d spend hours erasing and reworking the dang road, but I could never get it right. Ultimately, that’s what lead to my undoing as a famous artist. That, and I sucked at art. Now days, when I pull up to a covered bridge for the first time, I always look at the road leading into it, and you know what? I had it right all along!
Darlington Covered Bridge was built in 1868 by the Smith Bridge Co. and crosses Sugar Creek in Montgomery County Indiana.
Shortly after my Pileated Woodpecker showed up the other day, so too did the rest of the neighborhood. Soon the trees were filled with woodpeckers of all shapes and sizes, mostly Downey Woodpeckers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and there were also a couple of White-breasted Nuthatches. Meep meep meep, said the nuthatches as they crawled around on a limb directly overhead. Initially I thought they stopped by to see the humongous woodpecker or to see if I had any peanuts, but no, I quickly realized they were there to pluck peanuts from under the bark where they have been stashing them all winter!
I was sitting in my corner office on the top floor of the Bog HQ building, contemplating a story and a photo for today, when I heard it. “Squawk!!!” That’s funny, I just imagined I heard a Pileated Woodpecker, it sounded so real! Wait a minute, There’s a Pileated Woodpecker in my yard!!! I mean, outside my office at the Bog HQ building!!! I grabbed my gear and rushed outside, fully expecting her to fly off, but she didn’t. So I spent twenty minutes photographing and watching this big beauty, IN MY BACK YARD!!! It don’t hardly get any better than this, I thought, as the Pileated Woodpecker dust rained down upon me. Meanwhile, the squirrels have spotted me standing in my yard and have me surrounded, because the only possible reason I could have for standing in my yard right now is to feed them!
This time of year, the middle of winter, any bird photos I manage are just a bonus over and above an amazing walk in the woods. The perspective is so different in the winter, the trees are illuminated from above by the deep blue sky and from below by the snow covered forest floor. You can see what’s happening a long ways through the trees, which ain’t much, but that’s what I like about the bog in winter, it’s so quiet, so peaceful. I happened upon a whole gob of American Tree Sparrows early on in my adventure this morning. Gob? That doesn’t sound right, nope, it’s grove! A group of tree sparrows is known as a grove! They seemed to be in a particularly good mood, too, kinda like they knew something. What aren’t you telling me, bird!?! It’s about spring, isn’t it!?! Spring’s coming early!?! GAH!!! Tree Sparrows are really good at keeping secrets, apparently.
I was headed out of the woods after a particularly disappointing trip when I spotted it. Against a wall of green this creature stood out. Its black was the blackest of blacks, and its blue, well, was it the bluest of blues? Maybe, but it was something more, it was like every shade of blue. It was a perfect representation of the color blue. I was completely mesmerized by this creature and quickly forgot about the frustrating lack of birds I had experienced earlier. It’s as if the bog knew what to do for me at that exact moment in time.
From a cuteness standpoint the Carolina Chickadee is on par with warblers as far as I’m concerned, and they can be had for the low, low price of… just kidding. They’re not for sale! I can’t believe you were actually waiting to see what the price was! What I meant was, they can be seen year round around these here parts. The Carolina Chickadees have a small range as far as most birds go. Think of North America divided into quadrants, the carolina’s range falls completely into the southeastern sector. That’s good news for me, but the good news for everyone is that the nearly identical Black-capped Chickadee, as well as several other similar chickadee species, can be found all over North America. Having grown up on the plains of Iowa where the Black-capped Chickadees roam, I still have a problem calling this bird a Carolina Chickadee, but I’ll get over it!
The other day I had a perfect springtime photo in mind, and there was a bunting smack dab in the middle of it. That’s gonna be tough to beat, we’ll go with that one, I said to no one in particular. But when I typed the file number into my file manager, it was as if I had been slapped upside the head with a cold, wet herring! There’s two 7843’s? And they’re both a perfect representation of spring? What am I gonna do!?!? Once the confusion subsided, I set out to investigate this wonderful, mysterious wildflower photo, and what I found was a whole pile of ‘em! It’s all coming back to me now, after I finished with the birds on this particular day, I swapped out the big lens for a macro lens and flash. Then I went back around on the route I had just taken, stopping at all these wildflowers I had spotted during the first go around, the bird lap, if you will. Now, I’m no plantologist but just off the top of my head I’d say we’re looking at some rudbeckia, primrose, and violets here.
When I need a break from winter, I like to hop into the way back machine that is my archives. It’s not technically time travel, but when I find a photo like this I’m instantly transported back to a warm spring day from the past. The sound of buntings singing and the wind blowing through the grass. The smell of flowers blooming and the organic aroma of nature. The sun cascading downward and chiseling away at the last remnants of winter. Yeah, this is time travel in my book.