Swamp Sparrow

I was down by the water at the Celery Bog this morning, watching the waterfowl and listening to the Red-winged Blackbirds and Song Sparrows sing their springtime songs when I spotted him. On a moss covered log directly in front of me sat a tiny little sparrow, the likes of whom I had never seen before. He’d apparently never seen anything like me either because he stared back with the same level of wonderment. I had a hunch that I was looking at my first Swamp Sparrow and he even posed for a portrait, although I couldn’t get him to wipe off his face!

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Cooper’s Hawk

Ahhh, sooo sunny… sooo blue… sooo HAWK!!!!!!!!! It was a perfect evening to work on my birds in flight technique and I vaguely remember thinking something along the lines of “Hurry and get set up so you don’t miss anything.” Well, I didn’t hurry and this Cooper’s Hawk cruised by almost as soon as I arrived. The ensuing scramble to get the camera pointed in an upward direction and mash down the shutter button would have been amusing and probably a little awkward for any onlookers. Hopefully there weren’t any that day.

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Hairy Woodpecker

I so rarely see Hairy Woodpeckers that I’m immediately taken by the sheer size of this bird. Big! Well, bigger than a downy. I’m also taken by the sheer sound of this bird. Loud! Well, louder than a downy. And that beak? You guessed it, longer than a downy. Today I was taken by those amazing “eyelashes” though, I’ve never noticed them before.

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Controlled Burn

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something was different about the Celery Bog on Friday. Was it the active volcano growing out of the prairie? Naw, that’s always been there. Oh, it’s controlled burn day! I definitely smelled burnt hair on the drive home but it couldn’t have been mine, I’m a highly trained professional!

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Northern Shoveler

My shovel buddies are back at the Celery Bog! I don’t know if it’s that perfect bowling pin shaped body or the big ol’ honker, but I just love Northern Shovelers. They come and go from here all winter long as the bog freezes and thaws, and right now it is THAWED!

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Bald Eagle

There wasn’t much activity out on the bog last evening; the waterfowl were all tucked in on the far side. Until the Bald Eagles arrived, that is. Up one side and down the other those two went, screaming all the way! Before long there were ducks everywhere! Then the Sandhill Cranes flew over; their sweet, chirpy squeaks filling the air. A kingfisher called out across the way, probably bragging about the dinner he just caught, and just for good measure, my one-legged Song Sparrow pal came over and serenaded me. Just like that, what started out as kind of a dud turned into a pretty great day!

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Ring-billed Gull

In Prophetstown State Park, where the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers meet, bright-eyed, shiny white birds filled the sky. One bird captured my attention though; he wasn’t shiny like the others and his eyes were dark in color. Who was this special bird? A juvenile Ring-billed Gull, perhaps? Maybe, just maybe, next year you can be a shiny white and bright-eyed bird like your friends, but for now I like you just they way you are.

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House Finch

I heard my two favorite chirps this morning at the Celery Bog: an Eastern Towhee and a House Finch. Have you ever heard a House Finch chirp? Have you? Have you? Have you? They seem to punctuate every chirp with a question mark and it’s super cute? It’s really cute? Oh great, now I’m doing it? GAH!?!?!

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Song Sparrow

When I first arrived at the Celery Bog that day, where the ice meets the dried up old grass from yesteryear, the sparrows moved slowly away. All but one, who hobbled and hopped and flibbity flopped his way through the tall grass toward me. It’s my old pal, the one-legged Song Sparrow! In the summer months he can be found in front of the nature center but today he is all the way down the hill with his buddies; it’s nice to see him doing so well. Pretty soon the other birds all returned and we had a chirptastic little sparrow party where the ice meets the grass.

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American Tree Sparrow

“I mustache you a question: is there sumfin’ in my teefs?” Hee? American Tree Sparrows are funny. I got the real sense that spring was near as I sat quietly with my sparrows crue, chorus, and grove, where the ice meets the tall grass. The birds were singing, there was a special spring-like humidity in the air, and everyone was having fun.

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Long-eared Owl

At last I have found the Long-eared Owls, fifty yards from the very first spot I checked a month ago. Fifty. Yards! I remember it well, the fork in the road I came to that day: to the left were rolling fields of gold as far as the eye could see, but nowhere obvious an owl could rest his wise old bones. To the right, though, was the most glorious stand of trees. Old growth, new growth, pines and spruce, this spot had it all, so it’s the path I chose… but there were no owls. Sometimes in birding, as in life, it’s the road less obvious you should take.

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Eastern Bluebird

I was exploring Prophetstown State Park the other day, muttering to myself about all the gray, sunshineless days lately, because that’s what photographers do, when, “Ka-Bluueeeey!” Right on cue, an Eastern Bluebird showed up with his buddies to add some color to my day!

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House Sparrow

One of my favorite noises in nature is a blissful bush full of birds, sparrows in particular. Every winter, in some dense brush just down the hill from the Lilly Nature Center, House Sparrows congregate. One bird stands guard up front, like the lead singer in a tiny bird band, while the rest chitter and chatter and chirp away!

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