Back to Birds!

"None of your knowledge, your reading, your connections will be of any use here: two legs suffice, and big eyes to see with. Walk alone, across mountains or through forests. You are nobody to the hills or the thick boughs heavy with greenery. You are no longer a role, or a status, not even an individual, but a body, a body that feels sharp stones on the paths, the caress of long grass and the freshness of the wind. When you walk, the world has neither present nor future: nothing but the cycle of mornings and evenings. Always the same thing to do all day: walk. But the walker who marvels while walking (the blue of the rocks in a July evening light, the silvery green of olive leaves at noon, the violet morning hills) has no past, no plans, no experience. He has within him the eternal child. While walking I am but a simple gaze."

― Frédéric Gros
After a couple cups of coffee, I headed out to Pheasant Branch Prairie check for migratory sparrows. Initially I was feeling a little unmotivated, but knew once I got out there and started walking around I would get into the groove of seeking and finding. I knew within a few hours the place would be covered with muggles, so I didn't waste any time. One of my first encounters of the outing was a fairly cooperative Lincoln's Sparrow, which is a favorite sparrow of mine. 
What a view! A mere glimpse of these little brown jobs never does them justice ― their color, detail, and curious behavior shouldn't relegate them as such. They're beautiful little boreal birds that require optics to truly appreciate. This particular sparrow held this perch for longer than usual for what's typically a secretive and skittish species. Was it curious about me? It seemed to be looking in my direction, but one can't really tell what they're focusing on.
Oh ... a feather check! And the preening went on for several minutes. I guess I'm OK! 
Sparrows in the thicket appeared to be keenly aware of birds of prey that were flying overhead. Not only a couple of circling and hovering Red-tailed Hawks, but also a flyover Merlin, two Peregrine Falcons, and a Cooper's Hawk. Any time a raptor was spotted, the sparrows sounded alarm calls and took cover into the dense tangle of habitat. 
A somewhat apprehensive looking Song Sparrow after one such alert. 
A messy-billed White-throated Sparrow. 
A Gray Catbird obtaining nourishment from Elderberries. 
And a fall/winter plumaged American Goldfinch.
One of the Red-tailed Hawks took to a perch. Those eyes, right? So intense. Though songbirds probably aren't on this hawk's menu, the smaller avians do not fail to take note of the terrifying perched feathered predator. This raptor probably had its attention set to rabbits or ground squirrels that occupy much of the drumlin's slopes. After snapping a few photos, I carefully retreated so as not to disturb the hawk any further. Once a fair distance away, I checked back to see the hawk still perched on the tree limb. That's ideally the way I like to do this sort of thing ― to have minimal impact on Nature and her critters. 
Honeybees on New England Aster.
An otherwise fantastic outing met the bad news part ― there's almost always something like that these days. Anyway, I was saddened and angered to see that someone had dug up dozens of Stiff Gentian plants where they'd been growing for over a decade. It isn't that they were eaten ― they were just gone. Why would anyone do such a thing? I scoured the area and managed to find two plants that the gentian thief had apparently missed. I recall the first time we spotted them there and how excited Sylvia was to see them. Oh, it's a common plant, but that only adds to the frustration of it all. 

They'll return. 
Yesterday I went to Lake Barney with Mark & Dottie Johnson to look for Nelson's Sparrows. It was a tad breezy, but we managed to find several of them. Initially we set out for Browne Prairie near Goose Pond, only to find that the area where we found so many of this species last year had been converted to an agricultural field. And here I thought the spot was part of the Audubon property. Lake Barney is a reliable location for Nelson's Sparrows, but I do occasionally find them elsewhere, like Pheasant Branch and Shovelers Sink.
Pheasant Branch Prairie 
Sep 26, 2021 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM
39 species

Canada Goose  
Ring-necked Pheasant  
Mourning Dove  
Sandhill Crane  
Cooper's Hawk  
Red-tailed Hawk  
Downy Woodpecker  
Hairy Woodpecker  
Peregrine Falcon  
Eastern Phoebe  
Blue Jay  
American Crow  
Black-capped Chickadee  
Horned Lark  
Golden-crowned Kinglet  
White-breasted Nuthatch  
House Wren  
Gray Catbird  
Eastern Bluebird  
American Robin  
House Finch  
American Goldfinch  
Field Sparrow  
White-throated Sparrow  
Savannah Sparrow  
Song Sparrow  
Lincoln's Sparrow  
Swamp Sparrow  
Eastern Towhee  
Red-winged Blackbird  
Common Yellowthroat  
Palm Warbler  
Yellow-rumped Warbler  
Northern Cardinal  
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  

All images © 2021 Mike McDowell