Wildlife Watching by TR Michels
As I looked out the kitchen window last spring I was astonished to see three male Indigo Buntings and five male Rose Breasted Grosbeaks on the ground. It was the first time I had ever seen an Indigo Bunting, and I was amazed. Their blue color was astonishing; I don’t know that I have ever seen anything as beautiful before. I quickly called my wife Diane and my two youngest children Dallas and Tawnya to see the birds. For the next hour we watched as they fed at the bird feeder and on the ground underneath it where some seed had fallen. I don’t know what it was about that day but we saw several other birds. There were the usual House Sparrows, Black Capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nut Hatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers and Mourning Doves. There were also Cardinals and Blue Jays and a family of four Red Squirrels. It was a great day of bird watching.
Since that day I have purchased another seed feeder, put out a suet basket, and regularly place an apple or an orange on the top of the feeding pole. Throughout the spring and summer we have Red-headed Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Northern Orioles, Common Grackles, Starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Chipping Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, House Wrens, House Finches and Gold Finches visit the feeder. Since we live on an old farm site we also have Cedar Waxwings, Crows, Barn Swallows, Bank Swallows, Common Flickers, Robins and Ring-necked Pheasants visit the yard. At night Diane has seen several raccoons and a family of opossums.
Behind the house, in the sky over the old pasture, we regularly see Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures. In the pasture we have Eastern Bluebirds, American Kestrels, Eastern Kingbirds, Great Crested Flycatchers, Bobolinks, Meadowlarks, Common Yellowthroats, and in the spring, endangered Upland Sandpipers. In the grove behind the house I’ve seen Catbirds and Brown Thrashers. I’ve even seen Canada Geese, Snow Geese and Hungarian Partridge in the bean field not more than a 1/4-mile from the house.
As a hunter and game researcher I spend a lot of time watching animals. I have seen Barred Owls, Great Horned Owls, Brown Creepers and Pileated Woodpeckers while hunting. I once had a Screech Owl come within five yards of me while archery hunting for deer. While we were doing turkey and deer research last spring Diane spotted an immature and a mature Bald Eagle behind the neighbor’s house. We also had an Osprey hang around for about a week. Along the river I regularly see Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Black-crowed Night Herons, Mallards, Wood Ducks, Kildeers and several species of sandpipers. In the spring we had a Pied-billed Grebe and a pair of Goldeneyes stay on the river. Last winter I saw a Horned Lark and several Snow Buntings in the field east of the house.
Obviously I see a lot of turkeys and deer while doing my research. When I don’t see deer or turkeys I use my binoculars to see what birds are making all the noise around me. I spent one whole morning calling turkeys while I watched Yellow-rumped Warblers and Palm Warblers catching bugs. I’ve also been lucky enough to see a pair of Coyotes and a pair of cross-phase Red Foxes hunting. I’ve been scared half out of my wits when I jumped several American Woodcock while deer hunting and I’ve heard Ruffed Grouse drumming in the woods, but I have yet to see one in the three years we have been living on the farm.
Watching animals is a great way to learn about animals and nature. And a great way to get parents and kids involved in the great outdoors.