Wednesday, July 31, 2013


The expansive Laridae family of birds, known as Gulls, is part of the order Charadriiforme. They are more closely related to terns than to waders or shorebirds. The majority of gulls belong to the genus Larus.

Las Laridae forman una una familia muy amplia, del orden Charadriiforme conocidas como gaviotas. Están estrechamente relacionadas con los charranes más lejanamente con las aves zancudas. La mayoría de las gaviotas pertenece al género Larus.

They are generally large birds with mostly gray, black or white plumage, often with black markings on the head or wings. Their beaks are robust and rather long.

Son en general aves grandes, en su mayoría de plumaje gris, blanco o negro, a menudo con señales negras en la cabeza o las alas. Tienen picos robustos, bastante largos.

The majority of gulls, particularly the Larus species, are carnivores. They'll take their food from the trash when they have the chance. Their diet includes fish, crabs, and mollusks.

La mayoría de las gaviotas, particularmente las especies de Larus, son carnívoros o toman la comida de la basura cuando tienen oportunidad; en su dieta se incluyen peces, cangrejos, moluscos.

Gulls are typically coastal species of marine or coastal lakes and lagoons, and fly great distances. The larger species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but most small gull species have adult plumage within two years. It is typical to see them fly around fishing boats waiting for food.

Las gaviotas son especies típicamente costeras marinas o costeras de lagos y lagunas interiores, y vuelan grandes distancias. Las especies de mayor tamaño tardan hasta cuatro años en lograr el plumaje adulto pleno, si bien a los dos años la mayoría de las especies de gaviotas pequeñas tienen plumaje adulto. Es típico verlas volar alrededor de los barcos pesqueros a la espera de alimento.

In Spain we enjoy a variety of gulls from residents like Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin's, Slender-billed and Laughing Gull, to the increasingly common visitors like Herring and Ring-billed gulls.

En España gozamos de una variedad de Gaviotas desde las residentes como La Gaviota Patiamarilla, Adouin, Picofina, Reidora, hasta visitantes cada vez más comunes como Argentea y Delaware.

They are intelligent birds, possessing complex methods of communication and a very developed social structure. It's a challenge for ornithologists to be able to identify their varying plumages.

Son aves inteligentes, poseyendo complejos métodos de comunicación y una estructura social muy desarrollada. Es un reto para los ornitólogos el poder identificar los diferentes plumajes.

Gaviota de Audouin - Larus audouinii - Audouin's Gull

Gaviota Argéntea europea Larus argentatus Herring gull

Gaviota Cabecinegra Larus melanocephalus Mediterranean Gull

Gaviota Cana Larus canus Common Gull

Gaviota de Delaware Larus delawarensis Ring-billed Gull

Gaviota Enana Larus minutus Little Gull

Gaviota Hiperbóreo - Larus hyperboreus - Glaucous Gull

Gavión Atlántico Larus marinus Greater Black-backed Gull

Gaviota Patiamarilla Larus michahellis Yellow-legged Gull

Gaviota Picofina Chroicocephalus genei Slender-billed Gull

Gaviota Groenlandesa Larus glaucoides Iceland Gull

Gaviota Reidora Larus ridibundus Black-headed Gull

Gaviota de Sabine Larus sabini Sabine's Gull

Gaviota Sombria  Larus fuscus Black-backed Gull

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

11 Plants to Attract Birds and Other Wildlife to My Brand New Yard

My wife and I recently moved to rural northern Illinois (zone 5b), in a house we designed ourselves.

What was once corn and soybean fields is now our front and back yards.

Since moving in just two months ago, we have planted 21 trees, most of which are the beginning of a windbreak. The rest of our landscape is a barren.

Of course we want to attract as many birds (and other wildlife) as possible and we are working with a blank slate so we have many options.

Here are just eleven plants we plan on using as a starting point to add on to year after year.

1. Big Bluestem - a tall native prairie grass that provides food and a lot of cover, especially good into the winter months.

Big Bluestem

2. Prairie Dropseed - a beautiful grass in its own right but also attracts birds.

3. Cupplant - attracts birds with their seeds and their leaves; the leaves form little cups that hold water and birds will come in for a drink.

Reach for the Sky

Cupplants can get a bit unruly and take over. They grow amazingly tall too!

4. Coneflower - there are many varieties but goldfinches and sparrows feast off the seed heads and butterflies love them too!

Coneflower With A Growth

5. Arrowwood Viburnum (or other viburnums) - these shrubs produce berries that attract a ton of birds. I successfully planted one of these in my parent's yard.

Arrowwood Viburnum

6. Royal Catchfly - a hummingbird magnet! I love these red beauties.

Royal Catchfly

7. Cardinal Flower - another hummingbird favorite but one I had trouble getting to come back at my parent's house.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird {Archilochus colubris}

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds preferred feeding on the flowers over the feeders.

8. Woodland Sunflower - seed-eating birds love this native sunflower. I also love other sunflowers, especially the ones that grow extra tall.

Woodland Sunflower

9. Blazingstar - there are several varieties that attract a lot of butterflies and other insects.

10. New Jersey Tea - birds love this plant! I've never used it but I've heard it is quite resilient and deer do not like it.

11. Wild Senna - a legume that birds love and is good for the soil.

Wild Senna

I'd love to hear suggestions on other great wildlife attracting plants! I live on some of the best soil in the world, an area that was once prairie. It is silt loam, the land is nearly flat and drains fairly well and we are in full sun.

Note: We plan on moving our horse to our land, so there are quite a few plants we must avoid, including anything in the milkweed family.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bachman's Sparrows

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Bachman's Sparrow
Call 'em brown, drab and boring.  I don't care; I love these sparrows. In Florida, we get to enjoy them all year round, especially if you know where to look.  They are a "near threatened" species, though, with the leading causes being both habitat loss and degradation.  But you can still find them in open pine forests in the southeastern United States.  There are a few places near my home where they breed, and so they are also my favorite places to visit.

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Bachman's Sparrow

They breed here from April to August, and I love hearing their songs, often heard with Eastern Towhees. They can be shy and secretive, but occasionally you can see them singing on a low tree branch.

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Bachman's Sparrow
The more I spend  time observing them and enjoying them, they are really handsome creatures. There's beauty in brown.

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Bachman's Sparrow

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Ferruginous Five

This was originally posted on in a previous July when I actually had time to go birding. It remains one of my greatest moments in birdwatching.

Have you ever been so astonished by a bird sighting that your brain shuts down? No synapses firing, just a blank white void where your bird identification skills should be?

One blisteringly hot prairie day, my husband and I took an afternoon drive south east of the city to check some campgrounds for future visits. We decided to leave after lunch, and while I did take my binos and my camera, I wasn't really looking for any birds. The temperature was cresting 30°C (90°F) when we left and I figured any self respecting bird would be huddled down somewhere. And of course I didn't take a field guide with me.

We were rolling along down a gravel road when suddenly my husband hit the brakes. He had seen them the same time I did.

Five - count 'em - five hawks were sitting on the ground about a hundred yards away from the road. I tried to do the binos and the camera at the same time - I wanted it all at once! I soon calmed down, took a lot of pictures, then lifted the binoculars.
Adult on the left, baby #1 chowing down on a ground squirrel
Adventurous baby #4 has made it to the shade of a nearby tree
I was assuming this was a little cluster of Swainson's Hawks, as they are the most prevalent buteo on the prairies. But wait...they don't look like Swainson's... Maybe they're Red-tails... No, that doesn't quite fit either. The white void descended. Let me take more pictures while I think about this.

They couldn't possibly be - could they - Ferruginous hawks?

Ferruginous hawks are the largest buteo on the prairies, and are a Species of Concern in Canada. They are also classed as Threatened in Alberta. These big birds require natural grassland habitat with a thriving population of ground squirrels in attendance, and that combination is getting harder and harder to find. They produce larger clutch sizes than other prairie buteos, but the number of eggs laid can fluctuate in response to the density of ground squirrels.

Surely I wasn't sitting here in my air-conditioned truck looking at FIVE Ferruginous hawks?

Baby #2 anxiously awaits his turn
The adult has flown to a nearby fence - look at those long legs!
The minute I got back home, I raced for my raptor identification guides.

Ferrugies have four different plumages: both adults and juveniles have their own light and dark morphs. Adults can have pale or dark eyes. In flight, they hold their wings in a strong dihedral, similar to the Swainson's hawk. Their long, tapered wings have narrow dark tips on the outer primaries.

Oh sure - no challenge there at all...

They do, however, have some identifying features that set them apart from the other prairie buteos. Their legs are feathered right down to the toes, and adults have dark rufous legs that form a 'V' on the undersides when in flight. Ferruginous also have a very wide gape which the other buteos do not.

Recently fledged Ferruginous hawks have a buffy wash on their breast that fades by fall. Juveniles also have pale eyes, and white feathering down to the toes.

Check, check and check.
Hot, hot, hot
Baby #3 finally gets a bite
So taking all of these things into consideration (plus the fact I sent pictures to a birding friend and asked for confirmation) I can confirm I was unbelievably lucky enough to see and photograph one adult Ferruginous hawk and four recently fledged juveniles.

I am still agog. I may never recover.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My birds and their habitat

Just a little introduction about me, I live in central Maryland not too far from the Pennsylvania line with my hubby, son and a Golden Retriever. Some fellow contributors may already know me thru my blog but,  I see a few new names. The new reason for my introduction.
I work full time and love to go bird watching on the weekends and on my vacations. I am animal lover and I enjoy nature and the great outdoors. I have been birding for years now and I am a member of the local bird club. I have been blogging just for fun for 5years I started blogging on July 13, 2013. I admit I am a total amateur at photography, I just like taking photos of all the birds that I see and to record my lifers.

 The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak my spark bird.

My spark bird was the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. After seeing this bird in my yard and at my feeders for the first time I knew I loved  birds. I became addicted to seeing more and attracting new birds to my yard. We live in a rural area not too far from a reservoir. The reservoir and the forest attract many birds that I am happy to see visit and pass thru our yard. Most of the birds I see in our yard are the woodland birds. Some migrating birds passing thru my area and yard.  Living 23 years in our house, we have planted many pine trees,  plants, bushes and flowers. We also have a small pond to attract the birds and wildlife.

The reservoir a short walk from our house. It is like having a park right outside our door.

Above are some of the birds that I see in my yard and around the watershed area of the reservoir.The Barred Owl is often heard and seen during my walks along the fireroads in the nearby woods.

The Scarlet Tanager, Ovenbirds, Northern Parulas are just some of the breeders in the woods next to my house.

The Great-Crested Flycatcher was seen in my yard and I have seen it taking some of my dogs hair I leave out for its nest.

The Northern Parula another breeder in the woods near my house. This Northern Parula was seen in my yard.

I look forward to doing a post for Birding is Fun once a month and I hope you like my birds as much as I do. Thanks and happy birding.
I have been following Birding is Fun and some of the contributors blogs for some time now. I feel honored to be included with such a great group of birders and photographers.