Caller ID?

courtesy commons wikimedia

courtesy commons wikimedia

Surely you’ve heard plenty of birds calling by now. Here in SE Michigan, plenty of spring species have arrived: red-winged blackbirds, turkey vultures, great blue herons, goldfinches, house finches, and more than I can currently recount.

Have you taken time to listen to the calls? Can you identify the singers? I’ve noticed more about robin calls this spring then I had before. I’ve also had the pleasure of hearing more than the original nesting pair of red-winged blackbirds in my neighborhood–there have to be at least three pair now. I find their calling the most interesting out of the birds in my neighborhood. What’s your favorite birdsong?

I’ve found a few interesting tools that help bring birds in closer for viewing, or at least create some interaction between them and me. One are various kinds of bird calls. I bought a crow call which works well as I’ve brought in some crows twice now with it. Supposedly it works with wild turkeys too, but I haven’t tried it that way at all. For my birthday this month I received a hawk call and an owl call. I haven’t been able to use them to any effect yet, but you can be sure I’ll be trying this summer. I can do a decent Eastern screech owl call without any artificial aids, but my barred owl call might use the help from the plastic call.

Another interesting item I’ve come across is this book. I haven’t finished reading it, but so far I’m impressed simply by the author’s writing style. Dunne uses humor in a genre that tends to be very SERIOUS, full of gravitas, as this is NATURE we’re talking about, we can’t be joking. As I mentioned I haven’t finished it yet, but it looks helpful and is wonderfully readable.

So, if you haven’t paid attention to the warnings, flirtation, and other bird chatter happening around you, get outside, sit still and enjoy the concert.


Who’s calling, please?

While SE Michigan still appears in various hues of brown, there is more sunlight, and the temperatures are creeping upward.  The maples and a few other trees have buds for fingernails, and you see green spikes shooting up here and there; one might even spot irises showing off.  These all foreshadow the show that is to come over the next month, month-and-a-half.

Increasingly, the bird song should include voices you haven’t heard in some time (again, that would depend on your region–do you live somewhere birds don’t leave?  I don’t think that happens, but correct my ignorance.)  Therefore, this month’s challenge is an audible challenge.

Before I lay down the parameters of the challenge let me offer a little lesson.  Why do birds sing anyway?  Generally, it’s for two reasons: 1) males are trying to attract a mate or 2) males are defending their territory.  Some birds spend as much as 70% of their day singing–which for them is a good use of their time.  If you aren’t a professional singer, then 70% of your day spent signing might be counter-productive, not to mention annoying to your family or friends.  Some birds “sing” not with their whistles and calls, but like many woodpeckers with the tapping of their beaks.  And a fewer still use the sound their wings produce to “sing.”

So, when you hear birdsong, you may be near some amorous conversation OR some one is telling someone  else to KEEP OUT!

April’s challenge is this: go outside, find a spot to stand or sit for some time and listen.  Can you identify the bird(s) calling?  Is there a variety to the song–birdsong for the same species has regional variations–or is it just a note or two?  How many different bird songs are happening?  Can you spot the birds singing and is the target of the song visible?

Try it out.  Please, leave comments below about what you’ve heard and seen.IMG_4540 IMG_4380  A note on the photos: I wish these were taken in my backyard.  Alas.  These are my photos, though and were taken in Michigan.

Welcome to the World

Surely things are sprouting in your shoulder of the woods by now.  My family went out and helped to collect maple sap just over two weeks ago; the maples had started to bud, but I spotted this/these in the woods: snowdrops.  Does this flower grow in your neighborhood?  Granted, I was about 10 miles away from my neighborhood, but it was still part of the same riparian system.  Today, I saw two dandelion blooms in a neighbor’s yard.  I have frequently been hearing the flute and tootle of a red-winged blackbird.  This leads only to one inescapable conclusion–spring is on the move!  Post your findings.  The next challenge comes after Easter.


Hey, Bud…

It’s March which can only mean that the white-knuckle grip of winter is loosening (though for the southern hemisphere, it’s on it’s way in three months–which I’m curious, by the way, what’s it like to celebrate Lent and Easter during the fall?).

So, the light endures longer, the temperatures creep up, the wet soil exudes odors once again.  March is a month on the edge–balanced between winter white and spring brown.  Robins have been spotted in SE Michigan as well as sandhill cranes.  I haven’t remembered to check for them, but one might be able to spy snow fleas bouncing near the base of trees.

This month’s challenge doesn’t require any identification skills–though you still might want to employ them–go outside (of course) and submit the date when you notice the first buds sprouting.  These buds (or in times of dearth–a bud) can be from some irises you planted (yes, I’m forgoing my chauvinism for all things native for this month) or from the tree you identified back in the fall or last month. Simply make sure it is a new bud and not a seedhead left over from last summer or fall.

What you might not know about tree buds is that if you have neighbors who keep honeybees, those bees, providing they survived the winter, will be out searching for nectar found in those tree buds.  Sometimes maple, certainly basswood, but many trees are one of the earliest sources of nectar for honeybees here in the north at least.  Oh, I almost forgot to tell you to look for snowdrops, usually the earliest of the wildflowers to appear–almost always before the vernal equinox.

There you are, readers.  I’ve given you another opportunity to go outside, explore your ecosystem, and sharpen your ID skills.  I’d love to see some posts about your first sightings of spring in your neighborhood.  Let me know.


You shouldn’t see trillium blooming in March in Michigan, but it’s the only photo of mine I have from last spring still on my hard drive.