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Category Archives: American Robin

Last Saturday was the annual Sandhill Crane Count which I’ve participated in for a number of years. My count area is a small area call Gilbert Creek Wildlife Area. Counting means being at the count area by 5:30am so it was an early start to the day.

I didn’t see or hear any cranes while it was dark out but I could hear some Canada Geese taking off. Once the sun was up I found a couple of cranes walking in a pasture and later heard them calling. Later in the morning I found this lone crane out on a walkabout. As I mentioned in an earlier blog I had seen a couple of cranes mating in the area so it’s possible one was on the nest.


There were some other birds around. I found the Pied-billed Grebe all alone in a small pond.


As I mentioned I had heard some Canada Geese take off early in the morning. There were still a few around but none of them appeared to be on nests.


I managed to get a rare shot of an American Robin. Given the large number of robins around I’m not sure why I not have a lot more photos of them.


More photographs from Gilbert Creek can be found on my website.

Things are finally starting to ramp up at Hoffman Hills Recreation Area. We were out last week and saw very few birds, the ponds were covered in ice and the Pussy Willows were just thinking about blooming. Things are way behind where they were last year. Last year the trees were budding, the birds were nesting and the first of the spring flowers were out. Last year was abnormal this year appears to be a bit behind normal.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Yesterday we visited again and there was quite a bit of activity. A pair of Canada Geese have returned to claim their nesting area. At the end of last year there was almost no water in the first pond. Things have improved a bit but the pond needs quite a bit more water. The pond is still covered in ice and snow but the geese had found about a three foot section that was slushy water. We noticed on the pond where one of the geese had landed when it flew in. there was a long skid mark where it slid across the ice before coming to a stop.


Skid Marks

Skid Marks


The Pussy Willows are showing more blooms now although they are probably more than a week away given the weather we are expecting.


We heard Sandhill Cranes calling, saw a Bald Eagle and saw about a half dozen Eastern Bluebirds. For the most part the Prairie is covered with snow. There were lots of American Robbins around. We also noticed three students working on some kind of film. Lots of running but I have no idea what the film was about.


American Robin

American Robin

More spring photos from Hoffman Hills Recreation Area can be found on my website.

It’s the time of year when I review the birds that I’ve photographed around my farm during the spring. I was a fairly boring spring following a rather boring winter with not many new observations. None the less there were some interesting happenings.

Eastern Bluebird male

Probably the most interesting event was the return of the Easter Bluebirds. I was able to get my first shot of them on the first day of spring. What made this such a great year for bluebirds was the fact that I set up my turkey blind in the back yard and started photographing them when they started nest hunting and followed through while they built the nest and then defended it against Tree Swallows. Apparently Easter Bluebirds build several nests at the same time and then end up using only one of them. That appears to be what happened this year. After building the nest they didn’t seem to be using it so I opened the nesting box up and sure enough there was a great nest but it wasn’t being used. This is the third year in a row that this has happened.

Northern Cardinal female

The second most interesting event was my problem with a female Northern Cardinal. As spring arrived the female cardinal started attacking my basement window. I kept hearing a sound in the basement but couldn’t figure out what it was. After several trips to the basement I noticed the female cardinal banging against the window. Our cat occasionally sleeps in the basement and it must have been driving him nuts. It turned out that the basement window was just the start of things. It then started attacking a large picture window. I tried to put something in the window to discourage it but it then moved to another picture window above it so I took the window blocker down. A couple of weeks later I was awakened by a sound outside my bedroom window. When I looked she was banging against my bedroom window just after sunrise. After about a week of this I pulled the blinds and that  put a stop to it. Attacking the windows went on for about six weeks. At one point I thought it had stopped and started to clean the windows but it started again after a few days. The male cardinal would just sit on a tree branch, with a confused look and watch her. When she finally did quit it was a big chore to clean the windows. Typical window cleaning didn’t work and I ended up using a scratch free scouring pad to get the gunk off.

American Robin

Early in the spring when the American Robins return they sometimes don’t have worms to eat so they love eating Sumac Berries. I usually put them out for the Eastern Bluebird but the Robins also feed on them.

Red Tailed HawkFor a few weeks I had a Red Tailed Hawk that was perching in a tree in the back yard. He had a great view of my  backyard prairie. I would see him perched on the same tree almost every day. I could usually tell when he was there because the Crows would soon be gathering to drive him away.

American Goldfinch male

American Goldfinches are my most frequent visitor in terms of numbers. They congregate in large numbers throughout the year. They eat me out of house and home. They particularly love Black Sunflower seeds.

Tree Swallow

As I noted above I have Tree Swallows nesting around the farm. They usually battle the Eastern Bluebirds for nesting rights. This year the bluebirds won although as I indicated they ended up not using the nesting box. The Tree Swallows wanted the one about ten feet from the bluebirds but ended up taking another nest. The irony of it was that at the end of spring the Tree Swallows ended up setting up their second nest in this house.

Feeding time

Generally I have a few House Finches around my feeders. I mainly see them when they bring their fledglings to the feeder late in the spring. I can usually get a few shots of the adult feeding the young.

Eastern Phoebe

For quite a few years I’ve had Eastern Phoebes nesting above a light over the back door of the garage. Last year they abandon the nest. This year they started nesting in the corner of my house under the deck. The first batch fledged just after the first of June. We weren’t around and didn’t seem them fledge although I did see the whole family out in the woods about a week later. This shot is a little is a little unusual. I was photographing a phoebe while it was attempting to eat a worm. After thrashing around with it for a while it suddenly went down the hatch. I just happened to catch it.

Song Sparrows

I usually have Song Sparrows nesting in some bushes in front of the house. They are near my feeders so I occasionally get a shot of them. This year, for the first time, I managed to get a shot of an adult feeding one of the fledglings.

Chipping Sparrow

Early in the spring I had  a number of Chipping Sparrows around. I thought they were also going to nest around the house but they seem to disappear later in the spring.


This year, for the first time that I can remember, I had a Pigeon appear on the farm. The neighbor has all kinds of them on his barn but they never show up at my house. I noticed him while I was mowing the lawn and after watching him for about fifteen minutes I decided to go in the house and get the camera since it was such an unusual sight.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers

Red-bellied Woodpecker fledgling

I normally have Red-bellied Woodpeckers around the feeders all year around. They love suet but only the commercial stuff not the suet you purchase from the meat market. I have an old log that I drilled holes in and fill with suet that I use for a feeder. It makes a good prop for photography. This year for the first time a fledgling showed up with an adult. I tried to get a photo of the adult feeding the fledgling but it was too dark. After a while the fledgling started showing up on its own. I suspect the adults were busy with another batch of young.

Grey Catbird

I normally have a pair of Gray Catbirds nesting in front of the house. They are a beautiful bird. I could see that they had a nest but couldn’t find it but would see them bringing food to the young.

Baltimore Oriole male

What a difference a year makes. Last year I had large numbers of Baltimore Orioles arrive in the spring. There were so many orioles around the area that the stores ran out of grape jelly. I would frequently have six or eight birds around the feeders at any one time. This year I saw a couple of them at the feeders and they were gone off to nest. I think this is my only photo of one.

More birds of spring photos can be found on my website.

I’m not sure what it is about Sumac but I seem to have a lot of photos of birds perched on Sumac. I know that bluebirds and robins love sumac but apparently lots of birds like to perch on it as well. It does make for a colorful perch for birds.

American Goldfinches

American Robin

Black-capped Chickadee

Bluebird and Cardinal

Eastern Bluebird

Blue Jay

Common Redpoll

Downy Woodpecker

Eastern PhoebeIndigo Bunting

Northern CardinalRed-breasted Nuthatch

This has been an amazing spring for bird photography around my farm. First I had more Baltimore Orioles than I’ve ever had. One appeared and then a few days later I had as many as eight at one time. They were followed by a several firsts including pair of Scarlet Tanagers who were followed by a couple of Turkey Vultures. These were in addition to all of the usual suspects.

Eastern Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebird male

Eastern Bluebird female

The Eastern Bluebirds returned the third week in April this year. Normally I’m able to get lots of photographs of them when they first return because I use some Sumac Berries to attract them to an area where they can be photographed. This year it didn’t work and they remained an elusive bird and I have fewer photographs of them than in any previous year. The female was attempting to perch on a wire during a heavy wind. The male was fluttering his wings.

Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Oriole female

Baltimore Oriole male

As I mentioned this has been an amazing year for Baltimore Orioles. Normally I have a few of them come to the feeding station around the first of May but this year they came in large numbers. I was going through a quart of grape jelly every couple of days. The numbers appearing at any one time dropped off by the middle of May but they continued to come to the feeder until the end of May. I suspect they leave to raise their young. In past years they have returned to the feeding station in July.

Scarlet Tanagers

Scarlet Tanager female

Scarlet Tanager male

I’ve only seen Scarlet Tanagers a few times in my life and never been able to photograph one. I was shocked when I looked out the window one day and noticed a male Tanager around my feeding station. I quickly grabbed the camera and started photographing him. He came to the feeder every couple of hours during the day. The next day the female joined him at the feeder. the day after that they were gone. It was an amazing experience to be able to see and photography one up close.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated sparrow

I usually see them around in the spring. I thought they might be nesting in some of the pine trees near the house but haven’t been able to confirm that.




Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

I usually have a few of these around each spring.






Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting female

Indigo Bunting male

I see these more frequently down in the valleys but sometimes they come to my feeding station for the Niger seed. They are very skittish so about the only time I can get a photo of them is when I happen to be photographing other birds and they show up at the station. The female had just taken a bath.

Grey Catbird

Grey Catbird

The Grey Catbird usually shows up in the spring. Some years they nest near the house but this year they were around for just a brief time before leaving.




American Robin

American Robin

The American Robin usually migrates but with the warming trends can be found in the area in the winter. They usually don’t arrive at my feeding station until April at about the same time as the Eastern Bluebirds.



Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak female

Rose-breasted Grosbeak male

Another spring bird and a frequent visitor to my feeding station.





Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird female

Ruby-throated Hummingbird male

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird usually arrives with the Baltimore Orioles around the first of May. It is usually a project to keep them fed.




Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallows are a frequent visitor to my farm frequently competing for rental space in my Bluebird houses. The Bluebirds seem to be the first of check the houses out but the Swallows seem to get the houses in the end.



Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch female

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is an infrequent visitor to my feeding station. One year I had a pair that were around for the winter but that is rare. This year I have a female that came to the feeder for about a week and then was gone.




Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vultures

I see Turkey Vultures flying over the farm fairly frequently but have never seen them perched. When I first saw them from a distance I thought they were immature Bald Eagles but as I approached the tree they were perched in it became clear that they were  Turkey Vultures. I started taking photos and then walking up closer and taking more photos. They let me get fairly close to them.


Northern Cardinals

Northern Cardinal female

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinals are year around visitors to my feeding station and they continued to visit the station again this year. The female was photographed during an early spring blizzard.



Mourning Doves

Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves are frequent visitors. Normally they spend their time cleaning up the seed that falls on the ground but this spring I did see them perched on my Niger seed feeding station. The dove was photographed during the early spring blizzard.



Dark-eyed Juncos

Dark-eyed Junco female

Juncos are normally a winter bird and they leave when the snow is gone. This year we had a late March blizzard so they were still around well into April.




Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are frequent visitors to my suet feeders. This year, for the first time, I created a suet feeder by drilling holes in an old log and filling the holes with suet. They really seem to like it better than just hanging suet in a metal cage.




Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Another bird that is around all year. In the first years after they were introduced in Wisconsin I had as many as 50 wandering around and any one time. Since the introduced hunting the numbers are down. I usually see them in the spring before the grass in my prairie gets too long. This year I had one charge me while I was working in the garden. Don’t know what that was all about.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch female

American Goldfinch male

A year around visitor. The numbers vary from year to year. Some years I’ve had almost none but this year they have been around in large numbers. I much prefer photographing the females because they have much more interesting colors.



Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker female

Downy Woodpecker male

A year around visitor to the feeding station.







More bird photos can be found at Philip Schwarz Photography.

I was taking pictures of several birds taking a bath last week and started thinking I probably have a number of photos from the past of birds in the process of taking a bath or cleaning themselves after a bath.

Yellow Warbler

This is a Yellow Warbler captured taking a bath in a small stream along the Red Cedar Trail. I watched him for quite a while as he would take a bath fly up to a branch and then fly back down to the stream again.

Mallard Duck

This Mallard duck spent a considerable time preening himself after taking his bath. He became a contortionist trying to make sure each feather was just right.

American Robin

This American Robin had just been in the bird bath and was spending some time working on it’s feathers.

Grey Catbird

The Grey Catbird was busy using the bird bath in front of the house.


This past Monday was a great day for bird photography. I think I managed to capture more good shots in one day than I normally get in a week. We had the first bad storm of the spring come through with heavy rain and strong winds. The lightning knocked the power out at the house for most of the day. Not much to do but read a good book and watch the birds. The storm seemed to bring the birds to the feeding station. It was a blast watching them trying to land around the feeder and once on the feeder trying to eat in the strong winds.  As I noted in an earlier post it was a record day for Baltimore Orioles. But we also had lots of other birds show-up at the feeder. I wasn’t able to photograph all of them because of the heavy rain but I was able to get some good shots during the day. I’ve finally been able to get through the photos. Here are some of the better shots, from the day, showing the range of birds at the feeder.

More photos can be found on my website.

White Throated Sparrow

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Northern Cardinal male

Gray Catbird

Eastern Bluebird male

Downey Woodpecker male

American Robin

American Goldfinch female