Spring is definitely here. Today I saw my first Turkey Vulture fly over the farm.
We were driving along the road in Custer State Park looking for Buffalo and not finding any. We encountered a half dozen Turkey Vultures in the road feeding. They had no interest in flying away so we stopped and I photographed them for a while. Fortunately there was no traffic so they stayed in the road for quite a while.
When the first car came along they flew out into the prairie. There also happened to be some Pronghorn Antelope along the road. When the vultures landed the antelope took off after them and chased the away.
This past week the early spring birds started returning to our area.
Sandhill Cranes are migrating through the area. Large numbers of them can be found along the Red Cedar Trail. The spring Midwest Crane Count will be taking place on April 12th. They are looking for volunteers to count cranes.
Red-wing Blackbirds are starting to show up in the marshy areas.
A few Turkey Vultures can be seen circulating.
I think some of the birds will be surprised by the blizzard that is on its way.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I usually have a few of these around each spring.
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.
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.
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.
Another spring bird and a frequent visitor to my feeding station.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
A year around visitor to the feeding station.
More bird photos can be found at Philip Schwarz Photography.