A Magical Morning

Domestic Duck & American Black Duck

Made it through an awful winter.

As I fed the ducks, a Red-tailed Hawk flew across the pond to the top of a pine, – and a minute afterward – a Great Blue Heron appeared overhead, on its way to the marsh across the street. Later, I may have frightened a pair of wood ducks off (from their cries).

However, just beyond the ducks on the remaining ice, poised to join the rest of the garbage in Springfield’s well protected waters —

Two traffic cones and wood left on pond ice after a Fire Department exercise.

The city’s contribution to natural beauty and water protection.

Last year’s fire department, ice rescue exercise left yards of plastic, incident tape on a fallen branch, to endanger birds and other aquatic life.

Abandoned shopping cart in Van Horn Park

Long abandoned shopping cart – somehow invisible to Parks Department crew.So you see Springfield’s deep respect for the environment.

With the return of spring and promise of new life. I’ll hope again this year the city starts to manage its wonderful pockets of nature to protect the wildlife and preserve its value for the people to whom it belongs.



The Awesome Things These 6 Cities Are Doing for Wildlife
With little effort, argue conservationists, cities can provide habitat for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other creatures great and small.



It’s getting closer… Click to find instructions, FAQs, Tally sheet and a List of birds for your region (U.S. and Canada)

Surviving Snow

Spent yesterday digging out of the 30 inches of snow left here in Springfield. I couldn’t push my back door open more than 12 inches and squished myself through onto the deck to commence with shoveling. Several shifts were required to clear paths from front and back doors. Hardest of all, was restoring access to the street after the city plows had passed.

However, I didn’t need the park to observe wildlife behavior. Soon after day broke, cardinals (7), woodpeckers (hairy, downy and red-bellied), and a group of 100 house sparrows, juncos and starlings were busy plucking sunflower seeds from backyard feeders. They worked, despite the overnight coating of snow, despite gusts of wind that swirled snow around, and despite snow that continued to fall until about 10 AM.

I had just reached ground level, after pushing white stuff off the deck stairs, when two poufs of dark feathers danced in the air before me, drifting with the windblown and sparkling snow.  I paused to scan the trees for a suspected raptor.  Seeing nothing, I went back to work.

A little later, during an inside break, the view from the second floor showed three craters in an otherwise pristine backyard. The first and deepest hole in the snow was ringed with dark feathers, – where a starling met an untimely end.

In the afternoon, I was excavating the driveway. Hefting the five-hundredth (or so) shovelful of white stuff, –  high and to the side, – I held my breath while half of it blew back into my face. When my vision returned I was looking at a hawk that was looking me. Sitting on back fence with its chest feathers puffed out, it looked very large, but I recognized the Cooper’s Hawk. It seemed content to continue as it was, so I returned to my task. The bird stuck around a while observing my behavior for a change.

I believe this Cooper’s Hawk has been a frequent shopper at my backyard feeders for two years, now. Its favorite meal is pigeon, and normally, it’s readily available, but the overnight blizzard and heavy snowfall sent the rock pigeons off to parts unknown to seek shelter. A starling had to suffice in the wake of the winter storm.

The Drum Off

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker (Photo credit: Ed Gaillard)

Took the new photo for the header this morning to better illustrate the season. It was a bracing 20 degrees, but after many cloudy days, the sun was brilliant.

Though I left peanuts, I am still being shunned by squirrels. Chickadees were noisy and numerous. I noted several woodpeckers chucking and churring, then at the north side I heard drumming… and then another drummer from the south, seemingly in answer. I tried to ID the bird nearest me, but even with trees bare, I couldn’t tell whether it was a Downy, Hairy, or Red-bellied.

Field Notes: June 7

2012 [Sunny; 73°]
Mammals: Eastern Chipmunk (8); Eastern Gray Squirrel (10; I killed by vehicle)
Birds: American Robin (14); Red-winged Blackbird; Chickadee; Common Grackle (6); Blue Jay; Woodpecker (knocks & calls); House Sparrows (6); (Mallard Duck (2 male & female); Canada Goose (3 adults); Eastern Phebe (or swift, or flycatcher)
Others: Fish (an 8” individual was struggling for to breathe on a man’s fishing line); crab-type spider; cabbage white butterflies; beetles; ants

2011 [Sunny; 65°]
Mammals: Eastern Chipmunk (10); Eastern Gray Squirrel (11 including a black morph)
Birds: American Robin (15); Tufted Titmouse; Chickadee; Mourning Dove; Red-winged Blackbird; Common Grackle (5); Catbird; Blue Jay; Starling; House Sparrow; Red-bellied & other woodpeckers; Wood Duck; Canada Goose (13 adult & 7 young)
Others: Snapping Turtle & Painted Turtle (laying eggs!); Bullfrog; Gnats

2010 [Sunny; 75°]
Mammals: Cottontail Rabbit; Eastern Gray Squirrel (2); Eastern Chipmunk (2)
Birds: American Robin; Catbird; Mallard Duck (6 adult & 6 young); Canada Goose (8+ adult &? young)

2009 [Sun & Cloud; 68°]
Mammals: Eastern Gray Squirrel (6)
Birds: Mourning Dove; American Robin; Red-winged Blackbird; Blue Jay; Common Grackle; Chickadee; Catbird; Oriole; Hermit Thrush (2); Northern Flicker; Canada Goose (8+ adult &4+young)
Others: Snapping Turtle (laying eggs!); Small frogs; Fish (many)

Geese abandon pond

As my daughter and I headed up the first loop through the park yesterday, we slowed our pace as a raucous wave of honking washed over us. I got excited about seeing geese in Van Horn once more.  I wanted to bid them my traditional Good bye and good luck! until the spring.  But the sound was coming from overhead, the birds passed unseen in the overcast sky.

It’s raining today as I look over my notes. I found Canada Geese present in Van Horn through November 22 in 2010. This year I last  recorded a single goose on August 24; a gang  of 4 hung around until August 17, but the group I’ve observed well into autumn every year since 2003,  disappeared a week before that (August 9). I never got to say good-bye. I wonder if there will be a return.