Our bird populations have seasonal rounds. Most of the songbirds like robins and meadowlarks have left. Now the main birds that we see are either passing through or are the ones that stay around all winter.
Bald eagles stay year round. Here’s a photo of one that was recently flying around the ‘Eagle Tree”. When we first moved back to the Farm twenty years ago, an eagle or a coyote sighting was rare and exciting. A friend who is a naturalist confirmed that. He says the first bald eagle that he saw in Rock County was in 2008. Now both critters are more common and we’re glad for it. Coyotes get blamed for killing calves and consequently there’s a hunting season for them. At one time people shot eagles to protect chickens. Now, the bald eagles are protected. Maybe someday we’ll recognize that both eagles and coyotes are only a minimal threat to domestic animals. Both species are mainly scavengers rather than hunters and they’re doing an important service that’s an integral part of a robust prairie ecosystem.
These pictures are from a blog post last spring. They’re taken in the pond and wetland complex that are located in the abandoned meander (the “oxbow”). The herons have left for the fall, but the geese are still around. In the spring they come up the Creek from the Rock River to build nests. In the fall they periodically come and go. These local homebodies fly low and are probably wintering nearby. In contrast, the high-flying, v-formations are long distance migrators headed south.
During the unseasonably warm weather several weeks ago, I heard a really distinctive birdcall. I think that it may have been sand hill cranes because they sounded like online examples that I found. I never did see them but I assume that they were flying high and fast. I don’t think that I’ve ever heard them here before. Isn’t the sand hill migration route usually farther west so they can hit the Nebraska Sand Hills for a rest stop?
Owls are one of the birds that are here all year, lingering through the winter. We usually hear them before sunrise and after sunset, but we don’t often see them during the daylight. After the snow last week I did see one up east of the homesteaders’ house (the “Greats’ House”). Maybe this hole is an owl house? We also have crows, starlings, flickers, blue jays, hawks, and sparrows that stay all winter.
Margret is a better photographer than I am. Here she is taking a picture of the pair of bald eagles that we saw this morning. You may have seen it on her Face Book post. She is recording the unique opportunity, but I first saw them when I stepped outside on the porch. I was following the lead of one of my nephews who once told me, “If you can’t pee off your porch, the neighbors are too close.”
Bald eagles are the symbol of the United States of America. They are also spiritual guides for Native Americans. And, they are icons for a healthy prairie. I’m grateful for the privilege of living on the prairie.
I hope that you will all enjoy a safe holiday this week celebrating the joys of family, food, and gratitude.