Ancient flyways, glaciers, and indigenous people

We drove five hours west last weekend to watch the Sandhill Cranes. They stop along a 75-mile stretch of the Platte River in Nebraska to rest and feed in preparation for their flight to their northern nesting grounds. We arrived on Saturday evening and then woke up early the next morning, drove to Wood River, Nebraska, and parked at a bridge over the Platte on Alda Road. The view to the east was spectacular as the Sandhills swarmed out of the river to glean from nearby corn fields. You can watch the cranes online as well, in season, of course, on the Rowe Sanctuary Crane Cam.

These cranes have been migrating back and forth between their nesting grounds and wintering areas for millenia. In fact according to Volz (2003) this species has lived on Earth for about 2.5 million years.

Interesting to note also that the last glacier covered north and central Iowa about 12,000 to 15,000  years ago; the first humans appeared on the scene about 13,000 years ago so the first Native Americans would have been in Iowa while the last glacier was receding from our area.

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Baltimore Orioles are here!

oriole maleThe striking orange Baltimore Orioles have arrived. In past years we’ve had as many as three pairs nesting in our bird neighborhood. This is the first male I’ve seen this year. Hopefully in the next several days others will arrive. Several years ago, someone told me to put out orange halves to attract Orioles and it works. They love oranges. Apparently there are oranges where they winter and they acquire a taste for them. Putting the orange half in a suet feeder works well. After you’ve got the Orioles coming to your yard you might have to replace the orange every day or so.

The Oriole nest is a bag hanging high in a tree. It swings with the wind, and is well hidden by leaves and branches. By watching the birds carefully you might be able to figure out where the nest is. Check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology lab for more information.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks have arrived

Rose-breasted grosbeak

Rose-breasted grosbeak

A beautiful Rose-Breasted Grosbeak showed up at our feeder this morning! According to the Cornell Ornithology Lab they breed here in Iowa in the summer. I hope he has a mate and they stay in the area!

White Throated Sparrow migrating through

This striking white throated sparrow is migrating through our area now.

This striking white throated sparrow is migrating through our area now.

This morning I noticed a new bird eating on the ground under our bird feeder. A sparrow with white racing stripes on his head. Lee had already looked him up in his handy bird book. It is a white throated sparrow – not a white crowned sparrow. When you look at him with binoculars you can CLEARLY see the yellow at his eyes, and the white bib on his throat. So much fun bird watching! Click here for more information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology about this bird.

Bird watching

We have been having a lot of fun keeping track of the birds we see at our feeders, and in the area. Lee has a bird book at his place at the breakfast table. He also has a notebook handy to keep track of what birds we see at what time of year. In the early spring we see a lot of migratory birds. That’s fun. We watch the birds eating from our five bird feeders while we sit at our table by the window.

What is that popping sound?

a male and female cardinal beating a window reflection of themselves

A male and female cardinal beating a window reflection of themselves

This weekend we were hearing some random popping that sounded like someone firing a shotgun, but not very close. But the sound was so random, and it was coming from an unexpected direction. Then I looked out the window and noticed a female cardinal hopping around in the bridal wreath, near where we have a basement window. I have heard of cardinals and robins attacking windows at this time of year. They are territorial, and they see their image in the window and think it is an interloper that they need to chase away. She must have been randomly pecking at the window. Check out this website http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/faq/master_folder/windows/document_view

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