Birding: In summer, birding can be done on the go

Jul 9, 2017

As you go about your normal summer activities, you will undoubtedly encounter several different species of birds, both in your yard and wherever you go camping or sightseeing.

If your summer activates include spending time near a body of water, you may see the great blue heron and its much smaller relative, the green-backed heron. When these birds fly, they look quite unusual as they pull in their long necks. Many people figure that these birds nest at that body of water, but they don’t. The great blue nests high up in a tree along with many others in what is called a rookery. The green nests most generally in a larger Norway spruce tree — also well away from water. Herons spend their time at the water to hunt for frogs and fish.

You may also encounter eastern kingbirds. They are easy to identify as they have a dark back and all white belly with a distinct band on the tip of the tail. These flycatchers are fun to watch. They like nesting in scattered open country trees. Their young are very cute. The kingbird likes to hunt for insects such as dragonflies and damselflies at the pond or lake edges.

Also, if you are along a lake, your chances of seeing purple martins are much greater. At Silver Lake for the first time, we have a few purple martins nesting in our small martin house. These larger versions of swallows are much fun to watch. They have a unique call as they dive and dart over and near the water. Some martins nest in martin houses that are well away from water. I know someone in Eden who has had a large flock of martins for decades a few miles from Lake Erie.

Waterfowl on the lake are somewhat limited this time of year as most ducks nest up north and in the upper Midwest. Plenty of gulls will be present this summer, primarily ring-billed gulls. We always have a challenge keeping them from messing up our boat cover with their droppings. Terns are also a possibility such as the common tern. If you visit a swampy or marshy large body of water, such as Iroquois Wildlife Refuge, you are likely to notice the very interesting black terns flying low over the marsh.

If you make it to Iroquois, you will also see a greater variety of other birds, including the swamp sparrow and the marsh wren in the reeds. You may also get lucky and find a bittern, which is somewhat similar to a heron, but is generally inconspicuous. You might also see a coot or a gallinule or a moorhen. You can look these up on your birding app and listen to their calls.

Bald eagles are becoming much more common, and you may get a good look at an osprey. A variety of hawks are also present. Yes, there are many birds out there to see, and I didn’t even mention the many woodland flycatchers, warblers, and vireos.

Wherever you go, you will encounter birds. When I mow the lawn or drive the tractor at the farm, I always enjoy watching the barn and tree swallows zooming right in front of me as I stir up insects. They are quite amazing in how they dart around and catch the many insects that we can’t even see.

In summary, no matter what you are doing this summer — on vacation or at your camp or in your yard — you will encounter interesting birds. Take the time to enjoy them and appreciate how each species procures its food and nests. Remember that summer goes fast and now is a good time to do some casual birding. Don’t forget your binoculars and have fun.

What to watch for in July: Young turkeys along a roadside or filing through a harvested wheat field; congregating swallows on power lines and fences; hummingbirds and their young at the feeder; bluebirds looking for a new nesting box; goldfinches beginning to nest later in July; various birds in the berry patch; young birds of prey taking flight like eagles and hawks; mockingbirds in your yard chattering all day long – sometimes night, too; young bobolinks and kingbirds will become much more noticeable; woodland warblers and vireos will be finishing nesting and may be more visible; chimney swifts flying in tight “family flocks” of four or five.

To do list: Clean out bluebird nest boxes to prepare for a possible new nesting; drive slowly on country roads to avoid hitting young birds, including congregating young swallows; put out a bird bath for the birds and keep the water fresh; take a hike in the woods or along hedgerows to see many birds; turn off the radio or music and enjoy the sounds of the birds and nature; keep feeding sunflower seeds, peanuts, and nyjer at your feeders; give your feeders a cleaning; take a ride to explore a park or nature center; go on a guided bird or nature walk — you will learn a lot.

By Hans Kunze, The Daily News

Category: Outdoor Adventures