Running with the birds is a personal favorite. Though many hit the trails with headphones, likely listening to Bachman Turner Overdrive, The Bee Gees, Chicago or Boston, they are missing hearing the birds accommodating them in our parks, neighborhoods and river greenways.
The lack of rain has not only challenged our gardens but lessened the days of waking early and listening to happy orange-breasted robins gouging on nightcrawlers flooded from the ground. Their favorite habitat is right amongst us human beings and their tut-tut-tut calls before dawn promise another fortunate day to be alive.
There are a few nesting northern cardinals that remind us of their presence by birdie-birdie-birdie calls. Bright red males with a black mask and pointed crest are often heard and occasionally seen in trees in the parks and along rivers.
The Chahinkapa Park ponds are a birding mecca. We were fortunate to have nesting hooded mergansers. The males are striking, with high coal black heads adorned with white crests. They are shy and quickly swim away.
A few wood ducks had successful hatches, too and we are blessed to have North America’s most beautiful waterfowl in our midst. The males are water colored with splashes of purple, gold, green and mahogany brown. Hens with families as large as ten ducklings abound. I wish they did not like the green lawns along Second Street as they cross the street regularly. We need some duck crossing signs, I guess.
Canada geese and mallards had a fantastic hatch and love our parks. We are reminded of this every time we watch “Music in the Park” on Chahinkapa Park’s horseshoe island.
Pileated woodpeckers frequent the large dead trees along the rivers and some visit the parks. They are crow-sized with red crests and sound like a carpenter when they gouge on trees for insects. They can be identified from a distance by their undulating flight and sometimes treat you with their woika calls.
American goldfinches with bright yellow bodies frequent our black oil sunflower seed bird feeders. They like feeding or getting nesting material from weeds like dandelions and thistle so goldfinches are often seen in unkempt areas.
Chipping sparrows with rust-colored head caps feed on fallen tree seeds on the streets and sidewalks. I see lots of them in the winter while visiting family near Houston, Texas.
Black crows caw-caw-caw from all over as they opportunistic feeders.
Killdeer often nest on gravelly areas in the Twin Towns but this year I was fortunate to have one nest in a nearby garden. It was hilarious to see their routine of faking a wing injury and crying kill-dee as it fluttered away. They are pretty birds with a soft brown back and white undersides.
Bobolinks nest in the grasses on the east side of the south levee trail and you need to enjoy them in the spring as they are already gone on their way to wintering grounds in the Southern Hemisphere. Their banjo-like twangs are incredible chords of music. The males have a distinct light yellow nape, white patches and black undersides. Funny that they are compared to a skunk’s colors!
The south-side greenway along the Bois de Sioux River includes a stormwater retention pond and shallow cattail-filled oxbows that attract nesting red-winged blackbirds. The konk-a-ree call of males brings back memories of childhood days walking along our farm’s creek. One really gets their attention when you are close to a nest filled with blue-green eggs and they hover a few feet over you.
A pair of blue-winged teal used shoreline habitat this spring. The white crescent ahead of its eyes and Columbia blue wing spectrums are standout features.
Turkey vultures are roosting in dead cottonwood trees on the south side. I’m sure the mothers of these bare-headed black carrion-eaters think they are beautiful. If you see large birds flying high overhead, vultures can be distinguished from eagles by their V-shaped wing patterns. In previous years, a few nested in woods on the north side of the golf course.
Mourning doves and Eurasian collared doves feed on spilled corn along the railroad tracks.
Yank-yank calls from white-breasted nuthatches and fee-bee whistling from black-capped chickadees remind us they are here year-round so consider us fortunate to have our loyal friends.
Connect with nature. Appreciate, watch and listen to the birds who live with us!