Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The advantages of an unkempt yard

Last year, I decided to create a "meadow" on my property by letting a one acre section of my yard go unmown. I was hoping to get Eastern Meadowlarks and other ground birds to nest here.

Here is part of my meadow. You can see a dead weeping willow tree in the distance.

A close-up of the dead tree. Last year, it was looking pretty bad, and this year, it became obvious that it was a gonner.

Because it is along the road in front of my house, I had just about decided to take it down this year.
Maybe I shouldn't. Here's why:

Last week, I heard a Northern Bobwhite calling from somewhere near my house, and didn't have time to track him down. Today, one week later, I heard him again. This time, I had time to search. I would wait to hear a whistled "bob-WHITE" call, then move toward where I thought it was and wait again. Gradually, I crept up on it. When I got near the dead willow tree, I studied the high grass around it. Suddenly, from above my head, I heard him again.


Here he is! Isn't he a handsome brute?
Look how the barring of his breast blends in with the bark.

When I got too close, he became restless, and stopped calling. He began making little clucking noises that seemed to be answered by smaller peeping sounds in the grass below the tree. I looked for a minute or two, then walked away. I would love to confirm bobwhites breeding on my property, but if they are there, I don't want to spook them.

Updates to follow.

(MaryAnn, this post's for you.)


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

That's so cool Kathi. That would be a life bird for me. Please let us know.

denapple said...

Bob Whites used to be everywhere when I was a kid in SW Ohio. I've only heard them once in over 35 years now. Congratulations and leave that mower in the barn!

Beth said...

way to go on the breeding bobwhites, Kathi. Their population is shrinking drastically so every family is a victory to celebrate. They picked a good landlord to host them.


Mary said...

Oh, gosh I'm frustrated. Why do I always hear them but NEVER see them? Post more about them, please?

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathi, nice going with the
Bobwhite. Sure hope they're
nesting for you. Congrats on
finding the Kirtland's. Got
mine the old fashioned way--a
guided tour out of the Holiday
Inn in Mio, Mich., five years ago.
I'm glad I could be of help with
your moth ID; but all that data
was not mine, but taken directly
from Covell's Field Guide to the
Moths of Eastern North America.
Keep up the great work!
Hap in New Hope

Bird Girl said...

Well, that is reason enough to leave that old dead tree, isn't it? And YES...this is one very handsome bird! I do hope you see little ones!!!

nina at Nature Remains. said...

You're so lucky to have them.
I last heard them several years ago, though before that, I'd hear them every day.
As I understand, its the scrubby fencerows, typical of old country lanes, that they choose for habitat?
And, cleared and cleaned--they're gone.

Susan Gets Native said...

See? I've been trying to tell people for years NOT to mow their grass. And you've got bobwhites. You stinker.
I'm thrilled for you. :)

Mary Ann said...

You're killing me!! That is SO incredible!! Well, I'm still happy for you. Maybe I can chance an early morning trip out to try my luck some time? Thanks for the dedication, lol. :)

KatDoc said...

The Northern Bobwhite population is way down, for several reasons. One, as Nina pointed out, is the change in land management. Bobwhites liked the scrubby hedgerows around the fences that used to divide small farm fields. With "cleaner" agricultural practices leading to less edge habitat, bobwhites have fewer places to call home.

Also, they are very cold sensitive, and if the winters are too severe, bobwhites suffer.

I had one female at my feeders one winter for about a week. After a few really cold nights, I never saw her again. Nearly every year, I hear a male calling in the spring and one year, I saw a female lead her clutch of young across the road. I know I get bobwhites, but a stable breeding population is still a pipe dream.

MaryAnn, you are welcomed any time, but they are real hit-or-miss. I can't guarantee when one will appear. Maybe I should paint a little Tanglefoot on that dead willow tree, so I can get him to "stick" around?

Beth in NYC said...

So neat to have a threatened bird on your property! I understand willows have huge root systems - it might be quite an effort to remove it from your property. If the bobwhites stay, what a great reason to keep it!

Mary C said...

I've never seen a bobwhite, but I remember their distinctive call when I was in elementary school. I would walk to school with a friend or two, and one of them told me that was a bobwhite. Ah, fond memories -- and to think that their numbers are declining at an alarming rate. And, of course, one does not see them here in California.

donaldthebirder said...

Last seen one in the yard about 5 years ago.

Lisa said...

I just got around to embiggening that close-up photo: the detail you got of the feathers on his neck and head - WOW! (OK, maybe they're not *quite* in focus, but hey, I don't care - it's gorgeous!) So, you're getting the hang of that there newfangled DSLR contraption, hm?

ver. wd - "Imanti" - Drive the new Kia Imanti!

Mary Ann said...

Katdoc - on the Saturday field trip I HEARD two Bobwhite, very clearly, they were quite close. So *that* was nice, at least. Apparently one flew across the road and most of the vehicle saw it...but not me. SO, I could technically count it, but I think I'll hold out for the actual sighting. *sigh*! Any more word from yours? Great photo, btw!