Book Review: Audubon Eastern Birds
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region by John Bull and John Farrand Jr., is a really nice field guide for getting an overview of the kinds of birds you are seeing in your backyard or at parks. There is an explanation of the range maps and types of birds at the beginning, and there are beautiful color pictures of the birds in a special section, organized by type of bird and color. I especially liked the section on owls. They also show both male and female birds when they have different coloring. The next section is a section of bird descriptions and range maps that correspond to the bird photos. There is also a description of their calls, but sometimes it can be a little hard to transcribe bird songs. You just have to make sure that you keep the page numbers straight, because the number of the “plates”, (photos of the birds), are different from the page numbers of the bird descriptions, and you just need to make sure you have the right number, or you’ll turn to the wrong page. All in all, I think this is an excellent book, but I would like it if the descriptions of the birds were more detailed. There is also an Audubon Western Birds book as well.
Spring Wildlife Sightings
Recently four female deer walked through our yard and into the woods. It was nice to see them after the winter. I also have been seeing a group of about fifteen wild turkeys. Even when it was snowing, they were there walking through the snow. Also, there was a male wild turkey in the woods that was making the gobble, gobble noise at dawn and dusk, like a rooster. I think that it was doing this to mark its territory. We have recently gotten several inches of snow, so it does not quite look like spring yet.
Mallard Duck on Traverse Bay
This is a Mallard Duck on Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, MI. It was a calm and peaceful day in the early evening, and I just saw this duck sitting in the water, and thought it would make a good picture.
Hairy Woodpecker pecking on tree
This is a picture I took a few years ago of a hairy woodpecker pecking on a tree in Michigan. They like to get the insects from under the bark. You can see some of these pieces of bark on the snow. They are delightful birds that will make a sharp “Peeeek!” sound if they are startled. They are similar in markings to the Downy Woodpecker, but they are larger.
For the past couple of months, we have been having a flock of Wild Turkeys in the area that includes females, males, and some younger turkeys. It is a large flock, probably about twenty turkeys in all. Usually the flock around here consists of female turkeys and their young, so it was a surprise to see so many males. The males are about twice as large as the females, and they fan their rear feathers some, so it is easy to tell which ones they are. The turkeys spend a lot of time in the woods looking for things to eat under the leaves (probably insects and larvae). Even if you can’t see them, you can tell they are there, because they make scratching and clucking noises. They are very peaceful birds, and very enjoyable to watch.
We have been getting a lot of owls around here in recent months. The two most common kinds are the Great Horned Owl and the Barred Owl. The Great Horned Owl is a very large owl that makes the sound that most people associate with owls: hoo, hoo, hoo-hoo. The Barred Owl is almost as large and makes a highly unusual sound that can almost sound like a barking dog. It roughly sounds like hoo, hoo, hoo-aw! I tend to hear these owls either right around dusk, or late at night. The most unusual owl I have heard is the Saw-whet owl. It is a very small owl, smaller than a robin, and makes a high pitched tooting noise that sounds like: toot, toot, toot. It really doesn’t sound like an owl at all. All of these owls are hard to spot because their coloring (grayish-brown) blends in so well.
Reference: John Bull and John Farrand, Jr., National Audubon Society Guide to North American Birds, Eastern Region, revised edition (New York: Chanticleer Press, 1994)
Wild Turkeys are large birds that live in flocks and can often be seen foraging by the roadside. This fall I saw a flock of up to twenty female turkeys, but I haven’t been seeing them much recently, now that there is snow on the ground. They are very peaceful birds, and like to root around under dead leaves. They are very shy around humans, running off at the slightest disturbance. Usually they get along, but occasionally I have seen them squawk and flap their wings at each other. Usually they walk single file through the woods, with one of the turkeys leading, and one bringing up the end. There will always be a couple of turkeys on the lookout while the others eat. I do not usually see the males, but they are larger and have more fluffy feathers and a large tail that they display. Hens (female turkeys) make a clucking sound that sounds a bit like a chicken. The males (called toms), make a gobbling sound that can be heard at quite a distance. Young turkeys are called poults. Once I heard a male wild turkey in the woods gobbling at dawn and dusk, almost like a rooster.
Interesting facts about Wild Turkeys:
The Wild Turkey almost became our national bird, but lost by one vote to the Bald Eagle (Benjamin Franklin called them “birds of courage”).
They have very good eyesight and have a field of vision that starts at 270 degrees.
They can run at speeds of up to 25 mph, and fly at speeds of up to 55mph.
They can recognize and use more than thirty unique vocal sounds.
They can live longer than ten years in the wild.
They roost in trees at night, and their dark feathers help them hide from predators.
Farm Sanctuary Quarterly Newsletter
Stan Tekiela, Birds of Michigan (Cambridge,MN: Adventure Publications, 2004) pages 161-162.
Filed under birds, nature