Cuckoo in Kansas

(Please note that these pictures all came from various birding organizations on the 'net. )

I love birds and I love watching birds. We put out several different kinds of feeders to attract a wide variety of birds, keep the birdbaths clean and full, and plant lots of bird (and butterfly) friendly plants. all of this pays off because we get a very wide range of birds who visit our yard for food, water or insects (I don't use any pesticides in my gardens and I never have insect problems thanks to my feathered exterminators).

I like to read books about birds and birding. I have narrowly avoided a few accidents due to bird-watching while driving (almost as bad as knitting while driving). Today, I took another step closer to becoming an official bird-geek - I went on a bird-watching walk at the arboretum near my house. Mr. Criquette's jaw dropped when he saw me appear at the coffeepot at the crack of dawn. I am not at all what we call a "morning person". But I was determined to do this because I have become A Wannabe Bird Geek With a Mission. The mission: to see one of these in person:

This gorgeous fellow is the Pileated Woodpecker. I have had 2 dreams about these beautiful creatures this spring. It is currently at the top of my lifetime bird list. They are not only strikingly colored, but apparently are also huge, like crow-sized or larger. Here is a map of their distribution:

According to this map, northeastern Kansas is out of their range. I pouted and started planning trips to visit family and friends who might live in their territory

I guess Kansas doesn't have the kinds of thick forests with humongous old trees that they like - oh wait - yes we do! There is a large patch of virgin forest just 20 miles south of my house! Is it possible there may be one or two who venture north from time to time? The arboretum's website actually mentioned pileated woodies as one of the birds that have been sighted there. Be still my heart!

So I went and today could not have been more gorgeous in terms of the weather. It was warm with low humidity and a very nice breeze. We had a very nice young biologist as our guide and he did an outstanding job. We only covered about half of the park today, but I added 4 new birds to my list that I have not seen before!

Great Crested Flycatcher - I am a huge fan of flycatchers. Not only do they eat more than weight in nasty flying critters, but they are also extremely attractive birds. I've been wanting to see one of these.

This is a much smaller member of the flycatcher family, the Acadian Flycatcher. Since the word "Cajun" is derived from "Acadian", these were on my list - I really wanted to see a little Cajun bird. Today, I saw 2. C'est bon, cher.

This one was completely unexpected! I had no clue these little guys even existed, much less in this neck of the woods. But the arboretum was full of the little cuties - the Northern Parula. Right after the guide told us we'd never see one (just hear them), I saw a small bird flit into a tree in front of us. Guess who spotted him first?

I did think there was a chance I might see a Summer tanager, which has been on my bird list for a long time. We rounded a bend, and there they were - a pair. Just gorgeous!

Male Summer Tanager

I never did get to see a pileated woodie today. But I did get the inside scoop. There are a couple of nesting pairs in some huge old trees by the river. The guide gave me exact directions on where to go to see them and where I should look. If I can drag myself out of bed early tomorrow, I'm headed back.

I was only a tiny bit disappointed because I got a fabulous consolation prize, #2 on my lifetime list:

The elusive and rarely seen (around here, at least) Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. We heard it's lovely cooing during parts of our walk, but didn't even see a glimpse. The group was watching a chickadee but I was bored. I was randomly looking around in the treetops with my binoculars and all of a sudden, one landed on a branch not far from me. I (and the rest of the group) was able to get a long, clear look at him. I almost wet my pants I was so excited! As you can see, I am ridiculously easy to entertain.

So I am off to bed, about 2 hours sooner than usual on a Saturday night. But I have an important date in the morning!


Channon said...

The red-head at the start is one of my favorites, and living in the woods in VA, I see them often. I love to see them in flight.

RuthieJ said...

Pileated woodpeckers are very cool birds. If you can familiarize yourself with their calls, that would be a good start.....this time of year with the trees all leafed out, you will probably hear them before you see them. Good luck!

Priscilla said...

I just wanted to let you know that I nominated your blog for a Kreativ Blogger Award this morning on my blog.

Bubblesknits said...

Beautiful pictures. I've been trying to identify the birds that visit the feeders in my back yard. If I could just keep the squirrels out of my birdseed, I might see more. lol

Dianne said...

I hope you get to see one of those Pileated Woodpeckers. I've only seen the little ones around here.

Sue said...

Sitting here enjoying a second cup of coffee and watching an Indigo Bunting in the yard and a feeder full of Goldfinches. When we lived in Maryland I kept a list of the birds that came to the yard. I should dig it out and add the Missouri birds to it.