Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Summer in Wisconsin is full of wildlife and so I am extra alert while driving to avoid harming the various creatures I catch glimpses of as they dart into the ditches. I keep a weather eye, especially for turtles, and help them cross when I can. I was heading into to town when I spotted a tuft of brown on the ledge of a bridge over the Red Cedar river. Quickly stopping my car I ran back to find an adult Cedar Waxwing sitting calmly next to the guard rail. He was clearly incapable of flight and I was horrified to think of him being crushed by a car or drowned in the river or dying from a lack of food and water.

He didn't fight me as I scooped his small body into my hand and drove him back to my house. Upon closer inspection it was clear that he was unable to properly control his legs or wings. And while his appendages seemed to function he could not fly nor could he perch. My hope was that he was just stunned or temporarily disabled and with a day or two of rest he would be well enough to be released. I also knew the reality is that the shock of an incident is often enough to end the life of such a delicate bird. I tried to remain unattached as I made him as comfortable as I could. He rested on a soft towel in a cardboard box placed in a quiet room. If he made it through the next 24 hours then I felt he had a chance.

I left him alone for a couple of hours to rest and when I went back to look at him he was still alive and alert. A good sign! Whenever I have stumbled across an animal in need I've found the best way to show you mean no harm is by a peace offering of water then food. I placed a shallow saucer of water in the box but the Waxwing showed no interest. I decided to tempt him by dipping the tip of my finger in the water and touching the droplet to his beak. I was thrilled to see his throat moving as he swallowed. After another couple of drops he was reaching his beak up to drink the droplet on his own. I gave him water until he stopped reaching for the drops and let him rest again. Next I scrounged around for any berries I might have in the fridge. Thankfully there was a nice selection of raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Time to see if the little guy had an appetite to eat. Like the water I held the fruit in front of his beak and without further prompting the Waxwing began to greedily rip off chunks of the berries! I was more than pleased to see this very normal behavior from an obviously damaged bird. Throughout the day I gave him as many berries as he could eat and was rewarded with a lot of well processed berry bird droppings in his box.

It was still with trepidation that I checked on him the following morning. Of course I was already head over heels for the beautiful little bird and was desperately praying he would be a survivor. My heart soared as I saw him cock his head to regard me with a bright and glossy black eye. He continued to increase his appetite over the next two days but I did not see any improvement as to controlling his wings or legs. Thankfully I was able to find a wildlife rehabilitator in my area and the Cedar Waxwing has now been in her care for over a week. I received an update that he has just started to perch again so I continue to hope that he will get well enough to be released. Cedar Waxwings have always been a favorite bird of mine and I was grateful I could give this one a second chance. The video below is from the first day when I was feeding him berries by hand.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Snowy Owl SNOWstorm

Tracking Snowy Owls with Project SNOWstorm

The Snowy Owl invasion of 2013-14 is remarkable for a number of reasons. Not only was it the largest influx of the species into the eastern United States and Atlantic Canada in memory, with individuals showing up as far south as Florida and Mississippi, but it was the first time ever that birder have been able to follow the movements of individual owls as they do what owls do.
Snowy Owl in Essex Co, MA. Photo by Christopher Ciconne
Snowy Owl in Essex Co, MA. Photo by Christopher Ciccone
Jennie Duberstein introduced Project SNOWstorm a couple months ago, but if you haven’t been following along now you absolutely should be. The researchers have put transmitters on 15 owls in 6 states, and those owls have provided some incredible maps illustrating just what they do when they makes these huge, and still mostly mysterious, irruptions into the south. Some of them have mostly stayed put, happy to hunt in fields no more than a few hundred meters from the place they were trapped and tagged. Some, though, wander extensively, crossing wide bodies of water on a regular basis apparently in search of rafts of roosting waterfowl.
One of the most incredible owls is one dubbed “Erie”, who spends weeks at a time wandering back and forth across the lake which gave it its name seeking out polynyas, great ever-changing cracks in the ice where ducks congregate. His map shows him wandering between the US and Canada as the ice shifts.
A lot of this behavior is stuff we’ve never had confirmed before. It seems that many of these owls are in good health, and already adept at hunting waterfowl and rodents in places that seem quite different from the Arctic tundra with which we commonly associate them. And as the winter wears on, we may get some insight as to where these birds were coming from and where they’ll be heading back to. This project is so much more than just tracking these owls down here, and there’s so much to learn about them. It’s all very exciting.
You can follow along with the continuing research at Project SNOWstorm’s website. And of course,donate to the cause if you so choose.
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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog. A long-time member of the bird blogosphere, Nate has been writing about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird since 2007, but can also be found writing regularly at 10,000 Birds. In the non-digital world, he's an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and young son who is not yet aware that he is being groomed to be a birder.

Friday, December 13, 2013


In my experience cardinals seem to instinctively know exactly when a camera lens is being focused on them and fly away. Keeping my mounting frustration in check (sort of) I was rewarded with these two captures today! I love the combination of red on white of cardinals in winter snow. Perfect for Christmas time.

Cardinal in Profile

Cardinal and Crabapple

Monday, December 9, 2013


No, we are not talking about immunizations against the flu bug nor are we talking about sips of your favorite warming alcohol. We are talking about our favorite winter pastime: photography! Most of the images we capture right through our sliding glass door that overlooks a crabapple tree, lilac bush, and our bird feeding station. The lens cap is off so we hope to post some of our favorite shots of our winter birds here.

Male Cardinal Eating Ice

Going Up

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Peter's Feeders just got a new camera so watch out! Get ready for birding pics galore. Here are a couple of birds we captured today. Check back for more pictures as we will be taking full advantage of the summer bird variety!

Monday, May 6, 2013


We just had our first Baltimore Oriole arrive at our feeding station. For those living in the Midwestern United States that means it is definitely time to get your hummingbird and oriole feeders up. To have the best chance of attracting them to your yard this spring and summer put your feeders out in early May. If you entice them with an easy food supply they will be much more likely to nest in your area and continue visiting all through the spring and summer months. Orioles and hummers are creatures of habit so once they establish themselves in your yard they will be much more likely to return year after year! Here is the oriole we spotted this morning. Hooray for spring colors!