Thursday, April 29, 2010

First Sandhill Crane breeding activity in east central Illinois in almost 140 years!

A pair of Sandhill Cranes were seen mating on April 26 in the wetlands of Heron County Park in Vermillion County, IL, six miles west of the Illinois/Indiana state line. This marks the first known Sandhill Crane mating activity in east central Illinois in nearly 140 years!!

Here's a map showing the location of Heron County Park:

In a posting to the Illinois birding list, Illinois Natural History Survey biologist Steve Bailey noted that "This is quite a ways south of the most southern known Illinois nesting right now…at Grundy County's Goose Lake Prairie S.P."

According to "ENDANGERED AND THREATENED SPECIES OF ILLINOIS: STATUS AND DISTRIBUTION - VOLUME 2: ANIMALS" (published by the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board in 2004) the last known Sandhill Crane nesting in east central Illinois was in neighboring Champaign County in 1872!! (It also happened to be the last known nesting in Illinois before the cranes returned to the state in 1979).

Specifically, the report says:

"Former Illinois Distribution: The sandhill crane was once abundant on the large marshes in northern and central Illinois but had become very rare by the late 1800s (Kennicott 1855, Nelson 1876b). Prior to its return to the state in 1979, the last known nesting in Illinois occurred in Champaign County in 1872 (Greenberg 1980)."

The report is on the Illinois DNR website. Here's the short URL: It's on page 134 of the PDF, but the page number printed at the bottom of the page on the source document says page 120.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Six new walking BIGBY species

Birded the Indiana University cross country course yesterday afternoon after the rains, and this AM. Pretty much perfect birding weather, with six new first of year (FOY) and BIGBY birds.

Some highlights, starting with the FOY/BIGBY birds:

* Grasshopper Sparrow (4/27) - BIGBY species #117 for the year. I was looking for possible Field Sparrow nest sites when the GRSP flew into view and briefly sang his odd little song.
* Baltimore Oriole( 4/28) - BIGBY #118 for 2010. Four of them, in the usual spot...northwest corner of northern section of XC course, near a tee on the IU golf course. When I run into them on the XC course, they are almost always in this general location. Beautiful birds, and I love their lilting songs, and the way the songs contrast with their harsh calls.
* Common Nighthawk (4/28) - BIGBY #119. Foraging over the par 3 section of the IU golf course. I thought it seemed kinda early, but I checked Brock and the arrival date for this species for southern Indiana was this past Monday.
* Scarlet Tanager (4/28) - BIGBY #120. Calling from the woods to the north of the XC course.
* Great Crested Flycatcher (4/28) - BIGBY #121. In the area where I usually see them...along the edge of the woods...area is mostly a stand of young tulip poplars.
* Blackburnian Warbler (4/28) - BIGBY #122. In the woods to the north of the XC course.
* Bald Eagle - Adult. High off to the northeast, in the general direction of Lake Lemon. Not an FOY, but a cool bird nonetheless.
* Chipping Sparrow - 70+, in numerous small flocks, on 4/27. Numbers were back to normal today (4/28).
Prairie Warbler - Has been singing in same spot every day for one week now (see the green marker on this map: for location). Since it looks like Prairie Warbler habitat (cedars, pines, scrub) I'm thinking they might nest there.
* Field Sparrow - Speaking of nesting, it looks like there may be at least two Field Sparrow nests in the grass in the south section of the XC course. I've observed birds come up out of the grass there this week, and the sites match the BNA Online description of FISP nesting sites. The cool thing is that this is the first time I've seen FISPs nesting in the grass on the XC course since IU adopted its no-mow policy!!
* Had my first XC course "three swallow day" of the year on 4/27 - Tree Swallow (10), Northern Rough-winged Swallow (2), Barn Swallow (2)
* Saw a Cooper's take a female Cowbird on 4/27. Sure, Cooper's kill songbirds, but I guess every now and then they help them out by taking out a cowbird. :-)
* There's been a small flock of White-throated Sparrows hanging out in the brush for about a week. Saturday was a very gray morning. I was back in the woods when about 15 WTSPs slowly came through, serenading me. The fresh damp air, dim light, bright green new leaves, and the melancholy songs of the sparrows made for a neat experience.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Two new BIGBY birds: Hooded and Kentucky Warblers

The weather wasn't exactly cooperative this morning on the Indiana University cross country course. Light drizzle, pushed by a stiff northerly breeze, with 50 degree temps. It was basically too wet to spend much time in the woods. And the birds didn't seem especially cooperative...only 35 species. But I did come up with two new first-of-year and BIGBY species.

Some highlights:

* Kentucky Warbler - FOY bird, and BIGBY species #115 for 2010.
* Hooded Warbler - FOY, and BIGBY species #116 for the year. Odd experience with eBird for the Kentucky and Hooded Warblers. Brock's "Birds of Indiana" shows these two species with southern Indiana average arrival dates of 4/25 and 4/22, respectively, meaning it shouldn't be surprising to run into them now. But in eBird I had to click on "Rare Species", and then confirm them, to get them into eBird. Makes me curious about how eBird assigns cutoff dates during migration?
* Peregrine Falcon - Circling high above Fountain Park Apartments.
* Winter Wren - Singing!! That may be the last one I see for the season, since Brock's departure date for southern Indiana is today!
* Northern Parula - 1
* American Woodcock - Flew rapidly past me from the southern edge of the XC course. About ten seconds later it flew rapidly by me again, back in the direction it originally came from.

Finally, my bird-of-the-month to look for right now is Great Crested Flycatcher. Earlier this month it had been White-eyed Vireo, and then Eastern Kingbird, but I've checked them off this month now. Right now, whenever I think I hear a Great Crested Flycatcher it turns out to be an Eastern Towhee calling. :-)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Three new BIGBY birds for the year

What's a BIGBY? See:

I managed to get in a decent walk on the Indiana University cross country course before Saturday's rains started. It was pretty dark and damp due to a lingering high fog. I recorded 42 species for the morning...

Here are a few highlights from Saturday, April 24:

* Northern Waterthrush – BIGBY species #112 for 2010...also a first-of-year (FOY) species. Along a creek back in the woods. I don’t think I could have positively ID’d this bird if it hadn’t sung a few times, and if there hadn’t been a Louisiana Waterthrush cooperatively singing downstream for comparison.

* Cerulean Warbler – BIGBY species #113 (and an FOY bird). On the edge of the woods at the far north end of the XC course. For some reason the north section of the XC course is better for warblers...must be the wooded hills to the north.

* Wood Thrush – BIGBY #114 (and an FOY). I love their ethereal flute-like songs, and I don’t usually get to actually SEE one singing like I did on Saturday.

* Rose-breasted Grosbeak – My second of the season, doing a few “sneakers-squeaking-on-a-basketball-court” calls.

* Eastern Kingbird – Second sighting in three days. There was a pair hawking insects together at the far southeast corner of the XC course. Maybe it was just the dim lighting that morning, but these birds seemed exceptionally striking...the bright white band at the tip of the tail contrasting very nicely with the inky dark tail feathers.

A "very" interesting birding coincidence

For the past few years I've been observing Prairie Warblers along the fringes of the Indiana University cross country (XC) course. Among other things, there's been a singing male in the exact same location three years in a row.

I was interested in learning more about Prairie Warblers, so I went to Cornell's "Birds of North America Online". In reading the BNA entry on Prairie Warblers I learned that Nolan's "Ecology and behavior of the prairie warbler (1978)" is considered THE reference for Prairie Warblers. As the BNA entry notes: "The Prairie Warbler (D. d. discolor) was the subject of a long-term study near Bloomington, Indiana (Nolan 1978), which is the principal source for this life history."

Curious about the Bloomington reference, I found a copy of Nolan's monograph. In comparing a map in Nolan against Google Maps, I was surprised to find that the present-day IU XC course lies within the boundaries of his original "University Farm" research tract. Nolan's study began in this area in 1952, but later had to shift to a tract closer to Griffy Lake due to the construction of the IU golf course. Nolan stopped studying these birds in his original "University Farm" research tract in 1956, due to habitat destruction.

It's kind of cool to know that when I'm out on the XC course listening to Prairie Warblers, I am standing in the same area where Val Nolan stood as he began his study.

If anyone is curious, here's the citation for Nolan's monograph:

Nolan Jr., V. 1978. Ecology and behavior of the prairie warbler Dendroica discolor. American Ornithologists' Union, Ornithological Monographs 26:1-595. (Available online at:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Recent BIGBY (green birding) highlights

Wednesday morning went pretty well on the Indiana University cross country (XC) course. Beautiful weather for birding, with a fair amount of birds singing and calling.

About half way through my walk I ran into IU grad student Stephen Friesen doing some field work for IU’s new citizen science project that aims to document bird presence and abundance on various properties on the IU campus (for more info see: Stephen asked me to help him ID a half dozen sparrows he had seen where the IU XC course borders the IU golf course. The birds were very cooperative, foraging in very short grass for quite a while. We both agreed that they were Savannah Sparrows.

Some highlights from Wednesday (40 species in total for me):

* Savannah Sparrows - I don’t see Savannahs much on the XC course. This was maybe my second sighting since last fall. This wasn’t a first of year (FOY) bird for me, but it’s definitely the most Savannah Sparrows I’ve seen on the XC course in one trip.
* Osprey - A flyover bird. Stephen also saw it. Not an FOY species for me, but it’s always a real treat to see one!
* Barred Owl – Calling repeatedly from deep in the woods to the north of the XC course. For some reason I think owls sound cooler when they’re calling in broad daylight.
* Red-eyed Vireo – One back in the woods to the north of the XC course.
* Nashville Warbler – 1
* Yellow-throated Warbler – 1
* Prairie Warbler – 3, singing simultaneously at different spots along the edge of the north portion of the XC course. I think that’s a high count for me at this location.
* Louisiana Waterthrush – 1
* Common Yellowthroat – 2
* Field Sparrow – 7
* Eastern Kingbird – A near miss. Stephen had one before I showed up, but I couldn’t relocate it. I’ve been looking for this species for a couple of weeks now.

While Wednesday’s visit to the XC course was pretty good, Thursday’s was better (49 species, including four new BIGBY species). Here are some highlights:

* Henslow’s Sparrow – I tried to re-locate the Savannah Sparrows that Stephen found on Wednesday, with no luck. But while I was standing there, the Henslow’s popped up out of the grass and perched cooperatively on a low forb for about a minute. I came back to this spot a couple of times later and was unable to relocate the bird. This is only my third Henslow’s sighting in five years of visiting the XC course. An FOY bird for 2010, and BIGBY species #108 for the year.
* Eastern Kingbird – After striking out yesterday, I spotted a kingbird perched on the branch of a small tree. Then I looked to my right and nearby saw two more kingbirds perched next to each other on the same XC course directional sign (bluebirds, kestrels, and Tree Swallows also like these signs). A total of six for the day. An FOY bird and BIGBY species #109.
* Blue-winged Warbler – I was standing on top of a wooded bluff overlooking Sycamore Valley (this is to the north of the XC course) listening/looking for Northern Waterthrush along the creek at the base of the bluff when I heard a Blue-winged Warbler off to the northwest. Interestingly, this is maybe 2,000 feet to the southeast of where Julia Ferguson reported a Blue-winged Warbler earlier Thursday morning. Maybe the same bird? An FOY bird, and BIGBY species #110 for the year.
* Horned Lark – A couple flew overhead while I was on my way home. BIGBY species #111.
* Field Sparrow – My second day in a row with 6-7 Field Sparrows. There were three individual birds singing on the south section of the XC course, and a couple of them singing on the north section. The other(s) were in a grassy meadow to the northeast of the XC course. I believe this is the first year that I’ve had multiple singing FISPs actually on the XC course proper. The National Audubon Society has identified Field Sparrows as one of Indiana’s top five common species in decline (see: It’s good to see that IU’s no-mow policy is providing habitat for such a species.

NY Times on Birding Apps

Over the past couple of days the New York Times has published two blog articles about birding apps for the iPhone and the iPad.

The first blog post is a general overview of birding apps:

The second blog post describes a birding app designed specifically for birding in New York’s Central Park:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, migrating Blue Jays

I don't have time for a full report on species seen on today's trip to the Indiana University cross country course, so here are a few highlights:

* There was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing (and then calling) in the trees on the far south edge of the IU XC course this AM. I wasn't quite sure about the song, since I haven't heard it since last year, but the "sneakers-on-the-basketball-court" calls were unmistakeable. BIGBY species #107 for the year. Ironically, I found my first-of-year Rose-breasted Grosbeak last year on this same date, in pretty much the same place.

* There were lots of apparently migrating Blue Jays moving from the south to the north this morning. I saw *at least* 200 Blue Jays flying by in flocks of 20-30 birds each. I think that's my highest personal count ever for Blue Jays for a single day. Nowhere near a state record, but it's still very cool from my perspective! Interestingly, the local resident Blue Jays didn't seem to pay a whole lot of attention to them.

* At one point a pair of Canada Geese flew overhead. They seem to fly over the XC course every morning. But this morning, for some reason, they were attacked (unsuccessfully) by a Cooper's Hawk. The geese barely noticed the Cooper's. The Cooper's seemed frustrated, like the little chicken hawk in the Warner Brothers "Foghorn Leghorn" cartoons. :-)

* On the way home I spotted a pair of Canada Geese and a pair of Mallards on the Fountain Park apartments pond along 10th Street. That would be an odd spot to nest. High traffic volume on 10th Street, plus many people coming and going from the bus stop right by the pond. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled there.

Finally, I heard some really cool sounds at 3:00 this morning (4/20). A Great Horned Owl was calling repeatedly from nearby in the neighborhood. And a coyote was howling in what sounded like almost my back yard...very close by!! I stayed awake for quite a while, listening to some of my favorite sounds of the wild.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Prothonotary Warbler!

This morning while in the woods to the north of the Indiana University cross country course, I noticed an interesting vivid yellow bird flitting about and occasionally singing. When I finally focused my binoculars on the bird I was very pleased to see a Prothonotary Warbler! That's BIGBY species #105 for the year. (If you’d like to know more about the BIGBY "green birding" movement, see:

While I have seen this species a few times around here in the past, this was the best view I've ever had, thanks to the bright morning sun and my new binoculars. What a beautiful bird, contrasted against a clear blue sky!!! The Prothonotary is now my favorite bird with yellow-themed coloration (my apologies to the Eastern Meadowlark). I also love the derivation of their name. BNA Online says: "...the species was named for its plumage, which resembles the bright yellow robes of papal clerks (prothonotaries) in the Roman Catholic church."

I also had a second first-of-year BIGBY species today. This one was a little more mundane, although it was in an odd spot. A Solitary Sandpiper was foraging on a very small "mudflat" in the pond in front of the Fountain Park apartment complex on Bloomington's East 10th Street.

A few other species of interest from today:

* Northern Parula
* Nashville Warbler
* Yellow-throated Warbler
* Worm-eating Warbler
* Ruby-crowned Kinglet
* White-eyed Vireo
* Red-eyed Vireo
* White-crowned Sparrow
* White-throated Sparrow (singing!)
* Dark-eyed Junco (singing!)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Walking BIGBY species #100 for 2010!!

As I walked over to the Indiana University cross country course early Friday morning (4/16) I had one of those frustratingly familiar early spring migration experiences...a bird song that you know you should know, but that you just can’t quite figure out because you haven’t heard it in a while. After listening for a few minutes the cobwebs in the old brain cleared and the notes coalesced into the familiar song of a Common Yellowthroat. A relatively ordinary bird, but special in marked my 100th BIGBY (green birding) species for 2010! That’s 100 species within walking distance of home so far this year. (If you’d like to know more about the BIGBY movement, see:

Today’s Common Yellowthroat sighting marked a new personal record for me: the earliest date to record 100 walking BIGBY species in a given year. My previous record for earliest date to 100 BIGBY species was April 29 (2009). I went on to pick up three additional new BIGBY species later on Friday, and another one this AM, to bring my total to 104 BIGBY species for the year.

With April just about halfway over, I’ve added 22 new 2010 BIGBY species so far this month:

Blue-headed Vireo - BIGBY species #83 for 2010 (recorded 4/1)
House Wren #84 (4/1)
Great Egret #85 (4/2)
Barn Swallow #86 (4/2)
Northern Parula #87 (4/2)
Pine Warbler #88 (4/2)
Yellow-throated Warbler #89 (4/6)
Worm-eating Warbler #90 (4/6)
Palm Warbler #91 (4/7)
Black-and-white Warbler #92 (4/7)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow #93 for 2010 (4/11)
Chimney Swift #94 (4/11)
Prairie Warbler #95 (4/12)
Broad-winged Hawk #96 (4/12)
White-eyed Vireo #97 (4/13)
Black-throated Green Warbler #98 (4/14)
Ovenbird #99 (4/14)
Common Yellowthroat #100 (4/16)
Red-eyed Vireo #101 (4/16)
Yellow-throated Vireo #102 (4/16)
Nashville Warbler #103 (4/16)
Indigo Bunting #104 (4/17)

Monday, April 12, 2010

The "wearable hummingbird feeder"

The "wearable hummingbird feeder" - pretty cool!! :-)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Two more walking BIGBY species for 2010

Two new first-of-year birds while out walking the Indiana University Cross Country course today, plus a couple other species I hadn't seen yet this month.

* There was a Northern Rough-winged Swallow foraging over the IU golf course. BIGBY species #93 for 2010.
* There were two Chimney Swifts twittering away to the south of the XC course. BIGBY species #94 for the year.
* Spotted a Brown Creeper inching along a tree trunk. That's BIGBY species #78 for the month (I'm doing April as a walking "Big Green Big Month").
* Watched a Merlin for a bit on the north part of the XC course. BIGBY species #79 for April.

Finally, a few days ago I reported a half dozen Tree Swallows flying over the vacant lot at the southwest corner of Pete Ellis Drive and 10th Street. At the time I wondered if some of them might be interested in the old bluebird nest boxes in this lot. This morning I saw two swallows perched on top of the nest box that's closest to 10th Street.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

BIGBY species #91 and #92 for 2010

I saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet yesterday on the Indiana University Cross Country course. BIGBY species #91 for 2010.

And I ran across a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher this AM on the IU XC course. It was flitting around the edge of a thick stand of bush honeysuckles, which are almost fully leafed-out now. I believe this is the earliest in the year I've ever seen one. BIGBY species #92 for the year. If I get 8 more species on or before April 28 I will have set a new personal record for earliest date to reach 100 walking BIGBY species. I think it's do-able.

I had a life first at the feeders a little bit ago. I had a Red-winged Blackbird clinging to one of my feeders, eating bird feed. I'm pretty sure I've never had a RWBL on a hanging feeder in my yard before. (If you're curious, here's what the feeder looks like:

Still quite a few Dark-eyed Juncos around. Seems like I see two or three under the feeders every time I look out the window.

Friday, April 9, 2010

First week of April – 10 FOY species (and 90th BIGBY species)

The first week of April (4/1/10-4/7/10/0 turned out to be a very “springy” week on the Indiana University Cross Country course. During the last few days of March it still looked a little wintry, with only small leaf buds on the honeysuckle, some scattered violets and dandelions, and the redbud blossoms showing some faint promise. Now the honeysuckles are really leafed out, the redbuds and dogwoods are in bloom, and there’s a decidedly greenish tint to the trees as you look out over the woods.

I’ve started tallying bird species in detail now. Since the beginning of the year I’d only been noting the more interesting birds. Since April 1 I’ve been shoveling every last one of them into eBird, even the “usual suspects” that always seem to be around. I’ve decided to make April and May “Big Green Big Months”, to see how many species I can tally on foot from home. And I’m determined to break my personal “Big Green Big Day” record (74 species on 5/7/09).

My goal for this month is to exceed my previous BIGBY high count for April (not sure what that is...I need to check my records from past years). After one week (4/1/10-4/7/10) So far I have recorded 73 species in April. The daily species counts started off well, with 54 species on 4/1. But things went downhill from there, with 48 species on 4/2, 41 on 4/5, 39 on 4/6, and 33 species on 4/7.

Migration seems to be slowly picking up. I added 10 new BIGBY (and first-of-year) species for the week. My BIGBY count for 2010 now stands at 90 species. I think this puts me on track for my earliest date to record 100 BIGBY species...I just need to locate 10 more BIGBY species on or before April 28. Oh, yeah, the ten new BIGBY/FOY species were:

* Blue-headed Vireo (4/1)
* House Wren (4/1)
* Great Egret (4/2)
* Barn Swallow (4/2)
* Northern Parula (4/2)
* Pine Warbler (4/2)
* Yellow-throated Warbler (4/6)
* Worm-eating Warbler (4/6)
* Palm Warbler (4/7)
* Black-and-white Warbler (4/7)

A few other highlights:

* One of the most beautiful Eastern Bluebirds I’ve ever seen. Maybe it was the light conditions (it was a cloudy morning), but through my binoculars this bird was a vibrant indigo, rivaling the color of any Indigo Bunting I’ve seen. And his chest was a deep rich reddish brown color. Speaking of bluebirds, this seems to be a down year for them on the XC course. In past years it wasn’t at all unusual to have double-digit counts on a given day. This year I feel lucky if I see/hear 4 or 5 of them.

* Lots of Brown Thrashers. On 4/5 I pinpointed seven singing thrashers, with two only about 75 feet apart. My favorite Brown Thrasher has disappeared though. He had been singing loudly from the exact same treetop branch every morning for almost two weeks. He’s been conspicuously absent for the past few days, making me wonder if maybe he’d been snatched from his very exposed perch by an opportunistic hawk.

* On two different days I’ve had high counts of 10 Northern Flickers, foraging as a flock in the short grass of the northern section of the XC course.

* Two Northern Harrier sightings (4/1 and 4/5).

* A Red-headed Woodpecker (4/2). Very rarely see them in the vicinity of the XC course.

* A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (4/1).

* Louisiana Waterthrush (4/2).

* I’ve been seeing more Eastern Towhees than usual lately. I’m not saying there are MORE towhees than usual, just that I’m SEEING more rather that just hearing them. I’d have to say that the male Eastern Towhee is the most striking of sparrows. And I think the *female* Eastern Towhee is the second most handsome of the sparrows.

* I had what may be a personal high XC record for Field Sparrows on 4/7 – six birds, all singing.

* The Dark-eyed Juncos are still plentiful. I’ve seen them every day, so far.

* I heard/saw four Rusty Blackbirds on 4/1. Not a new bird this year, but I see them so infrequently it’s still a real treat. I love their calls.

* Finally, I saw 18(!) Eastern Meadowlarks on 4/6. My high count for the year. I think that 11 of them may have been passing through, as they were foraging together as a group. The resident meadowlarks seem too territorial right now to be hanging out in flocks like that.

Joshua Klein on the intelligence of crows

A cool video from a couple of years ago where hacker and writer Joshua Klein talks about the intelligence of crows, and the "crow vending machine" he invented. Yes, wild crows learned to deposit coins in this machine to get peanuts. :-)

The video is ten minutes long, and he doesn't talk much about the vending machine until near the end. He talks mostly about crow intelligence. Very interesting...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Junco Countdown Begins!

According to Ken Brock's Birds of Indiana, today (April 6) is the departure date for Dark-eyed Juncos for the southern tier of Indiana. If I'm interpreting Brock correctly, this means that 90% of the juncos around here should have moved on by now.

This date triggers my annual Junco Countdown, where I start to track juncos day-by-day to see when they finally disappear entirely.

Today there are still juncos under the feeders whenever I happen to look out, but the numbers are lower than they were even a week ago.

P.S. As a point of reference, the junco departure date for the central tier of Indiana is April 11, and it's April 20 for the northern part of the state.

Great Backyard Bird Count results for 2010

The Great Backyard Bird Count folks have released the results from the 2010 GBBC.


Top ten lists for 2010:

And you can also develop custom reports by starting at the "Explore the Results" page (

A few examples for Illinois

* Illinois results, by locality, in alphabetic order:

* Illinois results, by species, ranked by total number of individual birds reported:

* Illinois results, by species, ranked by number of checklists reporting the species:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Beauty of Meadowlarks

Each year I am entranced when I hear the first few tentative songs from Eastern Meadowlarks. These songs are definitely signs that spring is near. I never grow tired of them.

The Meadowlarks' songs have been increasing in frequency over the past several weeks on the IU cross country course. Yesterday I counted eight beautifully singing male Meadowlarks competing to maintain their territories.

While the Meadowlarks' songs are sweet, the hues of their breeding plumage are even more beautiful. I'm not sure there's anything more striking in the early spring than a singing male Meadowlark facing the early morning sun. The vibrant yellows seem to glow and pop in the sun's rays, like they're illuminated from within. And the crisp black "V" bib on the chest offers a stark contrast with the bright golden colors.Then compare this vivid yellow/black display against the deep blue of an early spring sky. Stunning...

One pair of Meadowlarks yesterday put on a showy aerial chase that sort of reminded me of jet pilots flying in formation at an air show...very synchronized. The birds were sitting near each other at the top of a tree. One was singing, one was not. The silent bird suddenly took off from the tree, with the other bird in hot pursuit. Over the next several minutes they did all sorts of twists and turns and dives, with the birds no more than a foot apart the whole time. An impressive display. Then another Meadowlark flew up from the grass to join them. It must have ruined the moment. The chase ended, almost as if the birds had lost track of who was chasing who.

In reading BNA Online, I think I observed a male and female in what BNA calls the Aerial Chase: "Aerial Chases are typically initiated by female; she regulates their speed. May be single flights of short duration or series of brief flights alternated with intervals of rest and posturing on ground; more commonly a tortuous affair of 4–5 min, carrying pair well beyond confines of their territory." Pretty cool to see.