Walnut Woods Metro Park

I searched out Walnut Woods Metro Park because of its conifers, not hardwoods. Walnut Woods has a good stand of spruce trees, creating one of the few habitats to attract stray White Crossbills. Visiting in the transition between winter and spring, I was too late for such irregular visitors.

I did find other birds. The ever faithful Northern Cardinals and Song Sparrows, year-round residents, were found in abundance.

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Although this was a frosty March morning, the first migrants had arrived. A Red-winged Blackbird was staking a claim in a wetland. Because they disappear from yards in late summer, it seems like American Robins also migrate. However, they usually quietly slip into nearby woods for the winter, then reappear in early spring. DSC_0795DSC_0782Another year around resident – a Red-tailed Hawk – wheeled above the sections of prairie and marsh.

There was evidence of other animals, but none revealed themselves this chilly morning.

DSC_0839There is no little irony found in the final photo. I went to a walnut grove to find spruce trees and photographed a sycamore. But what I sycamore it was.

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Arizona Cardinal (two photos)

Desert Card 2Northern Cardinals are popular in America, honored as the state bird in seven states. These photos were taken with a friend at the base of Tonto National Monument near Globe, AZ. We agreed they were the most uniquely colored Cardinals we had ever seen, different from the Cardinals in the Midwest. This male was photographed on a cloudy day. I’m guessing it has something to do with minerals absorbed into plants.

Desert Card 1

Birds and Buckeyes (seven photos)

I present the American Buckeye. This tree has odorous flowers, poisonous fruit and wood too weak for carpentry. It’s also absolutely one of my favorite trees. Allow me to explain.

IMG_4225American Buckeye trees use every excuse possible to bud, with several false starts late each winter. It’s as if our backyard Buckeye drew this American Robin from its winter shelter by budding this February.

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American Robin on budding branches

As mentioned earlier, the flowers and even broken branches have a faint odorous scent. This led some pioneers (and I imagine University of Michigan fans) to call it the “fetid buckeye.”

Despite the scent, I think the flowers attract Baltimore Orioles. And I love seeing Baltimore Orioles in the yard, enough to declare the Buckeye one of my favorite trees. A few other birds seem to enjoy the Buckeye in spring as well.

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Baltimore Oriole among the Buckeye flowers
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Northern Cardinal
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Northern Mockingbird

The heat of summer wilts the flowers, which produce fruit better know as “buckeye nuts.” The deep brown color of the nuts is thought to have inspired the name “buckeye.” The nuts really are poisonous for humans. However, the nuts are used to create ornaments and necklaces.

Play Day for the Kids

It was some sort of play day for juvenile birds.

Recently I was sitting on our deck around 7:30 am, fiddling with camera settings, when it dawned on me. There were a lot of immature birds flitting and flying around the bird feeders.

Upon closer inspection I realized only juveniles were present. Not a single mature bird in sight.

Maybe this happens from time to time, or maybe it happens often, but I had never noticed it. So I started snapping photographs.

So has anyone else shared this experience?