Breaking with tradition for a bit here and featuring a bird that was taken not a year ago, not a month ago, not even a week ago… rather YESTERDAY! Do not get accustomed to this much freshness. The reason for such a short shot to post time is purely due to excitement over the discovery of a new bird. Kind of funny after just traveling 2,000 miles to get a new bird I end up finding one in my own backyard. Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the latest addition to my Bird Life List.
Pretty cool eh!?! Yesterday I was mowing the bottoms of our property – quite the chore seeing as how neglect allowed the weeds to get above my knees. As a Cat guy, I have to give credit to Deere for making some fine tractors back in the day – point the 316 at the weeds and let it clear the path (note, probably wouldn’t do it with their newer models). Most of the mowing was over and I had stopped to chainsaw some fallen trees when an intriguing sound caught my attention. Sounded like a Cuck Cuck Cuck Cuck in fairly rapid fire. A few seconds later I hear it again, and again and again. Mower had just turned into Birder. It took a few minutes to locate the source, but eventually spotted this bird bouncing around in the thick trees.
Break in posting – have to go deal with a dead baby Downy Woodpecker on our lawn furniture – poor little guy — back to post
Odd thing is the bird didn’t seem to really be hiding from me. It would looks towards me, make its call and then hop to a branch a little further away. I’d track it to the new location and it would make its call and hop to a branch a little further away… this continued to a point about a 100 to 150 feet away when I lost it – no sight, no sound. Bummed that I didn’t have a camera, went back to my ATV to get back to work on the fallen trees. What turned out to be luck for me, I had forgotten my chainsaw pants at the house so took the ATV back up for them (I never use the chainsaw by myself unless I have those – recommend you do the same – already have horrid stories about what happens when you cut yourself bad when you are alone). While up there, I went ahead and grabbed my old camera just in case it showed up again.
As you can tell, it showed back up again. I walked back to the original sighting location, this time with the camera. After a few minutes the rapid cucking was heard again. There it was looking at me and waving its tail. Just like before it would make its call, and hop to another branch a little further away. I followed again, but this time trying to take shots whenever the field of vision was clear. Shot, maneuver around, shot, maneuver around, shot – next thing I know I’m about where I lost the bird the first time and yes, it went silent again. Patterns in wildlife are always an interesting study. On a hunch I went back to the original location and sure enough it repeated the exact same procedure – it was purposely leading me away from that spot! I was able to get a few more shots, but eventually the call to work grew too loud forcing me to put the camera down and picked up the chainsaw. I didn’t really hear it again, but the saw and the weed trimmer was drowning out most of the sounds anyway.
I was pretty sure I didn’t have this bird seeing as how it appears to be a cross between a Vireo and Thrasher (with a Flicker sounding call). Excited about this I tried to call my brother while tracking it down so he could at least help me identify the sound being sans recording app. No luck getting him then, but we eventually ID’d this cool looking bird as a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. The yellow curved bill and the six distinct spots on the tail made for an easy verification. I didn’t even know these birds were in Illinois, much less in my own backyard. According to Cornell’s website, they hang around areas with an abundance of caterpillars. Haven’t really noticed many of those, but maybe we are due for a big wave. Cornell also mentions that if they are threatened, nesting pairs of Yellow-billed Cuckoos put on a “distraction display” to lure predators away from the nest site. One of the pair will hop to a visible perch, opening its wings and pumping its tail. As you probably figured out, this is EXACTLY what it was doing to me – luring me away. Hoping this means there is a nesting pair down there! Another interesting fact is this is the first bird I’ve researched that lay their eggs over a period up to 5 days. It was noted, that the youngest bird is in jeopardy of being tossed from the nest when food is in short supply – apparently unlike the Greater Roadrunner, they do not simply feed the youngest to the older siblings – as the baby of the family I do not appreciate this behavior ONE BIT!
That’s all for now, I have some presentations to crank out for work. Was so excited about the new find I had to take the time to get it posted. Hope you enjoyed this new addition to my list.