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by Eric Clayton

I discovered bird's nests one spring morning at one of my favorite birding spots, Bushnell, IL on Lake Wildwood. It's not a birder's paradise, but it has woodlands, forest, ponds, swampy marshes, fields, grassy slopes, and of course a lake! The diverse habitat gives home and migratory resting place to many species of birds, including osprey, blue & green heron, waders, warblers, woodpeckers, and even some white pelicans.

Usually I go to Bushnell and set up my scope to watch shorebirds hunt for food in the shallow end of the lake, or sometimes I'll stroll up to the bass pond to see if the kingfisher is there.

But this particular morning I followed the road to see where it would take me, and I happened to see a waxwing land in a tree with nesting material in it's beak. Sure enough, it was building a nest. That was my first waxwing nest, and later that spring I got to see the parent feed the young ones. Further down the road I found a warbling vireo feeding it's young. That was a first for me also! The nest is a really cool cup suspended between a small, forked branch, woven somewhat like an oriole nest, but shaped like a cup rather than a basket. Then I saw an orchard oriole high in a tree with a worm in it's beak. Another nest! I decided then and there to keep a record of nests I've found, and I set out to look for more. I checked some nest boxes I'd put up and found 2 wren broods and 2 bluebird broods. I strolled through a tall, grass field and found 2 red-wing blackbirds nests, each with 4 eggs and 2 scolding parents. I found another blackbird nest at the edge of the lake. They seem to adapt to a variety of habitats. I saw a bobolink but couldn't locate the nest, and a barnswallow had made it's nest in, you guessed it, a barn!

It was great to find yet another facet of birding. (it's why I love birding, always a surprise!) Searching for bird nests focuses more on the childlike discovery and observation of birds doing what they do, and it seems to me it would be a wonderful way to get kids interested in birds. You could do it in winter as well, when the leaves have fallen and the nests are exposed. The behavioral aspect would be absent, but guessing which species built the nest would be a whole new game.

I just got my Peterson Guide to Bird's Nests for Christmas, so I'm looking forward to this upcoming nesting season. Let's all remember to be bird "watchers". In our haste to chase and add to our lists, we can forget to just sit back and watch. Good Birding!!

Bird for sale

By: Marty Phillips

It was a hot Ozark summer in lower Missouri, the kind of summer where the sweat sticks to you like a vat of hot krazy glue. My friend and I were watching a vacation lodge deep in the woods of Doniphan, cutting grass, feeding horses and just plain goofing off… Oh yeah and eating enough meat on the grill to choke a cheetah.

Anyhoo…Sometimes we had to go into town (you must read that part with visions of Hoss from Bonanza in your head…Pa we gotta’ head into town.) and get viddles and clothing and such. Heading into the great Wally World (Wal-Mart) I was approached by a wee lad, no bigger than a little Joe (I’m not sure if that worked?) who approached with a small bird in the palm of his hand. Now this bird did not seemed frightened in the least but simply sat back in the wee hands of little Joe as if it were the worlds most comfortable hammock in the shade. The boy spoke up, “Hey Mister, wanna buy a Barn Swallow?” Now there was a small problem, this was a Chimney Swift the same bird my friend Eric would call “Bats” before He was the amazing avid birder He is today. So I looked down upon the Child and blurted, “Son that there is a Chimney Swift. See The tail, now if’n that was a Barn Swallow it would have a scissor shaped tail and be more colorful. (Hoping I did not offend the Swift.)”OHH!” Said the Boy, “so ya wantum?” I then let the tyke know I was about to shop and that Wally World did not allow Swifts in the store. After we were done shopping I then walked out the front of the shopping center with a bag in hand, upon which a small boy happened upon me…” Hey Mister, Wanna buy a Chimney Swift?”

(I did end up buying the Swift for $5 and let it go. It was unharmed and seemed fine. I wonder how the kid Caught'em?)


By: Eric Clayton

Surprises are always the best, especially in the birding world. I've tried to arrange being surprised, but somehow it doesn't work. But last October, we had a trip full of surprises.

Marty and his wife Jesse were, surprisingly enough, going to be in Washington State the same time my wife and I were going to be there. So we had to plan a birding trip to the coast, and on the way out I said to Marty, " I would like to get involved at least once a year with a Christmas Bird Count, or in some way contribute to this wonderful hobby." Being a novice birder, I barely knew what a CBC was, all I knew was that my desire to preserve and conserve increased as I got to know these wonderful creations we call birds.

We drove out to La Push, Washington. La Push is a small seaside Indian Reservation with an inlet for boats and barges, quite industrial looking actually, smack dab in the middle of the Olympic National Park coastal strip, complete with sea stacks, moss covered trees, and a rainforest feel.

And what a sight of birds! The first day out we saw an immature Bald Eagle in a tree right by the parking lot. We saw double crested cormorants, a ruddy duck, gulls, great blue heron, and life birds for me included Brown Pelican, Surf & White winged Scoter, Pelagic Cormorant, Northern Pintail, and Western Grebe.

We saw some other birders and joined them. They had a Black Oystercatcher in their scopes, but he was so small I couldn't really see him.
"Where are you from?" we asked. "Southern Illinois", one of the men said. "Oh ya? We're from Chicago!" "I have a friend in Dundee that says I have to come birding at the Magic Hedge". "We live 5 blocks from the Magic Hedge!" "No kidding!" We talked some more, birded some more. What a wild and untamed place the Northwest Pacific Coast is. Just magnificent. "Yea, you don't get this down in Bushnell, IL where I'm from", the man said. "What did you just say? We own property in Bushnell!! You must be kidding!" We told him which property was ours. "Well my name is Larry Hood, and I've been wanting to know how to get on that property for our Christmas Bird Count..." What a surprise. We have to travel over 2000 miles to meet someone virtually next door. Of course, that next Christmas Marty and I walked way too many miles participating in our first CBC, but that's another story.

The next day we saw more of the same birds as the day before, plus a seal, and a great view looking down on a mature Bald Eagle. Spectacular. I also never thought I'd see a Harlequin Duck, but that day, there they were in true Harlequin fashion, riding the waves of the Pacific ocean, narrowly missing the rocks. Excellent. And then, popping right in front of us, a Northern Wheatear What is he doing here? Probably the same thing we are: trapesing around in parts of the country he doesn't belong. Maybe he is just as surprised as we are.

Yes, lifes little surprises can sometimes bring a smile to your face. As we drove home we were grinning from ear to ear.

Christmas Bird Count 1999 with Eric & Marty

Eric and I got up before the sunrise in our friends trailer, commonly called "The Bixler Trailer". Behold the morning when all you can think is "COFFEE!"
We stepped out to embark on our birding extravaganza of counting every bird seen or heard in 500 acres.
Stepping out the front door, "Hear that!...a Kingfisher" I squealed trying to bring the caffeine up from within the depths.
Eric replied "Write it down" and then realized He had the pencil and clipboard "...ahhh got it." I love beginnings, don't you? We actually saw that Kingfisher later.
Then we saw the Redheaded Woodpeckers. ( I think the trees were growing them.)In the midst of what seemed to be the noise of machine gun fire there were 30 or so.

We saw Nuthatches, Blue Jay's, Chickadees, Goldfinches, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Crow's, Hawk's and a cold Blue Heron ;Cute fluffy Goldfinches by the Brock's home away from home.
Eric saw a cardinal; It was breathtaking! Cardinals are so bright red against the snow. We saw a large flock of 20 or more near the end of the "Walk of Eternity". Three pair of Bluebirds were electric looking hanging out with all the Northern Junco's! The Junco's along with all of the Tree Sparrow's had a blast jumping from ground to tree to ground again, to over here to over there trying to confuse our expert capabilities of counting. Actually they may have. Now that I recollect back,..."One...Two...or, Ohhh Drat! well you say about fourteen Eric?", "Yaah...Well there's two more, Ahhh....EIGHTEEN? Ummm Yes...Sure." Above us soaring from tree to tree was a Red-tailed Hawk. Looking like your basic Red-tailed Hawk but definitely not sounding like one. It must have had a very bad cold or perhaps his voice box was deformed at birth? Instead of the majestic scream brought forth with such passion from other beaks of Red-tailed Hawks, this one simply coughed,"Keerroowahh..hack..cough...errow" Really!, No joke! Poor Hawk. I knew not too count Him twice when we heard him again. Maybe He was trying to make it easier for us, we will never know.


Five Golden Eye Ducks flew over our heads and landed on the lake.
One Ruddy Duck hangin' out in the middle going around and around left us both wondering if the Duck had one leg. Hey, Look up there! a Redheaded Woodpecker!..."Shocking!", I said with as much sarcasm as I could muster (and anyone who knows me knows it takes a lot to muster sarcasm in me!) hmmm...was that sarcastic? Anyway.


"Did you here that Car Alar....I mean, Blue Jay Eric", I said. Eric then replied like his mind was on something else, perhaps becuase his legs were turning to Jello or because his nose was frostbitten. I am not all sure now that I think back. Anyhow He Replied, "Yah". "Should I write it down!"...."Sure", Eric said with the same exuberance. Trying to shake Eric back to the task at hand I yelled there was a Redheaded Woodpecker above us in the tree!...SHOCKING! Up over the hill.


There was something interesting! One, Two, Three, ...Seven Common Snipe! Sticking those long beaks into "subzero" water, obviously looking for their long Johns for those long skinny legs! Look at that one walking across the ice towards the rest of the...Woops! Slip! Turn! Slip! It was so funny to see those goofy looking tikes slip and catch their balance throwing wings about them. Hey look a Redheaded..."I got it."


Then o'er the horizon like a hoard of Locust, It descended!
Sounding like a mad, Honking traffic Jam of VW Bugs...Geese, 4 Billion of them decided to fly over our heads and land on our lake! Later we came upon the massive gandering, gackling Goose convention and, Oh...ohh only Two hundred and eighty.
Oh well I was never very good at math anyway.

Walk...Ouch...Stumble...stumble...(a very small Break for lunch.)

Eric and I then preceded back to some fields and saw a large flock of Cardinals as well as more... You guessed it: Redheaded Woodpeckers!

I am always amazed from the colors and the combinations and the construction of each wild and living creature that has been made.
I am always amazed that my eye picks up the beauty of the sunrise in the morning and the sunset of the evening.
That each thing is geared toward Complicated measures, but then pans out into simple explosions of textures, colors and sounds, and each one is connected, made for the other in some way.
If not just for the pleasure of enjoying it! I am always amazed how people say, "There is no God." I see him everywhere, can't you?
When we all gathered in the friendly town of Bushnell, Illinois to tally our tolls of the birds we had all seen that day and eat some great food provided by Larry Hood and His wonderful wife, we realized one joyous thing!...
...Everyone else drove! (and you thought I was sarcastic!)
The final Bushnell count

Listed below are the names of all participants in this count.

 Last Name, First Name
Benson, David
Benson, Heidi
Clayton, Eric
Henry, Alice
Henry, Bob
Hood, Larry
Montgomery, Bob
Moorehouse, Angella
Moorehouse, Daniel
Phillips, Martin
Weber, Bill

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