One of the most recognizable waterfowl in North America, the Canada Goose has a special place in my heart. Both of my grandfathers were avid goose hunters. They would travel, early in the morning, to their blinds on the Platte River. Those early mornings were made even earlier due to the fact that we lived no closer than an hour from the river. Trips to the blind often started before 3 a.m. They loved it though. I can remember shortly after my paternal grandfather passed that two lone geese flew directly over my dad and I as we were headed out to feed the hogs. It was one of the only times, as a child I saw my father cry.
Canada Goose (1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 1250, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)
Okay, enough of the sappy stuff. You can find Canada Geese all across the United States and Canada. They generally migrate from their winter grounds in the Southern U.S. to the north in early spring and return in late fall. I found it interesting that more and more are staying put through the winter. Likely due to availability of food in agricultural fields and suburban sprawl.
I took this photo, on a small pond near Bridgeport, Nebraska. It was just around nesting time and it was really fun to sit and take photos of them taking off and landing. Though some see them as pests, I will always see them as a reminder of two damn good men who gave me a love and appreciation of the outdoors.
My mom called these little birds “snow birds” as I was growing up. They would be thick around our farm, especially around the silage pile scratching and feeding on the grain that would fall from the feed truck. They are one of the first birds I learned to identify using my first Golden Field Guide to North American Birds (mine was the 1983 version). I cherished that book, reading about the different types of birds, their habitat, their ranges. In fact, I still have it on my shelf today. Though there’s all kinds of fancy apps out there (I especially like Merlin) that can get the job done much quicker, it’s still fun to go back and look at the detailed drawings and colors that can only be found in a book that couldn’t rely on photos and high speed internet. (Gosh I sound old)
Horned Lark (1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 1600, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)
Horned Larks are small, hardy birds common across the Great Plains. They nest on bare ground and in the winter can be seen in flocks of up to 100. They feed primarily on seeds and insects that are found on the ground.
It was disheartening to read that their numbers have declined over 70% since 1966. I’m sure it is tied to the decline of many other prairie species: loss of habitat, new farming practices, and human encroachment.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that i realized just how many different types of flycatchers there were out there. I remember watching them do their acrobatics around our house and also having to be really careful not to mistake them for Mourning Doves when hunting.
Eastern Kingbird (1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)
The Eastern Kingbirds migrate into the United States in the summer months and head back south to the forests of South America. I found it interesting that while in their winter homes, they generally eat fruits rather than the insects we see them hunting here.
I’ve seen them really live up to their name as kingbirds. They defend their territory against some of the largest birds in the area. I’ve seen them chase and gang up on Red-tailed Hawks, Kestrels, and Crows. They almost always win.
Red-headed Woodpecker (1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)
I love these guys. They are easy to find, easy to photograph and just fun to watch. I took this picture near my house east of Chadron, NE. This is the second year I’ve seen Red-
headed Woodpeckers working over the abandoned power poles along the road. They jump from pole to pole as you drive by. I’ve even noticed that they tend to work their way behind the pole as you go by, as to stay hidden.
Red-headed woodpeckers are common across the Midwest and Eastern U.S. They forage on seeds and insects and are known as one of the most skillful flycatching woodpeckers in North America.
I’m always taken aback by their colors and the quick and graceful flight patterns. Always look forward to seeing them each summer!
I took this photo of an American White Pelican along Highway 2 in Western Nebraska. I have taken so many trips up and down that highway over the years and don’t remember ever seeing one. I actually saw five or six this time.
American White Pelican (1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)
They are impressive birds. I remember seeing a bunch of them earlier this spring flying. Their wingspan is HUGE! According to All About Birds American White Pelicans are one of North America’s largest flying birds with a wingspan of over nine feet!
These birds were once shot for both sport and for fear that they were competing with humans for fish. It’s now been proven that the fish that pelicans eat are generally undesirable to humans.
One of the most common birds in North America, the House Sparrow was introduced the New World in Brooklyn around 1850 and quickly spread west, making it to the Rocky Mountains by 1900. I’m like most folks, and see them as an invasive pest, but they are a pretty impressive and adaptive bird.
House Sparrow (1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 1000, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)
I took this photo near a park in Denver, Colorado. It seemed to me, that the House Sparrows kept closer to the urban areas and left the open space to the native birds. I saw king birds, hummingbirds, and other natives all along my hike, but only saw the House Sparrows when I returned to my truck that was parked along the street in an adjacent neighborhood.
They are quite pretty. I like the contrasts in colors and they are also fun to watch as they bounce and forage all over the place protecting their nests and feeding on whatever seeds are in season. I guess I’m okay with them, so long as they don’t show up at my house.
One of the four sub-species of Wild Turkey in the United States, the Merriam’s Turkey is one of the biggest success stories of American conservation. Here in Northwest Nebraska, wild turkey’s seem to be everywhere. With our native pine forests, abundant cropland, and public land our area has become one of the hotspots for hunters looking to accomplish the turkey grand slam (harvesting each of the subspecies of Wild Turkey’s in the United States).
Merriam’s Turkey (1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)
Between hunting for food and logging, by the turn of the century, wild turkey numbers had gone from the millions to around 30,000. Now, there are nearly 7 million. Between sportsmen and other conservationists, a lot of work has gone into preserving this magnificent bird. The National Wild Turkey Federation gives funds each year to landowners and other groups for habitat improvement projects as well as groups who advocate for safe and ethical hunting of wild animals. I’ve had the opportunity to work with them extensively in improving wildlife habitat in the Pine Ridge over the years. They truly are an organization worth supporting, as they are all about the habitat and ensuring we have natural resources and people who support them long into the future.
Wild Turkey’s feed on nuts, seeds and sometimes insects. I have actually seen a flock of turkey’s completely shred a hay bale in the winter when food is scarce. Many landowners see these birds as pests, though their abundance is good for hunters, especially young hunters, as it’s pretty easy to get permission to hunt. To me, getting this next generation interested in hunting is key to preserving our natural resources in the future.