Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Juncos are common winter residents at Chert Hollow Farm. They typically arrive in October, and our last sightings before summer are typically in March or April, though we have seen one here as late as May 16.


Juncos are common visitors to our bird feeder, which is where Eric took this photo.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinals are common permanent residents at Chert Hollow Farm. (Nesting has been confirmed though observation of recently fledged young birds during the summer.)

The female in the photo below may have collided with a window before we found her. She flew away not long after Eric took her photo.


Indigo Bunting

Indigo Buntings are common summer birds that breed at Chert Hollow Farm. They are especially common in the main vegetable field, where they feed on plant matter and arthropods (hopefully lots of pests), and where we enjoy watching them.

We occasionally find nests in tall vegetation (look closely in the lower section of the photo):


Here’s a closeup of that nest. It has three Indigo Bunting eggs (the small ones) and three Brown-Headed Cowbird eggs (the big speckled ones). bio_indigo_bunting_nest


Barred Owl

Adult Barred Owls are year-round residents of Chert Hollow Farm. Most frequently we hear their familiar “Who cooks for you; who cooks for you all?”, but occasionally more than one adult will take part in complex “conversations” of cackling hoots. In both 2011 & 2012, we observed a considerable amount of Barred Owl activity in late summer/early fall, including lots of hunting activity in the vegetable growing areas. Observations were common at dusk or even in the middle of the day. Barred Owls hunt critters that are problematic for us such as rabbits and rodents, but they have never expressed interest in eating chickens, so we are extremely happy to have them around.

During a woods walk in late April 2012, a large bird flopping around on the forest floor caught our attention. We took a look at it with binoculars, quickly identified it as a Barred Owl, and started to speculate about why it hadn’t flown away; was it hurt? Taking a closer look, we realized the bird was still fluffy, a good indicator that it was young. The bird must have just fledged from the nest, but it hadn’t yet learned to take flight. Eric stayed in the woods to keep an eye on it, while I ran back to the house for the camera. The bird moved up slope a bit while I was gone. We slowly crept up towards the bird with the camera, and as we got closer it decided its best defense was to remain motionless. Thus, we were able to walk within about 10 feet of it, take a bunch of photos, then back off without it ever twitching. Meanwhile, the parents were hanging around, watching and vocalizing. The vocabulary used for communication with young is very different than the standard “Who cooks for you?” We almost certainly wouldn’t have recognized the sounds as owl sounds if we hadn’t found the young bird first (and if we hadn’t had previous experience of unique avian parental vocalizations in Broad-Winged Hawks and domestic chickens).


Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebes are summer residents of Chert Hollow Farm, typically arriving in March and staying through September/October. They nest on the house, usually on outdoor light fixtures protected by roof overhangs. The individual above is a young Phoebe that had recently left the nest, which was located two stories above the cement patio where the photo was taken. This bird fledged on July 21, 2011.

Phoebes eat insects, and thus we consider them beneficial.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are summer residents, generally present from April through September. They nest at Chert Hollow Farm, as demonstrated by a nest that we found in  2012 in a maple tree.

The bird in the photograph managed to get trapped in the greenhouse. Eric caught it while I grabbed the camera, then it sat still for a few moments while I snapped a couple of photos. This is a female &/or a juvenile, as it does not have the ruby throat that is characteristic of adult males.

We saw numerous Ruby-throated Hummingbirds during the extreme drought of 2012. They were busy visiting the agricultural flowers of our irrigated diversified crops at a time when the native plants had few blossoms. Hummingbirds visited flowers of pole beans, okra, tomatoes (I think), and especially basil.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

This Yellow-Billed Cuckoo must have died when it flew into a window of our house; we found it fresh on the ground in June 2012 and took advantage of the rare chance to examine it up close.

Cuckoos have very distinct sounds and behaviors, generally moving among dense treetops and thus being hard to see. Their patterning and shape up close are really neat.

The folk name of the cuckoo is the Rain Crow, and they do seem to vocalize more frequently in conjunction with a weather system (& sometimes rain) moving through. Our theory is that they can sense, and respond to, changes in atmospheric pressure and thus become associated with rain, though not infallible as not all weather systems bring rain. Somehow a suicidal cuckoo seemed to make an appropriate statement regarding the extreme drought of 2012.