Bird and other wildlife sightings during the COVID era

Eastern Bluebird
The eastern bluebird. (Photo by Sharon Stiteler)

Since the pandemic started, I’ve heard from friends that wildlife is suddenly more abundant. People are working from home and many parks were closed so wildlife has appeared in bigger numbers. This past weekend, there was a report of a black bear wandering through a parking lot in downtown St. Paul.

But is wildlife really moving in to take up the space we abandoned? I think it was always there, but many of us have been working from home and continue to do so and now we can watch it. We’re not in a cube farm with no windows. We are desks, dining room tables, or coffee tables next to windows that face our yards. Wildlife always has been there, but we’ve been too busy to notice. Case in point, research shows that roughly 4,000 coyotes live in the Chicago area, but they’re most active at night when humans are less prevalent.

Also, if you’re anything like me, you’ve set up the home office to watch the yard, maybe even your bird feeders. As a matter of fact, I think the birds in my yard are beside themselves with joy as the quantity of feeder food has increased, and the feeders have never been so well attended. The feeding stations are active.

During migration, I heard some bluebirds overhead. They nest in the nearby cemetery, and I figured they were grabbing some bugs before they settled in for the summer.

Last week I was walking up the driveway and heard a male singing a territory song. I don’t have a bluebird house and I’m not really interested in putting one up because we have so many house sparrows. I’m just not in the mood to deal with running these exotic species out of a bluebird box.

The next day, while participating in a teleconference, I had to shut off my camera because a male bluebird was perched on the suet feeder. Later that afternoon I watched him high in the front yard maple tree singing and fluttering his wings. Seconds later he was on top of a female bluebird, mating with her. She is now a regular for the no melt peanut suet feeder.

It appears that they have found a natural cavity in the tree and will try to nest in there.

I’m new to this neighborhood and I asked my neighbors, Do you normally get bluebirds here? The response is either, “That’s an actual bird?” Or, “Holy cow, we have bluebirds?”

Given that my lifestyle before this was to either be traveling the world or to be at work all day and frequently joining friends for drinks, bike rides or birding immediately afterwards, I may not have noticed the blessed event happening in my front yard.

But now we have the time to do so. If you are noticing more birds or other wildlife in your yard, there are some great free apps to help you identify them. Merlin will identify birds for you with a photo or by asking you a few questions based on bird reported in eBird. For everything else, there is the Seek app, which helps identify plants, animals, fungus, insects, and bird photos. It produces an ID based on what has already been reported in your area via iNaturalist.

Categories: Sharon Stiteler

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