Grit Blogs > As My Garden Grows

Birds in Illinois

By Debbie Nowicki

Tags: birds, photographs,

The recent article in GRIT magazine titled “How to Watch a Bird” had me reflecting on this past summer and all the birds I have been noticing and what fun they are to photograph. The challenge is getting that perfect shot! I love this picture I took recently so much I have it as my computer screen saver!

Adult swan, blue heron and ducks

We have discussed various birds for our country home – guinea fowl, peacocks, and my favorite ... swans! I know what a huge bird the swan is as I have been observing a mated pair each season give birth and raise their babies. This year there are six babies and they are adorable. The first photos were taken June 8, 2008, and you can see how they have grown in 2 months from the last photo. We are not 100 percent sure if we will have swans on the pond, but they sure are a beautiful bird!

Swan with babies

Baby swans

Proud parent swan and babies

Also this spring I witnessed a pair of cardinals build their nest right outside my kitchen window and raise two baby cardinals. The following photos were taken in early spring. The cardinal is the State Bird of Illinois and as I researched, I discovered it is also the state bird for neighboring states … Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. I never knew this. The baby cardinal matures very fast and leaves the nest within a week or two. One of the babies was much bigger and left the nest sooner.

Cardinal egg

Female cardinal in nest

Last year when we bought our place down south I noticed a rather strange (at least strange or maybe new) behavior occurring with the birds. Right around sunset they all gather on the trees and then fly from tree to tree in swarms. The noise they make flying is LOUD ... this is what caught my attention. It may well be a normal bird function down south or maybe near a pond or even by growing corn? It definitely is a ritual for these birds and this year there seems to be more – thousands of birds! It’s an amazing sight! I know the bird’s insect eating abilities are wonderful for a garden and there are books and articles devoted to the subject of attracting birds to your garden. Basically, you should supply a source of water for the birds – a birdbath works for this purpose. Provide some type of protection or shelter and make sure to feed the birds. This year I experimented and let the seed that fell from the feeder grow. I recently cut down the seed stalks and have them drying either to replant next year for more birdseed or to just feed the birds!

Under the birdfeeder

Drying bird seed

Birds are beautiful creatures!

Swan stretching
razor family farms
9/10/2008 2:53:38 PM

Oh, the lats picture -- beautiful and scary! Having been attacked by a swan... I have a healthy respect for them. Love this post! Lacy NEWS at Razor Family Farms (

cindy murphy
9/3/2008 6:39:00 PM

Hi, Debbie and Lori. Like both of you, I love to watch the birds. My feeder is positioned just so - so I have a perfect view of it from my front porch where I drink my coffee in the mornings. I plant a lot of stuff for the birds too - when we moved in almost nine years ago, there was barely any landscaping - not even a single flower, but we were blessed with large maples, a huge 15 foot smoke-bush, and a hedge of bridal veil spirea. I took it from there and am amazed at the number of different bird species that visit now, compared to when we first moved in. Nothing though, compared to all the birds at the nursery! Nearly forty acres of plants, fields, and forest, and I see gobs birds every day, (my favorites are the Indigo Buntings). We were lucky this year - not only did we have a pair of green herons on the pond for most of the summer, but for a few weeks they shared it with a couple of great blue herons. Scared me half to death everytime I took the Gater back there, and one of them swooped overhead!

9/3/2008 6:44:21 AM

Debbie, Just looking at those beautiful swans and those ADORABLE babies has my shutter finger twitching!!! Birds are one of my favorite photography subjects. I love to watch them! This past year I watched and photographed Bluebirds, Cardinals, and Chipping Sparrows caring for their young. It amazes me how quick they are to come back with insects for their babies. They are great hunters, and a benefit to my gardens! I watched them fly into my garden boxes, and come out with insects many times. The little Chipping Sparrows would have their mouth so full of insects, I don't know how they held onto them all! From your photos, it looks like you have lots of birds to photograph. The Swans are gorgeous birds! I haven't had an opportunity to get any pics of them yet. You have inspired me to do a blog on the birds I've seen this year! Please keep posting on your birds, I love looking at them!