There are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis

There are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis

(placeholder photo from Pixabay until Dan gets me one)

Pardon me for another post about birds so soon, but there are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis. I repeat: there are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis.

Merlin identified this non-native species on Day 1. I didn’t initially confirm it. I figured Merlin was probably confused or high and skipped it, not recognizing the species packs I’d installed in the app were actually for North America and the Midwest and so something else had to be going on.

Ignorantly, I did a quick—not thorough—Google search, because: confirmation bias. The map on Wikipedia showed a distribution of about what you’d expect for a species with Eurasian in its common name. I was like, “Yeah, no. That’s not my birb.”

These are my birbs. The ones that woke me up pre-dawn.

The Ruby-crowned kinglet is migrating.

Anyway the little Eurasian Tree Sparrow popped up in another recording the next day, and it made me more curious. Long story short: I got my first rare bird. In. My. Back. Yard.

Hello dopamine.

It turns out in the 1800s homesick Germans brought Eurasian Tree Sparrows to North America, and today they live only in St. Louis, across the river in Illinois, and parts of Southeastern Iowa.

From a wonderfully written piece on the matter (read it!—it includes a fascinating piece of St. Louis’s German-American history and it’s got swears):

On April 25, 1870, roughly 20 Eurasian Tree Sparrows were ceremoniously released in Lafayette Park.

Danke sehr, meine dudes.

I have so many things in common with the writer, too. Like Collin, I enjoyed birding during the pandemic. Got a backyard feeder. Set up a tripod. Saw a grosbeak for the first time. Started tripping on endorphins.

But ongoing cancer stuff and the move to the St. Louis Metro East (basically suburban St. Louis but Illinois) sidelined this hobby. For a while. 

As you know, I picked it up again this weekend. And on social media where I was like, Eurasian Tree Sparrow my ass, someone sent me the links to Collin’s article in Riverfront Times and an online fact sheet from the Missouri Department of Conservation, which revealed the bird is a thing here and also sometimes called the German Sparrow.

Another local follow on Bluesky mentioned he recently bought a Birdbuddy feeder. And, you guys, my Wishlist has been updated.

I talked to Dan—my husband, caregiver, and personal photographer—about driving me around for birding adventures. 

“I could do the audio and IDing with Merlin from the car! You could get out your fancypants DSLR again!”

He is amenable. Watch this space.

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See who else visits my backyard.

For the Birds

For the Birds

I had a rough few days, which is why I haven’t been blogging at my usual clip. But I’ll get to all that another day. Maybe.

Instead, let’s talk about why I didn’t post anything yesterday: because the weather was fabulous, and I had better things to do.

On social media, an academic follow from the University of Illinois (I always follow some local people if I can find them, and I used to live in Champaign-Urbana) who is into birds (like PhD-level into birds) shared about birding with the Merlin bird app.

That app is like a real-life Critterpedia. I’m hooked. You can ID birds by photo, but also by audio recording. So I sat in the backyard for 10 minutes, listened to birds chirping, and collected these feathered dinosaurs while making vitamin D.

There were more, actually, but it took me a while to realize I needed to confirm and save my findings, so I identified a species or two that I don’t have saved yet.

Merlin is so good at recognizing songs and calls that I can even do it from bed when the window is open. This is hugely delightful for a woman who spends a lot of time being sick in bed.

There’s a surprising amount of wildlife in Mom’s yard, partly because she has made it into a park and partly because the SIUE campus isn’t far away.

It’s one of those sprawling Midwest state-school campuses. Trees and fields with the odd modern building, as opposed to your more urban settings with buildings and parking garages and the odd, perfectly coiffed tree, where applicable.

It’s not unusual to see lots of animals in Edwardsville. Deer. Turtles. Mountain lions. (Ahem.) Foxes. Snakes.

Bald eagles and skunks too, though Dan’s not got pictures of those to share…yet.

The neighbors have a pond in their backyard, and though I can’t see it from here, I can hear the frogs. Sometimes one shows up to feast on the bugs our patio light attracts.

Nice, innit?

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PS: Our cats, Izzy and Ollie, frequently climb that screen and don’t damage it. Highly recommend!

PPS: There are Eurasian Tree Sparrows in St. Louis.

Let Me Introduce You to My Workspace

Let Me Introduce You to My Workspace

This is a picture of the end table next to me right now. It’s a little chaotic, I’ll admit. It’s maybe not how I’d keep things if I were perfectly healthy. But maybe it is. I don’t really know. I’m not the most organized person in the world. Anyway, this is the current state of things.

  1. Mountain Dew goes really well with weed. (See #6.)
  2. My phone case/wallet. It’s a really ugly imitation of suede. It’s hideous, but it’s functional.
  3. My only prescription med right now, and it has nothing to do with cancer. (I know, that’s amazing, right?)
  4. The earrings Dan picked up for me three days ago at Meijer “just because”. The are cats wearing witch hats.
  5. The double-sided Sharpie I use to write postcards to voters. One side is fine point. The other side is ultra-fine point.
  6. My MMJ vape. The changes in weather got me all like “OUCH!” I try to remember to take it every day just in case it feels like shrinking my brain tumor. But some days I forget.
  7. Vitamin D capsules. The doctor wants me to keep my levels up, and I just don’t spend a whole lot of time outside.
  8. The Sibley Guide to Birds. If you look closely, you can actually see the bird feeder out there in the back yard.
  9. An almost empty basket of Halloween candy. It only contained a partial bag of treats, but still. I’ve consumed way too much sugar in the last couple of days. (See #6.)
  10. Windex electronics wipes for cleaning my laptop and cell phone screen.
  11. Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir. I’m using it as a desk reference while I continue writing my memoir.
  12. The Sassy Bottle™. Izzy likes to be a little jerk and scratch at the furniture. Turns out she likes being sprayed with water too, though. So now it’s a game and we’ve taught her to claw the upholstery for attention. Cats, man.
Birds of Our Neighborhood

Birds of Our Neighborhood

My back yard brings me great joy–and with my chemo depression continuing to lift nearly two months after my last dose–I have been keeping an eye on our bird feeder. I’m not exactly the world’s greatest photographer, but these pictures really just serve as a way for me to catalog the birds we’ve been able to attract so far this month. Enjoy!

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