Sometimes all it takes to be a bird-watcher is a good location. Maggie Schroeder and family found they had that just by looking out their farmhouse windows six miles west of Hillsboro.
“Ever since we moved here a few years ago I’ve noticed the birds,” Schroeder said. “There are more here than just your normal varieties. Just last year I put out a hummingbird feeder. I was sitting at our kitchen table with my mom and just caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was so exciting to see a hummingbird. I guess that’s when I realized I was an official bird nerd.”
Schroeder and her children, Brody, 10, and Maggie and Emma, both 8, saw a ruby-throated hummingbird at their syrup feeder last May. Just last week, they were excited to see a younger version of that same variety at their kitchen window feeder.
“Once again, I just caught a small movement out of the corner of my eye and there it was,” Schroeder said. “This one was very tiny, just a dinky little thing, but it was there drinking from the feeder.”
In the past year, the family put up several suit cage feeders and platform seed feeders for the birds. They even added an orange slice feeder made from an old muffin tin for the orioles.
“It is just so much fun to see a flash of color,” Schroeder said. “I run for the binoculars and the bird book. The kids get pretty excited too whenever we see something new.”
Mallory Schroeder said she liked looking for hummingbirds best, while her twin Emma preferred chickadees. Brody liked the bluebirds and the blue jays that frequent trees around the house, and Maggie said she was always on the lookout for any rare migratory birds.
“We helped clean up at the reservoir this year and someone in our team saw a yellow-rumped warbler,” Maggie Schroeder said. “Now we are always joking about looking for the yellow-rumped warbler.”
Schroeder said her husband, Jeremy, even takes notice of the birds now, though he might not admit it.
“We were eating breakfast one day and there was a cardinal at the feeder outside our kitchen window,” Maggie Schroeder said. “He remarked that sure was a neat-looking bird.”
Schroeder said the cardinals made an additional impression on her husband.
“I actually saw the male cardinal eating the seeds and then flying to where the female was and feeding her,” she said. “I told him thought that was so romantic. A few hours later, when I was resting on the couch he came over and fed me M & M’s. It was so funny.”
In addition to seeing hummingbirds, bluebirds, blue jays, chickadees and cardinals at their feeding stations, Schroeder said many different kinds of woodpeckers were showing up.
“We’ve identified downy, red-headed (those were cool), red-bellied, and hairy woodpeckers,” she said. “The hairy ones have a little bristle or fuzz on the top of their beak covering their nostrils to keep the wood dust out of their sinuses.”
Schroeder said she uses a book called Birds of Kansas Field Guide by Stan Tequila to help her and the kids identify what they see.
“Whenever we hear a different call we run for the binoculars to try and find it and identify it,” she said.
On a recent camping trip to Marion Reservoir, Schroeder said they were lucky enough to see Canada geese, adults and babies.
“They were so cute,” she said. “Watching birds has become a very interesting pass-time for all of us.”