23 de abril de 2019

Wheeler Nature Park

For this journal entry, I went out birding on April 19th, 2019 at Wheeler Nature Park in South Burlington. It was late afternoon on a warm and sunny day, right before the weather changed to rain. This site was great because it had a little of everything. The first part of the walk is an open field with a couple individual trees scattered throughout. On one of these trees in the field is where I saw the Eastern Bluebird. Beyond the field the path meets the woods, first a cluster of Red Cedar, where I heard a loud bird song that I didn't know. I found the bird singing in one of the Red Cedar trees and didn't recognize it. At home, I was able to identify it as a Field Sparrow with a distinctive song that sounds like a ping pong ball bouncing and then getting faster. Beyond the scrubby wood's edge is a path that goes passed a large Red Oak tree and eventually opens up into a sugarbush. In the sugarbush I could hear a loud Northern Cardinal and I walked up off the path in its direction. I could see a lot of bird activity in one area so I sat and listened to the various sounds. I could tell a little beyond where I was sitting was another edge area but I was in the woods. Here I saw the Northern Cardinal that was singing, as well as a bird I couldn't identify (later I got a better look at what I think was the same bird- Hermit Thrush), I could hear several Black-capped Chickadees, and a White-throated Sparrow in the distance.

As the trail moved on, it went alongside what seemed like a big, manicured field, almost like a golf course, behind a housing development. I heard a bustle of high pitched birds that I followed the sound of, through a wet area, and finally could see the flash of yellow in the bushes where the noise was coming from. It was a group of American Goldfinch. I saw another cardinal, a Blue Jay, several American Robin, and a White-throated sparrow in this area. Back on the trail, I heard and saw a Brown Creeper and got a good look at the Hermit Thrush. Following the trail down and around, I came out in a wetland and on the edge of that came across several Ruby-crowned Kinglets moving quickly among some shrubs. There seemed to be a lot of them but they didn't stay in one place long. The loop ended the way it began and I even saw the Eastern Bluebird again out in the field!

As far as nesting or breeding behavior is concerned, one major thing that I observed was singing. Whether for territory or to get a female's attention, I heard some birds singing loud songs over and over. Particularly the Northern Cardinal and the Field Sparrow. I wasn't sure where Northern Cardinals nested and I didn't witness any nesting behavior but I read that they (mostly the female) build a cup nest wedged into the fork of a tree, not too high off the ground. They might travel around together to choose the nest site. Though I didn't see a female on this birding trip, I have been seeing pairs of them regularly. As for the the Ruby-crowned Kinglets, while I was watching them they weren't singing and there were several of them around. I saw the ruby on the head of one of them clearly, but I couldn't tell with the others so I wasn't sure if they were a mixed group or not. They were also moving around a lot but it seemed more like feeding behavior than nesting or mate selection. According to the Cornell website, the female makes the nest high up in trees, so high that not a lot is known about their nesting behavior. The ones I saw were in low shrubs, about eye level, so likely they were just eating. I think of the Black-capped Chickadee as a cavity dweller, although while watching them I didn't see any go in or out of a hole. Some were singing, which could have been marking their territory bounds, and then one that I watched for a while was pruning itself inside a shrubby thicket. Reading about their nesting process, the female chooses the site but they both help excavate it. I have never seen a chickadee excavating a hole but I would love to. I wonder if there is a specific time of day that they would typically work on that or if it is just related to the time of year or mate selection. It is interesting that those three different birds all nest in such different spots in the woods. Northern Cardinal is fairly low to the ground, 1-15 feet, Black-capped Chickadee is in a tree from ground level to around 60 feet, and the tiny little Ruby-crowned Kinglet could be 100 feet up in a nest in a tree.

Publicado el abril 23, 2019 11:42 TARDE por chloesardonis chloesardonis | 12 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

08 de abril de 2019

Spring time!!!

This has been an exciting past week with a lot of bird activity! I have been out on several occasions since my last journal but for this journal I will talk about my birding yesterday, April 7th. It was a warm day, in the high forties, around 2 o-clock. Initially, I could hear a Song Sparrow singing but couldn’t find it. I got to where I knew it was in a tree close to me and finally I saw it perched on a branch. Its song wasn’t exactly as I picture their songs but I have been listening to recordings lately and have noticed that there is a lot of variety. Once I could see it, I could confirm that it was in fact a Song Sparrow and not a bird I don’t know. Along with the sparrow, I could hear a lot of Red-winged Blackbird activity. Right near where I live, there is a lot of different kinds of habitat. There are a lot of woodlands, both hardwoods and softwoods, there are open fields, and there are swampy areas and a brook. I went birding in Burlington earlier in the week, as well as Randolph before that, but up here in Northfield, it is fun to see the changes as I am so familiar with what has been around before now. I have been hearing Red-winged Blackbirds in fairly sizable groups (5-10) around lately, and yesterday, around 5 of them flew up into trees near where I was watching the Song Sparrow. They were too high up to clearly see the color on their wings but their call was distinctive. One of them had a higher pitch and sounded a little different and I thought maybe it could be subsong but I am not sure if Red-winged Blackbirds go through those same song learning stages.

Meanwhile, American Robins were all around me. It really felt like spring, with warm(ish) weather, a little sunshine, and a lot of bird chattering. I am not sure how many Robins there were but I heard at least 8 and it seemed like more were around. I saw individuals fly by and call or sing. The bird I was most excited to try and get a picture of yesterday, though, was the American Woodcock. I have been hearing them since a week ago last Saturday, and gotten close and seen them a few times but never with my camera, or never when it was still light enough for a picture. Since I was spending the whole evening outside watching and listening for birds, I figured it was my chance to snap a photo. At 7:30, as it was starting to feel like dusk, I heard the first peent from the field behind my neighbor’s house. I started walking towards it, although there is still some snow in the fields and it isn’t easy to get through all of it, and I got close enough that when it flew up, I saw it. However, its sound was coming from farther away when it landed and I heard one down across the road in the swampy area (an area I have seen it now a few times) so I beelined for that one instead. Again, I saw it fly up and got near where it had been. This time it came down pretty close but it was starting to get dark and my camera was having a hard time focusing on it and it flew again before I got a shot. Unfortunately I lost the light for photos but was able to get very close to it several times. I would get to where it had been peenting and hear its flight display get louder and louder and then hear wing beats right next to me. It was great!

Meanwhile, today is much colder and I decided to go out and compare and contrast what I saw in the same area. It was 28 degrees and there is a fresh layer of snow on the ground from a mixed precipitation that has been falling through out the day. It was pouring rain on my drive home from Burlington and it turned to snow on my drive when I got close to home. When I was outside, there was an icy rain and the birds I saw were mostly winter residents. I saw a lot of the crew I was seeing through the winter: Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Common Redpoll, Mourning Dove and Hairy Woodpecker. I saw a couple species I hadn’t seen up her, but know they live here in the winter: Dark-eyed Junco and Downy woodpecker. They were both at my neighbor’s birdfeeder, although I hadn’t seen them there until today. I saw one single American Robin, but nothing like the chorus of them I was seeing yesterday.

This comparison of days is similar to the prompt this week of comparing our resident species (or wintering birds) to our migratory species. The birds I saw today on this cold, more winter like day, were the winter hardy Vermont birds. I’m not sure how they all manage to make it through, but I know the Black-capped Chickadee has the ability to slow its metabolism down at night as well as spatial memory for seed caching. For them, the adaptations they have to survive winter make the energetic cost of migration not worth it.

As I mentioned in a previous journal, the Common Redpoll actually winter in Vermont and head north to breed, and live at a high elevation so they must have abilities that allow them to thrive in cold. It seems their migration strategy is to go where the food is. They are seed eaters and are actually irruptive migrant. Their range as residents is northern Quebec and all of Newfoundland as well as southern Alaska. To breed, they can go as far north as Baffin Island! They have a 2-year cycle and where they move corresponds to seed availability. They sometimes go into the southern states but not always, depending on food.

As far as new birds to the area, the Red-winged Blackbirds are here in large numbers, and possibly some were here all winter. According to Cornell, they migrate up to 800 miles. According to their map, they are year-round residents in most of the continental US, with the exception of VT, NH, and Northern Maine. They do breed in those states as well as go farther north into Canada. They also are residents in Mexico. Despite this large range, I assume they have a fairly high tolerance for the cold because they are an early spring bird here in Vermont, and with an affinity for swamplands I imagine their habitat can be cold in the early spring. The Song Sparrow is another short-distance migrator, and must not have the cold restrictions some birds have. I forget which species it was we talked about in class that had to eat a seed every few seconds in cold weather. I figure species like that are the longer distance migrators that go to warmer weather and don’t get back until it is warmer here. It would make sense that those birds that don’t go as far away can handle it colder, and therefore can return faster.

The American Woodcock goes as far North in the breeding season as Northern Quebec and a part of Newfoundland in Canada on the east, and as far south as Florida in the winter. A large section of their map is year-round habitat, though, so many probably don’t migrate far, if at all. The northern populations migrate down to the gulf states. They migrate at night, in groups, “at a leisurely pace”. I assume they just need the ground thawed enough here to be soft enough to get their long, shore-bird beak into it.

American Robin is another bird that perhaps is here all winter but definitely turn out in large numbers in the spring time. They can live year-round almost anywhere in the continental US. As worm eaters, I think that thawing ground would be important to them too for spring feeding. The way they survive in the winter must be to make use of whatever food sources are around. It is funny that they are considered such a classic harbinger of spring when likely many of them live here throughout the winter.

Publicado el abril 8, 2019 10:27 TARDE por chloesardonis chloesardonis | 13 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de marzo de 2019

Millerton, NY

On March 15, 2019, I went outside to walk around and see what birds I could see. It was around 5 in the evening and I was at a property that is hundreds of conserved acres with a house on it. Behind the house is a pond, which was still frozen over even though there was no snow on the ground. When I parked in the driveway, there were American Robins everywhere pecking at the ground and making a lot of sounds. I could hear Red-winged Blackbirds near the pond so when I went out to find birds, that is where I headed.

On my way to the pond, there were some shrubs and I could hear a bird jumping around between branches. Once I spotted it, I could tell it was a sparrow but I am not great at telling them apart. Later on my walk I heard a song sparrow, so it made me think that might have been what it was but I can’t be sure. This sparrow had brown and white and it had a line by its eye. That was the main detail I could see but I believe that is a characteristic shared by other sparrow species. Whatever it was, I watched it for a while in the shrub. It moved around a lot and was not easy to see in its low, fairly dense, deciduous shrub. Meanwhile, while watching the sparrow, I became aware of a loud chorus of Red-winged Blackbirds. More than one for sure, I found one in my zoom high up in a tree and watched it call. I could hear a response, or at least another call, coming from across the pond and I found another one there. The longer I sat watching them, though, the more calls I heard and noticed a small tree on an island on the pond with 4 of them on it. Then I saw another one fly across to a different tree, and then another, and then I realized how loud the chorus had gotten of Red-winged blackbird calls. It was all I could hear, with the exception of one Song Sparrow song, the whole time I was anywhere near the pond. All of the Red-winged Blackbirds that I saw were males, as they had the bright wings, and they were all very obvious and loud. I’m not sure if this behavior is the beginning of their breeding season and they are competing with each other or if they were just in a flock.

In looking at the plumage differences between Red-Winged Blackbird and, let’s call it a Song Sparrow for comparisons sake, the Song Sparrow seems well ‘dressed’ for being in shrubs and trees and not be easily picked out. Looking through the spaces between branches, white and brown are kind of what you see, and the speckles on the bird seem to work with the way the branches are moving in the wind, or have dried leaves or old seeds or something on them. The bird isn’t easy to pick out in that habitat and I imagine they spend a lot of time in and among trees and shrubs. The Red-winged Blackbird seems less obvious to me, as the bright color on the males’ wings seems to make them easy to pick out. They are a bird I tend to see more out in the open in wet areas, and a dark pond or swamp back ground could make sense with the black body color, so perhaps the red wings help in some mating way, or maybe there is a positive reason to stand out. They are very loud with their call in the open so it seems like they aren’t afraid to be noticed. Also, when they call they hold their wings in such a way that the red really stands out. I would assume it is to attract a mate because I’m not sure what other purpose it would serve.

As I walked away from the pond, through a field towards woods, I saw a Black-Capped Chickadee perched in a tree, though I didn’t hear it sing at all and it didn’t appear to be foraging or anything like that, just perched. I figured it was resting, or scouting, because it was just looking around perched on a branch. Also, being evening time, it seemed like maybe a less active time for it. I imagine they are pretty active finding food a lot of the day, but maybe rest in the evening and keep an eye out before night falls. Also, the end of winter is probably a harder time to find food than other times as they may have exhausted their food sources but, where I was, there was no snow so maybe they gained access to various seeds or leftover stuff in fields that had been covered for the winter. Since the weather was warmer as well, maybe their calorie requirements go down a little.

I tried to make the pish sound to that resting Black-capped Chickadee and it didn’t illicit a response. In other occasions since then I have tried to make the sound and so far none have come closer to me as a result. Some have flown away but it didn’t appear directly related to the sound I was making. I’m not sure what about that sound would be interesting to them, or scary, but it could mimic a sound another animal makes and they come to investigate or get away from, or if it is a positive response, maybe it sounds like a noise a bird would make in the nest. I know they are a communicative bird and, especially in winter, seem fairly curious. Maybe they deem it their job to look into a sound like that and report back.

Publicado el marzo 25, 2019 01:02 TARDE por chloesardonis chloesardonis | 2 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

06 de marzo de 2019

Scragg Mountain Walk

I went outside for my birding walk around 1:00 PM on a chilly afternoon. It was about ten degrees with a breeze and it was relatively gray outside with occasional brightening of the sky. As I went outside, I hear the sound of crows near my house. I spotted one in a tree in the field across the road from my house and saw two more in flight. Before I could get a photo of it, the first one took off too, cawing as it left the tree. From my house, I started the same direction I did for my last excursion, but this time went straight passed my neighbors house and didn't cut down through the field towards the swampier area, but stayed on the small dead-end road that goes to the Scragg Mountain trailhead.

Scragg Mountain is in the Northfield Mountain Range, just north of the gap that goes between Roxbury and Warren. I was on the Northfield, or Eastern, side. The elevation of the trailhead, I believe, is approximately 1800 feet, and it is definitely colder and snowier than the Champlain Valley. I'm not sure how that translates to bird sightings exactly, but I definitely haven't seen as many species as some of my classmates, although I know there are plenty species that will be here shortly if they aren't yet. There is a brook down below the trail and it is wooded on either side of the trail. Mixed hardwoods with some softwoods mixed in, and the composition changes as you get higher. There is one open field area mid-way up that I walked up passed and there is usually bird activity there, where it is open but up against large tracts of woods.

Despite the terrain, there are some species I can count on seeing, like the Black-capped Chickadee. What a rugged little bird. The Common Redpoll was a species I didn't know until I posted it last time, but I saw it again. I only saw one individual, as opposed to several pecking around on the ground. This one was was in a tree and the only reason I noticed it was because I was zoomed in with my camera trying to get a photo of a Hairy Woodpecker. The Common Redpoll was in a branch of a hardwood tree working on its feathers. It seemed to be pretty puffed up and it kept putting its head down into its breast, preening I think. I also noticed a Black-capped Chickadee messing with its feathers quite a bit. I assume this is something that might help in winter, either fluffing up to add insulation, or making sure the feathers are all zipped up, making a solid little outer jacket. As well as this, during the night I imagine it could slow itself down and use its ability to go into a torpor state as a way to make it through nights. I know Black-capped Chickadees cache seeds around but I imagine it could be challenging this time of year, while it is still really cold but new food sources haven't really begun. I imagine they get a little more desperate and eat from sources that are not their favorite or not as nutritionally dense, but are available, as well as seeds from feeders. As for where they sleep, I didn't find any in snags but I think they are cavity dwellers. Sleeping inside a tree at night both serves to shelter it from the weather and keep it safer, at least from some predators.

I wasn't aware of the Common Redpoll's feed choices so I read about it on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They eat very small seeds because they have very small bills. This time of year, they are likely eating seeds from birches and alders but they also eat seeds from fields which might explain why I saw the flock of them pecking around on the ground last February. I also read on the website that they sometimes spend the night in snow tunnels because it is so much warmer underneath the snow! They are typically a high elevation woods bird that breeds in the far North, so it makes sense that it is one of the hardy birds I see up here on my winter mountain walk.

The Hairy Woodpecker I heard before I saw because as I was walking I heard the drumming sound. At least I think it was a Hairy Woodpecker because I have been seeing and hearing them a lot this last month. The bird I observed was a female, and I'm not sure if females also drum or not, but likely I didn't see the drummer and instead saw a busily feeding female. She was moving up and around a tree. She stuck on a spot where the tree branched that I could noticeably see holes forming which made me think she wasn't the only one lingering on that spot. Besides that spot, though, she circled all over and then would fly to another tree and continue investigating it for food. The whole time I watched her, it didn't seem like she took a break at all. Besides fluffing feathers, it seems like eating a lot is another way that birds get through this season. I imagine she is finding insects in the tree which seems like a pretty protein rich food source for the winter. Her ability to get into a tree where insects overwinter is probably why she can stay so active here during the winter. Other insect eaters probably have to figure other food sources out during the winter when they aren't so readily available.

I noted many snags on my walk, many dead trees and dead limbs. I found one tree that had been torn apart by a Pileated Woodpecker. I didn't see any activity in any holes or cavities when I tapped on the tree but maybe it was my timing, or maybe I was too loud on my snowshoes headed up the trail. It is nice that woodpeckers not only can get themselves high-quality feed for winter, but they also make important winter spots for other animals, both for sleeping and for hiding food.

Publicado el marzo 6, 2019 08:36 TARDE por chloesardonis chloesardonis | 4 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de febrero de 2019

Northfield Bird Watch

For this first journal entry, I walked out from my house on the dead end road towards the trailhead for Scragg Mountain. It was 3:15 pm on February 11th, 2019. It was sunny and clear but chilly and there was a cold breeze. I bundled up and prepared to be moving slowly or not at all for an hour and a half. When I first started walking, I didn't see any movement in the trees and I didn't hear any birds calling. After walking for a couple minutes, I stopped and held still and I began to hear some Black-capped Chickadees calling. As I passed by my neighbor's house I heard the chickadee's song and started seeing movement in a tree near their bird feeder. When I got close to the feeder I started seeing a lot of darting back and forth between trees and the feeder. I cut through a field and over to the wood's edge to observe other birds around.

Aside from the chickadees that were in fairly large numbers, I saw a Red-breasted Nuthatch in an apple tree. I saw two dark-colored birds perched high in a tree and when I zoomed in on the with my camera I could tell they were European Starlings. As I was walking towards the tree they were in, I noticed a silhouette of a bird perched that looked like a Mourning Dove or Rock Pigeon and as I got closer to it, I could tell it was a Mourning Dove. I saw a second one fly out of a different tree. In thinking about flight, I was watching all the ways each species looked different in flight. When the starlings flew, they had fast wing beats and a pause, fast wing beats and a pause, which reminded me of a much less dramatic version of the woodpecker's flight, where it dropped a little in the pauses.

When I actually saw the Hairy Woodpeckers, I saw how much more extreme their version of that flight pattern was. The flight of the Hairy Woodpecker involves flapping as they fly upwards and then dropping down, flapping up, dropping down, but forward motion and slightly rounded. Compared to the European Starling, the distance between the peaks and the troughs are much bigger even if the style is kind of similar. The Starling had fast flaps with a little pause but they didn't drop down quite as significantly. This would make differentiating the Hairy Woodpecker from the other birds I observed very easy, but perhaps not as easy if I was trying to differentiate woodpeckers. In looking at the wing shape of the Hairy Woodpecker, they are not that long but they are wide, almost an elliptical wing shape. This means they are probably good at taking off fast, or rising up, but not as good at soaring. This makes sense with their flight pattern which is almost like always flying up when they are flapping and always going down when they aren't. Likely they spend time in woods and in and around trees where they don't have to go long distances but they do have to maneuver around branches. Also, the fact that they were here in Vermont this time of year means likely they aren't migratory and don't need to fly long distances.

I also watched what I think was a Black-capped Chickadee fly up really high with a lot of direction changes and fast movements. I am not a hundred percent sure of what it was but it was small and white underneath and I hadn't noticed that flight pattern before where it kept changing direction in midair for no reason that was clear to me. I'm not sure if this was a common flight pattern or just a particular individual with a reason.

I also saw a different kind of bird that was very small and it was spending quite a bit of time on the ground instead of in the trees like the Black-Capped Chickadees. I was able to get a picture of it and it was very quickly identified as the Common Redpoll.

Publicado el febrero 11, 2019 11:03 TARDE por chloesardonis chloesardonis | 6 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario