21 de abril de 2019

East Woods: The Start of Mating Season?

After a few days of rain, the weather finally cleared and I was able to go out to enjoy it. This weekend I headed to East Woods, a small natural area near UVM campus. I set out shortly after 8:00 AM and stayed out until shortly after 10:00 AM, hoping to catch the birds early in the morning. The woods were a combination of old pines and some deciduous trees. I noticed a large amount of snags and downed woody debris in the area. Potash Brook also runs through the woods, providing habitat for some waterfowl and other associated birds.

It's officially spring; the warm weather has persisted and snow has been replaced with rain. This shift means that birds are returning and busy preparing for mating season. During this trip, I noticed a few recent migrants such as the Winter Wren and Eastern Phoebes, and many species were also being quite vocal, such as the usually shy Brown Creepers. Despite being a relatively small area, East Woods actually provides quite a bit of nesting habitat for all of these small songbirds.

The Winter Wren was a particularly exciting sighting; it's a very small bird and can easily hide among branches and downed woody debris. I did a bit of research using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website, allaboutbirds.org, to research the nesting habits of different species. I found that Winter Wrens often nest in natural cavities. East Woods offers a few good options for nesting sites, including upturned trees by the water and a variety of fallen trees and standing snags to choose from.

The Brown Creepers are also fond of old trees and large snags; however, they're a bit pickier. Brown Creepers specifically like dead or dying trees with loose bark and will build their nests in between. Both Brown Creepers were spotted near a large dead snag with missing bark which could potentially serve as a nest site. Similar large trees were scattered through the woods, suggesting that they have a large selection of nesting habitat.

Eastern Phoebes weren't spotted easily, but they were frequently heard while walking alongside Potash Brook. The brook offers good potential feeding habitat and was surrounded by many small trees where they could perch. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Eastern Phoebes often make their nests on human structures. East Woods is a relatively small area, so they may be nesting near the edges of the woods. Eastern Phoebes are also known to be rather territorial. Individuals were heard singing at the far ends of the loop where it follows Potash Brook, not close together. This suggests that the birds may be using separate parts of the brook and singing to announce their presence in their territory.

Other sightings from today included Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Tufted Titmouse, all of which have been regular appearances on my birding trips. A male Mallard was also spotted on Potash Brook and paused on a small island in the middle. American Crows and gulls were both heard and seen flying over.

As the warm weather sets in, the birds have become quite vocal, likely trying to attract mates or defend their territories. I've started paying careful attention to sound to both identify species and locate them on the landscape. It may be easy to find species like Black-capped Chickadees, but even shy species are making themselves known again. Listening closely has been an excellent tool for locating these other little marvels of the forest.

Anotado en abril 21, domingo 16:38 por kayley-j-dillon kayley-j-dillon | 11 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de abril de 2019

Centennial Woods: First Spring Migrants!

Winter in Vermont has officially given way to mud season. Temperatures have risen consistently above freezing, and my friends, Meghan and Jasper, and I decided to set out to Centennial Woods in hopes of seeing some of this year's first migrants. The weather was rather overcast. We set out early on April 7th, around 9:00 AM, and stayed through the morning to return around noon.

Most of the species we observed were still resident species, like Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpeckers. The birds that remain in Vermont for the winter have the ability to deal with the harsh conditions, such as cold and lack of food. Black-capped Chickadees are able to go into hypothermia and recover, allowing them to endure bitter cold. Some species, like Downy Woodpeckers, still have decent access to a food resource. You'll see woodpeckers on trees in the middle of winter as well as the summer. Even American Robins were relatively common through this winter. As generalists, robins are able to take advantage of the resources still available, like seeds which persist through winter and fruiting trees.

A few exciting migrants did appear though, including the iconic Red-winged Blackbird. One bird was seen perched in the top of a tree over the retention pond, singing his heart out. By arriving so early, the blackbirds have an opportunity to claim territory and prepare for the breeding season. Another notable migrant was the Eastern Phoebe. Surprisingly, however, I was able to find little information about Eastern Phoebe migration. Despite being such a well-known aspect of birds' lives, migration isn't fully understood in many species.

To put migration into perspective, the Eastern Phoebe's migration could be as far as 1,200 miles or more. I found that the exact wintering grounds of many bird species were difficult to locate. Using information from All About Birds, Birds of North America, and Google Maps, I was able to come up with some rough distance estimates. All the migratory species we saw on this trip traveled an estimated cumulative 2,844 miles, and those are just the species seen in one morning.

So far, the warmer weather has held, and hopefully these conditions will continue to bring the birds back north. I'll be keeping my eyes out for more migrants as the weather warms and spring fully takes hold in Vermont.

Anotado en abril 07, domingo 19:51 por kayley-j-dillon kayley-j-dillon | 18 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de marzo de 2019

The Intervale: Bird Behavior and the Start of Spring (Hopefully)

Today I had the opportunity to visit the Intervale with Meghan, a good friend of mine. We took off relatively early this morning (March 24th, 2019); we arrived shortly after 9:00 AM and left a little after 11:00 AM. It was a sunny morning after a few less pleasant days, so we were optimistic. We followed the trail along the Winooski River for the first stretch of our walk, then looped back through the woods and past the fields to return. This route gave us the opportunity to search for waterfowl on the river and search the woods for songbirds, woodpeckers, and any other birds we may see.

Today's trip certainly didn't disappoint. Our first exciting sighting was a Brown Creeper, who was both singing and visible on the side of a tree. It's a species I haven't seen before and one that's relatively shy, so it was a pleasure to get to see one in person.

Shortly after, we encountered a large group of Mallards on the river. Most of the birds were either resting on a small island or feeding around it. A few seemed to be taking watch, including a male who notably kept his head up and remained alert while we were watching. This behavior highlights the benefits of being in a flock that we discussed in my Ornithology class. Overall scanning time is decreased, and individuals are able to spend more time foraging. They're both safer and more successful. A similar pattern was seen in groups of Canada Geese as well.

Another incident that stuck out to me was an interaction between a pair of Downy Woodpeckers. Both were pecking on a few trees and snags, and one flew in and chased the other bird off of a branch. The second bird was fluffed up and the red spot on the back of its head was particularly noticeable. The first bird didn't attempt to regain its place, and the second continued searching for food in the cavity. It seemed like the second bird was using this physical cue to lay claim to a food resource and scare the other bird off.

Before leaving, we also encountered a Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by a group of American Crows. The crows chased the hawk into a tree and vocalized frequently in an attempt to scare the hawk off. The hawk remained perched in the tree. It was an excellent example of cooperative behavior for mutual benefit.

Overall, we encountered a wide variety of other birds today as well, including American Goldfinches, Song Sparrows, American Robins, Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, and White-breasted Nuthatch. We tried some pishing while out and about, and some chickadees actually responded pretty consistently. It was a technique we had discussed in class before; I think the "pish" sound actually resembles the Black-capped Chickadee's call. Chickadees are pretty bold birds, so they may respond and can encourage other birds to make themselves known. It's a fun technique, and a good way to attract chickadees and other birds that interact with them.

The trip was as successful as I'd hoped, and it's wonderful to see so many birds active in the morning again. Hopefully spring is finally on its way in the great Northeast. I'm looking forward to more trips as the weather improves and the migrants start to return for the summer.

Anotado en marzo 24, domingo 19:38 por kayley-j-dillon kayley-j-dillon | 13 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de marzo de 2019

Shelburne Bay Park: Surviving Winter

Somehow, this trip was my first visit to Shelburne Bay Park. For anyone else who hasn't had the chance to visit, Shelburne Bay Park is a public park which runs along Shelburne Bay. Most of the area is forested; it consisted of a large number of evergreens, such as Eastern White Pine and Northern White-Cedar, and hardwoods such as Shagbark Hickory and young American Beech trees. This time I traveled with two friends (thanks to both of them for all of their help). We started at the parking lot, followed the Shelburne Recreation Trail up to the point where it reached the Clark Trail, and then wrapped back around. The trail was relatively icy, and there was still a good layer of snow on the ground. The weather was relatively warm, but it did flurry on and off during our trip. We started just after 10 in the morning and finished shortly after noon.

Unfortunately, the birds were relatively shy and scarce. We heard multiple common species (American Robin, Northern Cardinal, and Tufted Titmouse), but were not able to see any of them. We also heard American Crows quite often, but only saw a few when they flew overhead. A few other birds were quite vocal, including White-breasted Nuthatch, and we were very excited to hear a Brown Creeper singing while watching a group of Black-capped Chickadees.

We had the best luck spotting birds at a specific point along the Shelburne Recreation Trail, where the forest bordered a field. The first group to appear were the Black-capped Chickadees, as they often are. The chickadees flitted between a group of shrubs, some small trees, and a denser grove of white pines. They also foraged on the ground on occasion, usually by the base of one of the trees. When they weren't searching around, they were usually in the denser trees. The chickadees were also noticeably fluffed up when they were perched in the trees, trying to retain body heat.

The Eastern Bluebirds appeared while we were watching the chickadees and perched in a tall tree over the field. They didn't remain there very long, as a large group of European Starlings flew into the same tree. The bluebirds retreated into other trees along the edge of the forest. They also appeared to be somewhat fluffed up. As a side note, the bluebirds didn't actually appear very blue due to the cloud cover. It's an excellent example of structural color; the lack of light back the birds appear more grey at a distance.

Since so many birds seemed to be staying hidden and out of the weather, we also spent a good amount of time checking dead snags, as they can provide good shelter. We didn't find any wildlife actually living in the snags, however. We did find significant evidence of woodpeckers. Many small snags had small, round holes in them. Larger snags often had bigger, more rectangular holes. A good number of snags appeared to be dead Northern White-Cedars, but these snags had fewer cavities, if they had any at all. Some living trees also had a decent number of large cavities. Specifically, we found an old Eastern White Pine which had two recently excavated, large, rectangular cavities. The debris was still scattered around the base of the tree.

Overall, most birds seemed to be taking shelter, either in denser trees while foraging, or deeper in the dense portions of the forest. The variety of songs we heard and other signs we encountered, however, suggest that a wide variety of species are likely present in better weather. Currently, birds are trying to save energy by staying out of the elements, or searching for limited amounts of food available. As the weather warms and more food becomes available, they'll likely become more mobile and active again.

Anotado en marzo 05, martes 15:51 por kayley-j-dillon kayley-j-dillon | 9 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de febrero de 2019

Beebe Pond: Bird ID and Flight Observations

Beebe Pond is a small body of water in rural Vermont. The pond is surrounded by mixed forests, including pines and a variety of hardwood trees. Given its somewhat isolated location and the relatively large tracts of forest around it, the area around Beebe Pond acts as quality bird habitat, even on cold and snowy winter days. The morning was clear and relatively warm for a Vermont winter, so it seemed like an ideal time for birding.
I followed the main path on this trip, often stopping to watch a group of birds. Most of the birds were seen in groups; specifically, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and White-breasted Nuthatches usually appeared together. All three species were relatively vocal, though the Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice were the least timid. These birds often darted between the branches of the trees, sometimes flying straight over the path to perch in a tree on the other side. The White-breasted Nuthatches were a bit more timid. They were often spotted climbing on tree trunks and would usually retreat further into the woods shortly after.
The Downy Woodpeckers were distinctly different any of the other birds observed. While they were sometimes spotted near the other birds, they were also seen alone or in pairs. The woodpeckers also had a unique way of moving. They would usually take longer flights, rather than hopping from one tree to the next. Their flight pattern was also very distinct; they would flap their wings a few times, rise, fall slightly, and then repeat the pattern. They would move in a sort of wave motion through the air, then land in a large tree or snag. Usually, they would stay in that tree for some time once they landed, drumming on the branches. The woodpeckers seemed to be very deliberate about where they would move, picking out specific trees and then moving on straight to the next. This pattern was different from the smaller perching birds observed, which usually hopped from one tree to the next very quickly as opposed to making longer, direct flights.
The American Crow was, of course, very different from any of the other species. The crow was seemingly focused on travelling a much longer distance. It only landed briefly in a pine, then took off again and soared farther off. Each bird's flight pattern seemed to correspond to its usual activities and habits. The crow occupies a larger area and is often travelling a longer distance in one flight. The woodpeckers rely specifically on larger trees and snags where they're likely to find insects. As such, they make relatively short distance flights from one potential food source to the next. The smaller perching birds, such as the titmice, usually only made quick flights from one tree to the next. They flew in quick bursts, as they were usually only in the air for a short amount of time. Each bird's flight pattern was designed to be as effective as possible for its specific needs.

Anotado en febrero 03, domingo 21:50 por kayley-j-dillon kayley-j-dillon | 6 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario