18 de marzo de 2023

3/16 Birdwatching in Mansfield, MA

March 16 from 12:00 pm -1:00 pm
Sunny, 50°F, low wind
Habitats: clearing in a mixed coniferous forest adjacent to an open horse farm

I arrived at my birdwatching location a little before noon. While this is not an optimal time for birdwatching, I was successful in seeing and hearing birds due to the close proximity of many different habitat types. I observed the birds from a clearing that likely once served as an access road in the middle of a conifer-dominant forest. The forest was directly next to open shrubland and a large field that was once a horse farm. At first, I encountered several generalist species. I witnessed 2 American Robins chasing after each other, a typical behavior when establishing territory. This phenomenon tends to occur between 2 males or 2 females. I heard consistent calls from Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinals, Dark-eyed Juncos, Blue Jays, American Crows, and one Golden-crowned Kinglet. For the most part, these birds were not visible.

Red-tailed Hawks are active and highly visible during this time due to their ecological niche as a predator. While most songbirds forage in the morning and take shelter throughout the day, hawks are diurnal hunters with few predators. I spotted 2 Red-tailed Hawks circling over the open field searching for prey. I have heard their calls in this location rather frequently, but they were extremely quiet during their hunt.

While my attempts at “pishing” were unsuccessful, I was able to go back and forth with a Northern Cardinal by whistling. The responding cardinal drew closer and closer throughout the duration of the hour. At the end of my watch, the cardinal flew close to where I was watching, and turned out to be female. It is possible that she approached to mate, as March marks the start of the Northern Cardinal’s breeding season. The male Northern Cardinal’s bright red plumage is the most striking coloration I encountered on my trip. This plumage reflects sexual selection from female cardinals, who prefer the reddest males. This comes at a tradeoff, as the most sexually preferred males stand out the most to predators. The plumage of the Dark-eyed Junco, on the other hand, is useful for remaining camouflaged and undetected in its forest habitat. While their dark plumage is more discreet, these juncos perform courtship rituals in which they flash their bright white tail feathers.

Publicado el 18 de marzo de 2023 a las 08:48 PM por lhaigh lhaigh | 8 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de marzo de 2023

3/1 March Bird Ecology

Date: 3/01/23
Start Time: 7:00
End Time: 8:20
Location: Mansfield Ave where residential area meets woods
Weather: Cloudy, 37℉ with a slight SW wind
Habitats: A combination of street trees, and border forest with patches of brush and snags

This week I observed the birds around my neighborhood. I walked to the border of the residential area and the adjacent woods to get a sense of how birds spend their time in early March. The tree composition in the area is predominantly White Ash, Eastern White Pine, Paper Birch, Red Maple, and various street trees. This morning was very active for birds in the area. With chilly temperatures persisting, the birds are still utilizing adaptations and behaviors to survive. Birds conserve energy to keep warm by postponing breeding until later months. For the most part, they spend most of their time on maintenance, feeding, and resting.

One behavior that enhances winter survival is preening, which maintains feather structure and ensures that the bird is well-insulated. I watched an American Robin preening atop a street tree. Another robin was puffing out its feathers to maintain its body temperature. These robins were by far the most frequent birds that I encountered, with a total of around 8 birds. Their song indicated the arrival of Spring. Another warming behavior I observed was two House Sparrows huddling together atop a tree branch. This allowed them to share body heat and maintain sufficient temperatures.

As I continued on, I heard the laugh-like call and pecking sounds of the Pileated Woodpecker. These woodpeckers depend on hollowing out cavities in trees where they shelter in the cold. The excavation of these holes begins in the fall. Pileated Woodpeckers create separate cavities in the spring for nesting. I assume that the pecking I heard was either the woodpecker beginning its nesting cavity or foraging for insect larvae, such as those of ants and beetles.

Towards the end of my walk, I rapped a stick on a snag and a Black-capped Chickadee emerged. I would assume that the chickadee had finished its foraging for insect larvae and seeds for the morning and returned to the snag to stay warm. These hollows are extremely important for birds that do not have the anatomical capabilities (such as that of the woodpecker) to create caverns to stay warm. Snags like these protect birds as well as other animals from harsh winds and allow body heat to accumulate in frigid temperatures. For a bird like a Black-capped Chickadee, smaller snags would be ideal, as they allow less room for predators and allow less space for heat to dissipate. Other birds I saw and heard included the European Starling, Northern Cardinal, American Crow, 3 Tufted Titmouse, and 3 White-breasted Nuthatches.

Publicado el 07 de marzo de 2023 a las 08:51 PM por lhaigh lhaigh | 5 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

19 de febrero de 2023

2/15 on the Border of Centennial Woods

Date-February 15, 2023
Time: 7:50 am- 9:00 am
Weather: Cloudy and Windy with Drizzles
Location: Centennial Woods- Open Woods/Grassland, new growth trees and shrubs

I did not see many birds when I got to my location on the border of Centennial woods. The fairly open habitat boasted a combination of dead and alive trees, with lots of shrubberies. Many of the trees produced red berries which appeared to be a popular food choice for many birds. This specific area is usually bustling with bird activity, so I would assume the light drizzle that started around 8:10 am made most birds take shelter. I did, however, witness 3 different species of birds.

I first noticed several American Crows flying overhead. The generalist species has been very active all throughout Burlington this winter, so it came as no surprise when they appeared over the open woodland. The crows exhibited a flight pattern that consisted of near-constant flapping with very little gliding. American Crows have elliptical wings, which permits them to fly at high speeds with a great ability to maneuver. Their exposed primary feathers produce several airfoils which enhance the crow’s lift while reducing its drag. This wing type gives crows a high degree of control to effectively navigate its wide variety of habitat types, from forests to busy cities.

The second bird I encountered was the Black-capped Chickadee. The tiny generalist is another common Vermont bird. In flight, their bodies bob up and down. They alternate between quickly flapping their wings and folding them in, producing a bounding motion. I would assume they do this for energy efficiency reasons. Similar to the American Crow, Black-capped Chickadees also have an elliptical wing type that allows for high maneuverability. This is advantageous for navigating a wide variety of landscapes as well as escaping predators. I observed a group of 3 chickadees foraging for food on the tree with red berries. They hopped from branch to branch using their wings for stability. One chickadee dove from a tree branch to the ground.

The final bird I observed was the European Starling. A starling’s wings are most similar to the high-speed wing shape. The species displayed a flight pattern that consisted of rapid flapping followed by diving. Their flapping pattern produced a bobbing motion similar to what I observed in the Black-capped Chickadees. In comparison to the American Crow and Black-capped Chickadee, European Starling’s primary feathers are not as exposed while in flight. The alula of the starling is not exposed at all. They likely have a lower maneuverability in comparison to the crows and chickadees due to their wing type, which is optimized for reaching high speeds. This contributes to their preference for disturbed habitats.

Publicado el 19 de febrero de 2023 a las 10:31 PM por lhaigh lhaigh | 3 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario