April 25, 2020

Saturday, April 25 - Quakertown Swamp in Sellersville, Pennsylvania (17:20 - 18:50)

Birds were observed from 17:20 - 18:50 on Saturday, April 25 at Quakertown Swamp in in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. The weather was 64 degrees F and partly cloudy with little wind. Quakertown swamp is a wetland that is 518 acres in area. The wetland includes areas of open water, wet meadows, and forested swamps. The forested swamps contained mostly deciduous trees. Quakertown swamp features a Great Blue Heron rookery, which may be one of the largest in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Over the course of my time at Quakertown Swamp, I observed 1 Mourning Dove, 1 White-breasted Nuthatch, and 1 Black-capped Chickadee by the edge of a forested area next to the parking lot. I saw 13 Great Blue Herons in the rookery. Most of these herons were standing in nests, high in trees in the wetland. At least 15 Red-winged Blackbirds were seen throughout the wetland, and many of them were heard calling. 5 Common Grackles were seen in trees near the edge of the wetland, and a few of them were heard calling. 1 Turkey Vulture was seen soaring over the wetland. 1 Mallard was seen in a small stream near the wetland, and 1 Northern Cardinal was seen flying near this stream. Finally, 1 Osprey was seen perched in a tree near the edge of the wetlands.

Posted on April 25, 2020 23:47 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 22, 2020

Monday, April 20 - Pool Wildlife Sanctuary in Emmaus, Pennsylvania (8:00 - 9:30)

Birds were observed from 8:00 - 9:30 on Monday, April 20 at Pool Wildlife Sanctuary in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. The weather was 46 degrees F and cloudy with little wind. I walked along various trails at the sanctuary, and one of the trails followed a section of the Little Lehigh Creek. This was a forested area with mostly deciduous trees. The trees were a wide variety of sizes, there was a high level of underbrush. Many of the trees had buds or small leaves, and small flowering plants were observed.

During my time at Pool Wildlife Sanctuary, I observed 2 Eastern Phoebes by the river, perched on trees. I heard 1 Song Sparrow singing its song and 1 Blue Jay calling near the entrance of the sanctuary. I saw 3 Northern Cardinals, including a mating pair by the river. I saw 8 Mallards in the river, including a mother with 4 chicks. One American Crow was seen flying above the trees near the river. 2 Canada Geese were seen flying over the river. 6 American Robins were observed near the river. Most of them were in bushes or on the ground. One of these robins was observed in a nest on a branch in a bush. I walked from the trail near the river towards the northern end of the sanctuary. In this area, I heard 1 House Finch calling. I also saw 7 White-throated Sparrows moving through the forest's underbrush in a group. 1 Red-bellied Woodpecker was seen on a tree. 3 Carolina Wrens were observed flying around the underbrush. 2 Downy Woodpeckers were seen flying from tree to tree in the distance. I heard three Northern Cardinals, 2 Canada Geese, 2 Blue Jays, 1 White-throated Sparrow, and 1 House Finch calling in this area as well.

I observed two Northern Cardinals together, and one as male and one was female. It is likely that they were a mating pair. The birds traveled through the area that I was in quickly, and I was not able to identify any specific courtship behaviors. The two Downy Woodpeckers that I observed may have also been a mating pair. I was too far from the birds to be able to identify their sexes, but the woodpeckers appeared to be chasing each other through the trees. At times, it appeared that they may have been flying more slowly, which is known to be a courtship behavior of Downy Woodpeckers. The American Robin that was observed in a nest appeared to be building the nest. It was moving up and down and around in circles in the nest. It also flew out and back to the nest a couple of times, and it may have been gathering small pieces of brush to build its nest. There did not appear to be any eggs or nestlings in the nest. The robin's nest was in a bush on a branch, as mentioned earlier. The branch that it was on was hanging over the river. I observed 6 other smaller nests near the same trail by the river. All of these nests were perched on tree branches at least 10 feet above the ground. I was not able to identify the species of the trees where the nests were, due to the lack of leaves on them. However, all of these trees were deciduous. One more nest was observed in a deciduous tree, about 15 feet above the ground, next to a meadow in the center of the sanctuary. I did not observe any birds in the near vicinity of any of the nests, except for the American Robin's nest. All of the other nests were smaller than the American Robin's nest and were likely the nests of smaller songbirds. Also, the American Robin's nest was in a bush, and this was the only observed nest that was not high in a tree. I heard Northern Cardinals calling from different directions in the northern part of the sanctuary. One of the calls from coming from the west, near the river. The second call was from the north, in a densely forested area. The third call was from the east and appeared to be coming from far away, near a residential property that borders the sanctuary. These cardinals may have been defending their territories. I am unsure how to rank their territories in terms of how prime or poor they are. However, the cardinal heard in the east may have been defending edge habitat near a residential property, which could be considered prime territory. The other two cardinals were in forest habitat with dense vegetation, which could also be considered prime territory, because cardinals prefer to nest in dense bushes. All of these cardinals may have high fitness, because they likely have access to sufficient food (feeders) or prime nesting sites (dense bushes). The American Robin was observed in its nest, as previously mentioned. Its nest was made up of many small twig and thin pieces of grass. Most of these materials were most likely gathered in the near vicinity of the bush that the nest was in. The surrounding area had many small twigs on the grass and there was some grass like plants as well. The robin appeared to be building or modifying its nest while I was watching it. It appeared to be placing small pieces of brush in its nest.

Link to Mini Activity- Sound Map: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r34_aOR4U8iigEEczjQtsHm9bvjFucWT/view?usp=sharing

Posted on April 22, 2020 22:57 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 13 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 15, 2020

Tuesday, April 14 - Lehigh Parkway in Allentown, Pennsylvania (14:40 - 15:50)

Birds were observed from 14:40 - 15:50 on Tuesday, April 14 at Lehigh Parkway in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The weather was 55 degrees F and sunny with little wind. This was a forested area with almost entirely deciduous trees. I walked along a trail in the forest that was next to the Little Lehigh Creek. The trees were a wide variety of sizes, there was a high level of underbrush. Overall, the forest was pretty densely covered with vegetation. Many of the tree had buds, and there were buds and small leaves on some of the underbrush. Also, a few small flowering plants were observed.
Over the course of my time at Lehigh Parkway, I observed 18 American Robins. Many of these robins were in a grassy field or in a pasture area of a farm that was next to the forest. A few of these robins were calling and some appeared to be feeding on the ground. 3 Northern Cardinals were either seen or heard throughout the area. One White-breasted Nuthatch was heard calling by the creek. One American Crow was heard calling far away. Three Blue Jays were seen high up in trees, and a few of them were heard calling. Two Mourning Doves were seen flying from tree to tree in the forest. One Red-winged Blackbird was heard calling near the edge of the forest. Two European Starlings were seen in a puddle near the farm by the edge of the forest. Two Canada Geese were seen walking and calling in a grassy area near the creek. One Common Merganser was seen on a rock in the middle of the creek. Finally, one Red-tailed Hawk was seen soaring high above the forest, and it was heard making a loud screeching call once.

Posted on April 15, 2020 19:52 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2020

Saturday, April 4 - South Mountain Preserve in Emmaus, Pennsylvania (15:00 - 17:00)

Birds were observed from 15:00 - 17:00 on Saturday, April 4 at South Mountain Preserve in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. South Mountain Preserve an area of 350 acres of protected forest, that includes 9 miles of hiking trail. The weather was 55 degrees F, cloudy, and winds were blowing 4mph NNE. Birds were observed throughout South Mountain Preserve, starting from the trailhead at Alpine Street. The forested area contained almost entirely deciduous trees. The trees were a wide variety of sizes, there was a moderate level of underbrush. Overall, the forest was pretty densely covered with vegetation. There was no snow on the ground, buds on some of the trees were observed, and there were some other small flowering plants observed.
Over the course of my time at South Mountain Preserve, I heard the sounds of three different woodpeckers drumming on trees. I was not able to visually observe any of these birds, but all of the sounds were heard in different parts of the forest, and there were likely from different birds. One Northern Cardinal was heard calling near the northern edge of South Mountain preserve. Also, one Black-capped Chickadee and 3 Blue Jays were heard calling in the same area as the Northern Cardinal. 3 Turkey Vultures were seen circling high above the center of South Mountain Preserve. One Hairy Woodpecker was seen on deciduous tree. Initially, it was drumming on the tree, but it stopped drumming when approached. The woodpecker continued to pick at the branches of the tree. Two American Robins were seen flying near the edge of the forest by a utility cut that runs through South Mountain Preserve. One White-breasted Nuthatch was heard calling near the utility cut. 4 Song Sparrows were seen on the ground and in bushes in a small meadow in the utility cut. The sparrows were heard making a few calls as well.
Some of the species that I observed today are known to be notable year-round residents of Pennsylvania. These species are Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Song Sparrows, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinal, and Hairy Woodpecker. These birds do not migrate because they are able to tolerate the colder temperatures of winters in Pennsylvania. Also, they are able to find enough food by eating seeds and dormant insects. For example, Hairy Woodpeckers are able to find invertebrates to eat by boring holes in the sides of trees. Blue Jays are known to store away food to consume during food shortages in the winter. Some chickadees and nuthatches are also known to do this. Most of these birds benefit by finding seeds in the winter, and most of them utilize bird feeders as well. Black-capped Chickadees are known to have lower temperatures in their feet than the rest of their body, in order to avoid losing heat. American Robins are known to be facultative migrants. The robins that I observed were likely coming from further south and traveling further north. These robins were likely further south in the winter in order to have access to more food, such as berries. Pennsylvania is now much warmer than in the winter and more food sources for robins are becoming accessible, like worms. Thus, there is an increased chance of survival now for robins than in the winter, likely facilitating the arrival of robins that chose to migrate south. Turkey Vultures are considered to be obligate migrants. Some of the advantages of arriving in Pennsylvania in early April include warmer temperatures than the winter and increased food availability. The increase of animal activity in the spring likely leads to more opportunities for Turkey Vultures to scavenge. Some of the disadvantages of arriving in Pennsylvania in April may be that many plants have not sprouted or fruited yet.
Most of the species that I observed are known to be resident species of Pennsylvania and may have not migrated at all. However, American Robins, a facultative migrant, are known to migrate are far south as Guatemala, which is approximately 1,972 miles from my site. Also, Turkey Vultures, an obligate migrant, are known to migrate as far south as Argentina, which is approximately 5,460 miles from my site. Thus, the rough total miles traveled by both of these species is 7,432 miles.

Posted on April 09, 2020 03:53 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 26, 2020

Monday, March 9 - Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania (12:30 - 15:45)

Birds were observed from 12:30 - 15:45 on Monday, March 9 at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania. Middle Creek is Pennsylvania's first waterfowl refuge. The total area of Middle Creek is over 5,000 acres. This land is mostly covered by forests and farmland and contains a 400-acre reservoir. The weather was 64 degrees F, sunny, and winds were blowing 13mph SW. This was a very warm day for this time of the year. Birds were observed in forested land surrounding the Middle Creek Visitor Center in the southwest corner of the management area and in the reservoir. The forested area contained mostly deciduous trees. The trees were a wide variety of sizes, there was a moderate level of underbrush. Overall, the forest was pretty densely covered with vegetation. There was no snow on the ground, and buds on some of the trees were observed.
In the forested area surrounding the visitor center, I observed a Song Sparrow calling near the edge of the forest. At least 5 Blue Jays were heard calling many times while walking through this area. A few of these Blue Jays were seen flying from branch to branch in a small group. Two Dark-eyed Juncos were seen hopping on the ground near the edge of the forest. Two Downy Woodpeckers were observed on trees. The Downy Woodpeckers were drumming on branches a bit, and one appeared to be eating berries. One White-breasted Nuthatch was heard calling and seen flying near the tops of trees. One Black-capped Chickadee was heard calling several times. Two Canada Geese were seen flying together over the forest. About 6 Song Sparrows were seen and heard calling by the edge of the forest. A mating pair of Ring-necked Pheasants were seen walking on the ground near the edge of the forest. Finally, 4 Eastern Bluebirds were seen in trees and on the ground next to the visitor center.
After walking through the forested area by the visitor center, I walked along the perimeter of the reservoir. First, I saw a pair of Mallards swimming in middle of the reservoir. I saw a pair of Northern Shovelers swimming near the Southern edge of the reservoir. Two Turkey Vultures were seen flying over the middle of the reservoir. About 40 Tundra Swan were seen swimming in a large group near the northern edge of the reservoir. Finally, approximately 4,000 - 5,000 Snow Geese were seen flying, swimming, or on the shore during the duration of my time by the reservoir. This number range of Snow Geese was estimated by a naturalist working at Middle Creek. The naturalist informed me that thousands of Snow Geese pass through Middle Creek every day during this time of the year, as they migrate north. The geese that were seen in the reservoir and on the ground were taking a break before continuing their flights north.
The Blue Jays observed were traveling throughout the forest and calling a lot. Their calls could have been a form of communication to each other and/or to mark their territory to other birds. The Blue Jays were in the area of other birds, such as Downy Woodpeckers and a Black-capped Chickadee. It is possible that their calls became more loud or frequent in the presence of these other bird species. The two Downy Woodpeckers were drumming on branches in the vicinity of each other. It is possible that the woodpeckers were a mating pair. The drumming could have either been to attract a mate, to mark their territory, or to find food in the tree branches. The Song Sparrows were calling frequently and observed in a group. They may have been trying to communicate with each other. The massive group of Snow Geese concentrated in the reservoir area were making lots of calls. These calls were likely to communicate with each other, as there were no other species present near them. The Snow Geese had nearly completely white plumage, with black coloration on the ends of their wings. This differs from the plumage of the Canada Geese. The Canada Geese had black heads, white cheeks, black necks, brown backs, and light-colored breasts. Both of these bird species are similar in terms of shape and size and both had light-colored breasts and undersides. The mostly while plumage of the Snow Geese may be evolutionarily advantageous because they breed very far north, where the landscape is mostly covered with snow. The white plumage would serve as cryptic coloration in snowy areas, allowing breeding Snow Geese to hide from predators better. Canada Geese usually do not breed as far north as Snow Geese, which may be why they have darker plumage. The brown backs of the Canada Geese may cause them to blend in better on land, in earth-colored habitats. One of the Snow Geese that I observed was resting and floating near the edge of the reservoir. This bird was likely resting on while migrating north at the end of the winter. This migration is an example of circannual rhythm, meaning that this Snow Goose likely performs this migration north every year due to a biological process.
Only one Black-capped Chickadee was heard calling in the forest. I did not see this bird, any other chickadees, or many other groups of small birds. I tried making a "pish" call, but I did not notice that this call attracted or drove away any birds. The goal of making this sound would be to either draw small birds closer or drive them away. Birds could be drawn closer if they believe that the sound is coming from a source of food, like an insect. They could be driven away if they believe that the sound is coming from a predator. I likely had no success because I never was in the near vicinity of a group of chickadees or other small birds.

Posted on March 26, 2020 02:23 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 06, 2020

Thursday, March 5 - Centennial Woods in Burlington, Vermont (16:10 - 17:40)

Birds were observed from 16:10 - 17:40 on Thursday, March 5 in Centennial Woods in Burlington, Vermont. The weather was 43 degrees F, partly cloudy, and winds were blowing 9mph NNW. Centennial Woods is a forested area within the city of Burlington. Birds were observed in the southwest corner of Centennial Woods. This is a forested area that is primarily made up of tall deciduous and coniferous trees. Most of the trees in Centennial Woods have heights of about 30 feet or higher. There was minimal underbrush and snow on the ground as well. This was a much warmer day than most days of the winter, but there snow still covered almost every bit of the ground throughout Centennial Woods.

I observed many American Crows flying over Centennial Woods. Most crows could be seen and heard as they flew heading North or Northwest. The largest flock of crows that I saw contained about 50 individuals. I also observed the calls of 7 Black-capped Chickadees. I was not able to see any of them, but they could be heard in the distance on several occasions. Most of the calls appeared to be coming from the western edge of Centennial Woods. I saw three Downy Woodpeckers flying from tree to tree, high in a canopy of primarily deciduous trees. They were making calls and pecking at branches at the tops of the trees. They were making high-pitched squeaky calls, and they may have been foraging. Finally, I heard repetitive loud drumming in the distance on a couple of occasions. I believe that the source of the drumming was a woodpecker, but I am not sure what species of woodpecker it was because I never saw the bird. I tried to walk closer to the drumming sounds, but did not want to venture off trail, and the bird was too far away, deep in the forest.

I tried to observe strategies that birds in Centennial Woods were using to stay warm during the winter. As I mentioned earlier, all of the observed American Crows were flying North or Northwest, which could mean that they were returning from a migration from the south. It has been getting increasingly warm in Burlington, Vermont, which could make it easier for birds to survive if they have to expend less energy to stay warm. I also observed several large holes in snags, or dead trees. These holes may have been made by birds to use as cover. These holes could be used to shelter birds from cold weather during the winter. Various species may also use these holes as shelter overnight, when temperatures drop. The American Crows that I observed were flying high over the forest and may have been looking for food below. This is very possible, because American Crows are known to be scavengers. The Downy Woodpeckers that I observed were pecking at trees. They may have been looking for small invertebrates to eat that were inside of the trees they were pecking. They were flying from tree to tree, pecking branches on each tree, which appeared to be a possible feeding behavior. The woodpecker that I heard drumming in the distance may have also been looking for food inside of trees or trying to attract a mate. I was not able to see any of the Black-capped Chickadees, but their calls were coming from the edge of the forest. Since it is winter, there are less food sources available deep in the forest. It is possible that the Black-capped Chickadees were foraging near the edge of Centennial Woods, where there could be more food sources. There are homes near the western edge of Centennial Woods, which could have feeders to attract birds.

As mentioned earlier, I observed multiple snags in Centennial Woods, and each of the snags had many holes on the outside. The observed snags were moderate (about 20 feet high) to large (about 30-40 feet high) sizes. I observed three moderately sized snags and three large sized snags. The large snags appeared more large holes than the moderately sized snags. The moderately sized snags also appeared to have more small holes than the large snags. I rapped on a few of the snags with snags but did not observe any birds pop out of them. Although I did not observe any birds utilizing any of the snags, snags are very important for providing birds with shelter. Numerous bird species are known to use holes in snags as shelter to raise their offspring. Birds may also use snags as shelter from uncomfortable weather conditions, to hide from predators, or to sleep in overnight.

Posted on March 06, 2020 01:38 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 19, 2020

Sunday, February 16 - Centennial Woods in Burlington Vermont (14:30 - 16:00)

Birds were observed from 14:30 - 16:00 on Sunday, February 16 in Centennial Woods in Burlington Vermont. The weather was 36 degrees F, partly cloudy, and winds were blowing 13mph south. Centennial Woods is a forested area within the city of Burlington. The area of Centennial Woods where the birds were observed had a roughly even ratio of deciduous and coniferous trees. Most of the trees were tall with heights of about 30 feet or higher. There was minimal underbrush and snow on the ground as well.
Numerous American Crows were observed flying over the forest during my time at Centennial Woods. Three groups, with at least 20 American Crows in each group, flew over the area where I was walking. All of the crows were flying south, and none were observed flying below the tops of any trees. The observed flight patterns of the crows consisted of nearly constant flapping and a bit of gliding with their wings spread wide. Their wings appeared to move with an elliptical pattern. Also, their wings had somewhat of an elliptical shape with slotted wing tips. The slotted nature of their wings provides them with extra lift as they fly. This flight style makes sense for crows' habitat niche, as they are scavengers. The crows that I observed were likely looking for food on the ground as they flew high above the trees. They were not flying particularly fast, allowing them to spot food on the ground more easily. American Crows could be identified in flight based on their characteristics of being black birds with somewhat slotted wings that flap constantly just over the tops of trees.
Several other bird species were observed. 3 Downy Woodpeckers were seen on a tree, 1 Blue Jay call was heard, 4 White-breasted Nuthatches were seen on trees and heard making loud repetitive calls, and 4 Black-capped Chickadees were heard making loud calls. The time of day, weather, and habitat did not hinder my ability to observe several species. However, I did not observe a wide variety of species. This might indicate that many bird species migrate south in the winter and are rare to observe in Burlington, Vermont in the middle of February. I may travel deeper into forested areas in the future with the hopes of seeing more species. I stayed somewhat close to the edge of Centennial Woods, which could have reduced the number of different species that I saw.

Posted on February 19, 2020 14:12 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 5 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

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