May 10, 2021

fj 8

Date - 5/10/21
Start time - 2:30
End time - 4:00
Location - Old North End--walked around a bunch, down North Street, over to Battery Park, up to Elmwood Cemetery, then pittered over to the waterfront.
Weather (temperature, wind speed/direction, precipitation) - Partly cloudy, but it was mostly sunny, low 60s, not that windy--north eastern, around 9 mph max.
Habitat(s) - Mainly deciduous tree-lined streets--some small scrubby bushes near the larger trees. There were some overgrown front yard gardens Lots of grass in Battery Park (and a bunny) but the edge of the park does border some trees and a lot of scrub on the hill.

Posted on May 10, 2021 21:01 by avi_ avi_ | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 26, 2021

fj 7

Date - 4/26/21
Start time - 7:45 am
End time - 9:15 am
Location - Winooski River Walk (ended at my house)
Weather (temperature, wind speed/direction, precipitation) - Overcast, cloudy and cold morning. Around 37 deg F when I started out, but it warmed up slightly. It was kind of windy, and the weather channel said the southern winds reached close to 18 mph. It wasn't raining, and I didn't even get much of a drizzle moment despite the clouds.
Habitat(s) - Cattail marsh, finally coming up a little bit green in some spots. The marsh is in a forested area, and while there are some open grass moments, it's primarily a deciduous forest, with some small stands of young coniferous trees. It's right next to the Winooski river, so there are some smaller offshoots of creeks and brooks, with some very still pools that border the marshy section.

I tried to get a good picture of it, but the photo of the Canada Goose from the Observations is from what looks like their nest. The picture's kind of blurry, but I didn't want to get got by a goose. Specifically, the nest site is on a little patch of land in the middle of a wide brook that feeds into the Winooski river, with lots of brush, fallen branches, and tons of overgrown foliage that's starting to kick back into gear. It's a well-concealed nest, with lots of groundcover from the overgrown vegetation and fallen branches, and it's close to the water.
Another bird I observed was the European Starling. Technically not on my walk, but as I arrived home I noticed that there was a nest in the ceiling of my apartment building's porch. The starling evidently hollowed out a cavity in the insulation, because there are bits of insulation fuzz just falling from the ceiling. The rest of the nest materials look like some drying scraggly plants, but its hard to get a good look. The male starling wouldn't have had to go far for these materials, as the insulation was already there, and there is plenty of free-growing weeds in a nearby cemetery.
There is also a House Finch nest in the siding of the building, and this one is visible by the twigs or dried plant stems poking out of the siding where it peels up.
As far as territories go, at first I was hesitant to call this an ideal one--there's not exactly an abundance of nature in the old north end. However, there are some bushes immediately nearby, and a graveyard that never gets mowed, and plenty of tree growth, so their diet could be sustainable here. I would hazard that the male house finch is defending a mediocre territory, but it does it well. I've just watched it chase away at least 2 other birds, so he's doing a good job if nothing else.

Posted on April 26, 2021 20:38 by avi_ avi_ | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 19, 2021

fj 6

Date: 4/19/2021
Start time - 7:45 am
End time - 9:15 am
Location - Winooski River Walk
Weather (great) - started out at around 45 degrees with some partial clouds and even a spot of rain later on, but as the sun started to really get going it got up to around 50 degrees by 9. There was minimal if any wind.
Habitat(s) - Wooded area along Winooski river: the woods are primarily deciduous trees, with a few small stands of young coniferous trees. There was a lot of forest debris like fallen snags, stumps, dead leaves, and branches. Now, there is a lot more greenery on the trees but still not a lot--I can see the tiny green buds up in the branches, though, and there's a lot more grass and plant life pushing through the detritus in the forested sections. The banks next to the river and the offshoots are much greener now, but that main marsh bit is still stubbornly yellowed and blown over. The grassier, open areas were definitely more grown than last time.

Posted on April 19, 2021 20:35 by avi_ avi_ | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 05, 2021

fj 5

Start time : 8:00 am
End time : 9:30 am
Date : 04/05/2021
Location: Winooski River Walk
Weather: temp hung steady at a cool 39 to 41 degrees F, with pretty full sun! wind was whipping around at a whooping 15 mph, at least, blowing in from the north and a little bit west, but mostly north.
Habitat: Wooded area along Winooski river: the woods are primarily deciduous trees, with a few small stands of young coniferous trees. There was a lot of forest debris like fallen snags, stumps, dead leaves, and branches. There wasn't any visible greenery on the forest floor or with any buds on the trees, but closer to the banks of the river and some offshoots there was some budding happening, and the grassy open areas had that young green grass going on. In addition to the wooded area, there were a few open-air fields in woods--one was a regular field, grassy and such, but the other was more of a marsh--offshoots from the river feed into this cattail marsh. The marsh was still yellowed and blown over some.

The birdsong was just as loud as it was last time I was in this area, and given how tall the trees are, it's my primary source for most bird IDs. Going in, I saw just a ton of Ring-billed Gulls hanging out on the rocks in the Winooski river, upstream of the bridge you'd cross to get to the Winooski circle. I also saw most of the Canada Geese in this area, and did almost get got by one near a picnic bench. See: the photo that goes along with that observation. The rest of the birds I identified were spotted / heard in the woods near the field or on the edge of the woods and still water or a small creek moment. Except for the mallards, who flew over my head and scared the living daylights out of me.

I observed mainly year-round residents: considering the Blue Jay, for example, one adaptation they have to best survive in the harsh climate is their strong social bonds, as they gather in larger groups. They also have a strong love for acorns, which are definitely available year-round, and while that may not be an adaptation, it is certainly cute. They also tend to forage on the ground, finding seeds, fruits, nuts, that kind of thing, and if they do that in a group it makes it easier to find those piles of seeds. The crop can be considered a physiological adaptation that will help them in this-they can carry nuts, like acorns, in that crop when they do find an abundance of food. I think they also take the food they've set aside in the crop and cache in various places later, which is another way of ensuring a food source over the harsh winter.

For facultative migrants, I'm thinking of the American Goldfinch, and I think it would be coming from the Southern U.S., not too far from us, and would be heading up into Canada if it wasn't staying with us, maybe in the southern half of the Quebec province. I don't specifically know what happened in the southern U.S.. I would guess with the winter we had, perhaps there is too much competition for seeds in the south, but regardless, whatever it was, it affected seed availability to such an extent that the birds were no longer able to glean what they needed from the open woodlands of the Southern U.S., and had to migrate northwards for the boom of food coming as springtime heads our way. The obligate migrant I did hear, the Chimney Swift, has a great advantage with again, that springtime availability of food reaching us--they do have to compete with the year-round residents for that food, and the high risks of death while migrating, due to high energy demand or bad weather, are a definite downside to that migration.

Mini activity: I got to around 2,500 miles, courtesy of the Chimney Swift and the Mallard pretty exclusively! Thanks, All About Birds.

Posted on April 05, 2021 21:04 by avi_ avi_ | 9 observations

March 24, 2021

fj 4

Start time: 4:30 pm
End time: 6:00 pm
Date: 03/23/2021
Location: Winooski River Walk and Casavant Nature Area
Weather: started off at almost 70 degrees F, around 68--dropped to mid/low 60s by 6 pm. The northeasterly wind was mild, blowing no more than 10 mph.
Habitat: Wooded area along Winooski river: the woods are primarily deciduous trees, with a few small stands of coniferous trees. There was a lot of forest debris like fallen snags, stumps, dead leaves, and branches. In addition to the wooded area, there were a few open-air fields in woods--one was a regular field, grassy and such, but the other was more of a marsh--offshoots from the river feed into this cattail marsh. There's a lot of still water at the edge of the marsh, between it and the river, and there was still some residual ice at the edges as well.

In general, there was a lot of activity and a lot of birds up until around 5:30, and when it started getting colder and darker there was far less birdsong and it was much harder to find any birds. I first saw a few (8) American Robins in the grassy field and at the wood's edge--it seemed like the birdsong was louder at the borders between different areas, like the marsh/woods or the field/woods or even the river's edge. The robins were foraging, and it seemed like they almost took turns pecking and standing upright. The individual I was watching would hop and step lightly on the dry leaves, then jab their head into the leaves violently and pull back just as quick. Then they hopped onward and repeated. The robins weren't chirping, but were steading making their way along the edge of the forest and meadow. They were specifically interacting with eachother, because when a few of them would be pecking the grass or the leaves, at least one would have it's head up high--probably looking for predators. I think that's why they peck so quickly when they stuck their face under a leaf, because their vision was obscured for a moment. With regards to their circadian/circannual rhythms, it makes sense that they were foraging at dusk, to get some fuel for the cold night and because we're coming up on breeding season, an energetically expensive activity, it also tracks that they would need to forage frequently to prepare.

I also saw a Hairy Woodpecker sitting on a fallen log, poking at the rotten wood before it flew up to a snag. Unfortunately, it flew away chattering when a robin landed at the base of the tree. Four of the five Black-capped Chickadees I saw were all hanging out on a few small branches between the forest proper and the marsh. They were switching branches a little bit and communicating in tiny whistles. I attempted spishing at them, and they looked interested for a moment. Then I tried again, and drove them away. This was also true for the other Black-capped Chickadee I saw solo--no one seemed to appreciate the spish :(.

The mallards were sighted in the still waters near the marsh--one m/f pair was foraging at the very edge of the marsh, while the group of four, with 3 males and one female, were in a larger, still pool of water along with the canada geese. The male mallard's coat is ostentatious--that iridescent green head and blue wing bar are vibrant--that green head will blend nicely with some fresh spring greenery, but as of right now, it stands out in the harsh browns and grays. The females blend perfectly with the dried cattails and dead grasses in the water, making their camouflage pretty perfect going into breeding season--I would reason that despite the spring green to come, the speckled brown plumage will still hold up as camo in the reeds and shoreline. On the other hand, the Canada goose plumage is light brown, blending in well with the environment right now--and the black head/white cheek combination surprised me because of how good it was at hiding the bird. The black on top of the water was very difficult to spot, and the white cheek looked almost like a spot of sunshine reflecting off water.

Posted on March 24, 2021 01:14 by avi_ avi_ | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 08, 2021

FJ #3

Date: 03/06/2021
Start Time: 3:00
End Time: 4:30
Location: Elmwood Cemetery
Weather: 23 degrees F, eastern wind of around 8 mph, no precipitation. Partly cloudy day, with some sunshine until ~4:00.
Habitat: Fairly open, with several large and very large trees, and lots of gravestones. There's generally a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, with perhaps a few more coniferous trees than deciduous. The cemetery is in the old north end, and so there's a fair bit of traffic on the North St side of the cemetery, but it gets quieter the further down Elmwood Ave you go.

There was a murder of at least 40 crows perching in some of the bare deciduous trees and more on the ground. Crowding together on the branches could definitely be helping the crows to maintain some body heat. The crows on the ground were using their sturdy beaks to try to break up the ice on the ground that covered seeds and other food scraps. One crow succeeded in this, and then that opening in the ice got bigger very quickly as other crows came by to peck and try to eat some seeds.
This also happened in the parking lot nearby, but the crow looked to be pecking through the ice in order to reach frozen bread--it looked like a McDonald's burger bun that someone dropped before it froze to the ground.
I didn't see any dead snags in the cemetery, but that makes sense as its a semi-cultivated space. I did notice that some crows were relaxing of a sorts in the sun--they had their wings a little stretched out, and maybe were capturing heat with the black of their feathers. Some crows were also tucking their feet up under themselves, so you couldn't see their toes. I think that's probably also to help with heat, protecting their feet with the warm downy feathers on their belly.

Posted on March 08, 2021 21:55 by avi_ avi_ | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 22, 2021

FJ #2

Start time: 1:30
End time: 3:00
Date: 2.22.21
Location: Leddy Beach and Macrae Farm Park

Leddy Park: Weather: 28 degree F, strong southern and eastern winds coming off the lake.
Habitat: Mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, on the coast of the lake, large trees with a pretty open wood. Not much wind shelter. Spent 1 hour here.

Macrae Farm Park: Weather: 28 degrees F, much weaker eastern winds.
Habitat: Deciduous trees outnumbering conifers, with lots of open brushy fields. Spent 30 minutes here.

Species list:
Gull (unspecified) X2
Black-capped Chickadee X2
Raccoon X1
link to media:

I started off at Leddy Park, where I saw two birds fly overhead--with the lighting, I couldn't make out any coloring, just the silhouettes, one of which is drawn at the top of the page (1). I would hazard a guess and say they looked like gulls, with similar wing shapes. The flight pattern was mainly gliding, with minimal flapping, and mostly tilting to compensate for the strong winds--maintained a fairly straight path along the coast.
There was a lot of woodpecker sign, like old and fresh holes in tree trucks (2), with many trees having some wood dust at the base. After an hour, I didn't see any actual woodpeckers, though.
There were also around 7 of these strange balls or nests of dried leaves, very high up in the small branches of some trees, and I also attempted to draw these (3).
As I left Leddy prematurely, hoping to avoid losing my toes in the face of the wind-chill, I did happen to spot a raccoon (4), munching on some goodies at the base of a tree.
I spent the last 30 minutes of ornitherapy at Macrae Farm Park, which was blessedly further inland from the lake and much less windy. I observed two Black-capped Chickadees high in the branches of a very tall tree. Their calls varied from the twee-twee to a caw-like sound. When that pair flew off, they made many quick little flaps before taking a short glide, and repeating the quick wing flaps (5). They didn't following a straight path in the sky. At Macrae, I also happened to spot a cross-country skiier in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, they did take a tumble once they reached the car, but after asking they said they were a-ok.

Posted on February 22, 2021 23:53 by avi_ avi_ | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment