April 26, 2021

FJ7

Date: 4/24/21
Start time: 3:30
End time: 5:00
Location: Green Mountain Audubon Center
Weather: partly cloudy, temperature around 65 degrees, 5 mph winds from the northwest
Habitat(s): mix of coniferous and deciduous forest, beaver pond, swamp/marshy areas, open field with trees on the outskirts

This birding session started out a bit slow. The first birds I found were a pair of Canada Geese swimming towards the bank of the beaver pond. Once on land, they started feeding on some grass. Halfway around the pond I heard a bird but wasn’t sure what it was. I noticed the call was coming from a black bird standing on an old stump in the middle of the pond. The bird was flicking its tail a lot and after some research I believe it is a Rusty Blackbird, but it also looked very similar to a Common Grackle. By the pond I also heard two other birds which I’m not totally positive that I identified correctly. I first heard a whistling sound from the far end of the pond, and I thought it was a Red-winged Blackbird (those on iNaturalist have helped out saying this was a Common Grackle). I also heard what I think is a Belted Kingfisher to the left of the pond in some trees. As I headed away from the pond, I heard both a Black-capped Chickadee call and song. I never saw these chickadees but the area I was in definitely had a lot of resources (food, trees for nesting sites, close to the pond for water, etc.) which would explain the territorial song I heard. Moving toward the open field I spotted an American Robin perched on a branch. I also saw some movement on a tree right on the edge of the field which I believe was a Tree Swallow with its bright belly and slim body shape.

While walking around the field I found an old nest which was pretty beat up. It was in a more exposed location, so I wonder if that played a role in how quickly it was damaged. As I kept walking, I spotted a Song Sparrow in a marshy area on the edge of the field. It seemed as though it was gathering some grass/straw-like material for a nest. This Song Sparrow’s nest could likely be near this marshy area in one of the short, dense, shrub-like trees I saw there. In the same area I saw a handful of Alder Flycatchers hopping around in these shrubs. I saw a gray bird with a darker head and light belly sitting in a shrubby tree. I believe it was a an Eastern Phoebe. I also saw a pair of Eastern Bluebirds as I kept moving. I first noticed the male because of how bright blue his coloration was. I am sure this contributed to attracting his mate and ultimately her selection of him. As I kept walking, I saw a pair of American Robins perched on a tree. It seems like a lot of birds were in pairs! Further down the path I saw the Bluebird fly into one of the nesting boxes out in the field. Maybe there were some eggs in there! Leaving the open field area, I saw another male Eastern Bluebird at the edge of the clearing.

Next I headed to the more densely wooded areas on the Audubon land. Not too long after I entered the forest, I heard the cascading song of a Winter Wren. I was also able to spot a Brown Creeper hitching up a tree, pecking for some food. A while later, I was very caught off guard when I heard a Barred Owl call! I’m still not 100% sure if it was a person imitating an owl or if it was the real deal. It seemed a bit too realistic to be a human. The last sighting of the day was some Wild Turkeys in someone’s yard. There was an adult and its babies feeding in the grass. Springtime and the next generation of birds are definitely here!

Sound Map and Nest: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17cVClYEKuIRdLcppVwJBLShlqqMl45lbrUdTqBKv3ys/edit?usp=sharing

Some non-bird sightings: lots of Spring Peepers, a porcupine and a fox!

Posted on April 26, 2021 20:44 by cjclark6 cjclark6 | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 19, 2021

FJ6

Date: 4/18/21
Start time: 11:00
End time: 12:30
Location: Westford, MA
Weather: partly cloudy, temperature around 57 degrees, 8 mph winds from the northwest
Habitat(s): suburban neighborhood, lots of oak, maple, birch and pine trees, a nearby lake and lots of grassy yards

Saw a lot of birds while at home this weekend!

Posted on April 19, 2021 20:43 by cjclark6 cjclark6 | 13 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 05, 2021

FJ5

Date: 4/3/21
Start time: 3:15

End time: 4:45
Location: Shelburne Bay Park
Weather: Clear and sunny sky, temperature around 42 degrees, 5 mph winds from the north
Habitat(s): mix of coniferous and deciduous forest, shoreline of Shelburne Bay, open field on the edge of the park

I saw and heard many Black-capped Chickadees throughout this trip. Black-capped Chickadees are year-round residents of Vermont. Staying up north all year means physiological and behavioral adaptations are required to survive winter months. Chickadees have a lot of insulating feathers (down) that help keep them warm. They can also puff up these feathers for added insulation. Chickadees are also able to lower their body temperature at night, torpor, to decrease their metabolism and conserve energy. Another key to chickadee survival is their impressive memory. According to a Bird Note podcast, Black-capped Chickadees have a larger section of their brain responsible for spatial memory than other birds. This is important because it allows them to store food all over their territory to have available throughout winter. Also, Black-capped Chickadees are cavity nesters which provide warmth and shelter from harsh winter conditions. Additional behavioral adaptations to staying warm include shivering and finding a sunny spot to sit. Another year-round resident I saw, if I identified it correctly, was the Golden-crowned Kinglet. These tiny birds also foregoes migration out of Vermont and are well suited for the cold. According to their All About Birds page, Golden-crowned Kinglets winter in places where the temperature can reach 40 below at night. Both these species have found the costs of migrating to outweigh the benefits.

I also saw a few species that migrate depending on the conditions, known as facultative migrants. The first of these birds I encountered was the American Robin. Robins are year-round residents in most of the US, however they do have wintering grounds in areas of southern California, northern Mexico, and Florida. I also saw a good amount of Canada Geese in the bay. Although Canada Geese can be year-round residents in parts of Vermont, they also winter in some southern states including North Carolina. I also saw a pair of Common Mergansers who also seem to be year-round residents, but also can migrate short distances in the non-breeding season. I also saw two Turkey Vultures circling over the open field. Turkey Vultures breed in Vermont but migrate short distances to southern states. With the warmer weather we’ve had here these facultative migrants are returning. With the Common Merganser and Canada Goose, the lake is no longer icy, and they can more easily be in the water closer to shore. This also means more aquatic food is available to them. For the Turkey Vulture, the melted snow and warmer temperatures mean more creatures and venturing out and more at risk for ending up as roadkill. Therefore, being up here in Vermont now offers the scavenging Turkey Vultures an increased food supply. Temperature and food also would facultative the arrival of American Robins if they migrated south. The warm temperatures and exposed ground mean more food for the robins.

I did see one species that may be an obligate migrant. As I was heading to my car to leave, I saw a large dark bird with a white belly heading towards the water. At first, I thought maybe it was a Bald Eagle because of the white I saw, however I soon found out it was an Osprey. I was at the parking lot exit and all of a sudden it was flying right towards my car with a nice sized fish in it’s talons! Looking on All About Birds, I discovered that Osprey breed up here while wintering in southern Texas, the coasts of Mexico and Central America, and the Dominican Republic. Since Osprey migrate quite far distances to the south, they seem to be more obligate migrants. An advantage of an obligate migrant arriving up north in early April would be the early establishment of a territory. Arriving early means less competition for a good territory. A disadvantage for arriving now is that the conditions are still unpredictable. However, the Osprey mostly rely on the lake for food and since the lake is no longer icy this is not too much of an issue.
(Bird Note podcast: https://www.birdnote.org/listen/shows/chickadees-winter)

Mini Activity
Osprey from Yucatan, MX– 1,874 mi
Canada Goose from NC – 751 mi
Robin from FL – 1,139 mi
Turkey Vulture from NC – 675 mi
Common Merganser from MA – 122 mi

Total: 4,561 mi

Posted on April 05, 2021 13:40 by cjclark6 cjclark6 | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 22, 2021

FJ4

Date: 3/21/21
Time: 3:00-4:30
Location: Niquette Bay State Park, Colchester, VT
Weather: Sunny day, temperature around 58 degrees F, 2 mph wind from the north
Habitat: heavily wooded area, mostly thin trees, occasional creek/stream, elevated above shoreline of Lake Champlain

For this bird watching session I took a walk through the Niquette Bay State Park in Colchester. The start of my walk through the park was rather uneventful. I was surrounded by so many trees, but it was extremely quiet. After some time and walking, I did find a sunny area that had quite a bit of activity going on. The first specie I spotted was 2 or 3 White-breasted Nuthatch on some skinny, light colored trees. They were pecking at the bark and I also heard a few more calling in the distance. I also heard and saw a couple Black-capped Chickadees.

At one point the chickadees flew to a tree above me. They were kind of chirping back and forth to each other. I am not entirely sure what this communication was about because they were just hanging out together in the tree. It almost seemed a bit playful because they were also hopping around on the branches. I decided to try doing some spishing while they were near me. I noticed after each time I made a “pshhh” their chirping and hopping around was more energized like they were excited by it. They didn’t get any closer to me because of the spishing. I feel the “pshhh” sound is similar to the chirping calls these small birds make and this grabs their attention. Considering how quite the area I did this was, I feel the spishing worked well.

After I was done spishing, I noticed a pair of what I think were Downy Woodpeckers. From what I could see, the bill of woodpecker was on the shorter side which makes me believe it was a Downy Woodpecker as opposed to a Hairy Woodpecker. The one that I got the closest to was a male with the red patch on its head. This individual was foraging on a birch tree. The other individual was foraging on a near by tree. The black and white speckled plumage definitely gave some camouflage for the woodpecker on the white, striped birch tree. As I mentioned before about the White-breasted Nuthatch, they were foraging on more gray trees which makes me believe that the patterns and coloring of the plumage of these birds helps them blend into their surroundings.

Since most of the birds I observed where foraging, I began to think about both the time of day and year. Since it was late afternoon and the sun was still shining, these diurnal birds where still alert and awake due to their circadian rhythm. Also, since it was late in the afternoon and only a few hours before sunset, maybe they were getting their last bit of nutrition before both their body temperature and metabolism decreased for the night. In terms of their circannual rhythm, they most likely are soon about to go through two energetically costly activities, molting and breeding, which would require more foraging behavior now to prepare.

Posted on March 22, 2021 17:59 by cjclark6 cjclark6 | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 08, 2021

FJ3

Date: 3/7/20
Time: 11:45-12:45 at first location, 12:50-1:20 second location
Location 1: Round Pond Natural Area, South Hero, VT
Location 2: Bird House Forest/ South Hero Beach
Weather: Sunny day with temperatures in the low 20s and little to no wind
Habitat: Round Pond has wooded areas with a few open fields/clearings and Bird House Forest is a marshy area with trees right near Lake Champlain.

To start, I went to the Round Pond Natural Area in South Hero and walked on the path towards a marshy area. I walked through wooded areas that occasionally opened up into open fields. Along the way I heard some Black-capped Chickadee and White-breasted Nuthatch calls in the distance, but I did not see them. However, I did see a few snags and documented one of them with cavities in it (in the google drive link). The tree was large, but the cavities were not all that big. I didn’t see other trees with cavities to compare with though. Since I only encountered Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches at this location I would assume these species are most likely to use snags as shelters. These snags seem like a good place for birds to get protection from the elements and a place to raise young in the warmer weather.

After I turned around and headed back, I heard some Black-capped Chickadees that were close. I eventually found them on the edge of a wooded area and an opening. There were about 4 of them hopping between branches. When one would rest on a branch, it seemed like it would huddle up into a ball to stay warm. I would guess that this allows more air into their down to create more warm air on their body. In terms of evolution, I think the differentiation in feathers through changes in hair follicles gives birds the warmth they need in winter. Also, these open areas were noticeably warmer because of the sun so maybe they take advantage of these areas to stay warm too. Another way birds survive the winter is through their diet. I would think that birds would try to consume food higher in calories and fat to sustain themselves and to create fat for warmth. The last thing from this location was some pecking I heard which I thought would be a woodpecker, however I discovered it was two White-breasted Nuthatches.

Right when I pulled up to the Bird House Forest, I saw a Red-tailed Hawk swoop down from a tree and land on a tree farther away. I saw its bright tail when it slowed down to land. After walking around for a bit, I saw a Pileated Woodpecker land on a large tree. I recognized it from its size and red head. Also, when it flew away it was white underneath. I also found a black and white feather on the ground (picture in google doc).

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1b20viZrWY3i2dHzeIacimDI4RWXPJl4ikvR9vNw55lg/edit?usp=sharing

Posted on March 08, 2021 00:36 by cjclark6 cjclark6 | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 21, 2021

FJ2

2/21/20
Start Time: 11:15 am
End Time: 12:45 pm
Location: Woodside Natural Area
Weather: Sunny day with the temperature around 25 degrees
Habitats: Mostly wooded area with some clearings and a frozen section of the Winooski River

Today the bird sightings began right as I pulled up to the trail as I spotted a male Cardinal perched on a branch. After a couple minutes of walking in the wooded area, I could see a Red-tailed Hawk soaring in the distance (over the Winooski River) and noticed an American Crow was going after the Hawk. I took some time to observe this and made sure to watch both birds' flight patterns. It appeared that the Red-tailed Hawk was gliding more while the Crow had to flap its wings more frequently to keep up with the Hawk. This observation makes sense when the birds' wing shapes are considered. The Red-tailed Hawk has slotted, high lift wings while the American Crow has elliptical wings. The slots in the wings make it easy for Hawks to use thermals and soar higher in the sky while the Crow's elliptical wings are meant for maneuverability. Therefore, the Crow needs to compensate to keep up with the Hawk.

I also saw a feather on the ground, but not sure what bird it belongs to. It is kind of striped with brown and white (picture is in my google drive link). It also seems like the bottom half is more plumulaceous and the top more pennaceous. Right after I saw this feather, I spotted a decent sized bird fly and land on a tree's trunk which helped me identify it as a woodpecker. Looking online it seems like it was a pileated woodpecker because when it flew, I saw white under its wings. In this same area I saw a small, white and black bird fly to the backside of a tree. When I went around the tree all I saw were holes which means it’s probably a cavity nesting bird (maybe a White-breasted Nuthatch or Black-capped Chickadee). I also heard a Tufted Titmouse and a White-breasted Nuthatch in this more wooded area of the trail. After some time had passed, I walked into more of a clearing and heard quite a few Black-capped Chickadees calling to each other (I also got to see one and did my mini activity). The highlight of my trip was on my way back to my car. I heard a bird that sounded like a Cardinal, but I wasn't sure, so I pulled up the bird vocalizations from our blackboard. After I started playing it a male and female Cardinal flew right over me to a tree!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Wgvjp4SjOzG9SxN72aw_2x0IOON67ubrTJ4aQ9ZLVog/edit?usp=sharing

Posted on February 21, 2021 23:29 by cjclark6 cjclark6 | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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