Journal archives for March 2023

March 02, 2023

3/1/2023 Ornithology Journal 2

Evan Griffin
• Date – 2/26/2023
• Start time – 1:00 PM
• End time – 2:00 PM
• Location – Centennial Woods, Burlington, VT
• Weather (temperature, wind speed/direction, precipitation) - ~28°F, overcast, a light flurry and fresh snow on the ground from the previous night, breeze blowing north or northwest.
• Habitat(s) – A well-established place for hiking, the main path going due north and extending east. Very forested with several naturally felled trees. A babbling brook with bridges going over them. The ground and trees were covered in snow, but some signs said there was poison ivy on the ground. There were pine, maple, beech and oak trees, as well as various snags along the trailway.

I drove to the woods’ parking area at around 1, and walked along the road to the beginning of the trail. While on that journey I was near some trees on the side of the road when I heard the A-G pitch song of two Black-capped Chickadees, as well as the mechanical call of a Tufted Titmouse. I saw one of the Black-capped Chickadees but couldn’t get a proper picture. I made it to the beginning of the forest path at about 1:10, and I continued due north. There weren’t really any birds to be seen or heard so I walked further towards the center, over a fallen tree, down a snow-covered slope on which I slipped and fell, and across some bridges over a brook. As I walked the path that stretched more to the east, I heard the caws of a murder of American Crows, one of which flew directly above me very quickly. Eventually I saw about 4 American Crows chase after a different bird, which might have been a Hairy Woodpecker because I heard the call of one just before they flew away. I also gazed upon a Red-Breasted Nuthatch in a tree high above me. At about 1:40 I walked back to where I started but I still couldn’t find any birds, I suspect because of the nearby street noise. I walked a little more up and down the path until 2:00 PM and then I walked back to my car.
Birds such as the American Crows and Black-capped Chickadees can have multiple adaptations for staying warm in the winter. They have dense coats of feathers, they can store enough food to keep their weight up and can even regulate their body temperature at will to conserve heat. These birds will likely be spending more time of the day sleeping and resting than they would in the summer, gathering food just to stay warm, and waiting until the warmer months to breed to conserve their own energy. Birds such as Black-capped Chickadees might tend to eat seed and berries and certain insects that could be out in the winter, American Crows might also try to eat people’s trash. This would be different from the summer when there’s a wider variety of plants, insects like caterpillars and small animals like mice. At night, American Crows might roost in the trees towards the edge of the forest, while other birds might sleep in snags.
While walking along the trail I saw multiple snags. I saw a couple at around 1:11, the first one was pretty much a stump with no prominent holes and the second one had a whole about an inch wide and a couple of inches long. Another one I saw at 1:14 had a series of holes, some were less than an inch in diameter but one was about 2 or 3 wide. I took a gander inside, there weren’t any birds but some of the wood within the hole was twined like the bird was trying to make a nest out of it. I saw a snag at 1:18 with two necks, the right one had a cavity a couple of inches wide, it too had shaved twined wood shavings. One snag I saw at 1:28 had just a large chunk of the bottom gone, over a foot long, I don’t even know if one bird could do it, it too had no birds in it. I saw one other prominent snag that had several cavities going very high up but I couldn’t walk over to it. It’s possible that a smaller snag will have smaller cavities so that it maintains its integrity and isn’t lost to the birds who use them. Snags are important because birds can use the cavities as a place to sleep or hide from a predator, to store food that they may need later, and possibly keep their young. Birds like woodpeckers and nuthatches may be likely to use snags because they eat insects and insects can be found in the cavities.

Posted on March 02, 2023 02:54 AM by egriffin102701 egriffin102701 | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 18, 2023

3/18/2023, Ornithology Journal 3

Evan Griffin
• Date – 3/18/2023
• Start time – 10:00 AM
• End time – 11:00 AM
• Location – Henry Gerber Reist Bird Sanctuary, Niskayuna, NY
• Weather (temperature, wind speed/direction, precipitation) - ~36°F, partly cloudy and sunny, light breeze blowing east. Ground was covered with several inches of snow from storm last Tuesday.
• Habitat(s) – wooded area with trees bunched closely together, ground was damp from the sheet of snow, some naturally felled trees, paths in various directions with the main one going South, oak and maple trees, some lichen.

My mother and I pulled up to the beginning of the pathway shortly before 10:00 PM. It was difficult to walk through as easily as we did last time because our feet would sink through the damp snow and some surfaces were icy and slippery. We walked south along the main path but at first glance it was difficult to see any birds around. I managed to hear the mechanical songs of some Tufted Titmouses, the laughing call of a White-breasted Nuthatch, and the dee-dee-dees of a couple of Black-capped Chickadees, one of which I saw maneuvering from tree to tree. At about 10:15 I began walking by myself in an eastern path, I went a couple hundred feet but I failed to see any birds or distinguish any calls. Sometimes I thought I heard a bird but it was just the sound of the trees creaking in the wind.

I walked back towards the main path and met back with my mother at around 10:30. We went on a path heading west, I heard some more Tufted Titmouses, and briefly what sounded like a murder of American Crows, as well as a Hairy Woodpecker which I briefly saw fly by. We walked along that path until a dog in a nearby yard started barking at us so we went back. It was about 10:47 and we decided to walk around the main path more and find our footing, I briefly saw another Black-capped Chickadee and, most exciting of all, a Downy Woodpecker of which I managed to get a semi-decent picture. Once it reached 11:00 PM, we walked back North to the car and left.

Birds, like all animals, employ communication, mainly audio and visual. Often birds will use there calls to alert other nearby birds that a predator or threat is nearby, like disruptive humans such as myself. Birds may also use specific calls or alternate-colored plumages to attract mates during their species’ mating season. The Downy Woodpecker I saw had a black and white speckled abdomen, which I think helps it to blend in with the oddly-shaded trees of brown, black and white that occupy the forest in which it lives in order to blend in and avoid predators. I think the Black-capped Chickadee, with its shades of black, white and grey, also has its plumage for similar reasons, but the differences in patterns could mean that the two species might be better at blending in with different looking trees. Like the Black-capped Chickadee might be better with a more solid-colored tree or surface than the Downy Woodpecker. The Downy Woodpecker flew to one tree where it started pecking at the base and working its way up towards the top before flying over to another nearby tree. I believe it was foraging, looking for insects that might have been on or in the tree. This is likely part of the bird’s circadian rhythm and daily routine of gathering sources of energy to survive as well as generate warmth in the colder weather.

I attempted multiple times during my outing to pish, I did my best to replicate it from YouTube videos I found. I did lower volumes, higher volumes, falsetto, low pitch, whistling. Unfortunately, nothing really happened, no birds came near when I tried it. I’m sure some more experienced birdwatchers might have done a better job. Maybe birds come to the sound because it might resemble some form of audio communication they’re used to, like calls for danger or injury or congregation.

Posted on March 18, 2023 09:32 PM by egriffin102701 egriffin102701 | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 27, 2023

3/26/2023, Ornithology Journal 4

Evan Griffin
• Date – 3/26/2023
• Start time – 10:00 AM
• End time – 11:00 AM
• Location – Sucker Brook Hollow Country Park, Williston, VT
• Weather (temperature, wind speed/direction, precipitation) - ~39°F, overcast, little wind. Mostly no precipitation but a little sleety towards the end.
• Habitat(s) – A wooded area with the main trail going mostly due east with a southern bend toward the beginning. Path encompassed several bends and slopes, there was a sheet of ice covering most of it as well as some muddy areas. The path went over a brook and a small creek that connected with the brook. Beech, pine and maple trees, some naturally felled, some with snags.

I drove to this area and arrived at right about 10:00 AM. The beginning of the pathway was in close proximity to the road and the cars were audible, so I didn’t think I’d see much yet. The path was icy so I did my best not to slip. In the earliest part of the trail I managed to hear the dee-dee-dee of a Black-capped Chickadee, which I briefly saw flying high above. I continued on while still hearing Black-capped Chickadees, then I crossed two wooden bridges overlooking the brook and a smaller creek respectively. By about 10:10 I saw a brief clearing where the sounds of the Black-capped Chickadees were as loud as ever, so I walked over and saw several, no fewer than four or five, and got pictures of one. I went a little further up the trail where I briefly heard the cawing of an American Crow and an unfamiliar song which my bird app identified as a Song Sparrow, of which there were several by the sound of it.

I would have gone further up the trail but it went up a windy steep hill and the ice made it hard enough to walk up so I turned back, and slipped along the way nearly losing my phone. By about 10:20 I decided to just wait around that area to recuperate, and I heard more of the Black-capped Chickadees and Song Sparrows, plus one or two more American Crows. On the way back I crossed two people letting their dog walk without a leash, of which I didn’t approve, and I stood on the bridge for a little while to enjoy the sound of the brook. By about 10:50 I was on my way back to the beginning, in the early part of the trail I heard more Song Sparrows as well as a Hairy Woodpecker, then I called it a day and went back to my car and went home.

Black-capped Chickadees are one species I’ve encountered that do not migrate for the winter. The shape of their wings and their style of flying from nearby tree to nearby tree shows that they aren’t adept at flying far distances, and they may also be more territorial and prefer to stay in familiar areas. However, they can make it through the cold winter months thanks to their thick layers of feathers and induced hypothermia to conserve energy. American Crows and Hairy Woodpeckers use thick feathers and storing/conserving energy to stay warm in winter so they don’t need to migrate. Next take the Song Sparrows I heard which may migrate from Vermont in the months of autumn to go further south. These birds likely migrated from the Southern U.S. or possibly even Mexico to get to the Norther U.S., Canada, and possibly as north as Alaska. They likely left to avoid the winter cold and conserve energy, and are likely coming back near Vermont around now because they may not like the coming southern heat, they can breed which would have been a drain on energy in the cold, and the north will likely have a lot of insects emerging from the winter to eat. One possible benefit for an obligate migrant arriving this early is that they’d have first claim on the emerging insects and plants. Some cons are that it could still be cold and snowy in April which they may not be prepared for, and they may have even had to deal with storms along their migration.

Posted on March 27, 2023 01:32 AM by egriffin102701 egriffin102701 | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment