May 10, 2021

Field Journal Entry #8

May 10, 2021
Start time: 12:30 pm
End time: 2:00 pm
Location: Centennial Woods, Burlington VT
Weather: sunny with some clouds, 61 degrees
Habitat: wetlands & old growth pine stand, very muddy with dense vegetation

Posted on May 10, 2021 18:07 by erbryson74 erbryson74 | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 04, 2021

Field Journal Entry #7

April 24, 2021
Start time: 11:00 am
End time: 12:30 pm
Location: Cutler Park, Needham MA
Weather: slightly windy, sunny with some clouds, 53 degrees
Habitat: marsh-like area with some shrubs that transitions into an old-growth mixed hardwood forest
For this journal entry I went to Cutler Park in Needham, MA on a decently sunny afternoon. I was able to easily spot a variety of nests in treetops because foliage has not yet fully come in. I initially chose this spot because there is a pair of Bald Eagles that have been nesting here—although I was not able to locate them this time around. I did see a few Blue Jays ‘fighting’ in a more open area of the forest. It was a group of three and one did not get involved. The other two occasionally flapped wings at each other and flew quickly towards each other—there was also repeated loud, scream like squawks coming from the two who appeared to be fighting. I assumed that this could have been a mating technique—if not I am sure that the two were trying to assert dominance over the other.
I watched a Swan on the marshy area of the pond for a while. This individual was building a nest and gathering a variety of materials that were floating on the water or near the tall grasses. I was surprised to see that this individual was alone because I had always assumed swans built their nests together. The actions were repeated and looked almost habitual as the Swan moved to the grassy areas and dug its long neck into the shrubs, pulling out materials to add to the growing nest. This was the only bird I was able to see actively building its’ nest, showing that swans must be close to water in order to have materials for their nests.
I observed a variety of Red-winged blackbirds in the marsh. This seemed to be a prime area for these species. I saw individuals attempt to assert dominance through vocalizations and flying close to other individuals—resulting in quick, sporadic movements from branch to branch. The birds that were in these prime areas are presumably more fit individuals. They are able to maintain and defend sites that are prime for nesting and food availability.

Posted on May 04, 2021 18:19 by erbryson74 erbryson74 | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 24, 2021

Field Journal #6

April 23, 2021
Start time: 12:30 pm
End time: 2:00 pm
Location: Cutler Park, Needham MA
Weather: Sunny, Very windy, 48 degrees
Habitat: Near the water but slightly into the forest, mixed forest with low density (lots of space on the forest floor), small woody plants and young trees—marsh-like habitat

Posted on April 24, 2021 00:09 by erbryson74 erbryson74 | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 05, 2021

Field Journal #5

Date – April 5, 2021
Start time – 11:00 am
End time – 12:30 pm
Location – Niquette Bay State Park
Weather – 51 degrees, windy (cold wind coming off the water), clear skies, sunny
Habitat(s) – Old growth pine stand & waterfront/wetland

For this excursion I went to Niquette Bay State Park in Colchester, VT. It was much colder than I had initially thought it would be; however, there was a very strong breeze in the forest and near the wetlands/waterfront. The old-growth pine stand I observed did not have many birds besides a few: Cooper’s Hawks, Black-capped Chickadees, and American Crows. This portion of the woods was very quiet as well and I only really could hear the breeze blowing through the trees. The waterfront/wetlands portion of the park had even less birds that I was able to see. However, this section had more bird vocalizations occurring, it was just much harder for me to pinpoint the birds and have time to identify the species before they flew off.

Black-capped Chickadees are one of the year-round species in Vermont and I happened to see a lot of them on this birding excursion. These birds are usually puffed up on the branches when I have seen them, or scavenging for seeds. I am assuming that fluffing their plumage and being able to switch to a stable food source in the winter is advantageous for them surviving the winter in Vermont. I also noticed that whenever I see a Black-capped Chickadee I tend to see several, I think that remaining in a small group is also beneficial to surviving the winters. I also observed American Crows. These birds seem to be year-round residents as well with occasional partial migration. I have always seen Crows in larger groups in the colder weather, creating a warmer environment for them to retreat to. These birds also tend to hover in tree canopies which makes it possible to scavenge for food/find food more easily.

I did not get the chance to see an obligate migrant this time around—however, I did notice some changes to the environment/landscape that are likely to facilitate migrant arrivals. The trees have started to bud which means that there will be a larger food source—primarily fruits which is a large draw for some species. The ice on the lake and the ground in the forest has also begun to thaw which makes access to water/the lake easier for certain species. It would be advantageous to come back in early April to build a nest and find a ‘home’ that is near a rich food source. Early April is early enough where there are still not too many species back, but things have begun to thaw. Establishing a nest before the forests become more crowded (in warmer months) and finding a stable food source can reduce future stress/competition for some species.

Posted on April 05, 2021 19:37 by erbryson74 erbryson74 | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 22, 2021

Field Journal Entry #4

Date: March 21, 2021
Start time: 3:00pm
End time: 4:30pm
Location: Lone Rock Point, Burlington VT
Weather: Sunny, High fifties, Light breeze
Habitat: Lakeside, Pine stand, Small woody riparian species near shore

This journal entry was done at Lone Rock Point right along the water and into the first little bit of the forest. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies and a warm temperature; however the water was still very cold. There was not much of a breeze despite being right along the lake. I spent a majority of my time watching the Mallards interacting with each other and the American Crows. The Mallards swam somewhat close together (in a small group of about 2-4 at a time) and were repeatedly dunking their heads into the water. However, a few times the Mallards being squawking at each other and aggressively flapping their wings and beating them against the water while flying/gliding away on the water. This action seemed to always be a warning/aggressive way to tell other birds to back off, or maybe to show dominance. This tended to happen after the birds were together for an extended period of time and one bird had already given out some low squawk or attempted to distance themselves.
The American Crows were not as comfortable being in a group or with other birds as the Mallards appeared to be. There were a couple of instances where two Crows were on the same tree; however, there were always a decent distance from each other and never got as close as the Mallards did. There were also a decent number of squawks coming from Crows in treetops from neighboring trees. It did not really seem like they were intentionally trying to communicate to each other, I thought it seemed to be a general call to keep track of nearby birds. The Mallards seemed to be foraging more than the Crows. The Crows tended to be sitting in treetops and watching while the mallards were swimming close by the shore and dunking their heads in the water looking for food. Black-capped Chickadees in the smaller trees nearby were feeding as well; however they seemed to be looking for seeds and were hopping from branch to branch close to the ground.
There was a blue/green iridescent color in the male Mallard plumage on the neck and head. This could be potentially beneficial for courtship and for asserting dominance/reproductive fitness to mates. The iridescence color also seems to mimic the reflection of the water in the sun, making this potentially beneficial to camouflage from predators/prey. I tried to make a spishing call when I was close to some chickadees but I do not think I did it correctly. I got a couple of individuals close by on a branch but that was the best I could do. I think that it might be a comforting sound to them because it sounds similarly to some vocalizations of small birds to me. I will continue to try this when I’m out in the woods and see how close/how many birds I can attract.

Posted on March 22, 2021 20:31 by erbryson74 erbryson74 | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 10, 2021

Field Journal entry #3

Emmie Bryson
Start time: 8:10 am
End time: 9:30 am
Date: March 8, 2021
Location: Centennial Woods, Burlington VT
Weather: cold (12 degrees), breezy, clear/blue skies
Habitat: somewhat open habitat, next to wetlands, small shrubs, a few trees

Throughout the course of this birding excursion I saw a variety of birds in Centennial Woods. The temperature was fluctuating between ten and fourteen degrees while I was there. However, with windchill it was about six degrees. The sky was clear and blue and there was a breeze, but it was less present the further I got into the woods. Since it was so early, there were a lot of birds I could hear in the treetops above. However, the identification of songs is more challenging for me than physical identification making it hard to tell what bird was singing and how many there were. The habitat was somewhat mixed because I was next to a Northern Hardwood stand and a small open shrubby/wetland area. This section was on the opposite side of the woods that I was observing in my last journal so I was hoping to see different species. The hardwood portion of the woods had a variety are large pine trees and a few maples. The wetland type area to my right had what I identified to be honeysuckle and dogwoods scattered over a thick blanket of snow.
Majority of my time was spent watching Black-capped Chickadees move around on the lower branches of the wetland-type habitat. I was expecting to see some winter activity in these areas because they seemed like a good spot to scavenge for food on top of the snow. The Chickadees I saw looked like pulled apart cotton balls in a way, their plumages were puffed out and they sat so low to the branch that it didn’t even look like their feet were below them grasping on. They only ‘deflated’ this puffy look when they were flying from branch to branch (which is what I saw them doing majority of the time—making it hard for me to keep track of them/get a decent photo). They appeared to be branch hopping and swooping down to stand on the snow for a minute and look around. From what I observed the birds were eating a variety of seeds (that I was unable to identify), I would expect this to continue in the summer months but I would also expect to see them eat more fruits and insects in the warmer months that are not available right now.
I saw a lot of snags on the northern hardwood portion of my site. I identified some of these as pines but a lot of them were too rotten for me to identify. I saw a Downy Woodpecker on one of the snags, pecking a small cavity (about 1/3 it’s size). I also saw some American Crows in this portion of the site, but they did not seem too interested in the snags I was observing. I saw a lot of large cavities dug into some of the snags (mainly ones that had not yet knocked over). I assumed that these cavities were for smaller mammals (such as squirrels and chipmunks) to use for winter homes. Snags are extremely important because they provide shelter and micro-habitats for a variety of wildlife species. They are also a hot spot for insects that aid in decomposition which provides a food source for other species. I think that snags are most likely to be used by a species that eats a lot of insects (such as Woodpeckers) or by species who are seeking shelter (such as mammals in the winter).

Posted on March 10, 2021 02:29 by erbryson74 erbryson74 | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 22, 2021

Field Journal Entry #1

Date: February 22, 2021
Start time: 12:58 pm
End time: 2:30 pm
Location: Centennial Woods (Burlington, VT)
Weather: Snowy & windy
Habitat: Wetland, multi-aged pine stand

For today’s birding excursion I spent the afternoon in Centennial Woods. The weather was pretty rough, including: strong winds and on and off snowstorms. I started my walk in a multi-aged pine stand for about the first thirty minutes. I did not see anything besides a couple American crows. It was very frustrating for me because I could hear birds but was struggling to find them visually or identify them through just the call. I migrated towards the wetlands in the north-west portion of the park, assuming this would have more activity I’d have an easier time seeing (which proved to be true). I was also frustrated while trying to take a photo; as a forestry student I will say trees are much easier to photograph than birds flying from branch to branch.
The only two species I saw fly (in enough detail to fully observe) were American Crow and Black-capped Chickadee. These two flight patterns were very easy for me to distinguish between. The American Crows I observed were mainly in the canopy of larger pine trees and flew in more of a gliding manor with wider wings. The Black-capped Chickadees were very close to the ground and were hopping from branch to branch in smaller, shrubbier species. I think that because these birds have such different habitat niches their wing appearance and flight patterns varied heavily. The American Crow had broader more powerful flaps of their wings, it reminded me of powerful strokes a professional swimmer would take. The Black-capped Chickadee had more rapid flaps which made it easier for them to control landing on a smaller branch. I don’t know if I could ever full identify a bird based off of just wing flaps; but I do think I could narrow it down. I think that the flaps allow you to determine the size of the bird and the lifestyle/preferred habitat they have.
For the mini activity I chose to sketch the Cedar Waxwing because I think that this bird is beautiful. However, I did not see any of these during my time in Centennial. I am not sure if it was because of the weather or just poor timing. I also had my dog (Rex) with me and I was wondering if I that might affect the number of birds I was able to see? He definitely scared away a bunch that I was trying to photograph; but I’m not sure if the jingling of his collar was an alarm to them before we even got close enough to see them.

Posted on February 22, 2021 20:50 by erbryson74 erbryson74 | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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