May 22, 2020

Schodack Island 5/22/20

Date: 5/22/20
Time: 6:45am - 12:00pm
Location: Schodack Island State Park
Weather: warm and sunny
Habitat: Island in the Hudson River. There were some boat docks and a large parking lot, and the tide was quite low so there was a lot of exposed mud along the shores. The interior if the island was covered in a dense under-story with lots of invasive species like honeysuckle and bittersweet mixed with cottonwood and oak trees, among others.

Today's birding trip ended this week on a high note. About an hour in I found myself walking in the same direction as another birder, and over the next four hours we helped each other spot birds and identify calls. He was only a little more skilled than me so it was a good partnership, and by the end of the day we were friends. The highlights of the day were seeing a black-and-white warbler for the first time (my favorite warbler), seeing two pairs of nesting eastern bluebirds, watching a juvenile bald eagle take off from a perch only about 40 feet above my head, and spotting a yellow-billed cuckoo (which I didn't even realize lived on this continent before yesterday).

Posted on May 22, 2020 22:17 by natalya-h natalya-h | 37 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Hand Hollow Conservation Area 5/21/20

Date: 5/21/20
Time: 6:45am - 12:00pm
Location: Hand Hollow Conservation Area
Weather: moderate temperature and sunny
Habitat: The area spanned a few different habitat types. At the trail-head was a open field next to a mudflat/marshy area. Beyond this, the environment transitioned into a deciduous forest, which turned into a large stand of young beech trees at the top of a small hill. On the other side was a large pond, surrounded by the same deciduous forest type.

The habitat variation provided opportunities for me to see a wide range of species, however, none were new to me except the great crested flycatcher. There were a couple instances where I heard a song that I didn't recognize, and when I finally located the source, it was a Baltimore oriole. I now feel like I have a sense for how wide a range of songs they can sing, but I've also familiarized myself with the tonal quality that hopefully I won't have this problem again. In general, today was uneventful and just helped me solidify some of my ID skills across the board.
Though not rare by any means, my sighting of Canada geese was special to me. There were two parents, but only one gosling, so they seemed to act very protective of it. In the picture I took, you can see how the parents maintain their pattern of staying ahead and behind their goslings, but they only had one to protect. It made me sad to think of what happened to the others but it was very endearing to see how they cared for their remaining one. There was also a moment where I saw a coyote walking through the woods, just far enough away for me to lose it but close enough to be sure of what it was. I've never seen one in the daylight before so that was a unique experience.

Posted on May 22, 2020 00:34 by natalya-h natalya-h | 39 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 20, 2020

Harris and Schor Conservation Areas 5/20/20

Date: 5/20/20
Time: 7:00am - 12:00pm
Location: Harris Conservation Area (7:00am - 9:00am) and Schor Conservation Area (10:00am - 12:00pm)
Weather: Moderate temperature, sunny
Habitat: Woodland. Both areas had very similar habitats, though Schor had a pond surrounding by a grassy area as well.

In both areas, the birds were much harder to spot than previous days. However, I was usually able to eventually lay eyes on a bird if I followed its song for long enough and kept my eyes peeled for movement. At Harris I saw the scarlet tanager in my first few minutes, and later on saw a barred owl, yellow-bellied sapsucker, Swainson's thrush, and red-breasted nuthatch. The red-breasted nuthatch was actually feeding right near a white-breasted nuthatch, so it was great to be able to compare them side-by-side in real life.

I then went to the second place that was assigned to me but it was closed, so I searched around on eBird for another wooded area close by and eventually decided on Schor, which turned out to be a good choice. There I saw a couple wood thrushes and a few ovenbirds though my binoculars. By the end of my time here, though, I was frustrated by a couple ID challenges and my shoulders hurt from the binoculars. On the last leg of the trail, I found myself surrounded by many songs that I couldn't identify and couldn't locate the source. I stayed there for a long time just trying to catch a glimpse of them, and for the few that I did see, it was too brief to be able to get an ID that I could be confident in, besides a chestnut-sided warbler and bay-breasted warbler. Then, a broad-winged hawk flew overhead and all the birds stopped singing. I was so frustrated by then that I left.

Posted on May 20, 2020 19:18 by natalya-h natalya-h | 25 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 19, 2020

Powell and Ooms Conservation Areas 5/19/20

Date: 5/19/20
Time: 6:30am - 12:15pm
Location: Wilson Powell Wildlife Sanctuary (6:30-8:00) and Ooms Conservation Area (8:15-12:15)
Weather: started off about 50F, warmed up to about 65F by midday. Clear skies and sunny.
Habitat: Powell Sanctuary was about 90% woodland, with a field and shrubby areas around a medium-sized pond. Most of my observations took place in the grassy/shrubby and pond-side area. Ooms Conservation Area had about 180 acres of rolling hills surrounding a large pond. Along the pond and cutting up the fields were hedge rows, with some patches of young forest.

When I arrived at the Powell Sanctuary, I was greeted by a dawn chorus of warbler, orioles, goldfinches, catbirds, and other songbirds. This died down after about an hour, and at 8:00am a landscaping crew began working and scared away any remaining birds. I ventured into the woods a little bit, which is where I spotted the eastern wood-pewee and wood thrush, but nothing else of significance. Then I went to Ooms to give myself another chance of seeing grassland birds. The landscape of Ooms was a large pond in the valley of pastoral grassland hills. In the expanse of fields on these hills a few dozen bobolinks created a spectacular aerial display, as the males chased females and caught insects. For the entirety of my time there as well, a bald eagle soared overhead, coming in and out of view as it surveyed the miles of land beneath it. Besides these, there were also eastern kingbirds, tree swallows, yellow warblers, and song sparrows. The open areas and good lighting allowed me to take some very nice pictures of the birds I encountered.

Though not bird-related, I also saw a muskrat, lots of painted turtles, and signs of a beaver all around the pond (including its lodge which was right next to the path along the shore). Today was the second day in a row I've encountered a beaver lodge.

Posted on May 19, 2020 22:13 by natalya-h natalya-h | 30 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 18, 2020

Richmond Marsh 5/18/20

Date: 5/18/2020
Time: 7:00am - 12:00pm
Location: Richmond Marsh, MA
Weather: about 55F, overcast and damp from rain the night before
Habitat: Large marshy area with some forest around the edges. In one area there was a beaver dam which sectioned off a portion of the swamp from the rest. There were areas of dense reeds, muddy earth, skunk cabbage, and shallow water throughout the marsh.

Either this marsh was flooded beyond normal or it's an infrequently visited place, because there were no discernible paths anywhere. Near where I entered from the side of the road was the beaver dammed area, with a large beaver lodge in the center (it appeared to be uninhabited). This was where I spotted the belted kingfisher and solitary sandpipers. My next hour and a half was mostly spent bushwhacking through the wet reeds and muddy forest, so I scared off a lot of birds with my noise. Eventually I came upon a raised train-track bed, which gave a great view of the entire marsh along its western side. On the eastern side was forest, so this is where I observed most of the passerines, including all of the warblers. In the marsh I saw at least four great blue herons flying between fishing spots, a couple pairs of Canada geese feeding, and dozens of red-winged blackbirds on the reeds. I also saw some ducks, though only in flight. I just recorded the few I was sure of. On the other end of the marsh was a dry field. From this vantage point I could get a decent view of the swallows. I could also hear an American bittern calling, but the reeds were so dense I had no hope of spotting it.

Posted on May 18, 2020 18:57 by natalya-h natalya-h | 27 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 29, 2020

Bird Watch 4/29/2020

Time: 11:30am - 2:00pm
Date: 4/29/2020
Location: Smith Pond, Chatham, NY
Weather: 60F, sunny turning to cloudy
Habitat: Medium sized pond in a patch of forest

Posted on April 29, 2020 19:42 by natalya-h natalya-h | 18 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 23, 2020

Bird watch 4/20/20

Time: 6:30pm
Date: 4/20/2020
Location: Chatham, NY
Weather: Sunny, about 50F
Habitat: Along stream bed and near rural farm road

I began my walk outside my front door. I could hear a tufted titmouse singing nearby, and soon I could see it too, hopping around on a large white pine. At first I couldn't recognize the song because it wasn't the typical "peter-peter" sound, so I played the different songs on All About Birds to see if I could find a match. Little did I know this was a grievous insult, as almost immediately the tufted titmouse stopped singing and flew over to a telephone wire right above my head. He flapped his wings at his sides furiously and made an incessant buzzing sound. The message was very clear: I was displaying in his territory and he had to defend his rights. I also noticed another tufted titmouse hopping around the vicinity, so if this was his mate, it made the story even more clear. This was the first behavior related to reproduction I saw that evening.

This tufted titmouse was obviously not afraid of defending his territory and rights to mate, so I decided to analyze it's territory a little further. The tree where I first saw him and where he subsequently flew is on a short, dead-end street with not much activity. There are also a couple bird feeders in the vicinity as well as plenty of snags to nest in. The vicinity to humans may be a problem, but there is very little activity that would disturb them in this area. This tufted titmouse seems to have a prime territory compared to others. Its precocious nature and the fact that it already has a mate also indicates that this titmouse has fairly good fitness.

After this encounter, I walked a little ways to a nearby stream bed that has a rural farm road alongside it. In the stream I saw two ducks, but before I could identify them, a fisherman spooked them and they flew upstream. I took this as an invitation to follow, and not far upstream I saw them again. A pair of hooded mergansers. As I watched them, I also spotted a male wood duck nearby. The mergansers were obviously a breeding pair, but the wood duck did not seem to have a mate. As cavity-nesters, these waterfowl are probably building nests in dead trees along the stream. Eventually when I accidentally scared them away, they all flew up into the trees and I did not see them come down.

Then I walked up the back to the road, where there seemed to be a lot of bird activity in the vegetation on the side of a field. This is where I observed the rest of the birds I saw for this day. I watched two female brown-headed cowbirds follow a male brown-headed cowbird as he moved around in the trees. He must have been a very high quality male, as there were a couple other males nearby with no female attention. Several species of sparrows, American robins, and a house finch sang, hoping to attract a mate. I also saw a male northern cardinal singing and displaying his crest in a large honeysuckle bush, with a female nearby. These two were in the perfect habitat for their nest, at abut 8 feet off the ground in dense shrubby foliage. If they were in the process of building a nest, the male would be bringing twigs, bark, leaves, or grasses to the female, who would construct the nest. The male would not have to travel far to collect his materials since most are readily available on any patch of ground. Compared to the waterfowl, these passerines I observed were living in quite a different type of habitat, even though they weren't very far from each other. The passerines I saw mostly nest in open-cup nests in the trees or shrubs that lined the open field.

Mini Activity:

Posted on April 23, 2020 00:54 by natalya-h natalya-h | 13 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 16, 2020

Bird walk 4/15/20

Time: 7:00 pm
Date: 4/15/2020
Location: Chatham NY
Weather: 40F, clear sky and sunny
Habitat: medium-sized pond surrounded by forest, with some houses and residential roads nearby

Posted on April 16, 2020 01:19 by natalya-h natalya-h | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2020

Bird walk 4/8/20

My walk took place on April 8, 2020, at 2:20 pm. I walked to a park near my house in Chatham, NY. It was about 50 degrees and somewhat overcast, but cleared up during the time I was out. The park itself is next to a moderately traveled road and features a pond, some playground equipment, soccer fields, and a wooded trail along a stream. I happened to be the only person in the park for most of the time I was there.

When I first arrived, I noticed the usual species that were feeding along the edges of the soccer field: American robins, a downy woodpecker, brown-headed cowbirds, and common grackles. There were also three Canada geese on the pond, but soon after I arrived a scuffle occurred and one goose was chased off the pond and flew out of sight, leaving the other two, who were obviously a pair. I then approached a marshy area with a dense understory and a few larger trees. As I watched and listened around here for a while, I observed an American goldfinch, black-capped chickadees, a large band of cedar waxwings, dark-eyed juncos, song sparrow, house sparrows, and a northern cardinal.

On my walk back to my house, I kept looking out for birds, and along the way I observed two circling turkey vultures, a hairy woodpecker, and a couple blue jays. There was also a strange incident in which I heard an common raven call, and then it flew low overhead while being chased by an American crow. The crow dived at the raven and I could hear the sound of their wings hitting each other.

Of the 20 species I observed, I compiled them into these categories, according to All About Birds:
Do not migrate: northern cardinal, common raven, black-capped chickadee, common raven, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, rock pigeon, blue jay
Facultative migrants (possibly year-round in Chatham): common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, song sparrow, house sparrow, cedar waxwing, American robin, American crow, Canada goose
Obligate Migrants: eastern phoebe, turkey vulture

Of the year-round species, many of them have evolved a very broad diet, like the common raven who is an omnivore, the black-capped chickadee who will eat plant matter as well as a variety of insects and seeds, and the woodpeckers, who eat the insects in trees that don't die in winter. As a result, there is no need for them to migrate, as they are able to make do with what is available. Additionally, these species' diet usually contains fat- and protein- rich foods, like seeds and insects, which helps them to store fat and stay warm in the cold winter. They also seem to be some of the least fearless species, which may give them a behavioral advantage for survival. For example, they don't mind living around human structures, since they provide food resources.

As for the facultative migrants, these species move when food is scarce. Take the cedar waxwing for example. This species eats primarily fruit, so when all the fruit in the fall is eaten or rots, they must move south to areas where plants are still fruiting. Then, they return north again as new fruits grow and become available. Because they follow the seasonality of fruit, they do not winter in Canada, but move south to the United States. Some birds in the northern part of the United States will also migrate to the southern half of North America, even as far as Panama and Costa Rica. The band of cedar waxwings that I observed may still be traveling north, or they may have reached their destination for the summer.

I only observed two species that never winter in Chatham: the eastern phoebe and turkey vulture. As a very early migrator, eastern phoebes have already gotten a head start on feeding and breeding in New York. However, because they always migrate, it may take them a few weeks to make up the energy lost on migration. As for the turkey vulture, the advantages and disadvantages are probably similar, though they occupy a very different niche than the phoebes. These two species combined traveled about 2200 miles in their migration north to Chatham, Ny.

Posted on April 09, 2020 04:06 by natalya-h natalya-h | 19 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 24, 2020

Bird Walk 3/24/20

My walk began on March 24 at 10:40 am. It was about 40F, overcast, and had snowed about 2 inches the day before, so the snow was melting quickly in the warmish weather. My walk took place in a mixed forest type near a small, quiet, residential area. There were several open areas, but also more densely wooded sections.
First, I walked down my dead-end road to where it ends at a long driveway and a small forest area. As I walked down the driveway and several blue jays were calling back and forth to each other. I couldn't see them but they sounded very close. I stood still for about 10 minutes, but the jays did not stop calling to each other. It seemed to me that they were alarming of my presence and other species were listening, because when they called, other birds stopped singing.

Next I turned off the driveway to walk up a hill, which was the highest point in the vicinity that I could see. Down the hill there was a pond with two Canada geese nearby. As I continued up the hill, all of a sudden a flock of at least 12 American robins alighted onto the top of a tree that was just a few yards away from me. The robins were all making small chatter to each other. They seemed to be constantly checking in with each other and making sure everything was good. Sometimes one would hop to another branch, which elicited some louder chatter for a brief moment. At one point, one seemed to get to close to another, which resulted in a brief chase through the air In general, these robins seemed content with their neighbors presence, even if sometimes they would have small squabbles.
Then, I walked back down the driveway onto the road again. I noticed a bird feeder in a neighbor's yard, so I decided to stay and watch for a while. On top of a tree a short distance away was a male northern cardinal calling incessantly. Another female cardinal was sitting on a bush near the feeder. There were also a lot of robins milling around in the trees. The male cardinal's plumage made him incredibly easy to spot. Combined with his loud, piercing call, he was extremely conspicuous and easy for a predator to spot. However, his bright plumage probably made him quite attractive to females and able to compete with other males. In fact, it seems like his plumage was successful in his fight for a mate, evidenced by the female that he seemed to be guarding. On the other hand, the robins' heads, wings, and backs were dark grey with brown lines, perfect for blending into the canopy of the deciduous trees where they spent a lot of time. When seen from above, like by a bird of prey, they could easily blend into the forest, unlike the cardinal. However, their orange bellies were still quite bright and most likely evolved by sexual selection from competing males, just like the cardinals. Unlike the cardinals, though, the bright color was only on the part of their body that would go unseen to predators.
As I watched the feeder some more, more birds become comfortable with my presence and ventured closer to the feeder. I was able to identify two tufted titmice, two song sparrows, four dark-eyed juncos, an eastern phoebe, and a mysterious light colored bird with a long bill, that I only saw for a few seconds. For a little while, I watched one tufted titmouse. It was hopping between the feeder, a nearby bush, and some trees farther away. It didn't stay in one spot for long. It seemed cautious but definitely interested in the feeder. Since it's becoming spring, this bird probably has been finding it easier to find food after the winter, but the snow from last night may have made that more difficult, prompting it to come to this feeder today.
In several instances I attempted a "pish" sound, but each time, the blue jays in the canopy, which were previously quiet, erupted into loud calls, and the song birds retreated to cover in the trees. Since this noise may be similar to the noise used by several species to "scold" of a potential threat, it makes sense that it elicited a strong response in the birds nearby. I think that because I was in a generally open area and the birds I was observing were putting themselves in a more vulnerable position by feeding, that they were more wary and less curious of potential threats. Or, I could have been doing it wrong. After a while of watching the feeder, I decided to call it a day and let them continue undisturbed.

Posted on March 24, 2020 17:49 by natalya-h natalya-h | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment