Journal archives for March 2020

March 06, 2020

Bird watch 3/6/20

March 5, 2020; 4:30 pm; East Woods Natural Area; cool and sunny weather; deciduous forest, surrounded by roads and highways

My walk began at 4:30pm. It was not quite dusk and still bright out, so I could already tell that I had come to early to see many birds. Also, the noise from the surrounding roads was quite loud, and combined with the sounds from the raging stream in East Woods, it was hard to hear many birds. However, early into my walk I heard crows calling and saw 5 fly overhead. They were soon followed by the songs of two chickadees singing back and forth to each other and a nondescript "chip" call, though I couldn't locate the source of any of them. Then, I saw some type of woodpecker, most likely a pileated woodpecker, fly through the canopy. I identified it by its distinct flying pattern, size, and one large patch of white under each wing. Later still, a small flock of Cananda geese flew by in the distance. They were not extremely vocal, though I heard at least one honk. I suspect that they were migrating back to Vermont, a behavior rooted in surviving the winter.
After these observations, I did not observe any more birds for a while, mostly due to constant sounds of traffic. I knocked on several snags, but nothing ever appeared, probably because it was still too early for them to return to the nest. Most of the snags I aw were large white pines, interspersed with different sized holes. The larger cavities were oblong, while the smaller ones were more circular. Later in my walk, I heard the calls of a woodpecker. It may have been the same one that I observed earlier, or a different one. Either way, the abundance of snags, each with many cavities, on top of my observations, indicates a considerable population of woodpeckers in the area.
Most of the birds that I observed seemed calculated in their behaviors. When they flew, they had a clear destination, and when not flying, not many birds spent energy singing or moving around. These are all adaptations to a winter in Vermont, even though it was a nice day for this time of year. Most birds were probably hunkering down to wait for the weather to be consistently warmer and their reliable food sources to return.

Posted on March 06, 2020 23:40 by natalya-h natalya-h | 6 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