May 22, 2020

Field Orno Day 5: Geprags Community Park

Today we went to Geprags Community Park. Upon arrival at ~6:40 am. the temperature was ~55 degrees F, with ~62% humidity and the wind was blowing East at ~3mph. Upon departure at ~11:30 the temperature was ~76 degrees F, with ~34% humidity, and the wind was blowing S-SW at ~8mph. The habitat here consisted of an early successional forest with shrubby forest edges leading into large grassland areas. Great mix of habitat types! It is also near the Laplatte River.

I was a little discouraged this morning since I did not do well on the last cumulative quiz cause I kind of panicked while taking it. This week has been a bit overwhelming since I started with very little knowledge/experience with identifying birds and have been given so much to remember over a short period of just 5 days. Also, after waking up early and walking outside for 5-6 hours in the sun then trying to study the whole afternoon/night while feeling tired is quite difficult.

However, my experience birding today really changed my attitude because I was able to really see how much progress I have made since day one of this class in the field. Day one I was really only relying on sight since I did not know a lot of bird calls, hence all of the photos. However, today, along with Grace, I was able to hear a bird, ID it by sound only, then follow the sound to go see the bird singing. It honestly was the most rewarding feeling being able to follow the sound to see that it was indeed the bird we identified using only sound. I was also able to get some really great audio clips of most of the birds we heard since we tracked them and got really close. I was very happy that we saw a handful of species that I have never seen/heard in person before! Following the sounds also was also really effective in terms of memorizing them and associating them with the species. I definitely feel more confident in identifying all the birds I heard today by sound now!

Despite the feeling of being a little overwhelmed, this class has been very enjoyable and has gotten me even more excited about birds! I am definitely going to continue birding outside of this class because I feel like I am improving every day! Definitely have become a bird nerd and i'm proud!

Posted on May 22, 2020 22:44 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 30 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 21, 2020

Field Orno Day 4: Delta Park

Today I hit my all time high in terms of number of species seen/heard. It was hard to get interpretable recordings because there were SO many birds all calling over one another, lots of people walking/talking on the bike path, and it was windy so the sound of wind washed out birds in the recordings sometimes. All the bird pictures are accredited to Elizabeth Kaufmann! I am particularly proud though of my recording of the Warbling Vireo! I heard/saw a lot of firsts for me today such as the Belted Kingfisher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Caspian Tern, and the Barn Swallow.

Upon arriving at Delta Park, it was ~56 degrees F with scattered clouds, ~37% humidity, and the wind was blowing NNW at ~9 mph. While there, the wind peaked at 16 mph in the northern direction. Upon departure the temperature had risen to ~72 degrees F, the wind was blowing NE at ~8 mph, and the humidity lowered to ~26%.

The habitat was very much mixed which is probably why I was able to see so many different species today! The park was along the Winooski River which explains how I saw the Warbling Vireo since it is a primarily riparian species. The park also had a great coastline along Lake Champlain so I was able to see a lot of water birds such as the Caspian Tern. Further inland there were marshes and shrubby vegetation. The entrance to the park is within a neighborhood that hosted some suburban species like the Northern Cardinal that we saw. Along the bike path, either side was surrounded by dense patches of forestland, some parts were fragmented by roads and houses.

Posted on May 21, 2020 20:30 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 20, 2020

Field Orno Day 3: Camel's Hump

Today I hiked up and down Camel's Hump via the Burrows Trailhead. I am particularly proud of myself today because I challenged myself both physically and mentally. The hike was long, and towards the top it was quite slippery since the ice and snow hadn't fully melted. However, it was SO worth it because I was able to hear and see SO MANY new species! Today I didn't bring my camera so that I could focus on just analyzing the birds using sound which really paid off. I feel like I learned a lot more by just going off of sound and using that to find the birds. I took as many recordings as possible! Sadly, I missed out on recording some really cool birds I heard such as the Magnolia Warbler and the Winter Wren because by the time I ID'd them via sound and pulled out my phone to record them they had stopped calling or flown away.

When I arrived at Camel's Hump at ~7am the temperature was ~49 degrees F, with the humidity at 71% and the wind blowing SW at ~5mph. Upon departure at ~12:10pm., the temperature had risen to ~70 degrees F, the humidity was ~34%, and the wind was blowing W at ~7mph.

Posted on May 20, 2020 22:13 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 21 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 19, 2020

Field Orno Day 2: Catamount Outdoor Family Center

Today I walked the trails of the Catamount Outdoor Family Center. One set of trails were through fragmented forests with a large power line running through the center. The other set of trails, which were the focus of these observations, were through a large uphill open grassland and shrub land habitat. Upon arriving at ~6:50 am. the temperature was ~47 degrees F, and the wind was blowing ~3 mph from NNW. The wind got up to ~10 mph blowing in from the North and the temperature reached 68 degrees F before departing at around 12:20. This time around I was able to ID more birds by sound. Starting tomorrow though, my goal is to focus on getting as many sound recordings as possible and including them in these iNaturalist posts. I think doing that would more effectively help me learn to find more species, as well as study since i'm sure I will pick out a few different birds calls in the background of each recording. The highlights from today were the Chestnut-sided Warbler, House Wren, and Swamp Sparrow. This was my first time observing these birds which is why I don't have photos of them because I spent so long trying to ID them!

Posted on May 19, 2020 20:51 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 22 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 18, 2020

Field Orno Day 1: Colchester Pond

I walked the 3-mile loop of around Colchester Pond today and was able to ID 27 different species of birds via sight or sound. I captured as many photos of the ones I saw as possible. Colchester pond is a wetland habitat surrounded by open grassland fields on one side, and dense forest on the other. Almost all of the birds were found on the open grassland/shrubland side of the pond. It was approximately 47 degrees F upon arrival (7 am.) and approximately 65 degrees F upon departure (12:30 pm.). Wind was blowing at 4-8 MPH in a northern direction. The humidity was 65% upon arrival and 36% upon departure.

Posted on May 18, 2020 20:57 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 23 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 25, 2019

Field Observation 6: Reproductive Ecology & Evolution

I went to Centennial Woods in Burlington, VT on Tues., April 23, 2019. I arrived at about 5:00 PM and the sun was out and the temperature was ~63 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun was still out but there was a slight sprinkling of rain. This limited the amount of birds observed as most were finding shelter from the rain.

Despite the limited number of actual sightings, I did hear plenty of calls in the distance. Many of the calls I heard were actually birds of the same species calling back and forth to one another, potentially seeking a mate. I heard two chickadees calling back and forth. I also heard two American Robins calling to each other. I was able to actually see two species of birds that were both in pairs. I saw two Pileated Woodpeckers, as I drew closer they began flying away tree to tree together. I also saw two White-breasted Nuthatches that were exploring holes a tree (probably from these Pileated Woodpeckers) and they stayed there for quite awhile and didn't seem to mind me sitting there for about ten minutes and watching. They were grabbing small materials and placing them inside the holes so I believe they were creating nesting beds inside the hollow holes. I don't believe these Nuthatches were a breeding pair though, as female Nuthatches usually build the nests on their own. However, both these females may have thought that this tree in particular was a great nesting place because of the already dug out woodpecker holes.

It was clear that many of the birds in Centennial were preparing for breeding season by either calling for mates, creating nests, or scavenging for food with their mates. The nesting process specifically will look quite different depending on the bird species. Pileated Woodpeckers usually nest in standing dead trees, or snags. So they would probably be located in more of the old growth patches that have lots of snags available. White-breasted Nuthatches probably will end up nesting nearby the Pileated Woodpecker nests as they use smaller holes dug out by the woodpeckers for their nests and also mainly eat insects for their diet. Chickadees also prefer to nest in abandoned woodpecker holes but often choose those made by Downy Woodpeckers as they are smaller. However Chickadees' diets are about half plant matter and half insects so they may want to choose a nesting site that is near small-seed and/or berry producing vegetation. Contrastingly, American Robins do not nest in tree cavities, but rather build nests on horizontal tree branches. They choose branches that usually have dense cover above them so that there is some insulation/protection. Their diets consist of a lot of worms, but they also eat fruits. So, their besting sites will likely be in a tree with a dense crown, and by soft soils rich in worms.

Mini Activity: I sat in the meadow-like opening that is located by the large parking lot side entrance to Centennial. Here I was able to hear a few birds but I probably would have had more luck deeper in the woods as it was slightly raining so birds would be under denser coverage areas. I heard a Hermit Thrush singing alone. I also heard an even-toned call that at first I was not able to identify until I looked it up later. It turned out to be the trill of a Dark-eyed Junco. I heard a couple more Black-capped Chickadees and American Robins along the forest edges. I saw three Mallards, and two Ring-billed Gulls fly overhead as I was in a clearing and was able to have a clear view of the sky. This activity really allowed me to be patient and critically analyze distant calls which is something I need practice with. So this activity really challenged me in a good way.

Posted on April 25, 2019 01:42 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2019

Field Observation 4: Migration

I went to Mckenzie Park in Burlington, VT on Sat., April 6, 2019. I arrived at about 7:45 AM and the sky was slightly overcast. The temperature was ~40 degrees Fahrenheit. The observations mentioned in this journal post are birds that I was able to see/hear walking along Calkin's Path in the Intervale, towards Mckenzie Park.

Most of the birds that I spotted were resident species that are known to be year-long residents of Vermont such as the Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Black-Capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, American Crow, and the American Goldfinch. In order to survive Vermont's notably harsh winters, these birds must have behavioral and physical adaptations that allow them to do so. In fact, most of the birds that are year-long residents of Vermont are habitat generalists. Being a generalist means they have more options when food is scarce and don't necessarily need to migrate to find the specific resources they need. For example, both the Downy Woodpecker and the Pileated Woodpecker are habitat generalists since they are able to eat insects, seeds, and berries. Generalists may also make food stashes when weather is more favorable so that they can turn to them when resources are harder to come by during the winter. Black-capped Chickadees are known to create food stashes for the wintertime. There are also some physical adaptations that allow for better winter advantages. For example, woodpeckers' beaks also allow them to hollow out effective tree cavities for them to be protected from the harsh cold. Chickadees also have denser winter down coats to allow them to maintain their body temperature even with their small body sizes that are more susceptible to heat loss. To survive during the cooler nights some year-round birds, like the Chickadee, can actually lower their body temperatures where they go into a state of regulated hypothermia. Birds can also work together behaviorally to survive Vermont winters. For example, Song Sparrows will huddle together in groups to keep warm. On my short hike, I saw over 10 House Sparrows. These birds could likely use each other for warmth. I also saw a group of 3 Brown-headed Cowbirds that were flying around together from tree to tree. Cowbirds are known to join huge roosts with other blackbirds species to bear colder weather.

I was also able to spot some facultative & obligate migrants. I spotted two Common Mergansers taking off from the Winooski River along the trail path. These birds are mostly obligate species although some have been seen year-round in Burlington VT which would possibly make them facultative. Interior Mergansers (not on the coast) tend to migrate further than those on the coast. In the winter they tend to fly South to slightly warmer weather. Mergansers need open water so they must migrate to locations that have that available to them. So, if all of Vermont's bodies of water are frozen over they must migrate South to look for open water. A lot of them will likely migrate north to Canada to breed. Mallards are also reliant on open water (as many waterfowl species are) so many are obligate migrants. I also spotted some Ring-billed Gulls whom are obligate migrators. The Brown-headed Cowbird is a facultative migrant as many can survive in North America, including Vermont, without necessarily having to migrate. Cowbirds are extreme generalists and are known to lay eggs in other birds' nests. They also roost with one another as mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Mini Activity: After analyzing the distances of the each of the migratory species, the cumulative distance from the Intervale to the wintering locations of the species I observed was ~2,500 miles. Many of the migratory birds that I spotted only migrated across North America, and not between continents.

Posted on April 09, 2019 03:36 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 25, 2019

Field Observation 3: Social Behavior & Phenology

I went to Oakledge Park in Burlington, VT on Thurs., March 21, 2019. I arrived at about 4:45 PM and the sun was out and the temperature was ~40 degrees Fahrenheit. It was the first full day of Spring. During the entirety of the expedition it was ever so slightly drizzling rain. This effected some of the species behaviors as many were residing in thick brush of low bushes, or conifers perhaps to stay dry to maintain body heat.

The first sighting was a Turkey Vulture. Though it was seen from quite a distance and was dark against the blue sky, the characteristic "V" shape of its wings in its "wobbly" flight pattern, as well as its body size, made us believe that is was indeed a Turkey Vulture. It was flying solo and disappeared elsewhere soon after we arrived. Turkey Vultures has distinctive red heads leading me to believe this color must have been a result of an evolutionary advantage. Perhaps the red-heads may have allowed for Turkey Vultures to be more easily spotted by a potential mate, and the brighter the head, the more easily they would be picked out. Their black/brown body may also have helped them blend in better with their surroundings or absorb more heat.

The second sighting was, to no surprise, an American Crow. The crow was sunbathing, sitting on the edge of a branch. I have always wondered if their black coloring, helps increase their ability to bask in the sun to stay warm. This may have been an evolutionary trend as many birds have black coloring like the European Starling. He was cawing, I believe to let other birds know that it was his spot to sunbathe.

There were also two Ring-billed Gulls flying over the shoreline of the lake together. The gulls flying in a pair matches up with their circannual breeding season as in Vermont they tend to breed in mid-April. Meaning, they must begin to find breeding ground and mates around now. wonder if the reason they are white is due to the fact that gulls usually are associated with shorelines and open water. Sand on the shore gets quite hot, and being in the open with not many trees along the shore means for prolonged sun exposure. So, they do not need the black-coloring like crows or starlings.

Next, I saw an American Robin perched up in a Sugar Maple. It was making calls. Another American Robin flew in and perched alongside the one that was calling. Then, after a minute or two, the male, I presume, began flapping its wings and tail feathers at the other Robin. They both took flight staying low to the ground and flapped their wings and tail feathers at each other. I believe they were mating, or beginning to. This matches up with the American Robin's circannual breeding behavior as they usually mate in early Spring. So, the male's calls must have been him calling for a mate.

I was able to try my hand at "phishing" for birds on this outing. I stood by a row of thick bushes on the edge of a property on the side of the road to the entrance of the park. I had spotted a lot of songbirds hanging out there staying out of the rain so I thought it would be a great place to start. There was a Northern Cardinal sitting in a bush already so I kept my distance but started making the pshh pshh noises and inching slowly closer maintaining the pace and pitch of the noises. I was able to get arms-length away from the bird this way without him flying away or showing any signs of concern. I remained there and continued to make calls. Minutes later there were Chickadees, an American Robin, as well as a House Sparrow all in the bushes right in front of me. I was amazed that this had actually gotten results. I looked up phishing to see why it was this was able to attract so many birds. I learned that making these phishing noises is close to the noise that birds make when they are alarmed. So, if you are to emulate these alert noises, birds will come to see what's up.

Lastly, I saw a group of seven European Starlings perched in a tree. It makes sense that they were still in a little flock since they usually stay in them during the fall and winter until breeding season begins and it was only the first full day of Spring and it is still pretty cold outside. In fact, they seemed to be sun bathing, getting as much warmth as possible before the sun began to set.

Posted on March 25, 2019 23:41 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 09, 2019

Field Observation 2: Physiology

I went to Oakledge Park in Burlington, VT on Tues., March 2, 2019. I arrived at about 6:40 AM and the sun was out and the temperature was ~17 degrees Fahrenheit. I went at this hour in hopes birds would be more active as they are fueling up for the day and the sun is coming out and warming up insects in trees perhaps.

The first sighting, to no surprise, was an American Crow. He was perched high in a tree looking as if he was bathing in the rising sun, his black feathers glistening. This black coloring all over the birds body may help to keep the bird warm in colder climates since black absorbs light/heat. There were a couple of other crows that I sighted in the area as well. They seemed to all be calling to each other.

The second sighting was a Northern Cardinal, also perched high in a tree taking in the sun.

Then, I heard knocking on a tree and was able to find that the source of the knocking was a Pileated Woodpecker, easy to sight from afar by his red head. He was flying around between a group of trees, all of which had holes already dug out by him or another woodpecker. He seemed to be looking for insects within the bark as he would peck the tree, then pause and carefully stick his tongue into the dug out bark. There were snags near the patch he was feeding in which were covered by large cavities, perhaps a result of excessive woodpecker activity. Some of these standing dead trees had more oblong rectangular holes rather than circular ones which may be indicators of the woodpecker's winter roost since their nesting holes are usually more oblong.

Next I saw a group of Black-capped Chickadees who were flying around with great speed dodging trees and acting as if they were playing a game of tag. Maybe this chasing game was a way to warm up for them in the early morning after surviving through the cold dark Vermont night. These Chickadees seemed to have some winter weight on them, helping them keep warm. Since Chickadees primarily consume insects, i'm sure that in the winter since insects are not nearly as prevalent they have to rely on seeds and dried fruits that they can scavenge.

Finally, I heard some more knocking among a group of trees. To my surprise, it was not the Pileated Woodpecker, but rather it was a Downy Woodpecker. He also seemed to be feeding. However, he remained within a patch of dense conifers between branches. Since it was a chilly winter morning with some extra wind chill, I assumed that he was attempting to shield himself from the cold wind.

On this property there were patches of conifers that seemed to be more dense, therefore more insulated from rain, snow, and wind. These conifers are most likely the sites where many of these species choose to roost at night. Social species such as the Chickadees and Nuthatches most likely roost in groups to share body heat.

There were many snags throughout Oakledge. There were around seven towards the waterfront, and 5 along the path leading to the bike trail. The ones near the waterfront had a lot more holes from woodpeckers than the ones along the path. I knocked on every snag I passed by however the only extra activity I was able to see from this tapping was one Squirrel that jumped away to another nearby tree. I assume that since it was morning a lot of birds were done roosting and enjoying the risen sun. Maybe later in the day more birds would have risen from these snags upon disturbance. I believe the snags towards the waterfront were occupied by a couple woodpeckers and some chickadees. The snags along the path may have been occupied by some squirrels and songbirds like cardinals and nuthatches.

Overall, these birds are doing their best to stay insulated, and seek out dried seeds or fruits (unless they are a woodpecker) as the ground is frozen and insects are scarce compared to in the spring or summertime. They utilize snags because they are usually hollow in parts and easy for birds to insulate themselves in. Snags are important parts of ecosystems as they provide habitat and shelter for many animals, especially wintering birds.

Posted on March 09, 2019 03:39 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 21, 2019

Field Observation 1: ID & Flight Physiology

I took a walk around UVM's campus on Tues. Feb 12th to see how many birds I could identify. The temperature was approximately 24 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun was out. There were not many birds I could see, and the background noise of cars and such made it difficult to hear any distant calls. Most of the birds I was able to see were concentrated in and around the green. Since UVM is packed with buildings and noise pollution, and the temperature was pretty low, I am guessing the reasoning for the lack of birds I saw was because the temperatures made them lethargic and most preferred to stay huddled somewhere warm. I was able to spot three different species: Rock Dove, Cedar Waxwing, and the American Crow.

The Rock Doves were sitting in a group of about 6 or 7 on top of the Davis Center. The group seemed pretty stationary as if they were basking in the sun. Some of them were cleaning/fluffing their feathers. They would bob/cock their heads as they walked along the roof. I was able to stand and observe them for awhile to analyze their flight pattern when they flew away. Their flight was almost frantic and they circled around before landing again.

There were tons of American Crows out and about. Between sight and sound I documented 11 separate occasions where I encountered them. Many of them were soaring through the sky with their distinct methodical rowing wing motions. Some of them would glide for awhile with their wings straight out from their body, circling around like they were looking for something.

Finally, I saw a group of almost 20 Cedar Waxwings. They were flying from tree to tree in the UVM green. When people were further away, they flew to the shorter trees with shriveled red fruit and ate them. However, when people came closer they would fly as a flock to a much taller Eastern White Pine. They did this back and forth pattern numerous times as I was watching. Their flight was very fluttery, and momentarily they keep their wings against their bodies and soar for a split second.

Cedar Waxwings are the smallest of the three species I observed, hence their fluttery flight pattern. They like to eat fruit and must be small and accurate to be able to pluck them out of trees so their fast fluttery flight pattern helps them to navigate small branches and such. This is much different than the crow and the pigeon. The pigeon's body is more plump which matches their behavior since they tend to hang out in open spaces and on infrastructure. Then the crow is more of a seeker, as they find roadkill, trash, and other nests to rob. The crows longer wings help them navigate the skies seemingly effortlessly in search of food.

Posted on February 21, 2019 04:22 by taylorehwa taylorehwa | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment