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 by taylorehwa taylorehwa, March 25, 2019 23:41

Observations

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

American Robin Turdus migratorius

Observer

taylorehwa

Date

March 22, 2019

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

Observer

taylorehwa

Date

March 22, 2019

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula

Observer

taylorehwa

Date

March 22, 2019

Description

Group of 7

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus

Observer

taylorehwa

Date

March 22, 2019

Comments

No comments yet.

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments

Is this inappropriate, spam, or offensive? Add a Flag