Journal archives for April 2019

April 10, 2019

Bird Watching #4

Place: Around campus from behind Gutterson to behind Harris-Millis
Time: 3:30-5
Weather: Cold(40F)and dark. intense winds
Habitat: Loud environment with cars and people all day.

Mini Activity- Frequent Flyer: As you assemble your species list, use a trusted ornithology resource (a.k.a. All About Birds or Birds of North America species accounts) to determine the general wintering range for each species you encounter. With the aid of Google Maps or Google Earth, determine a rough straight-line distance between your site and the species’ wintering location. On a napkin or the back of an envelope, add up the rough total miles traveled by all the facultative and obligate migrants that have recently arrived at your natural area for your personal observation!

Birdwatching in loud environments is never optimal and no rare birds will reveal themselves around so much commotion. I was behind Harris Millis when I started, and the ring-billed gulls used the winds to propel themselves around in circles above the food smell. I actually tracked where they land most frequently: the dumpster. Ring-billed gulls are a very common bird in Burlington and only Burlington, I have seen gulls in other parts of Vermont on rare occasions. Gulls migrate through Vermont up as high as British Columbia, and down as low as Mexico City. They are long-distance travelers and arrived shortly after spring break from my observation. Gulls are suited for cold environments and can stay in microclimates in Michigan year round, but in Vermont, the weather is too cold until mid-May. As well as the cold, gulls do not have a wide variety of food to choose from in the winter as the lake is frozen, and feed on trash and food scraps as there are no fish or pondlife. As gulls are obligate migrators, they disappear in about October and return late March.

Another common bird I observed were house sparrows, many of them flying around in groups and sitting in trees. House sparrows are the model winter bird, in my opinion. They can live anywhere that is covered and can make such a thick layer of feathers they are hard to identify. The individual I observed was resting on a high shelf with its feathers puffed out during the cold day. It was in the back of a Lowes Homegoods store where multiple other birds nests alongside the sparrows. House Finches nest in many home goods stores as well because they are sheltered and out of the wind. I found no nests in the rafters, but could see many birds jumping into the roof to what I suspect is their nests.
Sparrows and Finches can thrive in the Vermont winter because of their adaptations to a colder environment. They both feed on seeds, nuts, and fruit, especially cherry trees in April. They are both birds which live in northeastern Canada in the winter and in Vermont, both can acclimate by the time winter is in full.

A common migrating bird in April is Canada geese. I see flocks of geese almost every day and they make themselves very apparent by the large V's and honking. Canada Geese are infamous migrators and fly 2000 to 3000 miles every season. Their trips are so long because they are obligatory migrants that move from pole to pole to acclimate to the weather. Canada Geese have down feathers which are extremely warm and insulative, yet cannot change the environment. The habitats of Canada geese is near and around waterbodies to feed on insects and on grains surrounding the ponds. As Canada reaches colder weathers, the light periods signal to the birds that they must migrate and travel to their respective areas. As the geese migrate upwards, they stop in the onion river valley to take breaks and use the recently thawed ponds for overnight. The disadvantage of the geese being in Burlington is the weather fluctuates from extremely cold and food may not be available this early in the season.

Mini activity: about 3500 miles between gulls and geese

Posted on April 10, 2019 01:56 by woodencabinets woodencabinets | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 16, 2019

Bird Watching #5

Time: 4:30-6:00 pm
Date: April 15, 2019
Place: Centennial Woods
Habitat: Open marsh
Weather: Cloudy and windy. 45 degrees

Posted on April 16, 2019 01:37 by woodencabinets woodencabinets | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 26, 2019

Bird Watching #6

Date: 4/23/2019
Location: Behind Harris Millis in the open field
Time: 4:45-6:30
Weather: Cloudy with some rain
Habitat: Open trees and a long patch of grass

The rainy day and overcast week of April is no surprise, and the robins took their experience. American robins are a notorious scouting bird and can perch in trees to fly and pick out worms from the ground with accuracy. The Robins nest in trees with thick foliage to protect the young, and both parents feed the children many times an hour. Robins interact with other robins and are not malevolent to each other, but they can be timid to ring-billed gulls which squawk the smaller birds away.
After some time waiting in the dark day, house sparrows came out to chip around to find a mate. Their songs are a regular chatter and make the environment noisy with the short peeps. House sparrows differ from Robins from their interactions within their own species and are more aggressive to other individuals which are crossing territory lines. I observed house sparrows that nested in bushes and in maple trees with thicker branches.
Nests in Burlington must be resilient to the constant wind, and many nests contain litter from the campus. I saw two nests which were out of sight, but one contained spare tissues which I speculate was picked off of the ground by a Robin. Nests are protected by the chipping of the birds and signaled individuals who were too close to their nests.
Gull nests are sparse away from the water, as they rely on spare sticks and herbaceous growth which can be collected around the water. Gulls are territorial about most aspects of their behavior and fight over small scraps that can be food or just trash. Their behavior towards other individuals around nests is less territorial as many can nest together in groups. Robins and House sparrows are less likely to nest in groups as they can nest in various places and are territorial of their nests.

Posted on April 26, 2019 03:31 by woodencabinets woodencabinets | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment