May 10, 2021

Field Journal #8 - M.Joyall

Location: Shelburne Bay Park
Date: 5/10/21
Time: 0755-0925
Temperature: 48 F
Light Breeze out of SE, 90% cloud cover
Habitats: Open grassland, marshy wetland, mixed deciduous / coniferous forest with cedar, hemlock, maple

Spent a while in the parking lot area and adjacent open grassy area, then walked down trail along shore.

Posted on May 10, 2021 20:05 by youngtormund youngtormund | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 26, 2021

Field Journal #7 - M. Joyall

Date: 4/25/21
Start Time: 4:20pm
End Time: 6:19pm
Location: Shelburne Bay Park
Weather: Cloudy, light rain showers, 55 F, Light breeze out of NW (6mph)
Habitat(s): Marshland at edge of lake, Mixed deciduous coniferous forest with heavy hemlock presence

Oh man! Aquatic birds delight! The gray, rainy weather on Sunday afternoon left few people out on the trails by Shelburne Bay – nice and quiet for some ornotherapy. I followed the trail closest to the water along the edge of the park, this treated me to several awesome shorebird sightings! Before getting to the water’s edge, an American Robin greeted me as I looked at the park’s trail map. I later found that same robin jumping around on the ground near the picnic area with what appeared to be its’ mate. Heading into the woods, a Black-capped Chickadee chirped a ‘hello’ from its’ perch in a white cedar. In the southwest corner of the bay, near the parking lot, I spotted 5 Canada Geese on what appeared to be their nesting ground. It looked like there were two distinct pairs and a fifth goose sort of off by itself. It seemed like they had established control over the area, and it looked like a prime territory as it offered moderate protection and was somewhat camouflaged from human foot traffic. As I was watching them, a lone Mallard meandered through their territory and quickly departed. One of the geese beat their wings seemingly in an act of defiance. In the far distance, by the Shelburne Bay boat Access Area, I spied two Ring-billed Gulls – one standing still on shore and the other circling on the hunt for a meal.

I stepped away from shore and into the woods, the trail at the park is funny in that you feel positioned between two worlds, the aquatic world and the woody world. In each world, the respective birds have ideal nesting sites - cozy hemlocks for the Chickadees, and wet, marshy areas for the Canada Geese. Four Black-capped Chickadees hopped around high up in hemlock tree in the wooded world behind me. Back on the waterfront, I heard the distinct call of a Belted Kingfisher, who quickly darted past before perching in a shorefront tree fifty yards south of me. This was my first time seeing one and actually knowing the species, very neat! The buoys were set out for the little marina that is off the coast there in the summer and I almost missed it, but a Double-crested Cormorant was patiently perched on one of the buoys. We silently took note of each other. I stood on the shoreline there for a while and a Ring-billed Gull approached. I got to witness him catch some sort of crawfish. Once the meal was secured, he began calling, I imagine to his mate, to come and share the meal. This was just one instance of couples searching for food that I observed. It was cool to witness this process of food acquisition and then sharing it with the bird’s family unit (well just mate at the moment).

Further along the trail I spotted several more Black-capped Chickadees high up in another hemlock, they seemed to be diligently collecting food. I suspect that the Chickadees will utilize small woody materials on the forest floor to build their nests and perhaps additionally use grasses from nearby aquatic areas.There is a nubby peninsula along the trail, and from it I could see a pair of Double-crested Cormorants on the water in the distance. They took turns diving, I was surprised by how long they could stay submerged. It was cool seeing several species in pairs, heralding the start of mating season. As I was watching them, I heard the familiar call of a Common Loon, a few seconds later one swam around the bend and appeared along the shore in front of me.

Before I headed back to the city, I drove one hundred yards down the street to the Shelburne Bay boat Access Ramp. There is a marshy section along the ramp, and it was alive with the calls of Red-winged Blackbirds. I spied two tucked into the reeds and heard what sounded like several others. All in all, a nice opportunity for some ornotherapy on a drizzly Sunday afternoon!

Sound Map attached as observation.

Posted on April 26, 2021 16:52 by youngtormund youngtormund | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 19, 2021

Field Journal #6 - M.Joyall

Date: 4/18/2021
Time: 4:22-6:35pm
Location: Honey Hollow Trail, Huntington, VT
Temperature: 54 F
Wind/Weather: 8 mph W/NW, sunny with mostly clear skies
Habitat: Mixed deciduous/coniferous forest with heavy density of hemlocks and paper + yellow birch

Black-capped Chickadees Unite! This was the most Black-capped Chickadees that I have ever seen on a single outing. I counted 14 in total! Just in from the trailhead, I spied 2 Black-capped Chickadees foraging in a birch just off the trail. Further up the trail, I spotted two more Black-capped Chickadees fluttering around in the upper branches of a hemlock tree.

I found spotting birds to be quite difficult at this location because there was so much cover provided by the many hemlock trees. While this afforded the birds greater protection, it made it much trickier for me to locate birds singing in the canopy.

A little way to the west of the trail I spotted a Dark-eyed Junco ducking into a decaying stump. Nearby, I was graced with three more Black-capped Chickadees singing their song for all to hear. As we began our return trip towards the trailhead, my birding partner spotted a well-camouflaged Hairy Woodpecker high up in a distant birch. Closer to the trailhead we came across, yup you guessed it – 2 MORE Black-capped Chickadees. (The reader may suspect that I just kept accidentally counting the same couple of Black-capped Chickadees, but I assure you I did my best to note their location and movement as to avoid double-counting them!) It was both hilarious and interesting seeing how great a preference the Black-capped Chickadees in the area had for this swath of forest.

As we approach a clearing near the road a Red-winged Blackbird lept from its’ perch and flew overhead. Just past him, an American Robin ran across the trail and into the woods on the far side. This was the best fed Robin I’ve ever seen, must have had a good food supply nearby! At the very edge of the parking lot two Song Sparrows fluttered about in grassy area by a downed tree. All in all, a nice birding walk on a trail that was new to me!

Posted on April 19, 2021 19:35 by youngtormund youngtormund | 10 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Field Journal #4 - M. Joyall

Destination: Winooski Gorge Park
Date: 4/13
Time: 8:55-10:30am
Temperature: 47 F , slight breeze from N
Habitats: Mixed deciduous/coniferous forest with lots of cedars in riparian zone --- I looked at the Winooski Valley Park District Page and apparently it is called a Limestone Bluff Cedar-Pine Forest

For field journal #4 I ventured out to Winooski Gorge Park which runs between the river and some industrial buildings on Lime Kiln Road in Colchester. The footpath there features several outlooks that provide a view of the gorge and river below. As soon as I stepped into the woods from the parking lot, I heard the familiar bleating of the Canada Goose as three flew past on the far side of a wall of cedar. Further down the trail a Turkey Vulture swooped low overhead, its’ seemingly undersized head taking stock of me.

Two Herring Gulls were perched on the rooftop corner of a nearby building on the east side of the park. As I walked deeper into the wooded area, a Northern Cardinal sounded the alarm on me as I walked too close to its’ perch. He jumped to another nearby tree and continued to call. In one of the rock outcroppings that provided a clearer view towards the river, I caught a glimpse of a Blue Jay jumping from tree to tree in a patch of cedars. It is interesting contrasting the near monochromatic Herring Gulls with the vibrant red coloring of the Northern Cardinal. I suspect that the white coloring helps the gulls blend into aquatic environments while the cardinals red plummage serves as a warning to would be competitors and predators; a visual "don't mess with me" or "check out this beak, you don't want any of this"! Near the end of the trail, there was a rock wall with some graffiti. I paused to check out the formation and soon heard the subdued drum of a Downy Woodpecker nearby. He saw me approach and jumped to a tree further away from the trail to continue his search for food.

On my trip back towards the trailhead, I saw a Black-capped Chickadee in a cedar just off the trail. I decided to try my hand a “psssshing” and ended up having great success! Much to my excitement, another Black-capped Chickadee popped up and two Blue Jays swooped in to see what was going on! I suspect that the repetitive nature of "pishing" attracts birds because it mimics an alarm call, hence bringing them in to survey what is going on. Back near the trailhead, a Hairy Woodpecker was drilling away in a deciduous tree. At this point in the morning, I suspect he was drilling to load up on calories for the day. Nearby, a White-breasted Nuthatch canvassed up and down a tree.

Posted on April 19, 2021 02:28 by youngtormund youngtormund | 10 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 05, 2021

JE #5 - Migration, M.Joyall

Location: LaPlatte Nature Park
Date: 4/4/21
Time: 1500-1740
Temperature: 53 degrees F
Wind: NNW 15mph

On Sunday, I headed to LaPlatte Nature Park for a birding excursion. When we started the sky was mostly sunny and clear with 5% cloud cover and a 15mph wind out of the NNW. The habitat varied between 1. open grassy field edged with mixed shrubby species including sumac, honeysuckle, and buckthorn, 2. Wetland forest consisting of Silver Maples, hackberry, ash, and basswood, 3. Mixed deciduous/coniferous forest with pines, cedar, and maples, beech, and ash, as well as several other deciduous species.

My walk followed the LaPlatte Nature Trail, which is the blanket trail name for all of the trails in LaPlatte Nature Park. We did a loop on a particular section of trail that snaked along the LaPlatte River. The trail starts out winding along an open field, and just as we got out of the car, a Turkey Vulture soared overhead. After a brief stretch on the field, the trail cuts into a more heavily wooded habitat. As we cut into the woods, we saw a Song Sparrow nestled in the underbrush. Further down the trail, we snaked along the LaPlatte River. A male and female Mallard swam upriver towards us as walked downstream along the riverbank. They clearly became comfortable with us - they started mating after we had been observing them for a few minutes! Further down the trail, set further back from the river, we observed two Hairy Woodpeckers tapping away. On the far side of the river, 4 Black-capped Chickadees hopped from branch to branch in the underbrush.

I saw first ever (new birder here, so probably really just my first time noticing one) White-breasted Nuthatch climbing up a nearby ash tree! He had a friend, making this my first two White-breasted Nuthatches. While basking in this glory, we heard loud drilling noises in the distance. Upon closer examination, we found a Pileated Woodpecker looking for dinner. On our way back to the car, we noted two American Robins perched near the trail and we were ushered out of the woods by four more Black-capped Chickadees.

I noted that a lot of my observed species were year-round residents who are well-adapted for our harsh winters. An extremely important factor in allowing winter residency is access to food year round. The American Robin's ability to forage food from many different sources (berries, worms) allows it to find food year round, even when sources are limited in the winter. The Black-capped Chickadee is capable of remembering thousands of hiding places for its food - making year-round residency much more attainable. We know that birds have high body temperatures, and physical adaptations such as a late fall molt and oil from the uropygial gland provide extra insulation for the winter moths. Behavioral adaptations, such as fluffing feathers to create air pockets for insulation or tucking a leg into the body to shield bare skin from the cold aid in retaining as much body heat as possible when temperatures dip.

Some of the facultative migrants I observed, such as the Mallard, are ushered south by more clear cut reasons, such as lack of access to open water when lakes and rivers are frozen. It was awesome to see the two Mallards on the open water - definitely a great sign of spring!

Species List with approximate distances traveled:

  • Turkey Vulture (659 miles, NC -> VT)
  • Song Sparrow (539 miles, WV -> VT)
  • Mallard (949 miles, GA -> VT)
  • Hairy Woodpecker (resident)
  • Black-capped Chickadee (resident)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (he's a local)
  • Pileated Woodpecker (Shelburne born + raised)
  • American Robin (resident)
    Cumulative distance traveled = ~2,147 miles

Posted on April 05, 2021 16:39 by youngtormund youngtormund | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 07, 2021

Field Journal #3 - M. Joyall

This week I headed for Shelburne Bay Park on Sunday (3/7) and walked along the Ti-Haul trail which heads south/southwest from the Shelburne Bay Parking lot. I started at 2:45pm and was out until about 4:50pm. The skies were clear, temperature was 28 F, and there was a wind of 7pmh out of the NNW. The trail there is an out and back so I retraced my steps on my way back to the car. The habitat switches between areas of mixed coniferous / deciduous forest and open marshy areas - the marsh areas have limited vegetation, mostly tall grasses.

As we set off down the trail, we immediately heard and then saw an American Crow take off from a tree and fly over a field to our right, quickly moving out of sight. Shortly after we set out my birding partner, Emma, spied a hawk zoom over our heads. He perched high up in a conifer about 40 yards down the trail form us. We were not sure what species it was, but jotted down a few observations (noted in the species list). He kept tabs on us as he scanned the ground below, presumably for a meal. About 10 minutes down the trail we heard a Black-capped Chickadee. We found it in a Red Pine about 40 feet of the trail. It was hopping from branch to branch and appeared to be picking at the remaining cones left of the tree. I imagine try to score a meal before another cold night. From what I observed, there were limited food sources in the area. While berries and nuts are plentiful in other seasons, pinecones were one of the only currently available food sources that I noticed.

A real treat lay in store. As we were observing the Chickadee, we heard a woodpecker in the distance. After following its calls to the other side of the trial we found a Hairy Woodpecker drumming high up in a deciduous tree! While watching the Hairy drum a considerable amount of biomass out of the tree - chips and barking flying around the place - we spotted a Downy Woodpecker drumming in a Musclewood tree about 20 yards from the tree that the Hairy was in. This was my first time observing a Downy up close and I did not realize how tiny their drill holes are. We watched these two hard at work for food for the better part of half an hour. I was playing with my phone and binoculars trying to get a decent photo by placing the phone camera lens against the binocular eye hole. On our hike out we could heard Black-capped Chickadees in the distance.

SNAG Patrol! While keeping snags in mind along the walk, I noticed many along the way. I suspect this in part due to the marshland areas advancing upon the forest near the trail. The snags that stuck out most to me were a few that we found near the woodpeckers. One was a very small conifer with a small hole that looked like a decent home for a Downy and another larger deciduous tree with a large hole that could house a larger woodpecker or other bird. I thoroughly enjoyed rapping on a few deadwoods with a stick, but I did not have luck rousing any possible inhabitants. Snags provide an important place to roost and also provide protection from predators on the ground. Considering all of the snags I noted along the walk, there must be some owls in the area, all of the snags would provide them a great habitat!

Great walk and better birding. An awesome afternoon of Ornotherapy to kick off the week.

Species List:
American Crow
Hawk --> not sure what species (yellow claws, black 'goggles', brown spotted plummage, yellow beak)
Black-capped Chickadee
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

Posted on March 07, 2021 23:55 by youngtormund youngtormund | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 23, 2021

Journal Entry #2 - Matt Joyall

For my birding excursion this week I started out with the Friday (2/19) field group with the Orno group. I was out from 1400 to 1540, it was 30 degrees F, with 30% cloud cover and a moderate breeze out of the SE. I walked from the Aiken building east towards the medical center parking and then walked around the medical center. From there, I walked back down main street to south prospect and went all the way down to swift street and then returned to maple st via south prospect. The habitats I birded in were all urban / developed areas.

Near the Davis circle center I spotted a sneaky Black-capped Chickadee peetering around in a deciduous tree. Along the way I found several American Robins scattered along South Prospect. I counted eight in total. The Robins fluttered away quickly when I approached and then curiously made their way back to me once they no longer perceived me as a threat. They hopped around the tree a lot with rapid wing movement.

I saw the American Robin use it's elliptical wings to make quick fluttering motions to move across the snow at ground level and also to rapidly push off to seek safety in a tree perch. The American Robin's flight pattern was more smooth and less choppy than the flittery Black-capped Chickadee. They both seem to be versatile moving from the ground to trees, but the Robins seem to do it more powerfully. This may be in part because they are a bit bigger and need to generate more power to move. They definitely seem to have a bit higher wing loading than the Black-capped Chickadee.

Posted on February 23, 2021 04:34 by youngtormund youngtormund | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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