April 08, 2021

Field Journal #6

Date: 04/08/2021
Location: Woodstock, VT
Start time: 12:00
End time: 1:30
Temperature: 66°F
Weather: sunny
Habitat: temperate deciduous forest

I wasn't planning on bird watching today but I am very glad I did. This was my first ever sighting of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I realized what I was looking at. To be completely honest only a few years ago I thought they were myths- I'm glad they are not!

Posted on April 08, 2021 17:55 by anniee10 anniee10 | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 05, 2021

Field Journal #5

Date: 05/04/2021
Start Time: 1:30 PM
End Time: 3:15 PM
Temperature: 52°F
Weather: Sunny and breezy
Habitats: Temperate deciduous forest, swamp, pond, rural feeders

Walking out into the woods I was surprised to see less birds soaring through the trees than I had before. The snow was nearly gone, and due to the warm weather I was hopeful to see birds who had not been around for the winter months. Unsurprisingly there were many Black-capped Chickadees as there had been in every visit to the woods. Dominating the area with their many homes I realized that maybe the reason I was not seeing new birds was because the Chickadees left few territories for migrant birds to find in the Spring. The Chickadees, who eat seeds and fruits in the winter, are able to stay put all year round and have a well-established territory which they seemed to be maintaining throughout the breeding season. With their short little beaks, they are able to crack into seeds unlike those who feed primarily on insects, allowing them to stay with us even when there are few bugs out. As I had realized in a previous journal, the area where I observe birds has many snags which provide home for these cavity nesters who hide from the cold winters inside them. I was also able to see two more year-round species including a Song Sparrow and Red-breasted Nuthatch and also heard the call of a Blue Jay and Mourning Dove. Both the Mourning Dove and Song Sparrow seemed to take advantage of the many pines and shrubs that were in the woods and alongside the water which provided shelter during the winter. The Nuthatches, similar to the Chickadees utilized snags and were also one of the most common birds I saw. Interestingly, all of these birds had beaks that enabled them to eat seeds and fruits which leads me to believe it is a necessary trait for birds who winter in Vermont, not including raptors.

Despite having seen many Canada Geese flying back these past weeks and even Mallards and Mergansers in the water alongside roads, I was unable to see any migrants at the ponds. I quickly realized once I reached the ponds that there was still a layer of ice covering them, leaving no open water for these birds to hunt in. The one facultative migrant I was able to see on my hike was the American Robin. Four of them were bobbing around looking for food on the muddy grounds that had recently been uncovered from snow. Knowing that Robins love worms, it makes sense that I was unable to see them until recently since the ground had been frozen and covered. Having looked at a map showing the range of Robins it looks as if that these birds could have come all the way from Florida. It seems that the robins take advantage of the newly arrived food source of worms unlike the year-round birds and are able to create shelter from the new Spring growth as well as mud which is used in their nests. As to why these birds leave Florida, I am not completely sure, but I am guessing that competing for territories down South during the breeding season might not pay off for these birds. Since the Robins did leave Vermont though, they may have a hard time finding a territory free from the Chickadees and Nuthatches, but these ones seemed plump and happy from what I could tell.

Although I only saw one migratory bird species during my observation, I calculated that the four Robins would have traveled 1,140 miles each assuming they all spent their winters in Florida. This means that the overall distance traveled by migrant birds I saw was 4,560 miles. How impressive!

Posted on April 05, 2021 19:06 by anniee10 anniee10 | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 21, 2021

Field Journal #4

Date: 03/20/2021
Start Time: 2:30 pm
End Time: 4:15 pm
Location: Knapp Pond
Weather: Sunny with no clouds, very slight breeze
Temperature: 46°F
Habitats: Young deciduous forest, swampland, rural lawn feeders

Deep in the woods I was happy to identify my first Brown Creeper, which was silently running in circles around the top of a large tree while foraging for insects. Being at a time of day where the sun was out the alertness of this bird seemed fitting in relation to its circadian rhythm. If it had not been for its white belly and curved beak, I might have missed the Creeper due to the feather markings on its back and wings. With a mixture of melanin pigments of brown, black, buff, and white which were spread out in small streaks on its body, this bird was able to blend into the tree bark very well. Due to this I came to the conclusion that this bird’s plumage must have evolved as camouflage within the forests, advantageous in that it provides protection from predators. This was in striking contrast to the Blue Jay I had been quickly able to spot as it flew through the trees. The Blue Jay, unlike the Brown Creeper bore bright blue colors, and was easily spotted unlike its camouflaged friend. The Blue Jay was unmissable despite having only been in eyesight for mere seconds, causing me to think that this bird wanted to be seen. The head, back, and tail of the bird all incorporated bright blue colors with white bars and black stripes on the wings and tail. Similarly to the Creeper though it did have a white stomach. Perhaps this bright coloration aided these birds in finding mates, and the brighter the color, the more likely they were to be successful. It seemed as if they were showing that them being capable of staying alive despite standing out in the forest meant they were fit to be a mate.
Having realized that both the Blue Jay and the Brown Creeper had white bellies I decided to see if this trait was common in the birds of the area. Continuing on my walk through the woods I was able to spot a Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, and many Black-capped Chickadees which all sported a light-colored stomach. Having had time to think about this I came up with the explanation that this trait might aid birds against predators who watch from the ground as they are flying. Since the sky is a light color perhaps evolution created camouflage against it. As I watched the birds dart around, I realized that many of them had darker coloration on their wings and having remembered from lecture that melanin creates a stronger feather I thought that this created an advantage in that birds who had these darker wings had stronger wings. In relation to the circadian and circannual cycles, I realized I was not spotting any birds that had dramatic changes from their winter and summer plumages. I also kept in mind that nesting season was occurring, meaning that no birds would be molting during this energetically expensive time since it would be irrational to do so.
During my time in the woods at a point where there were no birds in sight despite me being able to hear them, I decided to try spishing and am delighted to say that it was successful. Not long after I began, two Chickadees as well as a Red-breasted Nuthatch appeared in the branches above me. Only a few feet over me, one of the Chickadees seemed to be calling back to me in its classic “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call while turning its little head to observe me. I have been trying to answer the question of why the spishing method works for a long time, and one of the ideas I have come up with is that it could be a signal for an animal in distress. Although I do not have much evidence other than that cats can be called in with the same method, and curious Chickadees come to see what’s happening while they voice their alerting call, it is the best I have come up with. Other calls which I heard during my walk included frantic Mourning Doves who alerted each other to take off before I was near. I also was able to witness four Tufted Titmouse who were calling to each other in the trees with a song I had not recognized, interestingly they all began to converge on a single branch. Since I had been very still and silent, I did not think I was the cause for the noise, but their loud songs did make me think they were talking to one another and trying to find a mate. On top of all of these calls I heard songs coming from Chickadees which consisted of both their “Hey Sweetie” and “Chick-a-dee” songs, the later of the two is what was called to me when I was very close, so I figured that was a warning call, while the “Hey Sweetie” happened while I was farther away and unmoving. Due to the point in the circannual cycle that we are in I thought “Hey Sweetie” might have been a mating call.

Posted on March 21, 2021 22:46 by anniee10 anniee10 | 10 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 28, 2021

Field Journal #3

Date: 02/26/2021
Start Time: 12:45 PM
End Time: 2:20
Weather: 28°F, sunny, no clouds, slight wind
Location: Knapp Pond Pond 1
Habitats: Deciduous forest, rural lawn with feeder

Many of the birds that were observed looked round and fluffy. Being outside in the cold Vermont months they seemed to have put on more feathers or maybe gained a little weight. The many Black-capped Chickadees that were flying in the woods were a great example of being round, fuzzy creatures. Looking closely at their bellies revealed a fluffy layer of down feathers. This trait was also seen in the white bellies of Downy Woodpeckers. Not far into the woods, the faint sound of a woodpecker could be heard and when it was found high up in an old pine it seemed to be preening its fluffy front. Unsurprisingly the use of feathers as insulation was used a lot, as it would seem impossible to be living in Vermont without a winter coat.
Nearly every time a Chickadee was viewed they were eating. In the yard where the hike began, dozens of Chickadees swooped in from their tree perches to the feeders. There was never a time where the feeders were empty, even when I was just a few feet away. Always in motion, these birds were flying from branch to branch, where they would perch and peck at whatever they had found. Deep in the woods a Black-capped Chickadee was observed high up in a snag taking insects from a gap of nearly 10”, after having found something within the gap it would return to a branch just outside where it enjoyed its meal. The Nuthatch, Chickadee, and the Woodpecker, seemed to all have been well adapted to find food in these harsh months. The Nuthatches had slender beaks and the ability to hang upside down, they would constantly be running up and down the trunks of trees. The Chickadees took advantage of being small enough to go inside of crevices to feed, and the Woodpecker utilized its long and slender beak to drill holes into trees where the insects were.
Continuing on my hike this pattern of constant motion and foraging seemed to be used by all of the observed species including the Blue Jays who constantly were moving from tree to tree. Having been hiking during the time of day where the sun is most prominent this constant movement and feeding tactic seemed to be logical. It was the peak temperature of the day, a whopping 28°F and all the birds seemed to be taking advantage of it.
Being winter many of the species I observed seemed to be taking advantage of the feeders left out by people. In fact, I only saw Mourning Doves and the Tufted Titmouse when walking near the road by feeders. Deep in the woods where no sunflower seeds were in sight there were birds like the Chickadee, Nuthatches, and Downy Woodpecker. These birds could be found clinging to the many dying trees. Hundreds of little holes were spotted throughout the hike, ranging from 6” to just a few millimeters. Two chickadees were seen hanging around an old crab apple tree that had 3 prominent gaps in it. Having learned that many of Vermont’s bird species that stay with us all year round are burrowers I thought perhaps it was their home. During my hike I decided to poke into two cavities of around 3” in diameter on an old tree where I thought a little creature might live. It was late into the hike, around 2:00 PM, and no one was home. Since the sun was still shining bright I figured, if it even was inhabited, whatever lived there was out and about foraging for food before it became too cold like the rest of the species I had observed. There would have been many good homes to burrowing species that were seen on the hike since there were many snags with large holes, perhaps created by a Pileated Woodpecker though some seemed to just be rot, which would have provided shelter from the snow, wind, and the cold VT temperatures.

Posted on February 28, 2021 18:31 by anniee10 anniee10 | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 21, 2021

Field Journal #2

Start Time: 3:30PM
Ended: 5:00PM
Temperature: 25°C
Weather: On and off light snowfall, slight wind, sunny
Habitat: Rural area, Temperate forest, lawn edge

When the observation began there was little to no snowfall and one dozen Black-capped Chickadees were flying to the three bird feeders filled with black sunflower seeds. Early on a Tufted Titmouse and a White-breasted Nuthatch were spotted one time each and were not seen again. Once taking seeds the Chickadees would return to their perch which was in either a maple tree at the outskirts of the yard or a hydrangea bush. Their calling could be heard from all throughout the yard as well as the flapping of their wings.

Despite being so small the Chickadees wings could be heard clearly. There was sufficient spacing between the primary wings, which I thought were elliptical, meaning that there was a good deal of drag. For the temperate, young growth forest that they were found in this style of wing seems extremely practical since they are able to maneuver easily through branches. Although they were not traveling a long distance their wings moved in a few short bursts followed by them gliding to the feeder. On the Chickadees underside there were a lot of light brown down feathers.

At 4:00 the snowfall became heavier and larger snowflakes were observed, in turn there were no birds seen for the last hour of the observation. At 4:10 an unidentified owl call came from the woods which I was unable to capture. I was unsure if this was the true reason there were no birds seen. Around 4:20 a faint American Crow call could be heard from within the woods.

Field Journal Sketch: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cznWU-ZiI-XeGrWSN1Tg8U90hVGjcnyy/view

Posted on February 21, 2021 19:42 by anniee10 anniee10 | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Archives