April 23, 2019

another gorgeous day in centennial woods

3/22/2019; 11:30-5:30pm; 60ºF w/ slight wind and sunny; Centennial Woods Natural Area; protected forest with wetlands, fields, and marsh areas

The last species that I saw today was a pair of Black-capped Chickadees that appeared to have nested in this snag near the northwestern part of Centennial Woods. I didn't realize the cavity in the tree until I started calling the pair with the Audubon app and after they both flew away–I saw one of them dive down and go in headfirst into the hole. I did my best to be able to get up and look down, and listened closely–I didn't tread any close to the snag out of fear that I would possibly scare the duo off–however, I wasn't able to see if there was a nest or any nestlings in there. There was a possibility due to my observation that the parents didn't fly off immediately when I initially approached.
I did some Google searching and confirmed my suspicion that a cavity such as the one I found would provide a perfect house to raise young chickadees. It's out of way of foot traffic, close to a water source, and the environment is wide open to check for predators; but at the same time provided enough cover if something should happen. Another thing I noticed in behavior was the curiosity of one the chickadees that has not happened before. When I called them, one individual came flying out the trees, landing no more than 5 feet on a branch to look at me. Now from what I've experienced with chickadees, is that they like to watch you, but at a distance, never this close. Perhaps it was because I was close to his/her possible nest and I was using a call of another chickadee (they might see this as a rival chickadee).
This behavior differs from, say a Canada goose mother, who lays here eggs near a water's edge. There is one mother on Redstone who nested on an island in the runoff pool between the apartments and main dorms. Mostly an aquatic habitat, she surrounded herself with tall reeds in an area that is very accessible to predators from the air, but not from land(unless they can swim), and can see much of what's around.

Last journal, but definitely not the last outing.

Till next time....

Posted on April 23, 2019 04:02 by aromano17 aromano17 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2019

Wandering Hinesburg Forest

Hinesburg Forest; 3/7/19; 11:30-4; overcast w/ patches of sun, slightly breezy; neighborhood forest intertwined with mtn. biking and XC-ski trails

When walking through Hinesburg Forest, I stumbled across three species: a Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal and a European Starling.
Now Downy's are non-migratory; however, they are widely dispersed according to Birds of North America. Now migration alludes to a movement that eventually returns home; but these woodpeckers don't do that, they simply wander in some cases. Research points to them moving in tangent with species that do migrate. In this situation, lack of resources happens to be the reason due to less shelter and more or even less food distribution depending on the season. However, Downy Woodpeckers have adapted to harsh winters. Due to their ability to bore holes in trees, they live in these cavities sheltering from the weather eating insects living within the bark of these trees.
European Starling are different, because they are mostly migratory with records of them traveling from New Brunswick, Canada to southern Texas, stopping in the mid-West for a trip of about 3000 miles. (Birds of North America). The other side of this species is that they don't migrate large distance, but rather moving South a few miles or a few dozen. It should be noted that younger individuals do migrate farther than their older counterparts, and change as they mature. An observation of this species notes that migrating over land results in more accurate navigation than over water and that they flock in groups ranging from a few individuals to thousands. This behavior stands out as it can follow the Group Flock Theory, which results in higher flock densities causing more conflict between individuals because more individuals means more foraging––>less food. This can be a disadvantage, but larger numbers also means less threat from predators, which of course is beneficial.
The migrants are here, let's go find them!

Posted on April 09, 2019 04:27 by aromano17 aromano17 | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 25, 2019

The secret spectators of golf

4:30-6:15; 3/24/19; golf course south of UVM; clear skies, 40ºF, low wind; urban forest edge mix

Today, Nigel and I went to the golf course south of campus to see what we could find. Upon arriving, we immediately heard the call of 2-3 Northern Cardinals. Since we never found the one from the last outing, we were keen on finding this one. Long story short, we did; but ran into a couple other species before. The first birds we noticed were robins–everywhere we looked, there had to be a pair of them perched on a branch. AND they were singing, always a constant flow of notes during our visit. Since it's early spring, I would assume that the calls we heard were males trying to find a mate and if it wasn't, then the calls were most likely flocking announcements between groups for possible intruders or food.
Then Nigel pointed out the Hairy Woodpecker that was hanging out, drilling some holes into a tree. When observed, she (due to the lack of the red splotch on the head) didn't interact much with any of the other birds. She did her thing and eventually left, flying off who knows where. My best guess is that she's looking for food (beetles, ants or other insects).
Shortly after, we located the cardinal and man he was beautiful. He was calling back and forth with 2 other individuals (we couldn't get a visual on them) and I think it was more of a mating call. It is spring after all.
Now, the male cardinal's coloring stands out from the rest of the environment, not only making it easy for us humans to see but predators as well. However, today it didn't seem that there were many predators in the air (that we couldn't see) and it was most likely mating displays to the females. In comparison, starlings are black and speckled with white circles, which will change darker and glossier as the season goes on. The darker pattern would better camouflage the starling than the bright contrasting red that the cardinal has.
Now at the end, we were walking back and found a little group of black-capped chickadees; however, I had given the camera to Nigel for the time being and he was unable to take any usable photos. BUT, we were able to complete the little activity and practice our "pish" calls. After doing a couple, we noticed that the chickadees were liveliar both in sound and noise. In a songbird context, I believe that this response stems from the "pishing" sound mimicking a group alarm call in response to a predator. Now this group would most likely be a multitude of species, not limited to any singular taxa.
Today's search was a success. We found a cardinal and even spotted a noisy European Starling on a gorgeous day.
–AR

Posted on March 25, 2019 02:48 by aromano17 aromano17 | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 08, 2019

a little walk around redstone

Wednesday (3/6/2019); 11-1pm; Redstone Campus; 30ºF; sunny, partly cloudy; urban

This past week, I went with my fellow comrade Nigel to Redstone campus to see what species we could find. After standing around for a few minutes, we heard a call of a Northern Cardinal from across the green and started our trek to track it down. Along the way, we ran into several American Robins, 2-3 Black-capped chickadees, an American Crow, and what I think was a female Merlin.
Our first noticeable observation was several cavities in a tree near the edge of a small pine stand. I'm assuming that it came from a pileated woodpecker, due to how common they are on campus. One of them seemed to have enough room to have someone living inside, but we didn't get the chance to check as we were on the hunt for the cardinal. If the cavities had been hollowed out enough, blue birds, wrens, and chickadees could use this space for nesting. Nuthatches and woodpeckers do the same thing; however, I think that they mostly use the nook to search for insects and beetles.
The tree that the Merlin was perched in had no leaves, so it had a similar appearance a snag and helped me realize the importance of these no longer alive trees. They help provide roosting areas for birds of prey like owls, hawks, and eagles to search for their food, something that I think the Merlin was doing herself due to the location of the tree being next to a wide open field. At the same time, she had her feathers fluffed and hardly moved, which has been in observed in birds when they try to keep warm. It was also sunny and the place that she picked was in a wide open spot to maximize the sun's rays that she picked up, a tactic similar to reptiles.
This was not a singular occurrence with the crow and robins doing the same thing; however, they were in different trees. All stayed relatively still, moving little and most were chirping/calling often to communicate with other species members near by, perhaps warning calls due to the presence of the merlin in her roost nearby.
At the mention of the robins, food scarcity is something that every species on Earth has to worry about, and for most songbirds, the main source of food are seeds and nuts. As the weather warms in Vermont, the snow will melt and the ground will soften. With this change, comes the appearance of worms and more beetles, which I assume will become the main food source for robins and other songbirds alike.
The Black-capped Chickadees were spotted in a Northern White-Cedar hedge along the edge of Redstone and were quite talkative that day. However, their behavior differed compare to the other species we saw that day due to their rapid movement. My prediction was since they were shaded within the hedge, they were moving to keep warm, and the houses across the street most likely provided bird seed for them to eat.
In the end, we didn't end up getting a visual on the Northern Cardinal; it was just below the roofline of a house in another pine tree, but it was there.

-AR

Posted on March 08, 2019 16:32 by aromano17 aromano17 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 19, 2019

A walk downtown in the company of some Black-capped Chickadees

I enjoy walking downtown on my way to work, and recently after learning the call of the Black-capped Chickadee I realized that there were a TON of chickadees in the portion of Burlington between the UVM campus and Church Street area. The frequency of calls was different every single time, but on this particular day, I didn't hear much in comparison to other days. Perhaps it was because of the snow that was consistently coming down, or the temperature, which didn't rise above 25ºF. However, there were still a couple who decided to chirp.
Most days, I never really saw any fly, even though I was trying my hardest to see them, but I remember a little while ago last semester, there was a Black-capped Chickadee banding that I went too. Here was my top experience with chickadees, and their patterns of flight.
From what I can remember, and some helpful videos, chickadees have that songbird characteristic of small, fast darting movements. This I assume is due to their smaller size (like mice), and it would be easier for them to navigate through denser vegetation like neighborhood brambles and bushes. It also appears that chickadees do the "tuck and dive" routine, where they float up with a flap, but then tuck the wings in a dive-bomb motion down and repeat. Their wing shape has finger-like tips, which I assume would be used to manipulating the air current, allowing them to do that darting like motion and high agility.
Now this particular species of chickadee does a great job at finding food, and in a highly populated area like the "Hills of Burlington," it would make sense that there would be a higher population of birds, due to more trash (food scraps), and bird feeders. I can make the prediction that with warmer weather, these Black-capped Chickadees would be everywhere.
-aromano17

Posted on February 19, 2019 19:57 by aromano17 aromano17 | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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