May 01, 2019

Field Observation #7

Date: 1 May, 2019
Time: 5:45 pm
Weather: overcast and chilly, low breeze. Around dusk, so colder than earlier in the day.
Location: Intervale Road, Burlington, VT. On the main road from the natural trail parking lot to the community gardens.

Posted on May 01, 2019 23:39 by jess-savage jess-savage | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 23, 2019

Field Observation #6

Time: 1:30 pm
Date: 22 April 2019
Location: Intervale Community Farm natural trail area

One distinct behavior I observed that I had not yet encountered this year was an animated exchange between two chickadees. They were somewhere high in the tree canopy and the birds were calling back and forth, back and forth for several minutes without (it seemed) even taking a breath. I had never heard two chickadees talking to each other like that, so it was really interesting to observe. I am not positive if that behavior is indicative of mating season. Maybe two males were talking to each other and establishing some territory. It was neat to hear a conversation between two birds. Chickadee nesting habitat is usually in birch trees and alder trees, and there were many of those in the Intervale woods. House Sparrows were spending time in low brushy thickets, threading in and out of the patches of branches. I wonder if they were foraging for materials for their nests. The house sparrows seemed to pair up and then break off and pair up again. I am not sure what kind of mating behavior house sparrows partake in, but maybe the small group was made up of males and females who were getting acquainted with one another, or possibly a group of mostly males who were sizing one another up. This type of highly interactive behavior seems typical of the early spring days. The last species I noticed possibly working on their nesting habitat was a Pileated Woodpecker. They were high in a tree drumming away, which might have been to forage for food, or it might have been to construct a nesting cavity. A woodpecker's nest habitat is different from a chickadee in their tree or a House Sparrow in narrow crevices of buildings or birdhouses because they build their nest inside an excavated hole in a tree.

Mini-activity: I heard 6 different species, but there was only 1 individual for each. I still cannot identify one sound I heard. It was a 2 second song and the bird sang every 15 or 20 seconds consistently for more than 6 or 7 minutes. There were 3 parts to the song (a high, swooping check mark, a low chatter, and a series of high cheep-cheep-cheeps. It was really nice to do this activity and I want to do the same thing when I can barely make out the individual sounds of 10 or more species in a true cacophony.

Posted on April 23, 2019 03:53 by jess-savage jess-savage | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2019

Journal Entry #4

Date: 8 April, 2019
Location: Centennial Woods
Time: 4:00 pm
Weather: Gray, 45F, wet & rainy

The resident species I saw today were Black-capped Chickadees and Northern Cardinals. They forego migration because they are equipped with behavioral and physiological adaptations to endure the cold weather of Vermont. Black-capped Chickadees can go through temporary hypothermia when the temperatures drop very low, and Northern Cardinals can buff out their feathers to give them a little more insulation against the cold weather. One other adaptation chickadees can use to brave the weather is their roundness. It is easier to conserve heat when a bird has smaller extremities and is rounder. Chickadees and Northern Cardinals are also generalists, which means they can forage on a wide variety of food, and if, in the winter, there is less variety of forage, they can still survive through the season whereas specialists are more inclined to follow a food source that disappears during the winter months.

One facultative migrant to the city is the Red-winged Blackbird. The bird migrates from about 500 miles south. It is coming into Burlington to begin their mating season. The males come first to establish their territory, and they eat grains and seeds in this early part of the season. The environment is changing—these birds mostly subsist on insects and the insects will start to populate their habitats, and the blackbirds could be coming for this higher protein source. I did not see a Red-winged Blackbird, but they come in late March to early April. The males are coming so early so that they can get a chance to establish their breeding territory.

The only birds I could observe were resident species, so their wintering range was within Centennial Woods, and that is where I found them. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can complete the mini activity with the observations I made.

Posted on April 09, 2019 03:42 by jess-savage jess-savage | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 28, 2019

Journal Entry #3

Date: 27 March, 2019
Time: Noon
Location: Causeway Park
Weather: Still air, warming temperatures at 40F and clear blue skies.

Two Black-capped Chickadees were together for about 5 minutes while I watched. At The Causeway, the birds were out in the shrubbery that lines the path out into the lake. I was surprised to see them as far out into the lake as they were, but it was really neat to watch them follow one another and stay close by. Indeed, they were not physically interacting, but it was clear that they were intentionally keeping close.

The two birds were hopping around from one branch to another, and I got to stand feet away while they browsed around for something interesting to eat. As soon as one jumped to the next plant, the other followed, and they went along this way for as long as I could see them. I am not sure if they were directly trying to communicate, but maybe the male was following the female around. They looked pretty similar to me in plumage, but I think female chickadees are less bright than males. Maybe they were two males trying to size each other up in some way. Chickadee mating season is from April to June, and April is right around the corner. Maybe males are trying to establish themselves before mating season and are spending some time together to determine dominance over one another.

Maybe breeding season is starting a little early and the pair was a male and female. The only visual cue I could discern from the interaction was that they were sticking together for some reason or another.

The plumage of an American Robin I observed was dark gray-blue on the upper parts and a subdued red belly. It was hopping around on the ground and possibly searching for insects in the ground. The red breast is brighter in males than it is in females, so evolutionarily, it became more advantageous to have a brighter breast than a duller one because it was easier to find and pair with a mate.

The plumage of a Barred Owl I observed was brown and white spotted, which made it very difficult to spot once it moved from one branch to another. This is, evolutionarily, the purpose of their plumage coloration. Barred Owls are easily camouflaged in wooded areas and it allows them to more easily stalk and hunt their prey.

American Robins begin singing around April 1, according to a blogpost about birds in early spring. I heard the distinct cheer-cheerily-cheerily-cheerio of at least three American Robins in the tops of trees as I walked beneath them. It made me excited to be able to recognize their song at such an important time in their seasonal cycles. The robins in Burlington are already singing and seeking mates, and even though I did not watch a robin sing its song, I certainly could tell they were cheerily-cheering to their hearts’ content.

I tried to ‘pish’ to the two chickadees I mentioned above, and I tried to attract them with the sounds, but they largely ignored me. I skipped around and tried to make a little song by ‘pishing,’ but maybe the only way the birds reacted was by staying for an extra moment to check out the sound. It might work because it kind of sounds like an alarm call and when chickadees hear it, they could be more inclined to check out the source of the sound.

Posted on March 28, 2019 01:39 by jess-savage jess-savage | 10 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 08, 2019

Journal Entry #2

Time: 5:00 pm
Date: Tuesday 5 March, 2019
Location: Lone Rock Point, Burlington, VT
Weather: Cold at dusk, low to medium wind speeds, about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Light snow started at 6:15

Habitat: Mixed hardwood and softwood forest. Some human-developed areas with buildings and roads and many trail systems. Parts of Lone Rock are on the cliff face looking out onto Lake Champlain. Other parts are sloped and heavily wooded. Some areas are flat and meadow-like with small stands of softwoods. Some invasive species occupying much of the understory in areas.

Narrative: The paths were slick with ice, the wind got stronger, and snow started to fall at an angle onto my face and hands as I stood as still as I could 20 meters from a thick grouping of evergreen trees in the middle of a meadow. I thought I heard the sounds of a Northern Cardinal from within its branches, and I was pretty sure trees in that kind of formation would be great for a resident bird in the winter, but I was not seeing any sign of movement.

I kept peering in between the branches, debating whether or not I should get closer (the snow was very crusty and every step was accompanied by a big crunching sound, and the bird might have been hiding from me anyway). I started looking around and noticing the little orange shells of oriental bittersweet berries on the top of the snow and even a big bunch of bright red berries within the patch where I thought the Northern Cardinal might be. It felt like it was getting colder, windier, and snowier with every minute passing, and my hands felt frozen solid, but I thought I heard the songs getting louder and maybe closer.

I finally saw one Northern Cardinal burst between two stems within the patch and disappear behind a tree again. I felt satisfied with the spotting and looked up and behind me into the larger and taller trees beyond the meadow I was standing in. Almost immediately, I saw two Northern Cardinals hopping among the branches and fly quickly out of the tops of the trees and away from the meadow. I stood as quietly as I could and listened all around me. There were soft cheer, cheer, cheers all around me. I knew, at this dusk hour, the cardinals might be settling down for the night and their bright red colors would be come more and more obscured by the darkness setting in around me, so I settled with the three sightings and the songs from all around before I turned back down the path to go home.

Physiology journal:

Northern Cardinals buff out their feathers to conserve heat. The one I saw was also taking cover in a well-protected clump of trees, where the wind is low and the exposure to the cold might be minimized. I also noticed it in a patch that looked like it was abundant with berries. Even though oriental bittersweet might not be the preferred food of cardinals, it might be the best option as winter is coming to a close. Cardinals mostly eat seeds and fruit, but these resources might be compromised at this time of year. Northern Cardinals frequent bird feeders, so maybe they get most of their food from feeders in the human developed parts just outside the bounds of Lone Rock Point. I read that this species flocks more commonly in the winter, so maybe all the individuals I heard were calling to one another to come to their common overnight resting spot.

Mini Activity: (this was a table but it did not copy correctly)

Species Number of Holes Size distribution When whacked?
Red pine ~10 holes 2 large (15 cm) and rest small Nothing
Arborvitae 3-5 holes All small Nothing
Red oak ~4 holes All small Nothing

The relationship between snag size and cavity size was not noticeably correlated, but the arborvitae was small and thus, the cavity holes were small. The red oak was pretty large, but the holes were all small. The red pine was very large and there were 2 large holes, but the rest were small. Bird abundance was low around the cavities I saw and there were no animals poking their heads out when I hit the snags with a stick. Snags are important because species can nest in them without being exposed to harsh winds and can probably maintain their body heat a lot more efficiently. Some species that are likely to use them are woodpeckers and Tufted Titmice.

Posted on March 08, 2019 14:47 by jess-savage jess-savage | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 21, 2019

Journal Entry #1 Update

My journal entry was deleted when I attempted to upload a photo for the species sketch portion of the assignment. I will be trying to fix this problem in the morning.

Posted on February 21, 2019 04:51 by jess-savage jess-savage | 4 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment