April 23, 2019

April 22

Date: 4/21/19
Time: 5:30 – 8:00 pm
Location: Kirby, Vermont
Weather: 65 degrees, sunny, a few clouds, no wind
Habitat: open fields, open timber, think stands of timber (many different spots were explored)
While on my exploration, I saw a lot of mating behaviors. The main one that I was interested in was the wild turkeys. The toms could be seen strutting around with hens, despite the lack of interest from the hens which were more worried about feeding and finding a place to roost. I also saw small flocks of American crows, American robins, mallard, American woodcock, white-breasted nuthatch, and black-capped chickadee. The very cool thing that I heard for mating behavior besides the turkeys, was the courtship call of the woodcock. For years I have heard this but not know what it was, and I loved sitting there listening to the individual as the sun set.
Since the eastern part of the state is a little behind the western, mating is still in courtship and the nesting and breeding is just starting. All these species pick spots to build nests that are either tucked away in thick spots under trees/bushes, or up in trees. There is a mating pair of mallards that routinely use our pond at my house this time of year, but I have yet to see them build a nest. They love to hide in the tall grass though and I think that there is just too much activity for them to nest here. The turkeys and woodcock also love to get tucked into thick pockets that are easily missed by predators but also easily escaped. The other species prefer to nest in the trees, using the branches and leaves to hide them.
The woodcock I heard, if he is lucky enough to find a mate, will likely nest in the little finger of woods behind my pond as there is soft ground and the field close by for them to feed. They also can find thick spots to hide under the boughs of softwoods to make a nest and hide from predators. American robins are very different in where they would build a nest. I often find them building nests in our sugarhouse which has rafters to build a nest, and the roof to keep aerial predators away and the elements off them. Turkeys are also very different, they like to find high, dry ground. Yet, like the woodcock, they use brush to hide from predators while incubating the eggs. I have found many of them on field edges where there is a think edge with lots of visibility for the hens while they sit but still lots of cover to blend in with while they sit motionless.
Mini Activity: while doing the activity I saw/heard, black-capped chickadee, American woodcock, wild turkey, American robins, and American crow. I saw 9 turkeys and 4 crows, but I heard 6 robins, 1 woodcock and 7 chickadees. None of the species I encountered were unidentified. It was very cool to think about the songs and calls and then try to draw them as I really had to focus on the tone and pitch which really helps you realize the uniqueness and helps to provide hints identify them.

I was only able to get photos of the turkeys as all other species did not stick around for a long enough period to get photos on my phone using binoculars.

Posted on April 23, 2019 03:08 by nigelwaring nigelwaring | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2019

April 8th 2019: Field Observation 4

Date: 4/7/19
Time: 6 – 7:30
Location: Centennial Woods
Weather: 50 degrees, cloudy, light/no wind
Habitat: edges of urban and woods, marsh land, old growth softwood

While on my bird walk, I saw Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, and Northern Cardinal. Of the species that I identified only the Black-capped Chickadee and Northern Cardinal are non-migratory. Both species actively feed on seeds to survive. I think that this is the main reason that they can stay during winter. Both species also live in wooded and suburban areas that also allows them to adapt and find food during different weather. The way that these species can stay warm during the severe cold is by fluffing up their feathers. This allows the birds to keep warm air next to their body and cold air away from it.

Of my species I feel that Northern Cardinals are the only species that would be a potential facultative species. The reason I feel this is because during winter they may migrate short distances to find better resources in warmer climates, which would explain why I do not see as many during the winter. It is hard to tell where this species may migrate too as there is no information about Northern Cardinal migration. If this species did migrate, I would think that it would only migrate to areas such as southern Vermont where there may be less snow, warmer temperatures, and more food available. The main reason species migrate is because of a lack of resources. The Northern Cardinals will remain in this area for the rest of the year or until they felt the pressure of resources dwindling. With the warmer temperatures and the lack of snow, there are more available resources like seeds that will provide the species food. This species also eats bugs which have started to return to our area with the increase in temperature.

I believe that most of the migrant species that I saw were obligate migrants as they all feed on insects, bugs, and worms. They also eat some seeds and fruit, but this is only a supplement. Just like with the Northern Cardinal, the increase in temperature has allowed for insects, bugs, and worms to start to become present in the environment. With no snow these species are also able to forage more effectively. The increased temperature also allows the birds to survive as they do not have the ability to lower their body temperature and survive in a state of torpor like species such as the Black-capped Chickadee. The disadvantages of arriving this early is that the weather is very sporadic and fluctuates with temperature and the type of precipitation as seen late last week.

Mini Activity: total of about 1000 miles traveled if max migration took place.
- American Robin traveled short distances if any and the Red-winged Blackbird traveled about 800 miles from the furthest wintering area.

Posted on April 09, 2019 02:10 by nigelwaring nigelwaring | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 26, 2019

Field Observation 3

March 24th, 2019
Sunny and 40 degrees, with moderate wind
Burlington Country Club
4:30 – 6:15 pm
While on this walk, my roommate and I saw black capped chickadees, northern cardinals, hairy woodpeckers, European starlings, and American robins. This was walk very cool as both the robins and cardinals were very vocal and easily picked out as a result. The cardinals seemed to stay away from all other species and were acting as if they were trying to court/attract females. The robins and starling however seemed to interact a lot as we saw them perching together in the same tree within a few feet of each other. The strange part was that we only saw lone starlings and not a flock like they typically are seen in. The robins were all over and the most vocal. There was a large flock of robins flying all over the place as we walked around. The woodpecker seemed to mind his own business and stay away from everything else that was happening. The robins, cardinals, and starlings all were calling. The starling did not call much, but the cardinals and robins were. I believe that since the cardinal we saw was a male that both species were starting to enter the breeding stage and the courtship period had begun. The calling and being obvious would then be to attract a mate in hopes of breeding. Comparing the starling and cardinal, we see two different color schemes. The cardinal is flashy and bright while the starling uses light to shine and become visible. These two variations both have pros and cons. The starling is better camouflaged when not in the sun, but it is harder to stand out for a mate. The cardinal males stick out very well no matter what since they are bright red, but this makes it easier to be seen by predators and therefore eaten. These two options both work but in different ways. The cardinals were singing far more than any other species when we were out. One cardinal that we had the pleasure to watch for 10 minutes was quietly chirping while hoping around on the forest floor looking for bugs. He would also fly up and make louder more pronounced calls as time went on. This fits into the circannual rhythm as this is the time of the year where cardinals start to think about pairing up. The behavior of the cardinal shows that while feeding was the priority, he was beginning to start to look for a mate.
I tried the pishing technique a couple times on different species. The first time I tried using this technique I got a response from the cardinals and an unidentified finch species. The response was far quicker calling and they seemed to become excited or aggravated. I also tried the technique on chickadees and had a different technique. The chickadees took off and did not want any part of this. I believe that this technique works because it relies on a call that many species make, and it means different things based on tone, volume, and speed. I think the call can range from a danger call to a feeding or territorial call. Therefore, the response I saw was so different and why it is so effective. I think that small birds like this call because it is a simple call that is not intimidating. I believe that this is because it is a simple call that tends to have a calming affect unless used in a panicky way.

Posted on March 26, 2019 03:45 by nigelwaring nigelwaring | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 09, 2019

Field Observation 2

Date: 3/6/19
Time: 11:00-12:30
Location: Redstone Green and surrounding area
Weather: 30 degrees, sunny, some clouds, mild winds
Habitat: urban area, open grassy area with small patches of planted herbaceous and tree species
This past Tuesday my roommate and I went out on to search for birds around the Redstone green. While on our trip we listened and watched to see what species were active. While the start of our trip was slow it quickly became very productive. When we started to see and hear birds it was obvious that it was still winter and that all of them were trying to find food or conserve energy. The first species we found was a bird of prey that I was unable to get an identification on. While we were able to get close to this bird and watch it for a few minutes I noticed that this bird was very fluffed up and staying motionless. This was the strategy that most of the birds we saw during the outing. This strategy was used because it allows the birds to stay warm while using minimal energy. There was a lot of calling going on with many of the species, mainly Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, and Northern Cardinal. Despite these observations, movement was limited as the different species were trying to absorb warmth from the sun and conserve as much energy as possible.
The only two species we saw doing similar things were the Black-capped Chickadee and the unknown bird of prey. Both species were staying in areas where they could sit still and stay warm by fluffing their feathers. The bird of prey was sitting in an area that also allowed it to scan a large area for potential prey, but I was not able to see it hunt. The Black-capped Chickadee however was holding in a tight area and not moving, it was simply trying to fluff its feathers and maintain its body heat. The final species we saw was American Robin. This species was flying around, I would presume it was moving to a new area looking for food or moving from a feeding area to a loafing area. We also heard a Northern Cardinal singing but were unable to locate it. This bird obviously was starting to sing in hopes of finding a mate as it sang for 20 minutes while we were walking around looking for it. The different species that were feeding were looking for many different types of food. The bird of prey was obviously looking for small mammals like squirrels or song birds like Black-capped Chickadee. The American Robins were looking for seeds and small fruits such as crab apples.
During the summer the bird of prey’s diet will typically stay the same, but the American Robin will start to transition to more insects and worms as their primary food source. The Black-capped Chickadee would overnight in an area like a hedgerow like we found it in to provide protection from wind and protection. The American Robin and Northern Cardinal would likely overnight in a similar area as the Black-capped Chickadee.
While on our walk, we found a living tree that was starting to die. This tree was beginning to become a snag and had obvious holes that were drilled by woodpeckers. I would predict that this tree would be inhabited by woodpecker species in the future. Other species that may use this snag are small mammals and small birds. These species would most likely use this tree as a place to nest or for cover.

Posted on March 09, 2019 04:30 by nigelwaring nigelwaring | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 20, 2019

Field Observation 1

Date: February 8th 2019
Time: 12:00 - 4:00 pm
Location: Proctor Maple Research Center
Habitat: Open hard woods
Weather: Sunny, 35 degrees with no wind, turning to cloudy, 30 degrees and high winds

While on this walk I saw two downy woodpeckers. Woodpeckers can be identified by a combination of a few characteristics. The first being the long narrow beak that they use to drill into trees to find grubs and insects to eat. Woodpeckers in Vermont also are black, white and red in color. Size varies by species and can range from sparrow size to crow size.

Once I had identified the birds as woodpeckers, I had to determine which species it was. Two species of woodpecker in Vermont are similar in size and markings. These two species are Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. These two species are small, about the size of a sparrow. The key to telling these species apart lies in the beaks. The beak of the Downy Woodpecker is a shorter than the Hairy Woodpecker, but this is hard to tell unless you have both species next to each other. The easiest way is to look at how long the beak is compared to the head of the woodpecker. If the beak is only as long as 1/3 of the head then it is a Downy Woodpecker. This was the case with both woodpeckers that I saw.

Woodpeckers are also very cool to watch in flight as they have a interesting flight pattern. They use the ballistic flight type which involves large ascents and descents while in flight. This pattern forms a parabolic motion in flight with high peaks and low valleys. This pattern is caused by the woodpeckers flapping and then folding of the wings into the body. The flapping causes the woodpecker to rise and then tucking the wings causes it to fall. Watching this is very cool and makes it hard to track a woodpecker as it is flying through the woods.

Posted on February 20, 2019 01:21 by nigelwaring nigelwaring | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment