May 02, 2020

May 1 Journal Entry

Date: May 1, 2:00-3:30p
Weather: Mostly overcast, warm and humid (55-65 degrees)
Habitat: urban, urban edge forest. Largely deciduous.

Posted on May 02, 2020 01:45 by lucasferrier lucasferrier | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 23, 2020

April 22 Journal Entry

Date: April 22, 2020. 3:30-5:00 pm.
Weather: Mostly overcast with temperatures in the upper 30s to low 40s, with high winds.
Location: Medium sized planned forest in Essex Vermont.
Habitat: tall, uniform conifers, with lots of low underbrush, but very little vegetation between the floor and the canopy.

This time around, I got unlucky with my area selection choice. A friend and I went out to a small trail in a little planned forest for timber harvest. The area was very interesting for humans, but my guess is that this would be poor habitat for many bird species, and the heavy wind certainly wasn't encouraging flight. The trees were tall but sparse, providing little cover, and swayed heavily in the wind, creating a very unstable canopy. I did not see many birds, but I will d omg best to analyze those I did see.

First, the only bird I saw that seemed like it might be in the business of mate selection or territory defense was one singular robin. It was sitting on low branches and singing near us for a while, and I heard its song nearby for a while afterward. It didn't seem to have a mate, which has not been the case for most other robins for me this year, and it could be due to the poor territory. Since I did not see any other territory-defending birds out today, I decided to do some research on the mating habits of corvids, since I had such an interesting experience with them today (I actually managed to identify a raven because it was next to 3 crows). We had learned in class that crow tend to flock in the winter, and I wondered if that was true for the breeding season as well. All About Birds says that generally these flocks tend to split into smaller family groups, who work together to raise young, and they did not mention defending territories. Ravens, however, seemed to follow the common model more closely, defending large territories and generally practicing social monogamy. It seems unlikely that either of these species would have nested in this area, as tree branches were not large enough to give a lot of ample support, and windy conditions moved the trees too much to be stable.

For my mini-map, there were not a lot of interesting sounds around. I did my best here, but I don't know some of the species. The light green was either a crow or a raven, and the blue in the left corner was the robin.

Posted on April 23, 2020 01:37 by lucasferrier lucasferrier | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 16, 2020

April 15 Post

Date of observations: 14 April 2020
Time: 4:00-5:30 p
Weather: clear, and cooler than it had been the past few days. Followed a few days of rain
Location: Battery Park and surrounding areas, in Burlington VT.
Habitat: urban landscape, large sparse deciduous trees, large shrubby/brushy habitat, human-maintained grasses, lake shore.

For this birding session, I took a walk to Battery park to look for birds over Lake Champlain. Though I did not spot some of the waterbirds I was hoping to see, I got to watch some of the more common species in a different habitat than I had seen previously.

Posted on April 16, 2020 01:32 by lucasferrier lucasferrier | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2020

April 8, Migration

April 8, 2020, 4:00-5:30p
Weather: Mid to upper 50's and sunny.
Location: The Intervale Center, Burlington VT
Habitat: Started in an urban area, moved to an heavily human-influenced forested floodplain. Very sandy soils, and sparse underbrush. Many deciduous trees, with plenty of large snags.

For this bird walk, I decided it might be interesting to return to my first birdwatching site from this class on the trails in the Intervale, and observe the changes between the winter and the beginning of the spring. The walk started off well, as I spotted a cardinal outside my window while I was getting ready to leave, and then a pair of blue jays almost immediately after leaving the house. I started by walking through a small graveyard which had some good bird activity. I saw a number of starlings, which are residents to Vermont, and a few robins, which are facilitative migrants. I have seen a couple of robins around Burlington this winter, but there seemed to be a lot out of them out today. Eventually I got down to the Winooski river, and my next fun sighting was a group of 4 common mergansers in the water, though they moved on before I could look too closely at them. There were a couple of other memorable moments throughout the trip, one being closely investigating a pair of noisy tufted titmice in some shrubs, as I feel I have only ever really seen them from afar. The other was a bird I was unable to identify, which really vexed me. I first thought it was the wood thrush we talked about in class today, but the coloration wasn't quite right. It looked a lot like a song sparrow, but much smaller than I picture a song sparrow being. The size reminded me of the winter wren, but it didn't keep its tail cocked in the same way.

When looking at migration, most of these species, including the other species listed in the observations, are residents or short distance migrants. The true residents need to be tough or resourceful enough to find food throughout the winter, need adaptations like the brainpower of a crow to find food, or the memory of a chickadee to remember where you hid it during the summer. Also, they are all birds that spend most of their lives above dry land, many of them reside in the forest, which may help keep them safe from some of the harsher winter conditions. Our longest distance, and only obligate migrants, on the other hand, were both waterbirds, the Canada goose and the common merganser; and it makes sense to fly south if your food source is going to be trapped under a layer of ice for 6 months. Others are somewhere in between, like the American robin, which generally migrate short distances. This also seemed to have an effect today, as I saw robins on many different occasions, though many were close enough that I didn't want to double count. It might make sense that there may be more robins here as the weather warms, or I could just be experiencing conformation bias. Either way, based on the birds we saw today, habitat type may be one reason for birds to migrate, as freezing temperatures can leave some waterbirds without many options.

Estimating the distances the birds had flown to travel here was challenging. I chose 4 that migrate at least a little bit: the Canada goose, the common merganser, the American robin and the song sparrow. None of these migrants have travelled very far yet, though the former 2 may have a long journey ahead, which is why to makes sense that we are seeing them here so early. Among the 4 species, I estimated that they had traveled a total of about 1500 miles to get here, though this number has an enormous margin of error.

Posted on April 09, 2020 01:11 by lucasferrier lucasferrier | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 26, 2020

Journal Entry 3

With everything that has been going on over the past few weeks, this assignment really slipped through to the last second. Since I had been feeling a bit sick (not bad, but a cough so better not to risk it) and since I tend to see a lot of birds outside my window, I decided to go sit on my roof for the hour and a half. I was there from 5:00 to 6:30 today, March 25. The weather was overcast and in the low 40s. The habitat around the area tends to consist of largely of urban buildings, with large deciduous trees and smaller conifers.

Keeping an eye out for bird interactions was very interesting, and my vantage point allowed me to really get a good view of how groups of birds moved and interacted. One interesting species I paid attention to were the crows. First I noticed a lone crow in a low branch, making for of a cackling call for over 5 minutes, which stretch me as interesting given their tendency to flock over the past 4 months. I also noticed another group of 13 perched together in a couple of trees, and was able to notice how some pairs of birds interacted much more closely than others, and even noticed a few perch evictions by what I would assume were higher ranked birds. There was also an interesting large group of gulls that seemed to be feeding on something just out of view. The perches on the closest rooftops seemed to be a hot commodity, and there was definitely some competition between the gulls. I also noticed some take big circles away from the food, perhaps perch somewhere else for a minute, and then return. I wonder if this behavior has something to do with feeding in the ocean? The last group that I thought was interesting was a group of European starlings that were scared off by a cardinal, but returned to their previous spot a minute or so later.- The movement of the starlings was very interesting, they seemed to sometimes all move together and other times move one by one. The groups also seemed like they were constantly shifting and changing, despite it seeming like none of the birds were going very far.

Many of the behaviors I saw made me thing about territories, despite not being sure that territorial behavior explained anything that I was seeing. Without an ability to keep track of individual birds, it was a tough task to tell if repeated flying routes were the same bird or different birds. However, it did seem that smaller birds traversed a smaller area than larger birds. The starlings seemed like they stayed within the place of 3 or 4 houses, while the gulls flew over more than a few blocks every time they left the feeding spot. The blue jay was a nice intermediate that I was curious about, bit I didn't see it too many times and it was difficult to tell how large of an area it was keeping to. However, just due to its speed, I could tell that it was flying further than the starlings, and the small flights between perches could indicate a smaller area than the gulls. Since it was nearing the end of the day, this might make sense, as foraging is likely finishing up for the day.

I didn't really spend too much time looking at plumages this time around, but the bright colors of the blue jay and the cardinal stood out to me, and I wondered what life history traits would make it so these birds can afford to stand out so much in a dangerous world.

Since I was sitting on a roof, I didn't want to act like even more of a crazy person pishing for birds. I have done it many times in the past, however, and sometimes it indeed has the power to draw in small birds. After thinking about it for a while, I don't have a good guess on why the birds are interested, but I figure it probably sounds like swishing leaves, which may be a cue for something?

Posted on March 26, 2020 02:36 by lucasferrier lucasferrier | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 07, 2020

Journal Entry 2

Date: Tuesday 3/3/2020, 3:45-5:30p
Location: Winooski Gorge Park (44°29'19.7"N 73°09'45.6"W)
Weather: very overcast, with a high chance of rain. Mid 40s, a warm day compared to the past few weeks/months.
Habitat: Largely coniferous forest at the top of a gorge. Small patch of forest, close enough to a main road to hear fairly heavy traffic. Still a large enough patch to house deer, ran into many tracks and droppings.

This walk was full of bird calls but very scarce on bird sightings. The walk started in a very clear conifer stand, and continued through other stands of varying density. There were also a few overlooks over a gorge with a view of the water, but the lack of a shore and the fact that the water was frozen seemed to discourage waterfowl. This may have been different during the summer; the trees and tops of the gorge likely could have created good perches for ospreys or other fish-eating birds. From these outlooks, I could see hordes of crows flying overhead, which we learned is a very common winter behavior for corvids. They tend to form murders in winter to maximize survival chances, but these groups cause food to deplete quickly, causing the birds to move often.

In the forested area, it seemed that bird activity was pretty low. I heard a lot of various sparrow, finch, and warbler calls, but had difficulty identifying most of them. These birds, however, stayed very hidden throughout my walk. I found a couple of black-capped chickadees because of their curiosity, but nothing else. There were many chickadee alarm calls, so maybe the other birds were being cautious, avoiding the big scary bipedal mammal. Alternatively, maybe minimizing foraging time during the winter could help birds keep their energy demands low, so perhaps some of the birds had already finished their foraging and returned to their roosts. Especially for birds that cache food, it may not take long to forage if they are able to remember where they left their stores. When observing the chickadees, I noticed that they tended to stay in coniferous trees that were well foliated, avoiding bare trees. This could be a common strategy for birds in winter, as it helps them remain hidden from predators when the deciduous trees drop their leaves.

For the snag watch I noted 5 different trees of various sizes. I was unsure about the definitions of snags and cavities. I just noted obviously dead or fallen trees as snags, and counted any hole that seemed large enough for a bird as a cavity. The list of snags and characteristics is as such:

  1. medium sized conifer snag, about 65 inches in diameter at breast height. Not decomposed enough to lose much structural stability. Contained a variety of medium sized cavities, likely from a pileated woodpecker.
  2. small conifer snag, about 10 inches in diameter ABH. Lacked any major signs of decomposing. Small cavity present near the base, but not signs of any inhabitants.
  3. large conifer snag, about 85 inches in diameter ABH. showed some signs of decomposing, had lost all but a few major branches. Contained a variety of medium and large sized cavities, likely from a pileated woodpecker.
  4. large conifer snag, about 80 inches in diameter ABH. This one was fallen, but didn’t contain any significant cavities that I could find. I wonder if woodpeckers dislike fallen trees.
  5. large snag, pretty much just a tall stump at this point. Likely was a conifer, likely about 50 inches in diameter ABH. This one contained many large cavities, but again no signs of inhabitants.

Snags likely provide a nesting place for many small bird species in these type of woods, based on the snags that I was on my walk. These places of refuge are probably even more beneficial in the winter, when cover from harsh conditions may be more hard to find.

Posted on March 07, 2020 01:35 by lucasferrier lucasferrier | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 18, 2020

Field Journal 1

For our birdwatching trip today, I went out with Gretchen to the intervals on cross country skis. We spent our hour and a half finding various places along the trail to look for birds. The habitat was nice and diverse, with the Winooski river providing terrain for water birds, plenty of trees for various songbirds and woodpeckers, and open fields that let us peruse large swaths of sky for larger birds. As noted in our observations, we saw plenty of interesting species, despite being loud on skis. I was especially excited to see the goldeneyes, which I barely spotted on the other side of the river. Even through binoculars, we could barely see them enough to get an ID, so I'm excited to try for find more up close.

For the assignment for today, we spend some time watching the white breasted nuthatch and a black capped chickadee. These birds are fairly similar in morphology, especially when it comes to wing structure. Both have mostly elliptical wings, and like to flit between branches in small bursts. One difference I noticed was that the nuthatch seemed like it spent more time in the same perch, exploring my traversing the tree on foot, while the chickadee spent more time flying between branches that were very close together. My guess for this difference in behavior is their difference in food sources and territory. Since nuthatches cache food and do not flock like chickadees do, they may be more inclined to stick to a specific area for foraging and food storage, while chickadees may be more likely to spend a small amount of time foraging at many different sites.

For my drawing today, I didn't have a lot of time to sit and sketch the birds that we saw. There was no feeder or anything to keep the birds in the area, and they were far away to be able to see the markings in detail. Instead, I drew one from a photo, just to get better acquainted with the markings of the bird. I couldn't figure out how to upload the drawing.

Posted on February 18, 2020 23:54 by lucasferrier lucasferrier | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment