April 28, 2020

April 27th Intervale

Date: April 27th, 2019
Location: At the Intervale – walked North along the river then back along the road
Weather: 45F, cloudy and scattered showers, light breeze
Habitat: Riverbank, agricultural field, edge, deciduous forest
Observations: Song sparrows prefer to stay low in the undergrowth when frightened out of the field, lots of gulls together,

Posted on April 28, 2020 17:51 by sgillie1 sgillie1 | 27 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 23, 2020

April 7th Intervale

What a beautiful day! Partly cloudy but the sun is shining brightly through the clouds. There is very little wind. It is 52 degrees. I biked down to the Intervale and walked into the woods on the path near the river. I chose a spot on a large log where I could see the river. The woods were mostly composed of deciduous trees. There were some people fishing and people going for a walk or run passing by (6ft away!). Since March we have gained about two hours of daylight which has felt like a ton! We have also begun to have more consistently warm days and nights that are no longer (or rarely) dipping below freezing. I guess the sugaring season is likely over. If I, a human confined to my room, staring at a blue light screen for far too many hours per day feel as if the seasonal changes have been drastic the past few weeks, I can only imagine what the birds are thinking. Another change in the landscape has been the increase in pollen. Just being outside for 2.5 hours, my eyes are all runny from the pollen in the air. I bet this means that there are new things (like buds and bugs) ready for the birds to eat.

The first bird I saw was a Tufted Titmouse at 4:06. I always notice how fluffy and cute titmice are, but the fluffiness isn’t to look cuter but really to provide warmth and insultation for the winter. Then I thought I heard a gaggle of geese coming in for a landing but turns out it was a TON of seagulls overhead. At 4:08 I saw an American Goldfinch. Even though these birds are in VT all year that was the first time I had seen one. I left my spot at 6:20 and the Goldfinch was still on its same tree that it initially landed on singing. How do they sing for so long? Do birds ever go hoarse? At 4:10 I saw a pair (M + F) of Downy Woodpeckers. They too stayed in the little patch that I was sitting in for the whole afternoon, hopping around from tree to tree, often following each other. I wonder what a Downy Woodpecker territory map would look like. At 4:30, 13 Common Mergansers floated down the river, and then swam back up it. There seemed to be a reasonable balance between males and females. At 4:40 I saw a White Crested Nuthatch jumping from tree to tree. At 4:42, two mourning doves flew across the river and landed on the other bank. At 4:52 I think I heard an American Crow. At 5:05 a Double Crested Cormorant flew overhead. There seemed to be an increase in bird chatter but I am not great at distinguishing calls so it was too difficult to determine what I was hearing. At 5:47 I saw 2 Black-capped Chickadees. A mallard floated by at 5:51. At 6:21 5 ducks flew overhead but I couldn’t confirm that they were mallards. On our way out of the woods I saw a grouping of Northern Flickers. Their tail feathers were so yellow!

Species that stay in Burlington have picked up a few adaptations to stay warm in the winter. Some of these adaptations include becoming hypothermic at night to preserve calories as well as adding feathers and puffing them up to increase insulating qualities.

I didn’t see many migrating birds while I am observing. The only migrators I saw were the Northern Flicker, Herring Gull, Double-crested Cormorant and Mallard. All of these migrators are short to medium distance migrators. The minimum distance they cumulatively migrated was 1300 miles to a maximum of 7500 miles.

For most species the increasing daylight hours were a signal to start their northern migration. While arriving earlier in the season has some potential territorial advantages it does mean that they could still experience some weather that is basically still winter weather meaning if they are not prepared to endure the cold they might be in danger.

Posted on April 23, 2020 20:29 by sgillie1 sgillie1 | 12 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 22nd - Intervale

Wednesday April 22nd

Today I went down to the Intervale in Burlington, VT. I walked north along the Winooski on the Calkins Trail and looped around McKenzie Field walking back on the intervale road. It was a cloudy day, the temperature was 39 F and the wind was blowing 17mph making the temperature feel more like 30F. At 4:40pm I saw a robin at the trailhead. Walking closer along the bank I saw 2 eastern phoebes flitting around in the trees. Perhaps it was a male and female showing spring courtship behavior. At 4:50 I saw a male downy woodpecker – I have seen a pair of downy’s in that same spot before. At 5:04 I saw a gull overhead and again at 5:05. At 5:22 I saw two house finches. Neither had red chest so I guess they were two females. At 5:23 I heard a son sparrow. I emerged from the forested path and a path ran alongside a field and some edge buffer to the river. I saw many house finch and song sparrow. Many of them would be in the field, overturned ground and fly into the more covered shrub habitat as I walked by. At 5:36 I saw another gull. At 5:38 I saw 3 robin hunting in a mowed area. At 5:40 I reached another wooded part of the trail and saw a downy woodpecker, and some robin. At 5:45 I heard an American crow and 5:47 a double crested cormorant flew over. At 6:08 I heard a song sparrow and heard another woodpecker. I saw three ducks fly over and then a peregrine falcon (I am pretty sure) fly over. At 6:12 I went around a field and saw song sparrows scuttling around in the field, some gulls fly overhead. In another mowed area I saw three more robins around 6:20.
I did not hear as much singing today as I have been on past walks but that was likely due to the cold. I did see many more nests that I have in the past. There were many propped up in the nooks of trees and others closer to the ground. I also noticed downy woodpecker in similar territories as I have seen them in the past. I am not sure if it is because it is spring or if I am now more aware but I feel like I have been seeing more birds in pairs. I haven’t directly seen any nesting occurring, but I have been seeing a lot more nests. There are two cardinals that I think are paired that live next to our house and I always see them and hear them sing.
There is a robin nesting right outside our kitchen window at our house. I check on her throughout the day and we were reflecting how perfect the spot seems for a nest. It is built on a tiny ledge that comes out of the side of the wall right in the eaves. The roof provides protection from any predators seeing the nest from above, and protection from wind and rain. The sun also hits the wall and likely warms it providing extra warmth for the nest. This nest is in a spot that is in stark contrast to some of the little nests I saw at the intervale. One of these nests was perched in a small dead plant in the middle of a field. It is completely open to the elements from all directions (no wind or weather protections). And it was at about hip height meaning that animals could access it. It is also not hidden at all from other potential predators. I am not sure why a bird would choose to put its nest there.
Where I was walking, in the intervale, there are very few/ no evergreen trees. The main habitats are deciduous forested, edge, riverbank and field. All of these areas are also prone to flooding in the spring, as the rains increase and the river flows. The nests I have been noticing have been all in edge habitat. But this is also likely due to the fact that I was also walking on the edge. I same three littles nests and four larger ones. The lower ones were the smaller ones. I am not sure why that is, maybe due to what the bird eats or if it is more well suited to hide in grasses.
These two nests are both cup nests and neither are cavity nesters. It is obviously hard to see cavity nests as they are hidden from view. When looking at nest types on All About Birds it seemed that a lot of the cavity nesters didn’t need to have quite as much structure and were more focused on the insulating factors of the nest. Their nests seemed to include more leaves and less mud.
I have not seen much defense of mating ground within species but while I was walking, I did watch the defense of habitat and life as a peregrine falcon showed up. I hadn’t been hearing many birds but then all of a sudden, I heard the crows start to call and then one by one it felt like species all began to sing and defend their area from the intruder. After the birds began calling then I saw the falcon. With this defense you could clearly tell that the falcon was the top of the food chain, the other species coming together to ward it off.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1trBGb3L51tTOgDY6kXoFPF059XEceb8Z/view?usp=sharing

Posted on April 23, 2020 19:39 by sgillie1 sgillie1 | 12 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 16, 2020

Intervale - April 14th

Today I went a little further north down the Winooski at the Intervale. When I checked the weather, it said it was 48 degrees, but it felt much colder than that. I was going to go back to the same spot that I went last week but when I went closer to the river the path was flooded out. So, I rode my bike down a different path and found a nice spot by the river. There was heavy cloud cover but not much breeze. The habitat is all deciduous trees bordered by open field farmland and the Winooski River. I was surprised that there were so fewer birds singing even though it had been a week. I was expecting to hear warning calls from some birds when I settled in but the woods were quiet. At 4:50 the first bird I heard was a gull. I feel like I have been seeing an increase in gulls the past few weeks which seems interesting because I am pretty sure that herring gulls are present all year round in VT. Maybe more gulls are coming north in combination with those that stick around all year. I then saw some more gulls circling in the far-field. I heard a couple of other small birds calling as then flew by the edge of the forest, but I couldn’t make out what they were. At 5:07 three mallards flew in and landed in the river and floated downriver. They were the first of a couple of mallards I saw on the river. At 5:16 I saw a turkey vulture gliding overhead. I then heard a mourning dove around 5:25 it was across the river. I was also keeping my ears open for the sound of a woodpecker, sure enough, I heard one tapping a few trees down from where I was seated. I looked around to see if I could see or hear another but I couldn’t. The female jumped around a bit then flew to the other side of the river. Again around 5:30 I saw more raptors, likely turkey vultures gliding through the air. I saw a mallard fly by going south down the Winooski. The mourning down continued to sing. It started to get a bit colder. I still did not hear any birds that I could recognize. I think I saw a cormorant fly overhead. I heard a Canada goose fly overhead as the sun was getting lower. Around 6:00 when I started to make my way out of the forest I noticed the further I went from the river the greater number of cardinals, blue jay, chickadees, and robin I noticed.

Posted on April 16, 2020 03:48 by sgillie1 sgillie1 | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 26, 2020

Arnold Arboretum

March 12th it was in the upper 30s when I left to go look for birds around 5:00. I chose to go in the evening hoping for more activity around dusk, as dawn and dusk hours seem to be the most active with the bird's circadian rhythm. At our house, we have a bird feeder outside our kitchen window. There I noticed many Dark-eyed Juncos and Black-capped Chickadees. When I watched them, the species seem to take turns at the feeder. Never both occupying the site. It was hard to tell which was inferior, but given that the chickadee is smaller yet still occupied the space makes me think that it holds power. As I walked closer to the feeder I tried to do the “spishing” but they all flew away. I wonder if “pishing” has more of an effect in areas that are less populated that in a city, especially where there is a lot of ambient noise. I then walked to the Arnold Arboretum. This park has a couple of different types of habitats as they have arranged types of trees in patches. I chose a spot across from the linden trees looking out over the wetland area. At 5:30 I saw a hairy woodpecker tapping on a tree. Around the wetland area were a couple of tall scattered trees. These trees were filled with European starlings, I am not sure why, but they would fly as a group from tree to tree. I also saw a Red-tailed hawk fly overhead, so maybe they were frightened of that. In the reeds and scattered through the trees I saw and head many red-winged blackbirds. I wonder if their calling was to each other, or to the other birds around them to hold their territory. Around 5:40 pm I heard Mourning doves call, often I saw them in pairs. Their plumage is incredibly camouflaged providing an excellent adaptation for staying hidden in trees. The is in stark contrast to the plumage of the cardinal. In the distance, I saw two Hawks circling. There are lots of small mammals around which I am sure they love to eat. As the sun continued to get lower in the sky, I started to see more American Robins come out. One plopped itself in the grass very close to me. I decided to try pishing again, every time I did it looked at me with its beady eyes but did not respond. Then I took out my bird app and played a robin song. Every time I played it, it would respond. It was likely trying to figure out who was in its woods. The robin stuck around for a while rooting around in the grass for things to eat. After a long winter, the birds are likely very excited that the ground is beginning to thaw. I saw a white-breasted nuthatch on a tree. It was exciting because I had never seen one before. I saw some more mourning doves around 6 pm, I am not sure if they are the same ones I saw earlier. I think there are at least two pairs in the area. The sun started setting and fewer birds were calling. In the higher grass, I saw either a female red-winged blackbird or a house sparrow. I started walking home around 6:45. There were so many robins in the grass! I also saw a cardinal in a tree on a branch catching the last bits of sun. Its coat was so bright it looked like it was glowing! It was such a change from the mourning dove coat.

Posted on March 26, 2020 03:58 by sgillie1 sgillie1 | 18 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 07, 2020

March 3rd, 2020 Bolton Backcountry

On March 3rd, at 2:40 I began my bird walk. It was about 42 degrees and partly cloudy. The area I was walking in was the Bolton Backcountry. I started at 1800’ in elevation. Right at the beginning I saw and heard two Black-capped Chickadees. They were flittering around between a deciduous and evergreen tree. With the sun out and the activity of the chickadees at the beginning of my walk I was expecting to see many birds but, as I continued my way up I didn’t see many. At 3:00 I heard a Blue Jay. I continued up the hill, passing and hitting lots of snags of various sizes. The larger snags typically had larger cavities, and smaller trees had smaller cavities. I hit lots of the snags (probably over 20) during my whole walk and nothing came out of them. There were also not many birds around in general, I think that the birds might have been moved down in elevation for the day, while I was moving up. Maybe if I had been walking closer to sunset, the birds would have been in the cavities. I wonder if they return to the same ones every night. Around 3:40 I head another Blue Jay, I realized that I sometimes have a hard time determining if the call is a Blue Jay, a White-breasted Nuthatch or a Crow. The sun was still out but I could see the clouds carrying rain coming – I made my way up higher. The forest transitioned from a 80:20 deciduous to coniferous forest to a 25:75 deciduous to coniferous forest as I reached 3000 ft, and the top of my hike. At the top, the snowpack was certainly more than at the base, and I noticed lots of snow fleas in the shadows and pockets of the snow. On my way down I thought about the seasonal ecology. Those that stick around through the winter have to adjust their diet and find places to hunker down (likely in cavities in snags or coniferous trees). Birds likely get a winter coat and spend less time-wasting energy, only moving to find food to eat or sleeping. They have to search harder for bugs to eat and places to stay warm. Some birds may huddle together. In the summer and spring when the weather is warmers, and berries, buds and bugs are coming out they have more options for food, so then they can spend more time focusing on mating and raising young. I would think that they also have more options as where they choose to spend the night, building nests in trees, having to be less worried about snow and protection from the cold. As I returned to the beginning of my hike, slightly lower and a little warmer. Rain was coming. It was 4:45 and I saw and heard a pair of mourning doves in a deciduous tree.

Posted on March 07, 2020 04:27 by sgillie1 sgillie1 | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 20, 2020

February 17th, 2020 Braintree Mountain Forest in Braintree, VT

Today I drove south to Braintree Mountain Forest in Braintree, VT. Braintree Mountain Forest, a 1,547-acre plot of land, was donated in 2013 to the New England Forest Foundation and is now maintained as a glade. It is a beautiful sunny/ partly cloudy day today. There is no breeze here in the trees and the car thermometer read 30F. Due to the worry of getting cold, I decided to make this birding expedition mobile. A silent walk in the woods to see what I observe.

At 1:30 pm I began my walk. Shortly after entering the forest, at 1:36 pm, I spotted a Hairy Woodpecker. It was hopping and tapping on a rotten birch tree. As this area was still very close to the trailhead, I would count this as the woodpecker inhabiting edge habitat. I continued to move west along the trail. At 1:44 pm I heard a Blue Jay. I was not able to spot the jay but I was sure due to its distinctive call. The entire plot of land that I walked through was a young beech/birch forest. It seemed as if not too long ago most of the forested area could have been open. Every ten minutes or so I would stop and listen more intently for birdcalls, and sometimes I would make a “pushhch” sound to see if I could get any birds to respond. 1:50 pm I had three Black-capped Chickadee respond. They were together in a lone coniferous tree. I continued into the woods, crossing over a frozen creek but did not see or hear anything. At 2:30 pm the sun dropped below the east-facing slope. This made the temperature drop a bit, and I thought that I would have a more difficult time seeing birds, assuming that the colder temperatures would equate to less bird movement. Before starting to gain more elevation, I spotted three chickadees. I continued west and began to gain elevation as I made my way up the east-facing slope to Skidoo peak (2901ft). As I gained elevation, there were a couple more conifers but not enough to have a complete change in forest composition. As I made my way up there was an increase in the amount of snow on the trees. At 3:00 pm I noted two more chickadees. They were in a coniferous tree. It seemed as if they could potentially prefer the coniferous over the deciduous trees, maybe they are warmer, their needles providing more warmth. As I reached the top around 3:30 pm I heard two more chickadees and a Blue Jay. I think that the chilly temperatures and that the sun had gone behind the hill meant that I observed fewer birds. Another factor could be the time of day. If I had gone walking during sunrise or sunset there could have been more activity.

The Hairy Woodpecker seems to prefer dead trees, hopping from one another and only flitting occasionally. The Black-capped chickadee flew from tree to tree more often and seemed to prefer the coniferous trees. The Black-capped Chickadee has pointer wings than the Hairy Woodpecker. Overall it was pretty challenging to tell what the flight pattern was for these birds because they move so quickly and don’t fly for long before landing on a tree again..

Posted on February 20, 2020 00:38 by sgillie1 sgillie1 | 3 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

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