March 26, 2020

Field Observation 3: Centennial Woods

Thomas Maron
WFB 130
Field Journal 3

Centennial Woods

For this birding outing I decided to stay local and head from my apartment in the Old North End to Centennial Woods. I left my house at 2:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday, March 24th, it was a partially sunny afternoon and the temperature was in the high 40s. The beginning of my outing consisted of suburban bird habitat based around shrubs, backyards, and clustered deciduous trees. Once I reached the entrance to Centennial Woods the habitat changed from mixed forest to primarily coniferous forest and finally to small floodplain.
The first individuals I observed were several American Robins flitting around on the ground into several large coniferous shrubs in a front yard. As I continued on my walk I saw several American Crows fly above me letting out their distinctive “Caw”. Walking through UVM campus I encountered a dearth of observations and only observed several more birds as I entered Centennial Woods. These individuals were two American Crows high in a deciduous tree, one of which had several sticks in its mouth, presumably for its next nest building. As I moved through the woods the amount of calls increased, though I often couldn’t locate the individual that was calling. I distinctly recognized the “Peter-peter-peter” of the Tufted Titmouse and “Chickadee-dee-dee-dee” of the Black-capped Chickadee, additionally I heard the thunks of a woodpecker pecking away at a dead tree, though I couldn’t locate and identify the species. As I continued on through the path I stopped at a high point to look out over one of the “valleys” present in the middle of the woods. Here I heard several more Titmice, Chickadees, a Blue Jay and a Robin, though locating the individuals was difficult as the recent snow was melting and falling from the canopy resulting in lots of movement high in the trees. Moving into the marshy, small floodplain near Centennial Field I saw a Blue Jay fly across the open area and exiting the woods I saw several more Blue Jays low in a small deciduous tree. I stopped to watch them for a couple minutes and they soon lifted off and flew higher into a nearby pine.
Most the birds interactions I observed were through sound, and several times I heard two or more individuals of the same species calling back and forth. These species were mostly Chickadees and were mainly either modest alarm calls or flock communication and recognizing neighbors. I also heard several Blue Jays calling back and forth to each other, likely also calling out to their neighbors. The birds I did observe by sight were not ones that stand out as having especially cryptic coloring, though both the Tufted Titmouse and Black-capped Chickadee could be classified as having disruptive coloring due to their white bellies which would disrupt their distinctive bird outlines from afar. Additionally, the Chickadees are clear examples of having coloring to accentuate their bills with their black head coloring framing their bill.
My attempts at spishing were all relatively fruitless as the few individuals I encountered barely even batted a wing in my direction. However, I assume this activity would work because the sound is rather non-threatening and doesn’t closely resemble the call or song of other predators.

Posted on March 26, 2020 19:04 by tmaronadk tmaronadk | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 06, 2020

Field Observation 2: Intervale

Thomas Maron
WFB 130
Field Journal 2

My second field observation took place at 1:30 in the afternoon on March 3rd, began at my apartment on North Willard St. and proceeded from here down to the Intervale and a trail along the Winooski River. The weather was a warm 47 degrees with alternating sun and partial cloud cover. My excursion took me through several types of habitat including suburban and backyard feeders, farm fields, a deciduous floodplain forest as well as a river ecosystem.
The first individuals I observed were several Mourning Doves and American Crows both on power lines and in flight. As I got closer to the Intervale the diversity of species I saw increased rapidly beginning with a lone male Northern Cardinal and then a male and female pair of the same species. The increased in diversity continued with the observation of several smaller birds including two Song Sparrows and a Black-capped Chickadee. My species sightings then hit a lull until I observed a male and female pair of Common Mergansers drifting down the Winooski River, they were soon joined by another male and three other females of the same species. As I continued on down the trail I was suddenly surprised by the presence of a Downy Woodpecker not five feet from me scurrying up a snag. It soon flew to another nearby tree and was off up and down several other trees before I lost sight of it. On my way back up the road from the Intervale, I noticed a feeder in a side-yard which, somewhat shockingly, had a Hairy Woodpecker fully enthralled upon its feed.
Given the distinctly non-winter weather conditions in which I ventured out in, I didn’t happen to directly observe any species displaying thermoregulating behavior. However, I imagine had the weather been twenty to thirty degrees colder I almost surely would’ve observed the Northern Cardinals with their feather puffed up to increase insulation or would’ve seen the Mergansers sunning themselves or propped up on one leg with their beak tucked in their feathers to reduce heat loss. I also might not have observed the woodpeckers if instead they had been using their time to rest in a cavity rather than expending the energy to find food. However, the sighting of the Hairy Woodpecker at the feeder does display a change in the species diet as a result of season. This individual was most likely opportunistically feeding on the seeds and suet due to a lack of grubs and other bugs in the dead and decaying trees. This behavior highlights how the seasonal change forces species to change their diet more toward what food is immediately available, as opposed to finding the highest quality food or what is their favorite.
During my walk, my snag count did not go very high, however I did observe the Downy Woodpecker pecking on a snag as well as several other snags with Woodpecker holes. These downed and decaying limbs provide both habitat and feed for a variety of cavity-nesting and grub-eating species with both of these types of species most likely to use them.

Posted on March 06, 2020 13:05 by tmaronadk tmaronadk | 8 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

February 20, 2020

Birding Expedition 1: Hurricane Mountain

Thomas Maron
Field Journal 1:

My first birding outing took place on Hurricane Mountain in Keene, NY in the Adirondack Park. The weather was 25 degrees and sunny with occasional gusts of wind up to 5 or 7 miles an hour. The overall outing was about four hours long with three dedicated half hour stops to observe the birds. The first of these was in a coniferous forest at lower elevation in close proximity to a small stream and several wetlands. The second stop was on the edge of a large wetland at slightly higher elevation with a more mixed canopy profile, the trees here were mainly younger saplings. The third stop was the highest in elevation and was in a mixed deciduous and coniferous forest with both older and younger trees. This third stop displayed the greatest diversity of species, as the two first observations yielded only Black-capped Chickadees sightings, though their characteristic call was on full display.
Since the bird observed most frequently was the Chickadee I was able to gain a better understanding of its’ patterns of flight than the two other species I saw. The Chickadee largely “flitted” around, flying rapidly from branch to branch. The individuals would flap frequently, rarely, if ever, gliding and would keep their wings extended out far from their body in flight. This was in stark contrast to the flight of the female Hairy Woodpecker I saw. Her flight was smooth and in flight she would flap, pull her wings in close to her body, and then extend her wings again to make another flap. This pattern made her individuals flaps noticeable and her flight patterned in this cyclic way. She flew in very direct, straight lines, whereas the Chickadee, busily buzzed to-and-fro frenetically. Along with this the Chickadee clearly flapped more frequently and could be seen throughout the vertical profile of the forest, while the Woodpecker flapped less often and was only observed in the higher canopy.
The contrasting features of flight displayed by these two species can be attributed to several factors that are all related. The differing morphology of these two species in wing and body size can explain some parts of these differences. Specifically, that the longer wings and larger body of the Woodpecker make it better suited for gliding and flying in straighter lines, while the smaller wings and body of the Chickadee ensure that it can swiftly change direction but is ill-suited to glide. The contrasting morphology ties directly into the habitat niches of these two species. The Chickadees were observed largely in denser brush flying quickly from branch to branch or branch to ground, while the Woodpecker flew only high in the canopy where there were larger spaces and clearer flight paths. These different niches require different patterns of flight which further requires a specific morphology to be best suited for this habitat. In this case, the smaller, shorter wings of the Chickadee make rapid flight in tight spaces easy, whereas the larger, longer wings of the Woodpecker predispose it to be suited for gliding in the open spaces of the canopy. The characteristics of both birds’ flight highlight the somewhat cyclic relationship between pattern of flight, habitat niche, and wing morphology. Habitat niche necessitates a certain style of flight which is best suited by a specific wing shape which ensures that the species is successful in that habitat. The contrasting methods of flight between these two species effectively illustrated the complex, yet fascinating relationship between morphological adaptions and physical habitat.

Posted on February 20, 2020 03:25 by tmaronadk tmaronadk | 4 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment