March 26, 2020

Monday, March 9 - Centennial Woods at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania (12:30 - 15:45)

Birds were observed from 12:30 - 15:45 on Monday, March 9 at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania. Middle Creek is Pennsylvania's first waterfowl refuge. The total area of Middle Creek is over 5,000 acres. This land is mostly covered by forests and farmland and contains a 400-acre reservoir. The weather was 64 degrees F, sunny, and winds were blowing 13mph SW. This was a very warm day for this time of the year. Birds were observed in forested land surrounding the Middle Creek Visitor Center in the southwest corner of the management area and in the reservoir. The forested area contained mostly deciduous trees. The trees were a wide variety of sizes, there was a moderate level of underbrush. Overall, the forest was pretty densely covered with vegetation. There was no snow on the ground, and buds on some of the trees were observed.
In the forested area surrounding the visitor center, I observed a Song Sparrow calling near the edge of the forest. At least 5 Blue Jays were heard calling many times while walking through this area. A few of these Blue Jays were seen flying from branch to branch in a small group. Two Dark-eyed Juncos were seen hopping on the ground near the edge of the forest. Two Downy Woodpeckers were observed on trees. The Downy Woodpeckers were drumming on branches a bit, and one appeared to be eating berries. One White-breasted Nuthatch was heard calling and seen flying near the tops of trees. One Black-capped Chickadee was heard calling several times. Two Canada Geese were seen flying together over the forest. About 6 Song Sparrows were seen and heard calling by the edge of the forest. A mating pair of Ring-necked Pheasants were seen walking on the ground near the edge of the forest. Finally, 4 Eastern Bluebirds were seen in trees and on the ground next to the visitor center.
After walking through the forested area by the visitor center, I walked along the perimeter of the reservoir. First, I saw a pair of Mallards swimming in middle of the reservoir. I saw a pair of Northern Shovelers swimming near the Southern edge of the reservoir. Two Turkey Vultures were seen flying over the middle of the reservoir. About 40 Tundra Swan were seen swimming in a large group near the northern edge of the reservoir. Finally, approximately 4,000 - 5,000 Snow Geese were seen flying, swimming, or on the shore during the duration of my time by the reservoir. This number range of Snow Geese was estimated by a naturalist working at Middle Creek. The naturalist informed me that thousands of Snow Geese pass through Middle Creek every day during this time of the year, as they migrate north. The geese that were seen in the reservoir and on the ground were taking a break before continuing their flights north.
The Blue Jays observed were traveling throughout the forest and calling a lot. Their calls could have been a form of communication to each other and/or to mark their territory to other birds. The Blue Jays were in the area of other birds, such as Downy Woodpeckers and a Black-capped Chickadee. It is possible that their calls became more loud or frequent in the presence of these other bird species. The two Downy Woodpeckers were drumming on branches in the vicinity of each other. It is possible that the woodpeckers were a mating pair. The drumming could have either been to attract a mate, to mark their territory, or to find food in the tree branches. The Song Sparrows were calling frequently and observed in a group. They may have been trying to communicate with each other. The massive group of Snow Geese concentrated in the reservoir area were making lots of calls. These calls were likely to communicate with each other, as there were no other species present near them. The Snow Geese had nearly completely white plumage, with black coloration on the ends of their wings. This differs from the plumage of the Canada Geese. The Canada Geese had black heads, white cheeks, black necks, brown backs, and light-colored breasts. Both of these bird species are similar in terms of shape and size and both had light-colored breasts and undersides. The mostly while plumage of the Snow Geese may be evolutionarily advantageous because they breed very far north, where the landscape is mostly covered with snow. The white plumage would serve as cryptic coloration in snowy areas, allowing breeding Snow Geese to hide from predators better. Canada Geese usually do not breed as far north as Snow Geese, which may be why they have darker plumage. The brown backs of the Canada Geese may cause them to blend in better on land, in earth-colored habitats. One of the Snow Geese that I observed was resting and floating near the edge of the reservoir. This bird was likely resting on while migrating north at the end of the winter. This migration is an example of circannual rhythm, meaning that this Snow Goose likely performs this migration north every year due to a biological process.
Only one Black-capped Chickadee was heard calling in the forest. I did not see this bird, any other chickadees, or many other groups of small birds. I tried making a "pish" call, but I did not notice that this call attracted or drove away any birds. The goal of making this sound would be to either draw small birds closer or drive them away. Birds could be drawn closer if they believe that the sound is coming from a source of food, like an insect. They could be driven away if they believe that the sound is coming from a predator. I likely had no success because I never was in the near vicinity of a group of chickadees or other small birds.

Posted on March 26, 2020 02:23 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 06, 2020

Thursday, March 5 - Centennial Woods in Burlington, Vermont (16:10 - 17:40)

Birds were observed from 16:10 - 17:40 on Thursday, March 5 in Centennial Woods in Burlington, Vermont. The weather was 43 degrees F, partly cloudy, and winds were blowing 9mph NNW. Centennial Woods is a forested area within the city of Burlington. Birds were observed in the southwest corner of Centennial Woods. This is a forested area that is primarily made up of tall deciduous and coniferous trees. Most of the trees in Centennial Woods have heights of about 30 feet or higher. There was minimal underbrush and snow on the ground as well. This was a much warmer day than most days of the winter, but there snow still covered almost every bit of the ground throughout Centennial Woods.

I observed many American Crows flying over Centennial Woods. Most crows could be seen and heard as they flew heading North or Northwest. The largest flock of crows that I saw contained about 50 individuals. I also observed the calls of 7 Black-capped Chickadees. I was not able to see any of them, but they could be heard in the distance on several occasions. Most of the calls appeared to be coming from the western edge of Centennial Woods. I saw three Downy Woodpeckers flying from tree to tree, high in a canopy of primarily deciduous trees. They were making calls and pecking at branches at the tops of the trees. They were making high-pitched squeaky calls, and they may have been foraging. Finally, I heard repetitive loud drumming in the distance on a couple of occasions. I believe that the source of the drumming was a woodpecker, but I am not sure what species of woodpecker it was because I never saw the bird. I tried to walk closer to the drumming sounds, but did not want to venture off trail, and the bird was too far away, deep in the forest.

I tried to observe strategies that birds in Centennial Woods were using to stay warm during the winter. As I mentioned earlier, all of the observed American Crows were flying North or Northwest, which could mean that they were returning from a migration from the south. It has been getting increasingly warm in Burlington, Vermont, which could make it easier for birds to survive if they have to expend less energy to stay warm. I also observed several large holes in snags, or dead trees. These holes may have been made by birds to use as cover. These holes could be used to shelter birds from cold weather during the winter. Various species may also use these holes as shelter overnight, when temperatures drop. The American Crows that I observed were flying high over the forest and may have been looking for food below. This is very possible, because American Crows are known to be scavengers. The Downy Woodpeckers that I observed were pecking at trees. They may have been looking for small invertebrates to eat that were inside of the trees they were pecking. They were flying from tree to tree, pecking branches on each tree, which appeared to be a possible feeding behavior. The woodpecker that I heard drumming in the distance may have also been looking for food inside of trees or trying to attract a mate. I was not able to see any of the Black-capped Chickadees, but their calls were coming from the edge of the forest. Since it is winter, there are less food sources available deep in the forest. It is possible that the Black-capped Chickadees were foraging near the edge of Centennial Woods, where there could be more food sources. There are homes near the western edge of Centennial Woods, which could have feeders to attract birds.

As mentioned earlier, I observed multiple snags in Centennial Woods, and each of the snags had many holes on the outside. The observed snags were moderate (about 20 feet high) to large (about 30-40 feet high) sizes. I observed three moderately sized snags and three large sized snags. The large snags appeared more large holes than the moderately sized snags. The moderately sized snags also appeared to have more small holes than the large snags. I rapped on a few of the snags with snags but did not observe any birds pop out of them. Although I did not observe any birds utilizing any of the snags, snags are very important for providing birds with shelter. Numerous bird species are known to use holes in snags as shelter to raise their offspring. Birds may also use snags as shelter from uncomfortable weather conditions, to hide from predators, or to sleep in overnight.

Posted on March 06, 2020 01:38 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 19, 2020

Sunday, February 16 - Centennial Woods in Burlington Vermont (14:30 - 16:00)

Birds were observed from 14:30 - 16:00 on Sunday, February 16 in Centennial Woods in Burlington Vermont. The weather was 36 degrees F, partly cloudy, and winds were blowing 13mph south. Centennial Woods is a forested area within the city of Burlington. The area of Centennial Woods where the birds were observed had a roughly even ratio of deciduous and coniferous trees. Most of the trees were tall with heights of about 30 feet or higher. There was minimal underbrush and snow on the ground as well.
Numerous American Crows were observed flying over the forest during my time at Centennial Woods. Three groups, with at least 20 American Crows in each group, flew over the area where I was walking. All of the crows were flying south, and none were observed flying below the tops of any trees. The observed flight patterns of the crows consisted of nearly constant flapping and a bit of gliding with their wings spread wide. Their wings appeared to move with an elliptical pattern. Also, their wings had somewhat of an elliptical shape with slotted wing tips. The slotted nature of their wings provides them with extra lift as they fly. This flight style makes sense for crows' habitat niche, as they are scavengers. The crows that I observed were likely looking for food on the ground as they flew high above the trees. They were not flying particularly fast, allowing them to spot food on the ground more easily. American Crows could be identified in flight based on their characteristics of being black birds with somewhat slotted wings that flap constantly just over the tops of trees.
Several other bird species were observed. 3 Downy Woodpeckers were seen on a tree, 1 Blue Jay call was heard, 4 White-breasted Nuthatches were seen on trees and heard making loud repetitive calls, and 4 Black-capped Chickadees were heard making loud calls. The time of day, weather, and habitat did not hinder my ability to observe several species. However, I did not observe a wide variety of species. This might indicate that many bird species migrate south in the winter and are rare to observe in Burlington, Vermont in the middle of February. I may travel deeper into forested areas in the future with the hopes of seeing more species. I stayed somewhat close to the edge of Centennial Woods, which could have reduced the number of different species that I saw.

Posted on February 19, 2020 14:12 by andrewgigs andrewgigs | 5 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

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