March 26, 2020

Field Journal #3 (March 25th)

Due to the COVD-19 pandemic, I was restricted to my front and backyard at my parents’ home in Lincoln Park, New Jersey for this bird walk. I started my bird walk at 5 pm, and it lasted until 6:45 pm. It was sunny with a few clouds in the sky. The temperature outside was warmish, about 50 degrees, with little to no wind. There were many birds out in the open, and many calls and songs could be heard in the distance. Two areas were walked through. One was a wooded wetland area with an acre pond. The other was a suburban street lined with houses on both sides with a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees on the lawns.

There were many more birds this time around. I first started on my front lawn, where I saw a congregation of 5 European Starlings at the top of a dead tree. In a tree next to the dead one, I also saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker. It was pecking at a few spots and kept moving to different spots on the tree. After a few minutes, I saw a pair of Mourning Doves flying from tree to tree, and then, finally, rest on some powerlines. Satisfied that I observed the birds in this location, I ventured to the wetland/wooded pond area. On the way down the hill to the pond, I spotted two Dark-eyed Juncos. They landed on a tree branch for a few seconds and took off again. As I approached the pond, I saw two large birds flying overhead. The first one landed on the pond's edge, where I identified it as a Great Blue Heron. The second one landed soon after. They landed on opposite sides of the pond, and each was searching the water and ground for food. I tried to get closer to take a good picture, but they flew off as I got closer. I returned to my front lawn, where I tried pishing to attract more birds. A Blue Jay must not have liked it very much, because it flew from the pond area to my lawn with its crest fully risen. After checking me out, it flew back to were it came from. I then went onto my back deck, where I had a clear view of the entire pond area to see if the Great Blue Herons had returned. They had not, but I did spot two Carolina Wrens perched on a sugar maple tree.

Most of the birds that I observed were either in pairs or a group, except for the Blue Jay. I think this normal for the season because it is approaching breeding season for birds. The pairs that I saw were mostly flying with each other in circles. I believe that this was an act of courtship. I also saw the Mourning Doves preening themselves and each other, which I also think is an act of courtship. The use of display cues was very observable in the Blue Jay. I remember from class that the angle of a Blue Jay's crest can indicate its alertness/aggression. I don't think he liked the noise of my pishing, and this is why it approached me with its crest fully risen. The plumage on the birds I was were all very different, except for the Mourning Doves and the Carolina Wrens, which have similar brown coloration. The brown coloration helps both species hide from predators by camouflaging them into their surroundings. The Red-bellied Woodpecker has very bright red feathers on the top of its head, most likely used for mating displays, much like how the Great Blue Heron's filoplumes are used to attract mates.

Towards the end of my bird walk, I tried to entice any birds that were hiding in trees to come out by pishing. I tried it on my front lawn, where I saw the European Starlings, Mourning Doves, and Red-bellied Woodpecker. It did not seem to make any other come any closer, but it did get the attention of a Blue Jay. It flew from the pond area to my front lawn when I started to pish. Pishing is a high pitched repetitive noise that is thought to mimic the alert calls used by some birds to tell others around the area that there is a predator around. Birds will either flock to the area to drive the predator away or retreat to hiding. I believe that that is why the Blue Jay came towards me with its crest fully risen. I didn't want to stress the birds in the area out any more than I already had, so I stopped after attracting the Blue Jay.

List of Birds Seen:
- 5 European Starlings
- 1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
- 2 Mourning Doves
- 2 Dark-eyed Juncos
- 2 Great Blue Herons
- 3 American Robins
- 2 Carolina Wrens
- 1 Blue Jay

Posted on March 26, 2020 01:37 by climpert climpert | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 07, 2020

Field Journal #2 (March 6th)

I started my bird walk when I arrived home in Northern New Jersey. The walk started at 4:30 pm and lasted until 6:00 pm. It was overcast with low visibility and was drizzling. The temperature outside was cold, but there was little to no wind. There were not many birds out in the open, but many calls and songs could be heard from shrubs and trees. Two areas were walked through. One was a wooded wetland area with an acre pond. The other was a suburban street lined with houses on both sides with a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees on the lawns.

There were few birds observed on this excursion. I first started by a pond hoping to see waterfowl in this type of weather. I did see a V-formation of 6 Canada Geese fly overhead, flying in the southern direction. Songs could be heard from the trees but no other birds could be located. I then ventured onto the street and spotted a small flock of House Sparrows flying in between trees. As I walked the street, more songs and calls were heard. They were hard to identify as a single species. After some time, I heard a few caws that were easily identifiable as coming from an American Crow. I could not locate where the crow(s) was though.

It was not surprising that it was hard to locate the birds. The weather was not ideal and was particularly cold. In the winter, it is usual for songbirds to seek out cavities in trees to maintain warmth. In the case of the House Sparrows, they usually seek shelter in cavities and dense foliage. The songs and calls I heard were most likely from birds that sought shelter from the rain and cold in the dense foliage of the cedar trees and shrubs. They also tend to huddle in flocks to maintain warmth, which is why it was normal to see a flock of House Sparrows in the winter. The Canada Geese were flying and being active, which is very different than the House Sparrows that were hunkered down for the cold. The geese have special adaptations to stay warm in the winter, like easily replenishable fat reserves and dense layers of insulating feathers. Canada Geese eat grasses and aquatic plants, as well as the occasional insect and fish. The unfrozen pond served as a great winter residence for them. The American Crow can survive the winter months by roosting with many other crows. This is a similar technique to that the House Sparrow uses.

Throughout the bird walk, I took note of snags in the area. There were not many on the street, but 4 were found in the wooded pond area. None of the snags had prominent cavities in them. I knocked lightly with a stick on each snag to see if I could find any birds that were roosting or huddling for warmth. Nothing came out of the snags though. I assume that if I revisited the snags later into the day, I would find a few songbirds staying in the snags overnight. These snags are very important to nonmigratory songbirds because they provide shelter and allows them to live in colder climates.

List of Birds Seen/Heard:
- 6 Canada Geese
- 3 House Sparrows
- American Crow (only heard and exact amount of individuals is unknown)

Posted on March 07, 2020 03:34 by climpert climpert | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 18, 2020

Field Journal #1 (Feb. 19th)

I left the dorms at 2:30 pm on February 16th, 2020. I decided to observe at the Redstone Green and around the Redstone dorms. There was a thick blanket of snow on the ground, except for paved walkways and roads. There was mild wind in the southern direct with periods of strong northern winds. It was sunny with a scattering of clouds. The area had a couple of brick buildings, an open field, a scattering of pine trees, and a small cluster of pine trees to the north.

As soon as I stepped out of the building, a Cooper's Hawk flew across the green to the east. I watched it for a while. I noticed that it was gliding very high in the air. It would flap once or twice and continue to glide in wide circles. It then flew far out of sight. I then focused on a small flock of American Robins. They were sitting in a tree. I was able to fill out their field marks in a sketch while they were sitting in the tree. The robins had black around their heads that faded to grey on their backs. Their breasts were a rusty-red color, and their beaks were yellow. They had a white wing bar and a small bit of white under their tails.

Soon after filling in a sketch of the robins' field marks, the Cooper's Hawk returned and headed for the flock of robins. The robins all left the tree and headed south, with the hawk following them. The robins and the hawk had very different flight patterns. The robins had very fast and frequent flaps until they landed, and did not fly for a long time. The hawk would glide for a long time, with large downstrokes every so often. Flight patterns are important to observe while observing birds because they can help you identify the species of bird that is flying. Observing flight patterns helped me identify the Cooper's Hawk. While outside, I wasn't sure which type of hawk it was, and couldn't get close enough to look for distinctive markings, like the eyes, so, I wrote some notes in my notebook about the flight pattern of the bird. When I returned inside, I was able to determine that the hawk was a Cooper's Hawk based on its size and flight pattern.

After the hawk and robins flew away, I walked around the building, in hopes of finding them. While walking, three American Crows flew overhead. They had very long and pronounced primary feathers. Their flight pattern was mostly even downstrokes with short gliding periods in between. They left as soon as they came, and disappeared over the Redstone Lofts, towards the gym. I also saw two Herring Gulls fly over the Redstone Green while waiting for the hawk to return. Their wings almost looked like they were curved like a bow.

Posted on February 18, 2020 20:29 by climpert climpert | 4 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment