March 26, 2020

Field Observation Journal Entry #3 (3/25)

Today around 1 pm, I went on a little birding excursion in the woods around my home and observed birds near the bird feeders by my house. It was fairly cloudy today and the temperature was 37˚ Fahrenheit.

During the two hours I was outside bird watching, I saw around 40 black-capped chickadees, maybe more, 2 tufted titmice, 5 dark-eyed junco, 4 blue jay, 3 red-breasted nuthatch, and 1 common raven. Since it was still fairly early in the day and light outside, most of the birds I saw were foraging, as it is apart of their circadian rhythm and important to take advantage of the daylight to search for food.

I was woken up this morning by a blue jay outside that was making a ruckus about the feeder. The blue jay had an erect crest and was probably trying to bully the other birds around the feeder and intimidate them so that he/she could have it to themselves. On my walk in the woods, I walked past a clearing where I saw some blue jays and heard their songs. I believe they were jeering mostly because my dog and my neighbor's two dogs who followed me may have spooked them. Far away from me, I heard one blue jay in the woods that seemed very alarmed and when I looked over to see what the commotion was about, I saw a common raven cawing and flying away from the scene, so maybe those two incidents were connected.

The most social behavior I saw was near the bird feeders, specifically amongst the black-capped chickadee. I observed a social hierarchy in the black-capped chickadees. Some of them were very territorial over the feeders and would chase off other black-capped chickadees from the feeder. While others allowed the other black-capped chickadees to eat from the feeder with them. The black-capped chickadees did not seem concerned with other bird species using the feeders possibly because they were more concerned about establishing themselves within their species and making sure they have status. When I approached the feeders, the black-capped chickadees gave me their "chicka dee dee dee" alarm call to let others know I was nearby. I tried spishing at them and one of them surprisingly perched on branch very close to me and seemed curious, but then flew off. I must have offended him/her. This black-capped chickadee may have been interested in my spishing because it sounded similar to their own calls.

The red-breasted nuthatches I saw also seemed to be territorial. When I observed one of the tufted titmice feeding at the feeder, a red-breasted nut hatch flew and scared off the titmouse. Besides the blue jays behavior, that was the only interspecific competition behavior I saw.

I also observed what seemed like environmental niches. The dark-eyed junco were foraging for seeds that fell from the feeder on the ground. I thought this maybe their method of avoiding the chaos around the bird feeder, since no other birds were feeding on the ground.

Dark-eye junco have dark back plumage that makes them easily camouflaged on the ground and in the dark ashy gray trees in the woods around my home, so their coloration must be cryptic and an example of countershading to avoid predators. On the other hand, black-capped chickadees have plumage that accentuates their bill because it draws attention to their bills and may intimidate rival males. Black-capped chickadees have such an intense social hierarchy, that it would make sense if their plumage accentuated their bill for the purpose of intimidating rival males.

Posted on March 26, 2020 03:51 by kaglenn kaglenn | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 05, 2020

Field Observation Journal Entry #2 (3/3)

Around 1:20 pm, on the lovely Tuesday afternoon of March 3rd, I went birding along the waterfront. It was a beautiful 52 degrees Fahrenheit outside and the sun was shining. Overall, it was a perfect day to do my field journal because so many birds out and about soaking up the sun.
While I was waiting for the bus to downtown Burlington, I saw 3 black-capped chickadees in pines trees by the University Heights bus stop.
The Burlington Waterfront is mostly open area with trees and shrubs scattered along the shore. It is also a great place for birds to feed, since many people visit it everyday and occasionally leave behind or drop food. Down by the water front I saw over 30 mallards. Some of them were on lake Champlain, but the majority were dabbling their bills in the mud and puddles looking for bits of food around the boardwalk and sitting in the sun. I also saw 3 common mergansers swimming in the lake and diving for fish. The common mergansers would occasionally stand on the ice sheets on the lake, possibly trying to warm up after being in the cold water. There were also approximately 20 ring-billed gulls seen along the boardwalk. Most of the ring-billed gulls I saw were gliding through the air maybe searching for food and a couple were swimming in the lake. I heard many rock pigeons under the boardwalk where some were definitely roosting. Out of the 20 rock pigeons I saw, a couple of them seemed to be trying to court females.
I am not sure that the behavior I saw among the birds was normal for the winter season, considering the weather that day made it feel like spring. Many of the birds were much more active than I would assume they would be during colder days. The 52 degree weather definitely encouraged the birds to take advantage of the day. On cold winter days, one might expect them to roost somewhere with shelter, such as in the trees and shrubs, under the boardwalk and docks or in and under buildings near the lake. Tuesday's birding excursion was a great success and I am very pleased with what I observed overall.

Posted on March 05, 2020 22:23 by kaglenn kaglenn | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 19, 2020

Field Observations #1 Journal Entry

I went on a birding excursion in Centennial Woods on Thursday, the 13th of February around 1:40 pm. It was a cloudy day and there was a light snow coming down. Luckily, it was not too cold and the temperature was about 34 degrees Fahrenheit.

As soon as I entered the wood, I heard the calls of black-capped chickadees. I saw two black-capped chickadees in total, but heard the calls of many more up in the trees that I could not see. The other bird I saw was the american crow, and I saw 35 american crows in total, which made up the clear majority of the birds I saw.

Since I only saw two black-capped chickadees, I did not get a great idea of what their flight patterns are like. The black-capped chickadees, I saw flew from one branch to another branch on a tree close by. Since there was not much of a difference in distance between the branches and they were flying to a lower branch, the black-capped chickadees did not need much thrust to reach the other branch. They flapped quickly a few times with gliding periods in between down towards the branch. Black-capped chickadees have elliptical shaped wings that allow a high degree of control and the ability to maneuver well in smalls spaces such as thick forests and their wings lessen drag so they can ascend and descend quickly. Since the habitats of black-capped chickadees tend to be forests, it makes sense they have elliptical wings that are adapted for flying in areas with many obstacles.

The american crows I saw displayed patterns of constant flapping with very little gliding and quick flapping with periods of gliding. American crows that were flapping more than gliding may have been trying to increase their thrust, maintain lift and prevent themselves from slowing down and losing altitude. American Crows have elliptical wings, which are well adapted for controlled flying in areas with many obstacles such as forests. It would also make sense for American crows to have the same wings as black-capped chickadees because they are both forest dwelling birds that need to be able to maneuver through forests, and ascend and descend quickly to avoid predators.

I am not sure I could identify an american crow based off of flight and flapping pattern alone because I only had one other bird in the field to compare it to that I barely saw. The lack of comparison made it difficult for me to find key features in the flight of the american crow that I could use to identify and pick it out from a group of birds. The reason I was able to identify the american crow in the first place was because of its appearance and color. I would also have the same difficulty identifying a black-capped chickadee on flight and flapping pattern alone. I could tell the birds I was observing were black-capped chickadees based on their call and appearance.

The lack of different bird species I saw may have been related to how close Centennial Woods is to the highway and other roads which may startle the birds. The birds may have also been startled by many people walking their dogs that afternoon. The american crows were definitely not pleased with the chaos brought by the dogs presence and cawed loudly in protest. Many birds may have also hunkered down for the evening already by the time I had starting my birding trip. Next time I go birding, I may go to a different site that is farther away from major roads and less populated by people, so there is less noise and activity that could scare away or disrupt the natural behavior of birds in their habitat.

Posted on February 19, 2020 04:32 by kaglenn kaglenn | 2 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

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