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 comments | Leave a comment