March 26, 2020

Field Journal #4: Social Behavior & Phenology

Date: 3/25/2020
Time: 3:45 - 5:30 pm
Location: Calais, Vermont
Weather: Cloudy and warm; about 45 degrees
Habitat: Outcrop of Scots pine, with a low-lying marsh surrounding, within a birch forest.

For the most part, little to no observations could be made as to how different species were interacting with each other as the species observed were not near each other. However, interspecies interactions could be seen. For example, Ovenbirds were engaging in a back and forth of sorts from both the East and West (on the note of Ovenbirds, I know it is not their breeding season so I may have misidentified). Interestingly, no Black-capped Chickadees were heard or seen for the first half-hour of observing.

As prompted in the mini-activity, I began making a "psshh" noise, varying between 3 and 5 notes. Almost immediately, Black-capped Chickadees began to respond and within less than a minute, over 15 had flocked to the Scots pine outcrop. The Chickadees songs were varied, but short, only about 3 or 4 "dees", and due to their swift arrival as well, it seems as though they were communicating that there was little danger. With so many in such a small area, I expected to see some signs of aggression: heightened posture and raised feathers on the back of the neck, indicating that territory had been infringed upon, but for the most part, the Black-capped Chickadees remained calm, hopping from branch to branch and picking at the bark. I have heard of this technique but have never tried it. From what I have read about spishing, it is similar to the scold call of chickadees which is used to "mob" (gather) birds together. I was surprised at its effectiveness.

Shortly after the Black-capped Chickadees responded and arrived, a sharp increase in other species activity increased. American Robins arrived in nearby trees and were active in their calls. Although not close by, several American Crows were heard as well. Most interesting, a Ruffed Grouse was also heard (I did not know that they called but knew that they drummed). Based on the direction, it may have been the same Ruffed Grouse that had startled me when it vigorously flew it's perch as I approached my observation location. I was also able to hear the drum of a male Ruffed Grouse, which was not surprising considering the time of day. This drum is only heard during mating season as it is used to attract females. This makes it part of the species circannual cycle, although the tendency for males to perform this display for the most part in the early morning or early evening makes me wonder if it may be part of its circadian cycle as well.

The Ruffed Grouse has plumage that is important to camouflage. This species spends time on both the ground and in trees meaning that it is important that it can hide its self from a variety of predators. The Ruffed Grouse is a good example of cryptic coloration, as its plumage blends well into the forest floor as well as the branches of a tree. In contrast, the Black-capped Chickadee has a much lighter stomach than its back an example of countershading. Since this species is often in trees, it's predators mostly come from above and it's darker back makes them less noticeable to these predators.

Posted on March 26, 2020 01:58 by simonbradley simonbradley | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 19, 2020

Field Journal for UVM Ornithology due 2/19/2020: ID and Flight Physiology

Date: 2/18/2020
Time: 1:30 P.M.
Location: Centennial Woods
Weather: 29℉, cloudy, light to moderate snowfall, gusts of winds
Habitat: Conifer tree stand next to a stream
The Black-capped Chickadee seems to take short flights, practically hopping from tree to tree using their wings. These short flights are comprised of rapid wing beats with little to no gliding. Despite the fast pace of wings, the Black-capped Chickadee moves fairly slow at least in comparison to other birds. In contrast, the American Crow flew much higher than the Black-capped Chickadee as they were probably just passing over. The American Crow takes long, deep strokes in flight, with much slower wingbeats than that of the Chickadee. The American Crows would take about 5-6 wingbeats before entering a glide.
Based on these observations, it can be assumed that these two species occupy different niche habitats. The short and slow flight of the Black-capped Chickadee and its tendency to stay low and in the trees indicate this is a niche that this species thrives. The American Crow flew overhead, suggesting the habitat being observed was not occupied by these Crows.
The differences in the flight patterns of the Black-capped Chickadee and the American Crow can be extrapolated to help identify other birds. For example, if one was to observe a bird with small wings and a rapid pace of wing beats, they could probably assume it is a species of a small songbird. Birds often share flight patterns with similar species of birds so understanding which types of birds use a flight pattern can help with basic identification. This can be extended to habitat as well. Many songbirds also occupy habitats similar to those occupied by the Black-capped Chickadee, so understanding habitats can also help with basic identification.
Unfortunately, not many different species of birds were seen today. This may be due to location; Centennial Woods, although beautiful, suffers from a healthy amount of noise pollution coming from busy roads and highways nearby. This not only makes it more difficult to hear and distinguish birdcalls but also drives wildlife to hide. Future observation locations will be chosen to be more secluded to avoid this from happening again.

Posted on February 19, 2020 02:09 by simonbradley simonbradley | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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