Journal archives for March 2023

March 04, 2023

FJ3-Field Observation: Ecological Physiology

Date: March 2nd, 2023
Start Time: 4:00pm
End Time: 5:00pm
Location: Oakledge Park, South End, Burlington VT
Weather: 34 Fahrenheit, Light snow, mostly cloudy, Northwest wind (11.18 mph)
Habitat: Mixed Forest, lake shoreline

Birding can be very engaging most of the time, however there are many instances when you take a walk and not see much activity at all. This birding walk that I conducted for journal entry three seemed to be one of those instances.
Oakledge park was my point of interest for this walk. The precipitation was slight to moderate snow with the sky being mostly cloudy, and it was relatively chilly since I was right on the shoreline of Lake Champlain. Much of my time was spent more inland where the mixed forest grew increasingly denser, however I did not observe a single bird while in this location. As I moved out of the woods and into a clearing, I noticed a small sign indicating a wetland restoration project in progress. Specifically, the restoration involved a “no mow zone” approach combined with over 1,000 bird friendly plantings. Bird friendly species that were planted include native Serviceberry, Black Willow, Red Maple, and Gray Birch. I was under the assumption that I would observe a bird in this area for sure, though my hopes were not met. It was not until my walk out of the woods when I had my first birding observation, as I looked up into the sky and noticed a murder of American Crows all flying together. There seemed to be at least a dozen of these crows although it was hard to be accurate is it was nearing dusk and there were so many. Nevertheless, all of these crows were following the same flight pattern
Seeing all these crows together as the sun was going down made me wonder if they were all one big family heading home for the night. I have learned that these flocks of crows do come together and roost up in trees at night for a specific reason, to retain body heat as a group. Another reason for these communal groups is to provide protection from predators as there is strength in numbers. However, each morning as the temperature warms, these crows leave the roost and fly in their own direction as they forage for food. Diet of American Crows in the winter consists of grain, seeds, nuts, animal carcasses, and even garbage from humans. While on my walk, I did make several notes of where I located snags and their relative cavity sizes. Unfortunately, as I banged on a few different snags with these cavities, it appeared as if nobody was home. However, it is known that these snag cavities are crucial nesting spots for species such as Pileated or Downy Woodpeckers or Sapsuckers. Snags and cavities also attract many species of insects which have a huge role in the diet of said woodpeckers.

Posted on March 04, 2023 01:17 AM by lukelombardo lukelombardo | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 19, 2023

FJ4: Social Behavior & Phenology

Luke Lombardo

Date: March 15th, 2023
Location: Banff, Alberta, Canada
Weather: 15 Fahrenheit, light snow, partly sunny, southwest wind.
Habitat: Subalpine ecoregion, lodgepole pine, Englemann spruce, and subalpine fir dominated forest.
Start time: 5:00pm
End time: 6:30pm

During this spring break I was able to travel out to Banff National Park located in Alberta, Canada, where I got the chance to do some excellent birding. For this excursion, I had planned to walk through the town of Banff, into a trail along the Bow River that is surrounded by a coniferous forest. It was not long before I spotted two Black-billed Magpies, and three Canada Jays.
Firstly, I came across the Black-billed Magpies that immediately struck me as a unique species. They were very vocal birds, and their call can be described as a “wock-wock-wock” harsh noise. It’s hard to know what they were saying to each other, however I believe they were letting one another know where they were located. There is an old superstition regarding magpies, saying that the number of individuals spotted tells the observer whether they will have good or bad luck. It goes as follows.
“One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told”. I am fascinated by this as I spotted two of them and had so much joy my whole trip. It seemed to me as if the Black-billed Magpies were resting, because they were observed sitting on top of a street sign, not showing any signs of foraging. The resting and lethargic behavior indicates circadian rhythm. Later, I was able to spot three Canada Jays who were observed foraging. They were flying in short patterns, foraging small nuts, seeds, and leftover food from humans on the sidewalk. It seemed to me as if they were communicating by following one another, perhaps showing each individual where the food is. The Canada Jay was a rather quite species that was following its circannual rhythm.
Both species, Black-billed Magpies, and Canada Jay had similar plumage. The white chest in both birds were very bright which allows them to blend into the snow easily. However, the Black-billed Magpie had a dark black back and head, compared to the lighter gray back and head of the Canada Jay. I believe this plumage pattern to be beneficial in a snowy habitat because they can hide from predators better than others.
As I was observing the Canada Jays, I experimented using the pshhhh sound to see what effect it would have on their behavior. The Canada Jays were not attracted by it, seemingly they were scared and flew away for a few minutes. I believe they had this reaction because it is a rather unusual noise for quite forests of Banff. However, the noise sure did alter the behavior of the birds.

Posted on March 19, 2023 01:00 AM by lukelombardo lukelombardo | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 28, 2023

FJ5-Field Observation: Migration

Start Time: 5:00pm
End Time: 6:00pm
Date: March 27th, 2023
Location: Redstone Green
Habitat: Open space, mixed with forest edge. Nearing Lake Champlain.
Weather: 45 F, 8 mph from the north.

Firstly, when thinking of wintering bird species in the area; the American Crow comes to mind immediately. This is a species in which I have seen a lot of over the winter for a few reasons. American Crows can keep warm at night by gathering in roosts to share body heat, these roosts also serve as information centers for where food is located. Being such a communal species has allowed some crows to forego migration and adapt to the wintering months of Vermont. For this field observation exercise, I chose to take a walk from my dorm room in Redstone Hall, to the Burlington Country Club golf course. It was a relatively warmer day with the temperature reaching nearly 50 Fahrenheit. My route of choice paid of almost right away, because as soon as I walked outside, I observed three Ring-billed Gulls swoop through the air and land in the middle of the giant open space of the Redstone Green. The green was filled with water, and I wonder if the gulls liked this area because easy access to worms for consumption. It is not certain where these birds are coming from, however it is known that they tend to migrate to open waters such as the Great Lakes for the winter months. The change in habitat in the Burlington area that has facilitated their comeback can be attributed to the ice melt, resulting in more open waters like Lake Champlain.

Posted on March 28, 2023 12:28 AM by lukelombardo lukelombardo | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment