May 12, 2023

Fj8: Field Observation

Date: 5/11/23
Start time: 6:30 pm
End time: 7:45 pm
Location: campus/Redstone/Davis Green
Weather: 65-70 degrees, no wind
Habitat: mostly urban/human-developed areas with patches of green fields and trees

The Red-winged Blackbirds were particularly loud today but I was unfortunately unable to get a good recording because of the passing cars.

Posted on May 12, 2023 12:42 AM by sillaystring sillaystring | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 03, 2023

FJ7: Reproductive Ecology and Evolution

Date: 5/3/23
Start time: 2:50 pm
End time: 3:45 pm
Location: Redstone Green/campus/surrounding areas
Weather: slight wind, chilly (~50 degrees), light on/off rain
Habitat: mostly urban/human-developed areas with patches of green fields and trees

Though it was raining lightly, I saw more birds than I expected to today. Particularly, I wanted to go birding around campus because in the past couple of days I saw huge gatherings of gulls on the Redstone Green and the sports fields by Patrick Gym. I was happy to see them again today, and it makes sense that the rain wouldn't bother them since they often deal with the water from the lake/sea anyway. I was surprised to see several other species like American Robins and Tufted Titmice in the trees, as well as some Common Ravens.

As for nesting, I have seen the ravens by the gym hanging out together quite often, and I realized that they were raising a couple of babies. They have a nest in one of the trees next to Patrick Gym, and I often see them perched there or in nearby trees whenever I pass. They also tend to let out loud caws, especially when there seem to be other ravens visiting (they are quite loud!). I also heard and saw a very loud Red-winged Blackbird in one of the small trees by the Redstone north parking lot. It seemed to be competing with another Red-winged Blackbird in the next tree over, though neither of the trees seemed to be a 'prime' location, since they were right next to the parking lot and dumpsters. This could mean they are fighting for scraps of territory, but maybe not: I have also spotted the on the fence by the field somewhat nearby that has a lot of grasses on its outside, which could be a great spot for food or shelter. Judging by how loudly and aggressively the bird was singling, I suspect it may be the latter. Those wispy grasses could be great nesting material, and it wouldn't surprise me if some of the thin-stranded materials from the Redstone dumpsters were used too. Other than this, they could use leaves and twigs from the nearby forested areas.

Posted on May 03, 2023 08:37 PM by sillaystring sillaystring | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 15, 2023

FJ6: Field Observation

Date: 4/9/23
Start time: 3:30 pm
End time: 5:00 pm
Location: Salmon Hole
Weather: slight wind, sunny, pretty warm (~40F)
Habitat: woodland (mostly deciduous but also coniferous), river, on the edge of developed area

This was my first time seeing a Double-crested Cormorant in the wild and it was really neat. It appeared to be sunning its wings on an island, and I got a pretty good picture of it through the binoculars that I was excited about!

Posted on April 15, 2023 07:59 PM by sillaystring sillaystring | 12 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 29, 2023

FJ5: Migration

Date: 3/29/23
Start time: 2:15 pm
End time: 3:20 pm
Location: Oakledge Park
Weather: mid to high 40s, slight wind, partly cloudy
Habitat: park with deciduous forest, freshwater coast

For this excursion, I went to Oakledge Park. I walked on the trail first, and there were several areas of dense vegetation. In these areas, there were lots of smaller birds like the Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. There were also several Ring-billed Gulls flying and calling out overhead since we were near the water, as well as American Crows. Going a little deeper onto the trail revealed a White-breasted Nuthatch hopping up and down a tree, a Northern Cardinal, and several Song Sparrows. After that, I exited the trail which came out to a large, flat field and saw more American Crows and a Mourning Dove (though I only heard it). I kept following the trail along the water's edge and was able to see a pair of Canada Goose as well as a pair of Common Mergansers (one male and one female!) on the lake. (I was excited at this point because it was my first time seeing Common Mergansers!) Continuing on into a neighborhood, I saw several House Sparrows by a feeder and Common Ravens as well as more American Crows.

Most of the species I observed on this excursion are year-round species, aside from the Canada Goose (who are here during breeding season) and the Ring-billed Gulls (who are here during the warmer months). The ones who stay in VT year-round like the Black-capped Chickadee undergo facultative hypothermia, which is a condition where the bird's body temperature drops below its normal level. This occurs as the result of internal clocks or a lack of food/energy, and helps the bird survive in low temperatures. Another way birds survive the winter temperatures is through torpor, which the Mourning Doves do. Torpor is a hibernation-like state in which the bird's body temperature drops much lower than usual (to around 8-20 C). This conserves energy since the bird is not moving or responding to stimuli and lessens the need for high food consumption. Birds like these have these strategies to survive the winter here in VT because it is more energy-effective to remain than it is to migrate long distances, especially for the smaller birds that don't have wings suited for that kind of flight.

Birds like American Robins and Red-Winged Blackbirds migrate up to VT during the summer months, likely due to the weather being cooler than in the south, the ground unfreezing (allowing insects to emerge), and berries starting to grow. These birds may not have the same techniques to stay warm during the winter, so they leave when it gets too cold but come back when it's warmer and the food supply is more abundant. Migrating birds arriving in early April may have the advantage of having more space to establish their territory/set up their homes.

Posted on March 29, 2023 09:18 PM by sillaystring sillaystring | 13 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 19, 2023

FJ3: Ecological Physiology

Date: 3/18/23
Start time: 6:30 pm
End time: 7:30 pm
Location: Rosa Hartman Park in Stamford, CT
Weather: sunny/sunset, warm (45°F), no wind
Habitat: park with deciduous forest

Throughout the winter observations, I have seen many Black-capped Chickadees. Though these birds are small, they are able to survive the cold winters of the Northeast. In order to survive the cold, they eat lots of high-nutrient foods like berries and nuts. Additionally, they fluff up their feathers to trap air and keep in their body warmth-- this is why they look so round in the winter. In the spring, they likely go after insects (specifically caterpillars/etc) which are more abundant in the warmer times of the year. Most of my pictures of them have been at a feeder or in berry bushes, and they look very round in all of them. Other birds likely have the same or similar practices to survive the cold. Additionally, I know that penguins have a special circulation pattern to keep cold blood in their extremities and warm blood closer to their cores, so if other birds had something similar it could definitely help them retain heat in the winter as well. They also may sleep in dead snags, bushes/orb-shaped nests, or as a group as a sort of insulation. I would assume they spend most of their time feeding and resting, as the breeding season is usually in the spring when it's warmer.

On my walk, I came across several dead snags, though I wasn't able to see anything come out of them. I noticed that generally, the larger snags had fewer branches and larger cavities; the smaller ones had smaller cavities and more branches. It seems like birds use the interiors of the larger snags to rest or nest, while the smaller ones are used mostly to perch.

Posted on March 19, 2023 04:04 AM by sillaystring sillaystring | 10 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 16, 2023

FJ4: Social Behavior and Phenology

Date: 3/15/23
Start time: 7:45 am
End time: 8:45
Location: Wilton, CT (backyard)
Weather: overcast, 30°F
Habitat: backyard feeder (suet, hanging, flat surfaces) surrounded by woodland (mostly deciduous - ash, locust, maple, beech, river birch, spruce, white pine)

Since the feeders have very limited space, they are places where the birds interact pretty closely. I started out my field observation by watching the feeder for around 20 minutes (though I came back towards the end and watched it for another 10-ish minutes), and saw a good variety of birds visit. The hanging feeders had Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, Blue Jays; the suet feeder had Downy Woodpeckers, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Dark-eyed Juncos; the seed scattered on the wall/ground attracted the American Robins. I noticed that when there were only smaller birds on the feeders, they would switch out with each other and take turns eating. When Blue Jays were present, they would take over the feeder and make the other birds leave (if they hadn't left already).

After observing the feeder, I went past the yard into the woods. It was hard to see any birds, but I could hear a lot of different calls. I didn't want to scare them away, so I sat and listened rather than walking around too much. From there, I heard several American Crows, a Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Cardinals, and a call I think was a European Starling (it had the crackle-like sound that the Cornell recordings have, though I didn't get a recording so I am not completely sure). I was actually able to see a couple Hairy Woodpeckers too. The woods were filled with bird noises, and many of them seemed to be calling out to each other, perhaps for signalling that there was food, or simply competing with each other. On my way back to the yard, I heard some House Finches and American Robins, though I was unable to spot them; I also had been hearing what I believe to be Song Sparrows for pretty much the whole trip and hadn't been able to look up the sound and ID them until I got closer to the house. The Song Sparrow calls were the most prominent noise when they were being made.

Of the birds that I was actually able to spot, I noticed that the Tufted Titmice in particular was able to blend in quite well with its surroundings. Previously, I had thought that their grey coloring would not help them hide in the trees, but the grey-ish bark of several trees in the backyard made it very difficult to see them until they flew out to the feeder. The Titmice tended to swoop from the tree and feed for a short moment (if there was another titmouse on the feeder they would take turns), and then fly back to the tree. Like the titmice, the nuthatches tended to come alone or with only one other. The chickadees came in larger groups of usually 3 or more. These birds being up and active in the morning makes sense with their circadian rhythm because they rise at dawn and go to sleep when it gets dark out.

I tried the pishing back at the feeder, though I am unsure if it actually drew in more birds or if they were coming anyway because of the feeder. I did not know about pishing prior to this assignment, so I looked it up afterward to understand it better. The sound itself seems to be similar to the distress call ('scolds') of chickadees and titmice, which causes these birds to come and see what all the fuss is about. It could also be heard as a beckoning for them to come together and take part in a group feeding event.

Posted on March 16, 2023 03:21 PM by sillaystring sillaystring | 16 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 20, 2023

FJ2: ID and Flight Physiology

Date: 2/19/23
Start time: 12:00 pm
End time: 1:15 pm
Location: Oakledge Park
Weather: Overcast, very windy
Habitat: Woodland, coast (lake)

Upon arrival, I decided to walk a couple of the paths before heading down to the beach area. By the tree house, there were many American Crows circling overhead and in the tops of the trees. I also heard an occasional call from a Tufted Titmouse, but I was not able to spot it anywhere. There was also another call that was far away and sounded like it could have been a Black-capped Chickadee, but I was unable to identify it. When observing the crows flying overhead, I noticed how they were soaring in circles and not flapping their wings very often. They seemed to primarily be using the wind currents to stay aloft, and when they did land, they tended to stay high up in the trees or in more open areas. Though I was not able to get a closer picture, I did see through my binoculars that their wings were long, broad, and ended in very prominent primary feathers. This shape and size likely help them to stay aloft for longer periods of time, and allow them to travel over farther distances than those with shorter, smaller wings. This makes sense since crows are known to travel a lot.

After spending around 20-30 minutes there, I moved to the beach area of the park. There were other people and some dogs there making noise, which definitely decreased the number of birds that I was able to observe there. However, I was hopeful that I would see some kind of waterbird, and I ended up seeing what I believed to be a Herring Gull circling overhead briefly. Due to the noise and the very high wind speeds, I thought I might have better luck spotting birds in a more covered area, so I moved to one of the woodland paths. There, I happened upon a clearing with a thicket of bramble bushes where there were many Black-capped Chickadees foraging. I sat there for a while and watched them, noticing how they flitted among the brush with very short wing flaps. They tended to hop along the ground or use quick flaps to get around in the dense thicket. Compared to the crows, apart from being smaller birds in general, the Black-capped Chickadees had much rounder and proportionally smaller wings. Given the habitat I saw them in, this makes sense-- they needed to get around in tight spaces, not soar. While I was watching this area, I also saw and heard a couple of Tufted Titmice, which have similarly-shaped wings. I also heard a Blue Jay somewhere in the woods behind me, but was unable to spot it.

Overall, the expedition was a lot less fruitful than I had thought it would be. This is likely due to the presence of other people and the dogs at the location, as well as the high wind speeds and the time of day. If I had gone at an earlier time, that would likely have given better bird-spotting odds (with fewer visitors and at a time where birds are more active). However, I was able to observe how differences in bird wings and flight patterns are helpful in identifying what kind of bird it is. Birds that have longer, larger wings (bonus if the primaries are prominent) are likely to be soaring birds who travel long distances, and will be found up in the sky or in places that they can spread their wings. These birds are likely scavengers or hunters. Birds that have smaller, rounder wings will likely be found in dense areas, like in the woods or shrubbery near the ground. These wings are more conducive to foraging and moving shorter distances quickly; they likely do not travel long distances.

Posted on February 20, 2023 04:19 AM by sillaystring sillaystring | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment