Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Birds Saving Birds

Fall migration is a great time of year and it's also a horrible time of year, at least when talking about the casualties from birds colliding with windows.  But this time, the same sad story we repeatedly tell has a happier ending.  

The simple fact is that birds do not see the same way that we do.  Glass and windows can either be invisible to birds when it's a hallway with windows on both sides or an illusion, when all they see is nature reflecting.  Besides, I'm pretty sure we've all seen a human walk into a glass door anyway.  Birds fly into glass and die.  Some times they bounce off and may fly away only to pass hours later.  Hopefully a few manage to go off and live their birdy lives.  Estimates about how many birds die from window collisions every year around the world range up to the billions.  

There have been lots of changes to West Campus over the past 10 years and some of the methods we used to prevent birds from flying into the glass at the Collection Studies Center are no longer appropriate.  So while we continue to search for a more permanent, continuous, economical, sustainable solution to the problem, this is what we have done and it's working. 

Thanks to support from CSC administration, IPCH, and the Yale Peabody Museum, WC birders have installed laminated photographs along the most deadly windows in the building.  The sheets have nature images (mostly birds) on one side and various bird silhouettes on the other to create a pattern to break up reflections.  The laminated sheets can be temporarily put up during peak migration and be reused!!! While there are some issues with an installation like this to deter collisions, it seems to be working quite well. 
The silhouettes sides are mostly facing out to break up the reflections, the tree in the window is still a reflection. 

In the seven days leading up to the photos going on the windows we had 15 dead birds along these windows.... 15!!  That's more than 2 per day.  

Birds from the 3 days before the installation...

Birds from days 7-4 before installation (2 other juncos are not included)

And since the photos have been up....  no photo because no dead birds! 

While this is fantastic news, there are still other places on West Campus that still have high collision rates.  But we are super excited in the CSC that we are able to find ways to be environmental ambassadors to our avian co-habitators and are excited to look for methods to remedy this problem around campus. 

View from inside.  The corridor is no longer see (or fly) through.

A special shout out to Beth Bolen  and Laurie Batza for all their support with this.  0 birds in 7 days.  Keep the good news coming and thanks for all the positive comments!!! 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spring is the Best!

Trees are flowering, the temperature is slowly crawling warmer, and the birds are back in town!  Campus is just starting to see some of our spring migrants show up.  Some of the early birds (pun intended) for spring migration, Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Killdeer, have been on campus for over a month.  Some new sightings from this week include Northern Flicker and House Wren. 
Cherry blossoms

April showers not only bring May flowers but they also bring baby birds!  While I haven't had a chance to keep an eye on all the birds with nests around campus; here at the Collection Studies Center we have an interesting group using the building for nest protection. 

Fledgling Mourning Doves
In our courtyard we have a couple of baby Mourning Doves hanging around waiting for their parents to feed them. 
Female Mallard, very skittish of her nest

We also found a little corner where a Mallard duck decided to raise her brood.  In the past, we had heard from former Bayer employees that Mallards frequently nested in the courtyard as well. Hopefully if we can keep people from disturbing her, she won't abandon the nest.  Please help by not looking for her!
Clutch of Mallard eggs

Mark, a member from our awesome custodial staff, mentioned seeing a Red-tailed Hawk perched in a tree with both a bird and a rabbit.  No doubt the hawk was finding enough food to fill the mouths of hungry babies nesting somewhere on campus. 

Keep your eyes open.  There's still a lot more migration to go and all sorts of birds are on their way. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Christmas Goose

As we all preparing for the excitement of the winter break, residents of West Campus were treated with a special holiday present, a new bird!  Our last new bird for the campus list was last spring over, just about a year and a half ago.  As our list climbs, it's been tougher to find species we haven't yet seen but we have a little bit of end of the year luck.

Snow Goose- young bird, adults are white with pink bill and legs

Monday evening I first spotted a different goose among the Canada Geese but wasn't able to ID it in the dark or take photos.  I came prepared the next day but to no avail, no goose.  Then yesterday, a member from the YU Art Gallery, stopped to ask me about the 'other goose'.  So I grabbed my camera and went on a goose chase.  Not so wild, I relocated the bird in a couple of minutes and took some photos.

Grabbing a snack along the way.

After some help from friends on Facebook, the bird was verified to be a juvenile Snow Goose!  Snow Geese breed in the Arctic and migrate south along flyways to the southern US.  The major flyway is through the middle of the country but a smaller population flies along the east coast to overwinter in Virginia/North Carolina.  Sometimes these birds will take quick stops along the way, including in Connecticut and this year we seem to be popular.

Size comparison with a Canada. Probably a 'Lesser' Snow Goose based on size.

All the birder on campus are excited about this new find and the gaggle seems to be fairly acclimated to people.  Next time you see the geese take a look to spot the smaller white one before it decides to head on south.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Gaggle of Geese

As you drive, bike or ride the shuttle in to West Campus these mornings, you can't help but notice The Flock.
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
Some of you may honk at the geese to get out of your way and some of you may roll down your car window to hear the geese honking at you. Me? I love these encounters with nature, and to have a scene like this at my work place - a real plus.
So hey! keep your ears open as you walk, run or drive through West Campus for other sounds of nature. This time of year, birds are communicating in soft chips and call notes and on sunny days you may even hear crickets.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Break from Birds: Insect Addition

 A special post today about the recent Nature Walk hosted by the Peabody Museum West Campus Education Center.  On June 19th Tom Parlapiano organized a nature walk at West Campus focusing on insects that was lead by Peabody entomology collection manager Dr. Raymond Pupedis.

Ants quickly moving their pupae after their nest was disturbed.

Dr. Pupedis answering questions while examining the beating sheet.
Heading from the nursing school over to the trails by the West Campus Farm, Dr. Pupedis illustrated a number of ways that insects can by collected for study.  He demonstrated the techniques of 'sweeping' using an insect net through foliage, 'beating' a branch to make insects fall onto a white cloth, and the 'pooter' or aspirator that uses an apparatus to suck up the insects into a collecting jar.

Tom took a swing with the net.

An insect temporarily placed in a vial made it easy for participants to see.
Participants at the walk were able to see insects up close and learn about their natural history and techniques to help identify species.  They learned that it's possible to identify different wood-boring beetles based to the patterns left behind by larvae from feeding.

A small bee species seen during the walk.

Questions about the damsel fly being lightly held in hand.
Dr. Pupedis had also set up two light traps the evening before and described how the different traps worked.  The insects from the traps were then put out on the sheet for everyone to examine.  Even though it was relatively 'slow' for insects that day, at least 100 different species of insects were seen.  A species "Thank You" to Dr. Pupedis for leading the walk and to all the participants who came!  Now back to the birds.

Dr. Ray Pupedis and Mark Plummer examine insects collected in a trap.

Friday, May 8, 2015

How many can you see?

It is fantastic!  The weather is great.  The birds are great!  Even flowers have started blooming.  This is the best time of year to be at West Campus in my opinion; every morning brings a new sight or sound to welcome me to work.
House Wren
House Wren house!

The last of the winter birds are finally heading north and our summer breeders are showing up and moving through.  Over the last few weeks we've gone from seeing twenty odd species of birds in a week to now approaching forty.  

Yellow Warbler- breeds on campus!

The other morning I came in a bit early, camera in hand, and tried to capture some of the wonderful sights that are awakening with the spring.  The photographs can't even do justice to how alive it felt and sounded the other morning.  The very first bird I heard was one that I just learned the song of the other day while in West Virginia.  A Worm-eating Warbler ( a new bird for West Campus) popped out into view before quickly flying north.  (I was super excited because this was only the 2nd time I had ever seen one at all).  
Trout Lilly

The rest of the bird chorus, I quickly started to go through in my mind.  Numerous American Robin's singing, Yellow Warblers chipping and singing as they fought over females, House Wrens setting up territories and claiming nest boxes, Red-winged Blackbirds in the distance, a Common Yellowthroat singing in the Phragmites reeds, a Warbling Vireo singing from inside a flower laden tree, and Gray Catbirds 'meowing' in the underbrush.  But one of the best surprises came when I was walking around later that day at lunch. 

How many birds do you see?

Here's another shot zoomed in a bit....

Baby Killdeer!!!  I've heard Killdeer on campus for over a month now and I know that in the past they have nested on rooftops of several buildings on campus.  This is the first time I have ever seen the babies.  This family is using a service road on campus as their 'pebbly beach' to nest on.  It's a tough life as the parents have to watch out for cars, other birds who want to eat the little ones, and even ground hogs (woodchucks). I made sure that I kept my distance from the family as I didn't want to stress out the family too much.  As I walked farther away I turned to take a shot photo of the overall area they were in when I noticed the parents making a lot of noise. Two groundhogs were walking on the road near the babies and the parents were trying to keep them away.  One adult was flying at one of the ground hogs and the other Killdeer was doing the broken wing dance to lure the other away from the young.  It seemed to have worked.  

6 is the correct answer!

Here's hoping the babies continue to grow!

Distant looks at a Scarlet Tanager

Friday, April 17, 2015

Here They Come

Bird Board
Spring and migration have finally begun.  Our usual list of species over the weeks in winter ranges from 10 to 15.  Both this week and last have averaged about 25!!  It's great to see some of the warm weather birds coming back into our area.  Migration started off with the black birds, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, and Brown-headed Cowbird, moving back onto campus.  And now this week we are starting to see the very first warblers trickling in, both Yellow-rumped Warbler and Common Yellowthroat have made an appearance.  I took a quick walk on one of these wonderful warm days.

Here are few shots:

Crocus flowering in front of the Collection Studies Center

Red Maple Flowers

Eastern Cottontail

Little white flowers on the remnants of the old cinder trail.

Savannah Sparrow (First of the year for WC)

"What are you doing?" American Robin

Song Sparrow taking a drink and looking for insects

Male American Goldfinch trying to hide in a pine tree
he may use as a nesting spot in a couple months.

Friday, March 6, 2015

February and Snow

I'm actually going to cheat on the month of February a bit by adding a bit on March as well.  Truth be told, not only was most wildlife hibernating for the month of February but so was I.  The majority of bird watching on campus was done from my office window.  With bird feeders up, I get to see at least ten species a week from the my window including the random fly overs.  The best bird of the month however, came while walking over to the conference center for lunch.  A first for West Campus, putting our total up to 134, were two Snow Buntings!  

Snow Bunting (
Snow Buntings are a northern tundra species that comes south during the winter looking for some open grass to find seeds.  They are more than happy to hang out where there is mostly snow and looking at their plumage you can see why. 

New Bird Feeder (photo by Lynn Jones)
The first week of March has brought another northern species down to Connecticut.  Pine Siskins have been reported on feeders throughout the state for a few weeks but without any showing up on campus.  Finally, yesterday in the steady fall of snow two Pine Siskins stopped by the new thistle feeder for a snack. 

Pine Siskin (photo by Lynn Jones)
These little finches have very pointy little beaks that are perfect for fitting into the small opening of conifer cones for seeds.  Earlier this morning I counted four.  With any luck, our next blog will be about another small finch that comes to visit from the north on occasion.

Downy Woodpecker (photo by Lynn Jones)
Feeder Birds:
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Blue Jay
Pine Siskin
House Sparrow

Friday, January 30, 2015

January Variations

Birding equipment
Weather this month has been varied with early month temperature being fairly mild, a reallly cold cold snap and now some snow and cold to bring the month to a close.  Still the birds have been on campus finding whatever food they can to survive through the winter.

January weather-
This morning I donned my new Christmas present and took a walk around the trails by the farm to see what birds would be around.  The first birds I saw was a group of White-throated Sparrows that were feeding on seeds of various plants.  Then, I heard a Song Sparrow attempting to sing it's song.  I guess they are already beginning to practice for spring.  A Carolina Wren quickly scolded me from a viny hiding place before another sang from across the way.

White-throated Sparrow  (image by Jerry Jourdan)

There were lots of small rodent tracks and deer tracks in the snow, visually following a set of the latter I looked to find a deer peering at me.  A Northern Cardinal started to call as I walked further down the trail to some remaining bittersweet berries.  As expected, a Northern Mockingbird has been able to survive by fiercely protecting these from other birds and me.  The back edge of the open area was fairly quiet, a few Black-capped Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers could be heard in the distance. 

Me- wishing it were warmer
 Walking back toward the car gave me good light to search through the sparrows in hopes of something good but with no luck.  A calling Common Raven did fly over, the first of the year for campus!  Below is the full list of birds for the year so far.  What I want to know is...  where are the juncos??

1. Canada Goose
2. Turkey Vulture
3. Sharp-shinned Hawk
4. Cooper's Hawk
5. Red-tailed Hawk
6. Ring-billed Gull
7. Herring Gull
8. Rock Pigeon
9. Mourning Dove
10. Peregrine Falcon
11. Downy Woodpecker
12. American Crow
13. Fish Crow
14. Common Raven
15. Black-capped Chickadee
16. Tufted Titmouse
17. Carolina Wren
18. American Robin
19. European Starling
20. Song Sparrow
21. White-throated Sparrow
22. Northern Cardinal
23. House Finch
24. American Goldfinch
25. House Sparrow