Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Wild Turkey

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, a little history on one of our West Campus birds. The Wild Turkey was a very important food source to Native Americans, and was still abundant when the first settlers arrived in North America.

Wild Turkey females, Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, photo by J. de Leon
In Connecticut, it was eliminated from much of its range by the early 1800s, due in part to deforestation.
Re-introduction programs from the 1950s to early 1970s using captive-bred birds were unsuccessful, but when wild-caught turkeys were released, new breeding populations were quickly established. According to our State DEP, between 1975 and 1992, 356 wild turkeys were released at 18 sites throughout the state. The birds can now be found in all of Connecticut's 169 towns.
Displaying Wild Turkey. http://www.hiltonpond.org/images/TurkeyWildTom01.jpg

Here on the grounds of West Campus, we see turkeys just about everywhere - in the wooded areas of the Nature Preserve, in the landscaped areas around the buildings. Take a look at the plumage of this tom turkey, and next time you pick up a turkey feather, you might be able to figure out which part of the bird it came from.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday, with or without the turkey.
No Wednesday birdwalk on November 25th.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Blustery Day.

You could almost call it armchair birding. A gray day, cold and windy, so we stayed inside and spent ten minutes walking the empty hallways of our building, checking out the windows. Interesting to peer down onto the same haunts we have walked many times, looking for signs of birdlife.

That's where the Phoebe always sat...
and that's where Nick and I watched a Song Sparrow...
this area is really protected from the wind, maybe good for another feeder?
those spruces have a lot of cones - we should check for cone specialists during the winter

Today's pseudo-birders: Lynn and Sue
Today's scarce birds:
American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
Ring-billed Gull, Larus delawarensis
Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
That's all folks.

Here's one of my target birds for the winter birding season!! a cone specialist.

White-winged Crossbill, Loxia leucoptera

Also good to report, is that four Juncos were seen eating seed which had fallen from our courtyard birdfeeder. Lynn signed up to participate in the New Haven Bird Club's Feeder Survey for 2009/2010, so we will keep track of species and numbers through the end of March.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Woods Walk

Wow, another gorgeous day, sunny, high-50's, no wind. We explored a new trail, which Tom recently extended - he gets to spend WORK time doing things like that!!! So, we got our feet a little wet, jumping over the stream, but other than that, wandered through some pretty nice habitat.

portion of the new trail along the Oyster River
Today's birders: Lynn, Nick, Scott, Debby and Sue
Today's birds:
Accipiter sp., likely two Sharp-shinned Hawks, flying amongst a swirling flock of Starlings
Herring Gull, Larus argentatus - sitting on a light post
Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo
Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens - male and female
Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus - A21 parking lot
American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata
Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum - several

Scott and Nick scanning the treetops
American Robin, Turdus migratorius - a large flock
Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos - morning fly-over
Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapilla
Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis
Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis - in A21 courtyard
White-throated Sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis - several
American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis
House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus - male and female
European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus - two males
Everybody's feeding on the abundant berry crop.
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) in an Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)
Photo taken through my binoculars. SBH

Today's mammals:
Eastern Chipmunk, Tamias striatus

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wednesday Walk

Meet Wednesday at 12:15, at the big sign for the Nature Area, to explore a newly-cleared trail, and maybe see some birds too.

Tuesday, a quick walk...

Bright sun, light wind, few birds. Temps high 50's. We walked the brushy edges along the W periphery of our end of campus (A21), where there are lots of good berry-bearing trees and bushes.
Today's birders: Nick, Lynn & Sue
Today's birds:
Buteo sp. - very high, likely NOT Red-tail
Buteo jamaicensis, Red-tailed Hawk
Falco sp. likely peregrinus - very high, wings crook'd in a dive
Cathartes aura, Turkey Vulture
Columba livia, Rock Pigeon
Corvus brachyrhynchos, American Crow
Cyanocitta cristata, Blue Jay
Turdus migratorius, American Robin
Sturnus vulgaris, European Starling
Sturnus vulgaris, European Starling in winter plumage
Cardinalis cardinalis, Northern Cardinal
Zonotrichia albicollis, White-throated Sparrow
Melospiza melodia, Song Sparrow
Junco hyemalis, Dark-eyed Junco
Poecile atricapilla, Black-capped Chickadee

Today's mammals:
Sylvilagus floridanus, Eastern Cottontail

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm Baaaack!!

I was out with a cold, just the common cold, no bird flu or porcine flu. And now that my sinuses have almost cleared, I'm finally up to going out birding again - 65 degrees and a beautiful sunny day sure helped! We headed to the shore again, picked up lunch at Chick's Drive-In, and tried to see what we could see.

Today's birders: Nick, Lynn and Sue
Today's birds:
Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos - new
Brant, Branta bernicla
Common Merganser, Mergus merganser -new

Mergus merganser, Common Merganser
Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias -taking handouts from two fishermen on a pier
Ring-billed Gull, Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull, Larus argentatus
Great Black-backed Gull, Larus marinus
Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos - EVERYBODY's noticing the local flock!
European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
American Robin, Turdus migratorius -in A21 parking lot
Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis -near A21
It's good to be out birding again!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trying to solve the problem

We went out today to soap the windows of the killer corridor. Lynn read that this method can be effective, and it's certainly a quick fix. So, with stepladder, a bar of soap, and fifteen minutes, we tried to create a visual barrier for our resident flocks.

before (bird's eye view through corridor to little courtyard beyond)

Sue on ladder - Lynn making a grid

Birds please fly over!

With the added grids of soap it seems visually much more confusing, hopefully this will deter attempts to fly through the glass.

Apologies to the feathered denizens of West Campus, we are trying...

Monday, November 2, 2009

A sad day.

What was it this morning - the overcast sky? the blustery weekend? the cold night? As we sat through our morning meeting, we watched a large flock of Juncos flying back and forth (feeding) outside in the courtyard of A21. We mentioned wanting to do something about window-strikes, and offered to prepare a cost estimate for screening over the glass corridors. But nothing could prepare us for the death toll outside later in the morning.

today's somber birders: Nick, Lynn and Sue
today's surviving birds:
Canada Goose
Downy Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
American Crow
Blue Jay
Northern Cardinal
American Robin
White-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Goldfinch
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco

While out on our birdwalk, we met one of the West Campus grounds crew. Seems like we bird watchers weren't the only ones noticing dead birds all over the place this morning.
today's dead birds:
Golden-crowned Kinglet - one
Song Sparrow - one
White-throated Sparrow - two
Dark-eyed Junco - I'm having trouble writing this...
fifty two
fifty two that we counted with our own eyes
how many more that we never saw?
Eighteen birds were picked up along the glass corridors of A21, and the fellow on the grounds crew picked up the other 38 from other locations on campus.
As soon as I returned from our walk I went off to the store to get estimates on protective screening for our deadly windows.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


So, the crows have been making their presence known lately - you can't NOT notice them! They arrive in great numbers, often towards the end of the day, feeding together before they head off to roost. The flock has been observed at lunchtime too, though - taking over the A21 courtyard, hanging out on the edge of the roof, and making a real ruckus. I took this photo one afternoon around 4:30 in the A21 parking lot - here you only see about a quarter of the flock.
Our most common crow is Corvus brachyrhynchos, the American Crow, another crow which we might encounter at West Campus is Corvus ossifragus, the Fish Crow (smaller) or Corvus corax, the Northern Raven (larger). To go into detail about how to distinguish would make this blog a little too wordy.
Cornell University's Birds of North American Online has a lot of information about crows.
I have pulled out some general facts from this website about their roosting behavior:
"Crows roost communally; often the same sites are used year after year. Outside of the breeding season, such roosts may contain thousands of local individuals, their numbers often augmented by migrants from northern regions."
"Starting 2–3 hours before sunset, small groups of local crows gather in preroost sites, including trees, buildings, and on the ground. From there, they fly along regular flight lines toward the roost but may stop at one or more additional preroost sites, where they are joined by other small groups."

A rather low-quality movie (17 seconds) taken with my little Nikon Coolpix 7600 - you may have to turn up the volume on your computer to hear the crows cawing amongst themselves.
So, historically there has been a crow roost somewhere in West Haven. I'll have to do a little more research to find out where. For now, as long as food is plentiful, I can say that we are definitely a "preroost" site for the West Haven crow roost.