Friday, July 16, 2010

Nesting activity

Left American Robin nest (Turdus migratorius) photo S. Hochgraf, right Mourning Dove on nest (Zenaida macroura), photo L. Jones

Back in May I mentioned seeing young robins and doves out of the nest, and now, halfway through July, we are clearly into round two for some of the species.  Earlier this week Lynn photographed a few of the more visible nests, and of course there are many concealed nests we'd love to find!

 Left (or upper), Cedar Waxwing nest, right (or lower), young waxwing, which was first seen July 9th, still in the nest. (Bombycilla cedrorum)  July 12th, photos L. Jones

For example - all of those goldfinches - where are they nesting?  And today, for the first time, I saw not one, but two Willow Flycatchers - do they have a nest full of young?  It's easiest to locate a nest when the parents are constantly back and forth bringing food, however the adult birds have a routine to deceive you (the perceived predator).  Quiet patience is the key.
Left, thistles growing on a slope under White Pines, right, close-up of what is probably Canada Thistle.  photos S. Hochgraf
Goldfinches usually begin nesting when the thistle flowers go to seed - the birds use the silky plant fibers for nest lining material and feed regurgitated thistle seeds to the nestlings.  They are one of the few passerine birds to feed a largely plant-based diet to the young.

On a more somber note, there has been a rash of window strikes lately.  Since last Friday, we've picked up four young birds below the glass corridors.  Three of them dead - dove, robin and flicker, and one is on its way to a rehab center - a young Red-tailed Hawk.  This morning the adult hawks were low over the parking lot, calling.  We'll see how the little guy fares...

Okay, to wrap up this week of birding west campus:
How about a color code for nesting activity?
green = evidence of breeding: either adults bringing food or young birds out and about
purple = probably nesting, but we haven't seen the evidence yet

Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo
Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus
Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus
Double-crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
Chimney Swift, Chaetura pelagica

A rather yellow Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) on Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense), photo S. Hochgraf

Willow Flycatcher, Empidonax traillii
American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum
American Robin, Turdus migratorius
Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
Gray Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis
Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus
House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Stelgidopteryx serripennis

European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris 
Yellow Warbler, Dendroica petechia
Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
Chipping Sparrow, Spizella passerina
Common Grackle, Quiscalus quiscula
Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis
American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis
House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus
House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

Twenty nine species for the week.

And below, I checked out the blackberry patch Monday afternoon and found a few ripe berries - and many already gone.  Wednesday I checked again and found some of our turkeys reaching up to pluck the ripened fruit.  I myself ate only three!

 There is no blackberry pie in my future.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Water Drip

I usually appreciate a good project, and if it involves recycled materials - even better.
So, during these hot days I noticed that the birds around our parking lot were panting. With a little scrounging I pulled together materials to make a water drip for the thirsty birds.

Here's the finished project - juice jug hung by scrap of rope from plant hanger with food storage container below.
I placed the planter stand out of the way of the lawnmowers, but let's face it, the grass ain't exactly leaping out of the ground when it's this dry!

 Puncture the bottom of jug with a sharp object - the hole should be pretty small!

 Tie rope around neck of the bottle in a secure fashion.

 I filled the jug with water from our dehumidifier - now there's recycling.

 Jug hanging from planter with container below to catch the drips and hold a small quantity of water.

With the cap screwed on tightly, no water will drip.  Loosen the cap incrementally until an occasional drip falls to the pan below.

 Perfect!  It's the motion of the splashing water that attracts the birds.

Clumps of sod left by the landscapers were useful to push up against the tub, and an additional rock makes a stable perch to enable smaller birds to reach the water.  Ideally, a larger, shallower pan, with perhaps a rock island would have been best, but as I said, these were all materials at hand!

I hung this device Wednesday lunchtime.  By the end of the work day all of the water had dripped from the jug (too rapid a flow).  This morning (Friday) I observed a robin drinking from the tub - couldn't get my camera out in time to capture it.  But then the robin stayed around, and was clearly pulling worms from the soil around the tub - the overflow of water had dampened the soil enough to encourage underground activity!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quiet days of summer

The birds have been pretty quiet these days, but truth be told, we haven't been out birding much - just one long walk through the nature preserve then back to work. When the birds aren't about, though, we tend to notice other animals.

This green and golden spider was tending a web in the Rhododendron shrub near our building.

I'll have to find an arachnologist to help with the identification, since I know very little about arthropods. In class Arachnida there are eleven orders, if this is an 'orb weaver spider' then it's in the order Araneae, which comprises three suborders, and I should probably stop here, since I'm really showing my ignorance.

Okay, I think it's time for a bird list here.

Wild Turkey
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Flicker
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Willow Flycatcher
Blue Jay
American Crow
Cedar Waxwing

European Starling
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
Yellow Warbler
Northern Cardinal

American Goldfinch
House Finch
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Common Grackle
House Sparrow
Eastern Kingbird - Lynn saw it as she was leaving work Friday afternoon.

That's it - twenty seven species for the week.

Orange Daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, in front of A-21

Daylilies are blooming in many a garden now. The petals are edible, a sweet and succulent addition to a salad - try one! But please make sure you don't pick a Tiger Lily - it's not the same plant.

And, it's been quite a while since I mentioned the World Cup - but I've been following all of the games. Brazil just LOST to the Netherlands. Uruguay plays Ghana later this afternoon. Tomorrow's games - Argentina vs Germany and Spain vs Paraguay promise to be just as tough as the one just played. By next Friday afternoon, I'll be reporting who has made the final - but it likely won't be news to anyone!

ciao, and have a great weekend - here in Connecticut it's supposed to be a beautiful one - high summer, with dry air and temperatures in the 80's to low 90's.