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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2014 Wrap-up

Sue and Lynn on the Christmas Count

With only a few days left in the month of January, I figure it's time to put a wrap on 2014 with a quick synopsis of birding throughout the year.  This year was a bit of an anolamy from past as Sue, one of our best birders, was working in New Haven.  Not only does Sue see lots of birds but she helps to get me motivated to go out and we seem to have lost some of our oomph.  Even with all that we didn't do too bad and we managed to see a few good birds.

Spring Migration Week List

The preliminary tally for birds this year was 90 species seen on campus, still waiting for a few other people to get back to me.  I kept a running list going and added mentions in the blog and also emails from birders on campus.  As a refresher our total list of species is about 133, so this year we saw about two thirds of the full list.  In contrast, in 2012 we saw about 103 although campus this year was much busier with people. 

Yellow Warbler- Common nester on campus

Probably the best bird of the year for me and the only new bird for campus, was spotted near the end of the year.  After hearing rumors that the shuttle bus drivers had seen owls perched on the roof of the conference center, I walked out to my car in the dark on November 25th and quickly heard the hooting of a Great Horned Owl.  I was able to spot the bird sitting on top of the Collections Study Center thanks to the light from the moon. 

Great Horned Owl- record shot
Great Horned Owl- photo heavily edited

New Years resolutions for 2015: submit a bird list to Ebird at least once a week (maybe when it's warmer), post at least one blog post a month, and try to get more impromptu bird walks going throughout the year.  Don't forget to check out the nature walks with Tom Parlapiano on campus; they are list in the West Campus weekly.  Check back here for more birds and send me your bird sightings!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014 Christmas Bird Count - WC-Style

We scheduled our annual West Campus winter bird count during the holiday break, and, except for the assorted contractors and construction workers, had the campus to ourselves.
December 31st was bright and sunny, but cold and windy. Tom, Lynn and I walked West Campus and birded from 7am to noon with one warm-up break halfway through. The species count was a little on the low side we thought, and the numbers were on the low side as well, but hey, that was the day that was.
Highlights for me were our two Purple Finches, a Merlin fly-by and a Cooper's Hawk passing overhead.
The day's birders: Tom, Lynn, Sue
The day's list for Wednesday December 31, 2014.

24  Canada Goose
8    Wild Turkey
1    Cooper's Hawk
2    Red-tailed Hawk
8    Ring-billed Gull
3    Herring Gull
11  Mourning Dove
1    Red-bellied Woodpecker
7    Downy Woodpecker
1    Northern Flicker
1    Merlin
8    Blue Jay
55  crow sp.
6    Black-capped Chickadee
1    Tufted Titmouse
1    White-breasted Nuthatch
2    Carolina Wren
1    Hermit Thrush
10  American Robin
1    Northern Mockingbird
33  European Starling
6    Song Sparrow
47  White-throated Sparrow
3    Dark-eyed Junco
17  Northern Cardinal
3    House Finch
2    Purple Finch
26  American Goldfinch
51  House Sparrow