Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Birding

I did some birding this morning with Alan and decided to hit a couple of places where we knew we would get some target birds vs. the just random birding that yields success in late April through May, but not so much anymore now that migration is just about done and the resident birds are busy nesting, including the Osprey above.
She is done with nesting but still has at least one chick in the nest that spent most of its time hiding much to our dismay.
We would suddenly see it appear for a few minutes which would allow a good look at the bird as well as some photos.
After that it would be St Philips in Grafton to check on the two Great-blue Herons nests that are both occupied. We would see both nests being attended, but the herons were so low in their nests that the photos wouldn't have been good as you wouldn't see much of them so we decided to see what else was around. I would hear a familiar sound from last year that would cause my ears to perk up and I thought it was a young Red-tailed Hawk and a few seconds later I would be able to confirm it when it flew past us and landed on the branch so we could ooohh and aaahhh over it. I love the blue eyes these young hawks still have and it was such a treat considering the local ones in town didn't nest in their usual spot this year so I wasn't even sure if I would see Red-tailed Hawk young this year so this was one of the highlights of the day.
Another highlight would be seeing not two, but FOUR Green Herons in the wetlands, including this one who was much absorbed in preening itself.
There would be another nearby who was skulking for prey.
Green Herons are captivating while hunting so we spent a good amount of time just watching them and getting some pictures.
With migration over with and bird activity slowing some, I have been spending a lot of time around at my house and am happy I have decided to do this this year because I now know who is nesting here including at least one set of Song Sparrows. The Song Sparrows were a constant in my yard this winter and I made sure they had their fill of Millet and Black Oil Sunflower seeds so it seems my hospitality has paid off as they decided to never leave! I am not actively feeding now, but there is still plenty of food for them in my yard so they are always here and greet me every morning with their song. Great way to wake up every morning.
My Evening Primrose, Bee Balm and English Lavender is in full bloom and has grown considerably in the two years I planted it so it looks as if I am going to have to thin it out and replant some this fall. I have honey bees and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in my yard at all times now with the bees preferring the primrose and the two hummingbirds preferring the Bee Balm. I somehow have Milk Weed growing in my yard too which I never planted so I am keeping my eyes out on that to see if I get any butterflies.
Bee Balm

Take care all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bloggers Unite-For the Birds of the Gulf

Photo of a flock of Terns. South Beach, Chatham, MA-July 2009

Pardon the recent absence from blogging. Work has been intense and add to that lousy weekend weather and birding gets put on the back burner much to my dismay. I have also been caught up with the mess along the gulf coast and the sense of outrage, frustration and sadness that never seems to leave as the oil continues to gush, people continue to suffer and wild life continues struggle to stay alive.

Despite the continuous bad news, I thought I would share with you someone who is down there trying to make a difference for the birds along the gulf. Drew Wheelan has spent countless hours trying to rescue wild life including some nesting Least Terns who are still attempting to nest on the beach despite the chaos that surrounds them with scores of people nearby and oil laden waters that threaten them 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Drew was doing his usual walk along the beaches- surveying the landscape and looking for birds and had noticed ATV vehicles had driven through the nesting habitat of some Least Terns and miraculously, the recently hatched chicks avoided being run over which allowed him to contact Louisiana Fish and Wild Life for them to set up barriers along the nesting habitat to give these precious chicks a chance at a time when chances for birds are few and far between.

Video taken by Drew of the Least Terns nest and the ATV vehicles that were nearby. This was before he reached out to Fish and Wild life for assistance

Drew went back there last evening and to his horror the chicks were run over despite the efforts by himself and Fish and Wildlife which is an outrage.

Video of what Drew saw when he went back there last night hoping to film a story with a happy ending. Sadly there are not many happy endings along the Gulf.

Some of you may be wondering why I am blogging about this when many of us go to the birding blogs to escape the sad images of the gulf that continues to assault us every time we turn on the TV or scroll the Internet. I too would like to tune out and make this all go away, but I can't due to my sense of outrage and how important I think it is that people know about what is going on there and get a first hand account of those who are there trying to make a difference as there are quite a few Drew's along the gulf doing everything they can to ease the suffering of those who are impacted by it.

I also believe in the power of numbers and the power of the blogasphere and the birding network that has exploded recently with blogs, Facebook, etc. I am sick of feeling helpless and strongly believe we as birders have a responsibility to the birds that give us hours of pleasure and ask nothing of us in return. Drew's story needs to be heard and hasn't had the time to reach out to the traditional media outlets that are out there because he is so busy in rescue attempts, so I am asking fellow bloggers to help out and share his story with their readers.

It doesn't have to be a long winded post like my own obviously, ;-), but just a link to his blog or better yet, post his YouTube Video on your blog so your readers can be introduced to him and what he is doing to help these birds who have so many odds stacked against their survival. If you don't have a blog, I suggest you take a look at his and bookmark it as Drew updates it whenever he has the time and his entries are always moving, informational and not at all censored by BP which is refreshing within itself.

You can also help by donating to the Gulf Coast Recovery Fund which will help Drew and others in this very important task.

Also a link to his interview with Anderson Cooper this week Anderson Cooper Interview

Take care all.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Peregrine Falcon Chicks have Fledged

Update on the Peregrine Falcon Chick at Tufts: It appears as if the chick has both a fractured mandible and hip so will obviously be at Tufts for a while and depending upon the duration of its stay it will either be re-released to its family and siblings or taken to a raptor rehabilitation to learn the skills it will need to be a wild bird (migration in winter, hunting, etc.).

The three remaining chicks have all fledged which is rather nerve racking considering what happened to the little guy so Emily and I watch with a mixture of wonder and dread as they fly about downtown Worcester.

The parents are always nearby and I have seen the female put on some pretty impressive aerial displays and very uncharacteristic of her usual flight style.
Including gliding through the air with nothing but grace and no wing beats even to ascend further into the sky.
While the pictures didn't come out great, I wanted to share them with you to give you an example of what I see. Loved this picture because it looks somewhat like a Northern Goshawk to me, minus the pointed wing on the left.
She would fly around the area making graceful loops as the chicks would be perched and watch.
Soon enough one would take to the air as I got my camera ready and watched with excitement and dread because it would be coming closer to my building where all of the windows are and where falcon chicks of the past have had fatal encounters with them.
It would fly above me and toward the top of the building so I decided to head up there to see if I could spot it.
I wouldn't see any chicks, but dad was there and keeping an eye on them from this vantage point.
He would give me his usual casual stare and then go back to the serious business of chick sitting.
I would look all around downtown Worcester to see if I could spot them which is a task in itself considering the vast landscape one can see this high. The picture above will give you an idea. The area of the building I am at in this picture was home to the Plaza Club way back when and it was a very fancy restaurant back in the 70s and 80s when business people would come up here for dinner and cocktails and get some fantastic views of the city, especially at night when the city of Worcester would look magical all lit up from every angle.
Another view.
There would be another chick near a parking garage stretching its wings and preening.
What was funny about this is directly below it are nesting House Sparrows who were in a panic that the falcon found this spot to be cozy. I would watch the scenario with my binoculars as the sparrows would make a mad dash to the nest (probably feeding nestlings) and the falcon actually peeked its head down to watch it for himself which caused the parents to freak out! So funny to see and see the size comparison as the sparrows flew out and around the nest in a panic.
Soon enough the falcon got tired of the sparrows and took to the air to practice flying.
Another shot of him. While it is wonderful to see them finally take to the air, I am a nervous wreck and will feel much better once they have gotten a little more practice and I just hope they learn real quick the difference between the sky and windows.

Take care all.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Peregrine Falcon Update-1 of the Chicks is at Tufts

Emily contacted me today to tell me that one of the Peregrine Falcon chicks was taken to Tufts over the weekend. Based on a headcount of the remaining falcons, it appears to be the smallest falcon (the one on the left of this picture). Based on what Tufts has said, the falcon fell off the ledge and has either broken its jaw or bill and we will find out more later this week.

In the meantime, the remaining chicks all seem to be ok with one of them fledging already. Emily and I would trade emails today if we could see it. I would spot it on the very top of the Unum building and she would see it flying past City Hall.

Will post more when we get an update from Tufts.

Take care all

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Breeding Bird Survey and Getting "Stuck in the Weeds"

Alan and I are participating in a project for DCR this June which is basically a breeding bird survey in key locations including areas in and around the Wachusett Reservoir with land that is owned by the state. We would head out bright and early with the windshield wipers going and resigning ourselves to the fact that we would probably not be able to do it today due to the weather but low and behold cloudy skies would soon disappear to reveal nothing but blue as we made our way through our first destination which is a really cool place off of Route 140 in Sterling (somewhat near Sterling Peat).

We made our way through and would see scores of birds including a pair of Indigo Buntings as well as a pair of Wood Ducks, but the highlight of the drive would be seeing a Bobcat dash across the path and into thick brush to get away from our incoming vehicle. This would be a first for me as I had never seen one before and was actually taken aback over how small it was as well as the stump it had for a tail.

Next, we would find the location we were supposed to go to and listen and watch for birds. We don't have the numbers rolled up in electronic format yet, but we did pretty well here with birds including Least Flycatchers, Willow Flycatchers, a Red-tailed Hawk and Scarlett Tanagers as well as all of the usuals.

Next it was onto another area off of Route 140 which is a very grassy habitat and perfect for many grassland birds. We would make our way to the path and find one lone young deer in the middle of the path. We would continue to get closer while anticipating it running off out of fear but the curious little deer would watch us for quite a while which allowed us to get pretty close before it ran off for cover.

Right behind that would be one lone Wild Turkey who gazed at us curiously and cautiously as well.
Red-winged Blackbirds and Bobolinks could be heard as we made our way to our spot to start the survey.
The sun shone bright and wild clover would be all over the place which contrasted rather nicely with the Bobolinks including the very handsome male above.
As well as the misses with food in her bill and most likely very busy feeding her young! We would once again have some very nice birds here including Eastern Bluebirds, Common Yellowthroats and others but the highlight would be when we heard a loud "Gobble, Gobble", followed by heavy, labored wing beats that sounded like a Wild Turkey ready to take flight. To our astonishment the turkey was chasing after something and that something would be a Broad-winged Hawk!!!! Most likely the hawk thought turkey eggs or nestlings would make a perfect breakfast and the parents were defending their young. Just so funny to see a hawk fly away in fear over a turkey because it was so unexpected.
The survey can only be done between 5AM and 9AM so after that we decided to go to Bolton Flats in hopes for the Common Moorhen or better yet the Least Bittern Bart reported earlier this week. The humidity would start to pick up at this point as we put on our hip waders with a sense of dread anticipating how hot it would be to trudge through swampy waters to get to where the bittern was last seen.
But alas, these are the sacrifices one must make to get a new bird on ones yearly list, especially when the last one is a Ring-necked Pheasant so off I went. Ahhhhhhh, nothing like wading through over knee high stagnant and repugnant swamp water in close to 90 degree weather to awaken the senses on a Saturday morning!!! Yes, it wasn't all that pleasant to say the least and I was hoping I would get to the small pond to see the Least Bittern in plain view so I could ooohh and ahhhh over it but the only thing we would see there would be one lone Double-crested Cormorant so we stood there in the swampy water as sweat rolled off our foreheads hoping the bittern would grace us with its presence which it never did.
We made our way back through the swampy waters and onto another area with swampy water hoping for the moorhen but even he had better things to do than to meet up with us. We did see this Willow Flycatcher above though. :-p
On our way back Alan would notice this one lone foot print of a bird and I thought it was worthy enough for a photo.
Our last stops would be in Princeton to see if the Northern Waterthrush's and Canada Warblers were still around and as soon as we got out of the car we could hear both sets which was nice after striking out at Bolton Flats. We would head up to the Wachusett Mountain area where we got a Black-billed Cuckoo last year as I was determined to get a new bird today and while we both think we heard one, we are not 100% convinced so hoping for one tomorrow with it raining out and all.

Take care all

Thursday, June 3, 2010

downtown Worcester Peregrine Falcon Chick-Closeups

I went up to Emily's office at the Unum Building in downtown Worcester today which offers direct views to the nesting platform the four Peregrine Falcon chicks are at.
When I got there I would only see one who was on a ledge and very absorbed in preening. It was funny because it still has some down feathers that would shed off as a result of the preening and you could tell he had no idea what to do with it once it was in the bill.
Emily has been trying to figure out the gender for Fish and Wildlife due to the fact that they will not be banding them this year and the one shown above could very well be a male based on the size. There are four chicks all together and three of them are tiny compared to one lone one who is the size of the parents so there is a good chance there are three males vs one female this year if you were to go on size.
The picture above is of the smallest falcon and my absolute favorite. I would see it laying like this and get all nervous but Emily told me that's how they sleep when they are this young because they still are not strong enough to sleep perched.
Soon enough I was see what she meant when he would raise his wee little head to look around for his mother and wonder what time dinner would be served this evening I am assuming.
One of the others would come close by and start squacking too. Another thing that is interesting with these chicks is how spread out they are on the nesting platform vs the ones last year who always stayed near the nest box. While the current chicks seem to be a lot calmer than last years chicks, they seem a little more independent and not afraid to explore a little more which was nice because I could get pictures of them with various buildings in downtown Worcester as a back drop vs. just the glass tower from last year.
Another one with the backdrop of the glass tower.
The mother was always close by watching for predators and I lucked out with this photo as she came flying on in and landed fairly close to where the window is.
This one appears to have developed a strong liking for its feet just like dad!
Another thing the chicks would do would be to practice walking and on the ledge no less which would be the cause of anxiety for both Emily and I because we are so afraid of them falling off of it like last year.
I think this is my favorite photo of them all because I got that monument in City Hall as the background which I thought was pretty darn cool!
And another nice urban shot that shows some of the older buildings in downtown Worcester as well as some cars.
The smallest falcon of them all discovered a pretty nifty place for lounging which was this tarp as you can see.
It would continue to squack and occasionally look up at the Fallon logo where mom was.
A good case for heart burn here, look how close they are to the ledge and they are practicing hopping and attempted flying here!
Here is one hopping. So funny to see this because I didn't see any of them doing this last year. Emily and I think they may be flying this weekend based on what we saw today.
This one is the biggest falcon chick of them all and we are guessing its the female. It decided to pick at some leftovers which you can see in the photo to the right (appears to be a head of some kind). The bird realized it didn't find it too appetizing so went onto better things.
Like playing with her brother. So cute!
I would look at the clock and it would be past 6PM at this point and couldn't believe that I was there for well over an hour because they are so much fun to look at and it would seem like 15 minutes to me.
This would be the highlight of my week and one of the highlights of the year. I want to thank Emily again for the invite as it was very much appreciated.

Take care all


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