Saturday, September 22, 2012

Behavioral Birding-The Fascinating Life of Birds

Alan and I would do some birding this late morning and afternoon with the first stop being Town Farm Road in Sutton in hopes for the Red-shouldered Hawk he had in close view a couple days prior.  The sun would be out and I'd be reminded why fall is my favorite season as it would be a picture perfect autumn day.  We'd first walk along the tree edge in hopes for some sparrows or warblers feeding on or near the many weeds nearby.

After that we'd make our way along the Mid State Trail and head to an open area to look for my Northern Harrier which we'd never get but I did hear a chip note nearby and it wouldn't take long for us to see the bird.

Which would be this very handsome and cooperative Black-throated Blue above who looked just as handsome today as it does in May.

We'd make our way back toward the corn fields and be greeted yet again with the many American Crows nearby taking advantage of the cooperative weather as well as the left over corn I'm guessing.  It wouldn't take long for me to see a crow fly from a tree with what appeared to be an accipiter close behind.  I'd get my binoculars on it and it would be a Cooper's giving it chase.  I'd lose both of them as they flew out of view but soon enough both would return and Alan would get on them as well as the chase pursued.   What would be most fascinating about the whole experience was there were other crows nearby who remained in the trees during the chase and wouldn't come to the aid of the crow being harassed and even more odd, they'd be silent.  Now if there's one thing corvids are known for (with crows in particular), is their fondness of mobbing hawks and owls (just ask any Red-tailed!).  The chase would continue for a few minutes and the crow appeared to get away unscathed.  I'm guessing the ballsy crows aren't as brazen when it come to Cooper's so instead of choosing the chase, the chose to freeze instead!

After that excitement was over we'd look to the sky and be happy to see two Sharp-shinned Hawks above.

At first they appeared to be harmonious with one another but it wouldn't take long to see one sharpie dive bomb the other!!  Now I've seen sharpies dive bomb other raptors but never a fight between two of them so it was a treat to see.  Love these spunky birds!

After that it would be a quick trip to the Westborough WMA in hopes for my much needed Northern Harrier.  We'd strike again of course so head up the path some in search for passerines and all would be quiet with it being mid day and all.

Our last stop would be The Swedish Cemetery in Auburn in search for my beloved Lincoln's Sparrow as Alan's has had killer looks of them there before so off we went.

We'd hear bird activity as soon as we stepped out of the car including a song neither of us could pin point as it was all over the place.  We'd see many Chipping Sparrows chasing one another, Song Sparrows, a House Wren and others including the bird below.

Which would be my first ever official ass shot of a Mourning Dove!  Crazy to see it like this though, especially the tail.  While we were making our way along the path we'd continue to hear the bird with the odd song which would be driving the both of us crazy by now.  So much so I'd decide to take out the camera in hopes for some audio.

Like I said, all over the place as you can hear!!  The little bugger would finally sit still long enough for a look and a photo and this is who it would be.

This very handsome Song Sparrow still looking awful dapper plumage wise in its set of brand new feathers!

Belting into song again!  Every year a juvenile Song Sparrow does this to me and every year I fall for it but love it none the less.  If your'e a bird song geek like myself and looking for some good case studies to learn from, juvenile Song Sparrows are a good candidate.  Donald Kroodsma, in his book The Singing Life of Birds dedicated an entire section to this juvenile bird and conducted an in depth study which in the end shed more light on their song patterns to prove the theory that young Song Sparrows learned how to sing by other neighboring Song Sparrows nearby and each neighborhood may have its own variation which is fascinating when you stop to think of it!  While the sparrow above has a long way to go to perfect its song, it was still beautiful to hear in its primitive form.

We'd make our way back toward the car when a van would pull up and park nearby.  The passenger would get out we exchanged pleasantries and the first thing he'd ask is "are you bird watchers" (I guess the bins gave us away yet again!!).  Alan would reply yes as I shook my head in agreement as this would be the second time today we'd be asked this so should be used to it by now.  Still funny how the general population thinks of us birders and find that many are curious and genuinely interested in learning about our hobby (like the first man we encountered who talked our ear off about his own bird finds) and others who look at as if we're some sort of freaks like the car full of gawkers at the Barre Falls Hawk Watch site last week who drove by making pigeon like coos in our direction as we were looking for Broad-wings!  There'd be no coos or Broad-wings today but the curious stares do remain!

So while I didn't pick up an FOY birds today it was still great to get out there and watch the birds interact with one another.  These are the moments when one learns most about birds in my opinion and its both fascinating and a privilege to experience first hand.  How many of us remember the exact time and place we get our FOY's every year as they all seem to blend together in the end.  I can guarantee you I'll never forget seeing a Crow being chased by a Coops or the two Sharpies brawling mid air as it's something I'll carry in my mind forever.

Take care all.

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