Thursday, April 29, 2010

High Ridge WMA 4/29

I spent a bit of the morning at High Ridge Wildlife Management Area, walking a loop in the Westminster section, from the Overlook Road Gate. The temperature was cool and the wind was over 15 MPH. Not surprisingly the songbird activity and birdsong was minimal.
Chipping Sparrow along Overlook Road.
At the marsh, off East Gardner Road, 4 female Common Mergansers were among a few Canada Geese (one on a nest) and Mallards. I had a nice, but quick, view at an American Bittern as it crossed the marsh and dissapeared into cattails and Tree Swallows were working the water's surface. The only warblers detected were a few Pine and Yellow-rumped and I only heard a single Blue-headed Vireo. If the wind "dies off" tonight perhaps tomorrow will be a more active day. This Blue-gray Gnatcather didn't vocalize much, but gave nice views while it foraged in the sunshine.
Purple Trillium
Below is a photo taken through the scope, a few days ago, at Wachusett Reservoir. The wind was blowing from the bird's right side and I was lucky enough the get this shot as it took flight. Apparently it simply lifted its right wing first, scooping the wind and lifting it off into flight, before activating the left wing to chase after Tree Swallow that were down wind.

An Eastern Bluebird getting ready to "scoop" some wind.
This shot (below), was from a few weeks ago, in back of my apartment. This Downy Woodpecker was excavating its nest hole, the photo captured it tossing a bill full of wood chips "out the door".
A Downy Woodpecker doing some housekeeping chores.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Alna, Maine 4/23-4/25

Karin and I visited our friends Thom and Sue in Alna, Maine this past weekend, for good food, drink, a little hiking, birding and mostly good company. Upon arrival, the dinner fixings were ready for the pan, margaritas ready for the blender and the clouds were clearing for some late day sunshine. Fajita ingredients ready to go!
The bird feeders were busy with Chickadees, Titmice, Red-winged Blackbirds, Purple and Goldfinches. In the backyard a pair of Eastern Phoebes were busy nest building, Tree Swallows were sorting out nest box occupancy rights and an American Woodcock was calling after dusk.

A handsome Purple Finch

Eastern Phoebe
Saturday Morning we took a walk to visit a Bald Eagle nest just up the road. Thom and Sue had visited this nest a few days earlier and had seen the adult pair mating near the nest site, it was uncertain as to whether the pair was late in starting nest activities or not. Apparently the "top" bird in the mating ritual, the assumed male, was in the mist of some degree of molt. It had a few new flight feathers that had not grown in yet, making future separation within the pair fairly easy.

On the walk to the eagle's nest we past many dozens of Trout Lilly.
The presumed male was in the air near the nest but did not land, we were about 200 yards away and under cover, only a few feet from the road and a nearby house. Eventually some movement was detected and small eaglet lifted its head for just a moment. Shortly we after we left, planning a a return later in the day.
The eagle's nest is in the right hand large White Pine Tree in the center.
Later in the day, we returned to view the nest and again had a nice look at the eaglet, but the adults were not in sight. We had seen the male (in partial molt) a few times from Thom and Sue's and also had seen a number of other adults with "clean" plumage.

A digi-scope shot of the eaglet taken through the scope set at 32.5X, plus ~2x on the camera zoom and some cropping on the computer. We only saw one eaglet in the nest, the "object" behind the eaglet was its wing.
Shortly after arrival the male flew overhead and eventually settled on the nest, but without food.
The adult arriving to the nest area.

The empty taloned adult about to land near what must have been a very disappointed youngster.

While the eaglet looked on, the adult seemed entirely indifferent to the young eagle, perhaps both were hoping "mom" had a better day fishing.
Sunday, we had a great hike through the mixed forest visiting a different section of the Sheepscott River and birded a bit as we walked the forest. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo along with Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers were all heard singing. After visiting a small, but very picturesque waterfall, I heard a Winter Wren calling along the steam.

Tree Swallow surveys the area from "its" nest box

Tree Swallows having an animated "discussion"
We kept a close eye on the nearby Kestrel box Thom had setup a some years back, recently a pair had been showing interest in it. Last year, the pair had failed, however the previous year they had raised 3 young. Last year's heavy June rains likely affected their success, but hopefully they will fair better this year.

A distance digi-bin shot of the male American Kestrel perched a few hundred feet from the nest box.
One last mental image from Sunday afternoon was watching an Osprey fly overhead with a fish (a herring) in its talons. A young Bald Eagle, a good distance from the Osprey, spotted the "OS" and caught up. It harassed the "OS" repeatedly for a few minutes until the "OS" caught a thermal and was able to get better lift than the eagle and rose above it and on to safety.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

East Quabbin 4/21

Traveling the back roads of Quabbin are always a pleasure, even better on a warm/calm morning in spring. Today's mode of transportation was bicycle to cover a good portion of next week's Forbush Bird Club's trip route.
Song Sparrow; a few were nest building.
Early arriving warbler species were in good supply, with nice counts on Pine, Yellow-rumped, Palm and a single Black and White Warbler. While many of the counts on the list below seem high, keep in mind I traveled a good distance in good habitat. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were noisy and plentiful...on the other hand White-breasted Nuthatches were quiet and I didn't hear nor see "a one".

A cooperative Palm Warbler on the way to Dana Center.
Some nice stonework about 1/2 way to Dana Center, from Gate 40.
I had hoped to pickup Eastern Towhee for the year, in Worcester County, I heard my first just inside of gate 40 and they'd be numerous along the most of the route. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were singing away at regular intervals, while not breeders in the area (that I know of) it must be close to peak migration for this species in the area.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

A stone marker along Greenwich Road.
Mid-morning the wind was clam and once reaching the reservoir the water was glassy, I spotted the first of at least 3 Bald Eagles from the location below.

There is an eagle's nest on the small island dead center in this photo, the adult was nearby but I could NOT see a bird siiting on the nest? Next visit I will have the scope to check for young.
The boat launch, at fishing area 3, had many Tree Swallows swarming the area and I had the good fortune of seeing a kettle of 12 Broad-winged Hawks up very high and moving north east.
A DCR attendant, at the boat ramp, gave me a brief explanation of the new launching protocol to prevent the potential spread of Zebra Muscles. Essentially fishermen must have their boat and engine cleaned and certified before being allowed on the water. He also mentioned the fishing has been good with good numbers of Lake Trout, Landlocked Salmon and Bass being taken. A few moments later I heard a "booyah" from a "shore" fisherman, as he landed a large Smallmouth Bass (below).

I rode back to watch this guy weigh the fish, 6LBS 11 Oz. .... a real trophy..and it drew a small crowd! This plump fish was likely a female and loaded with eggs.
Continuing on to Gate 43 and down to Shaft 12 (now gated off) , more Pine Warblers, Sapsuckers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Towhees and so forth were tallied. One goal of the trip was to find the location of the jet crash outside of Dana. Here is a link that provides a little information.... and I did managed to "find" it.
It made a good size crater.

More stuff.

Not to worry ... I did remember to bring them back!

Another angle.

Didn't use the wheels for this landing. last shot.....the pilot did survive...I gather he ejected and landed on Mt. Pomeroy.

Skunk Cabbage just outside of Dana Center.
The list:
Canada Goose....5
Mute Swan....2
Wood Duck....1
American Black Duck....4
Green-winged Teal...5
Ring-necked Duck...1
Hooded Merganser...4
Common Merganser...2
Ruffed Grouse...1
Common Loon...2
Great Blue Heron...1
Turkey Vulture...3
Bald Eagle...3
Sharp-shinned Hawk...1
Broad-winged Hawk...17 mostly high flying migrants
Red-tailed Hawk...1
Mourning Dove...12
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker...25
Downy Woodpecker...3
Hairy Woodpecker...4
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)...4
Pileated Woodpecker...3
Eastern Phoebe...3
Blue-headed Vireo...10
Blue Jay...105
American Crow...13
Common Raven...3
Tree Swallow...21
Black-capped Chickadee...48
Tufted Titmouse...13
Red-breasted Nuthatch...14
Brown Creeper...2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet...26
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher...1
Eastern Bluebird...2
Hermit Thrush...6
American Robin...37
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)...31
Pine Warbler...91
Palm Warbler (Yellow)...14
Black-and-white Warbler...1
Eastern Towhee...36
Chipping Sparrow...21
Savannah Sparrow...1
Song Sparrow...10
Swamp Sparrow...5
White-throated Sparrow...25
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)...26
Northern Cardinal...4
Red-winged Blackbird...18
Common Grackle...2
Brown-headed Cowbird...14
Purple Finch...3
American Goldfinch...20

Monday, April 12, 2010

Black-capped Chickadee vs. Downy Woodpecker .... Conclusion 4/12

Here is a follow-up on the battle of the backyard nest hole. Both species worked on the hole from Friday 4/2/2010 until Tuesday 4/6/2010, after which I only observed the Downies at work.
Today, 4/12/2010, I could see one of the Downies was deep in the hole, hanging upside-down, working in the bowels of the tree cavity.
It would appear the Downies have this one wrapped up, but I am not sure which species started the work first. Though, I did recall seeing at least one Downy Woodpecker hanging out near this tree a few weeks before I noticed the work had begun on 4/2/2010. It might be difficult to see the nest hole, from the comfort of the deck, once the trees leaf out. Hopefully the woodpeckers will have a successful nesting season and I will keep an "eye out" to see if the chickadees have found a new home.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Black-capped Chickadee and Downy Woodpeckers

On Friday, April 2nd, I was fortunate to view a pair of Black-capped Chickadees excavated a nest hole about 30' off the ground in a Swamp Maple. This tree, which is about 75' from the back deck, had the top snapped off and the top 3 feet of the tree is dead. The pair took turns removing bits of dead wood for about 15-20 mintues, until a pair of Downy Woodpeckers made an appearance.
A Black-capped Chickadee taking a "break" from nest hole excavation.

After dropping a bill full of saw dust, one chickadee looks on as it's mate works.
There was a squabble between the two pairs, and the chickadees moved on while the woodpeckers began working on the nest hole. An hour later work-site was vacant each time I checked, during the early part of the evening. Of course, I am not really sure which species began the "project" or who the "rightfull" owner is, though I recall seeing a Downy Woodpecker on that area of the tree during the past few weeks.
Saturday morning, 4/3, the chickadee pair was back and excavating more rotten wood from the nest hole, but after making breakfast a Downy Woodpecker was back and working away on the site. While subsiquently checking, over the course of the day, it seemed one of the downies was usually there, typically the male.
A male Downy Woodpecker working on the nest hole..
Easter morning, April 4th, the chickadees were back and at work during the late morning but again later in the day the Downy Woodpecker pair had returned and were back at work. I look forward to seeing who ends up winning out on the "occupancy permit".