Archive for December, 2012

After flying south what do birds do? Do they nest again and raise another family? Or, like human “snowbirds” do they just bask in the Florida sun?

Migration takes a lot of energy. Once birds reach a suitable wintering spot, they spend the first days and weeks exploring. They need to identify the best places for finding food, for hiding from predators and for nightly roosting. In their summer home, they knew all the places to find food. Down south they have to learn all over again.

They have to replenish the energy lost during migration. And build up energy for the return trip. Some species molt into a fresh set of new feathers for the journey north.

Like most good vacations, time passes too quickly and it is soon time to head north again.

Read Full Post »

Wisdom Re-discovered

The oldest bird ever tracked in the wild is a Laysan albatross, named “Wisdom”. She was originally banded in 1956 while she was incubating a chick. Since it takes 4-5 for years an albatross to reach breeding age, Wisdom would be over 60 years old today.
She was recently re-discovered near Midway Atoll in the North Pacific where she was incubating another chick.
I guess wisdom comes with old age.

Read Full Post »

Playing Favorites

I often get asked “What is your favorite bird?” The honest answer is I do not have one single favorite. My favorite changes, usually based on what I have seen most recently. This past weekend, for example, I saw a Belted Kingfisher so that is now one of my current favorites.

SONY DSCI wondered why I like kingfishers. There are probably a number of different reasons. (1) I do not see them very often (2) They are kind of “goofy” looking, with a huge head out of proportion to the rest of its body, a dagger-like bill, and shaggy crest. (3) They have an aloof personality ignoring humans and other birds. They hang out by themselves and don’t form flocks. I wonder how they ever able to reproduce. (4) Their song is unmusical, described by Roger Tory Peterson as sounding like a stick being dragged along a picket fence.

The real reason kingfishers are on my favorites list is that when I was just a beginning birder there was always a kingfisher in my local birding spot. It would sit on a bare branch overlooking a pond patiently looking for a fish. It was easy to get a good close-up look.

Of course, this weekend I also saw another one of my favorites – a male Wood Duck. It is the gaudieswood duckt looking bird, looks like it was painted by a child using his favorite colors. A very striking, unnatural paint job. I can’t imagine how evolution could have explain it distinctive patterns.
It is another one of my favorite birds. At least until I see another one of my favorites.

Read Full Post »

On Saturday, the first of December, our monthly BirdWalk took us to Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers. The damp, cold, windy weather foretelling the beginning of winter did not deter the fourteen hardy souls who joined in the walk. We were reward by a nice assortment of birds. Probably the best sighting of the day was a good view of the amazing colors of male Wood Duck.

wood duck

Hooded Merganser - Male & FemaleBut the simply elegance of the Hooded Merganser came in a close second. A raccoon sleeping in a hole in a tree trunk was unexpected.

For those of you keeping score, here is a complete list of the birds seen:

Waterbirds: Canada Goose, Mallard, Mute Swan, Black Duck, Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron.
Backyard Birds: Cardinal, Mourning Dove, Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Dark-eyed Junco,

Others: Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Carolina Wren, Winter Wren, Pigeon, Ring-billed Gull, Brown Creeper

By the time the walk concluded around 10AM I felt tired but invigorated from a pleasant walk in the fresh air, in pleasant surroundings and, of course, with pleasant company.

Read Full Post »

A Barred Owl was seen in the pine grove in Croton Point Park. So I organized a small group to see if we could find it. We didn’t. In fact we learned it hasn’t been seen for a few days.

Disappointing? Yes. But we enjoyed the morning and the birds we did find. I added two species that I had not seen before this year – Brown Creeper and Red-breasted Nuthatch – not rare or unusually birds, but nice.

As I was driving home from Croton, I was struck by the fact that these two species are very similar in one way but also exactly different. Both birds are often seen on tree trunks where they use their pointed bills to probe out insects that are hiding under the bark of the trunk. Both birds have a similar diet sharing a taste for insects. Both frequent the same restaurant (tree trunks) but their approach to locating their food is exactly opposite.

The nuthatch is nicknamed “the upside bird” because it is the only bird that can walk head-first down a tree trunk. Red-breasted Nuthatch - 2 And it finds food that way, walking down a tree trunk from high to low looking for insects hidden in the cracks and crevices of the bark.

brown creeperThe Brown Creeper feeds in exactly the opposite direction. It usually flies to the very bottom of a tree, where the trunk meets the ground. Then it climbs up the tree from bottom to top spiraling around the trunk as it climbs. When it reaches its top height it flies to the bottom of the next tree and begins its spiral climb again.
One feeds top to bottom, the other bottom to top. It this way the two birds can feed in the same area without competing . On its trip down the trunk the nuthatch finds insects on the top edge of the bark while the ascending creeper finds the food on the lower edge of the bark.

So no owl today. But an interesting study on bird feeding habits

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts