Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Owls Hunt In Winter With High Tech Audio Systems

TOS_Barred_Owl_winterFor several days last winter, a barred owl perched atop a dead white birch tree in our field. As winters go, last year’s was very cold, and the owl puffed up against the stubbornly below-freezing temperatures, its streaky brown and white feathers fluffed and fluttering in the icy breeze. Occasionally the owl would move its head in a slow turn, from east to west to east again, dark eyes gazing at the field blanketed in deep snow.

The owl was most likely listening more than watching, straining to hear the scratching of tiny feet moving under the thick layer of white. Owls are remarkably skilled at finding and catching prey, but even they struggle to survive a long, cold season. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Secret To Bird Migration: It Takes Guts

TOS_HummerAs an avid birdwatcher for more than 30 years, I’ve long been familiar with the big picture of songbird migration. Tiny blackpoll warblers, for instance, fly 1,500 miles from southern New England to the Caribbean in a single two- or three-day flight across open water with nowhere to land if they get tired.

The even tinier ruby-throated hummingbirds cross the Gulf of Mexico in a similar way. But until recently I haven’t spent much time wondering how these little birds do it. Don’t their flight muscles get tired? How do they replenish their energy reserves in the air? » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Survey Finds Birds Are Moving Uphill On Whiteface Mountain

American Robin by Wikimedia user MdfA survey of birds on Whiteface Mountain has found that many species have moved uphill in the past forty years, possibly in response to climate change.

New York State Museum curator Jeremy Kirchman and Alison Van Keuren, a volunteer, conducted bird surveys on the 4,867-foot peak in 2013 and 2014. Their work replicated surveys by two University at Albany biologists, K.P. Able and B.R. Noon, in 1973 and 1974. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 20, 2015

The Science Behind Fledging Birds

TOS_grouse_fledglingOn a recent afternoon, I saw a baby ruffed grouse about the size of a pin cushion scurry into the bushes. I had the same impulse I did as a 10-year-old when I scooped up a baby blue jay hopping around on a neighbor’s lawn: I wanted to “rescue” it.  Instead, I kept driving, leaving the tiny bird to its fate.

Fledging is perilous for all birds – most won’t survive their first year – but what exactly is that process? Do nestlings know when to leave or do the parents signal when it’s time? Do they all go at once? Will the parents continue to protect and feed them after they have fledged? And what should I have done, if anything, to help that baby ruffed grouse? » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Climate Change is Altering Nature’s Clock

Salamander-Stager-600x383Scientist Curt Stager walks along the edge of the woods, his flashlight shining into the shallow water of a leafy, roadside pool on a dark night in Paul Smiths. It’s late April, and he’s out looking for spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and spring peepers that have migrated to shallow vernal pools to breed. After poking around for a minute, he lets out an excited shout: “There’s a salamander! There he is! He’s early!”

In the water is a dark, four-inch-long creature with bright yellow spots. In the same pool not far away, wood frogs float on the surface. In another week, pools like this will be a filled with breeding frogs and salamanders, which will leave behind egg sacks that hatch into larvae.

Spotted salamanders spend most of the year underground, so seeing them is rare except during these annual breeding migrations. Their journeys are triggered by the first rains of spring. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Alder and Willow Flycatchers: Sibling Species

TOS_FlycatcherBy mid-May each year I begin to look forward to the return of the alder flycatchers that nest in the willows along the stream near our house. Usually the last migrant to arrive on our property, this small, drab, gray bird with its sneeze-like song, signifies that summer is indeed just around the corner. But last year, for the first time in 20 years, another bird joined the neighborhood.

A willow flycatcher announced his presence, just a few days after I first heard the alder flycatcher. To my surprise, the two sibling species co-existed all summer, presumably both nesting in the same acre or so of shrubby wetland habitat. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Lessons Of Awkward Adolescent Eagles

TOS_EaglesA deer died by the river near my home. The crows found it, as did other scavengers – a bald eagle, and two big brown raptors that were hard to identify. Both had white flecking on their heads, wings and bodies, but the markings didn’t match up, bird to bird. They looked unkempt and more than a little disreputable.

It turns out these were also bald eagles, but young birds, dressed in dark plumage. In common with some other long-lived species, eagles have an extended adolescence. They require about four to five years to mature. During this period they don’t find mates, establish territories, or conform to the adult dress code. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 30, 2015

DEC Closes Rock-Climbing Cliffs For Falcons

Nesting falcons. Photo from DEC website.You know winter is coming to an end when the state Department of Environmental Conservation closes rock-climbing cliffs where peregrine falcons are known to breed.

Peregrines are on the state’s endangered-species list, and so each spring DEC closes cliffs to protect their nesting sites. Cliffs will be reopened if no nesting occurs on them. Those cliffs used for nesting will be reopened in the summer after the chicks fledge. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count Sets Species Record

Northern Flicker by Linda Izer in ArkansasParticipants from more than 100 countries submitted a record 147, 265,000 bird checklists for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count in February and broke the previous count record for the number of species identified. The 5,090 species reported represents nearly half the possible bird species in the world.

The four-day count marked the 18th year for the event which is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Comments On Bald Eagle ‘Conservation Plan’ Sought

2010-bald-eagle-kodiakThe NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) “Conservation Plan for Bald Eagles in New York State” is available for public review and comment. The document provides guidelines for the future management of America’s national bird (and national animal) in the State, where it prefers to live in mature forests near large bodies of water.

Bald eagles were once common in America, but their numbers began a dramatic decline as a result of hunting, logging, habitat loss, and pollution. The publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962, and the modern environmental movement it helped launch, led to a new public awareness of the threats to wildlife from over-development and chemical poisoning. Eventually, that awareness and activism helped save bald eagles from extinction. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sneaky Ducks and Scrambled Eggs

TOS_WoodDuckBabiesIf you peek into a wood duck nesting box during the breeding cycle, you might find 10 to 11 eggs, which is the bird’s normal clutch size. But you might also stumble upon a box overflowing with as many as 30 eggs. How, you might ask, can one duck lay and care for so many eggs? The answer is: she can’t.

These huge piles of eggs result from intraspecific brood parasitism, otherwise known as egg dumping. This is when a bird lays eggs in a nest that does not belong to her. Waterfowl – and wood ducks in particular – often engage in this behavior. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Wildlife Are Affected By Intense Cold

February 15 2015 Extreme ColdIntense cold is hard on all forms of wildlife, however, some of nature’s creatures are better adapted to deal with this type of adversity than others. Those animals whose geographic range extends well northward into Canada and Alaska have evolved various strategies to cope with prolonged bouts of sub-arctic weather and are quite capable of surviving the unrelenting cold that the Adirondacks has experienced this winter.

Conversely, some components of the Park’s fauna are on the northern fringe of their range and are better suited for functioning in a temperate region, such as southern New York and the mid-Atlantic States. These creatures are probably not faring well this season. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend

Snowy Owl in VermontThe annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a chance to be part of an international team of citizen scientists using specific scientific protocols and the power of the internet to provide data to professional environment and wildlife researchers and the scientific and educational institutions they represent.

From February 13–16, people of all ages, whether beginners or experts, are invited to support bird conservation by counting the number of birds, separated by species, seen during any outing or observational sitting. The information gathered will help researchers track changes in bird populations on a massive scale. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Adirondack Birds: The Black-Backed Woodpecker

Picoides_arcticus_-Brunswick,_Vermont,_USA_-male-8Wilderness forests serve as havens to many species of wildlife, especially those attracted to stands of old, dying and dead trees. While some people view areas of rotting timber as a breeding ground for tree disease and destructive, wood-boring insects, as well as a source of fuel for fire during periods of exceptionally dry weather, other individuals note that such sites create favorable conditions for many unique forms of life.

Among those creatures attracted to places cluttered with recently fallen logs, where frequent stands of damaged, dying and partially rotted timber jut through a broken canopy, is the black-backed woodpecker. This hardy bird is a year-round resident of the Park, inhabiting areas where old, sick, weakened and dead trees, especially conifers, abound. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dave Gibson: Christmas Bird Counting

Phyllis Burchett - Audubon Photo AwardsPreparing for the annual Christmas Bird Count is, like the entire holiday season, on the hectic side. The binoculars and spotting scopes have been set aside and need to be found. Packing a good lunch a few hours in advance is a good idea, but rarely accomplished.

My highest hurdle is getting up and out early in the morning to meet my team of counters, whose punctuality and other habits, after nearly thirty years of counting in the dead of winter, are rather well known. » Continue Reading.


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