Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Thursday, January 21, 2016

El Niño May Offer Surprises For Backyard Bird Count

unnamedWith Niño having warmed Pacific waters to temperatures matching the highest ever recorded, participants in the 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) may be in for a few surprises.

The 19th annual Bird Count is taking place worldwide February 12 through 15. Information gathered and reported online at birdcount.org will help scientists track changes in bird distribution, some of which may be traced to El Niño storms and the unusual weather patterns the Adirondacks have been seeing lately.

“The most recent big El Niño took place during the winter of 1997-98,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program which collects worldwide bird counts year-round and also provides the backbone for the GBBC. “The GBBC was launched in February 1998 and was pretty small at first. This will be the first time we’ll have tens of thousands of people doing the count during a whopper El Niño.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

This Weird Winter And Adirondack Wildlife

Deer Yarding Area“Make me one with everything.” If you had to guess, you’d probably say that was a diner order, or a supplication to the Divine. This winter, I think someone whispered that line in Mother Nature’s ear, because even though it is not yet half over, she has already made us a winter with everything. It’s as if she glanced at her weather playlist and hit the buttons for unseasonable warmth, extreme cold, high winds, rain, sleet, ice, and snow, and then selected the “shuffle” function and walked away.

After each meteorological mood swing I have heard people comment how confused the weather makes them. You plant daffodil bulbs on Christmas, shovel heavy snow the next week, then need crampons a few days later because it rained and then suddenly froze. If you think it’s hard for us humans who can retreat into our posh shelters, imagine how the animals feel. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Owls In January: The Courtship Begins

TOSLong_eared_owlI’m an enthusiastic, if laid-back, bird watcher. One of the things I love most about spring and summer is the effortlessness with which I encounter a wide variety of birds. Sitting in my backyard, I’ll catch sight of an indigo bunting in the apple tree or watch a pair of phoebes flying to and from their nest. On an afternoon hike, I might spot a Baltimore oriole or hear the sweet sounds of a wood thrush.

Not so in winter, when the cold curtails my outdoor activities and so many birds have departed for warmer climes. The dearth of birds and walks leaves me feeling doubly deprived, and I count the days until red-winged blackbirds will again greet me on my morning stroll.

But January is far too early to dream of spring, so I’ve decided to put thoughts of seasonal songbirds out of my mind and focus on some of our region’s year-round residents – owls. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Understanding The Language Of Crows

TOS_Crow“Caw! Caw!” Every spring we hear it. And my wife says, “that’s My Crow.” It’s apparently the bird’s name. She capitalizes it in her tone. I think she hasn’t bestowed a more formal name because she doesn’t know whether it’s a male or female.

My Crow is likely part of an extended family of crows that lives in our area. We think they nest in the tall pines on our south neighbor’s woodlot, but they forage over our woods and fields as well.

“How do you know it’s your crow?” I ask. “I can tell by the sound of its voice,” she says. “It’s different. Raspier. It makes a sort of throaty chuckle the other crows don’t make.” » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 1, 2016

The Golden-Crowned Kinglet In Winter

It’s simple physics. In a cold environment, small objects lose heat at a faster rate than large objects. This is why most warm-blooded animals that reside in a northern climate tend to be large in size. Yet, for every rule, there is always an exception and when considering birds, the golden-crowned kinglet is a perplexing anomaly.

The golden-crowned kinglet is the smallest perching bird to inhabit the Adirondacks, as this delicate, olive colored creature is not much larger than a hummingbird, (which is classified in a group that is related to the swifts rather than the perching birds.) However, unlike our other small birds, like the warblers, vireos and wrens, the kinglet often remains in the Adirondacks throughout the dead of winter, traveling in small, loosely knit flocks in dense evergreen forests.
» Continue Reading.


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.


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