Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Northampton's Great Blue Heron Rookery

We visited friends in Northampton, Mass, had a great time and did some birding!

There's an amazing rookery at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary where there's at least 50 great blue heron nests and we spotted one huge, but empty, bald eagle nest.

Many of the nests were occupied by adults feeding young! Both the male and female feed their offspring by regurgitating food........yum?

A cool fact - thanks to specially shaped neck vertebrae, great blue herons can curl their neck into an S shape for a more aerodynamic flight profile.

We found one nest with at least 2 babies who were probably half the size of their parents. They won't have adult plumage until they are two or three years old.

The eggs are incubated for almost a month and the chicks will fledge when they are about two months old.

These two chicks look like they're having a friendly conversation about the weather. It was pretty hot that day!

Another cool fact - great blue herons have specialized feathers on their chest that continually grow and fray. The herons comb this “powder down” with a fringed claw on their middle toes, using the down like a washcloth to remove fish slime and other oils from their feathers as they preen.

Despite their impressive size, great blue herons weigh only 5 to 6 pounds thanks in part to their hollow bones—a feature all birds share.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ovenbird Nest

 Every morning and afternoon, I run and hike on the trails in the woods behind our house. The birds are always singing, especially the ovenbirds - teacher, teacher, teaCHER, teACHER, TEACHER!!

 A week ago, an ovenbird flew up from the ground in front of me, and when I looked, I noticed her nest! Gerry and I came back later to take pictures and I couldn't find it again!! It looked so obvious when I first saw it!

  Today, the ovenbird again flew out of the nest and I saw it and put a stone on the trail so we could come back and take pictures! It still wasn't obvious at first, it's amazing how well camouflaged it is!

Thanks to Marv Elliott for the use of his photo!!
Only the female sits on the eggs and broods the chicks, but both male and female feed them. By day 8, the chicks leave the nest one at a time, with several hours between the first and last. As they run and hop away from the nest, the parents split the brood. The male keeps his young within the territory, and the female leads hers to an adjacent area. Females feeding young in neighboring territories are not harassed. The chicks need several more days to begin to fly, and don't become independent until around day 30.

There's 4 eggs inside but a clutch can contain up to 6.

The nest is dome-shaped with a side entrance, it resembles a Dutch oven, which is how the ovenbird got its name.I hope everything goes well and we can update with news of the baby birds!!

Monday, May 26, 2014

American Bittern Courtship

While scanning the marshes at Herrick's Cove in Bellows Falls, I saw a bittern with white feathers!! I realized he was doing a courtship display for the female!!

The pictures were taken through my spotting scope with my Canon PowerShot, so the quality is not good. But I read on the Audubon website that "the bittern has a remarkable, though rarely seen, courtship display" so I decided to share the pictures anyway.

Audubon goes on to say "the male arches his back, exposing whitish plumes, shortens his neck, dips his breast forward, and "booms" at the female."

 He followed her through the grasses and eventually I lost sight of them. Later on, they both flew across the marsh, the male looking noticeably larger.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Some Birds in Putney

solitary sandpiper
Gerry and I stopped at Sackett's Brook Wetland area on Sand Hill Road in Putney where this solitary sandpiper has been hanging around.

So named because the solitary usually migrates alone rather than in flocks, this sandpiper will frequently bob his head, whereas the spotted sandpiper, bobs his tail!

spotted sandpiper
This spotted sandpiper was almost perfectly camouflaged against the bank of the Mill Brook, at Dummerston Landing.

American redstart
The American Redstart flashes the bright patches in its tail and wings. This seems to startle insect prey and give the bird an opportunity to catch them.

caught a bug!

warbling vireo
 Easy to locate by his song, the rhythm of the warbling vireo's song goes like this - "if I see you, I will seize you, if I squeeze you, you will squirt"!

warbling vireo
Warbling vireos are always described as being a small, drab bird.
song sparrow
Song sparrow's song consists of 3 short notes followed by a varied trill, sometimes interpreted as "Madge-Madge-Madge, put-on-your-tea-kettle-ettle-ettle".

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers at Their Nest

We happened to see blue-gray gnatcatchers at their nest and Gerry got some great shots. Here's some interesting facts I found on Cornells's site, All About Birds.

Both sexes cooperate in building the neat, open, cuplike nest. They take up to two weeks to build the 2–3-inch wide nest, which is held together and attached to its branch with spider webbing and decorated with lichen.

 The nest's high walls are built in flexible layers. The main structural layer is built of fibrous materials like plant stems, bark strips, and grasses, all held together by spiderweb or caterpillar silk.

Inner layers become progressively finer, and the roughly 1.5-inch-wide cup is lined with plant down, paper, cocoons, hair, or feathers.

The outside is covered with webbing or silk decorated with bits of lichen or bark flakes.

  They often build a series of nests during a summer to counteract the effects of predation, mite infestations, or cowbird parasitism.
 Materials from earlier nests are frequently recycled to build later nests, which may be why they are usually completed more quickly than first nests.

 The male often builds second nests nearly solo, with the female finishing the inside of the first nest with softer materials.

 time for a break!!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring at Herrick's Cove

Baltimore Oriole

 Finally spring has arrived, the weather's been warmer and the birds are returning to Herrick's Cove in Bellows Falls!. It's nice to see the bright colors of the Baltimore orioles!

Gray catbirds are now everywhere and chatting up a storm! Here's a good look at his rusty red undertail coverts.

gray catbird

Blue-gray gnatcatchers are very small birds with long tails which they flick from side to side. They are always in constant motion.  

yellow-throated vireo

The best bird of the day was a pair of yellow-throated vireos. They were so close to us, Gerry had a hard time getting a picture in focus with his zoom lens! 

Another bird Gerry has been after for a good picture, this female pileated woodpecker was very cooperative today!

An immature bald eagle was keeping watch along the Williams River. One can never see enough of these majestic birds!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Bald Eagles - Herrick's Cove

A morning spent at Herrick's Cove in Bellows Falls gave Gerry a great opportunity to get images of bald eagles. Here's a beautiful adult flying overhead, (there's a nest with young up the river a bit).

This immature bald eagle had just eaten lunch (fish) and was perched in the cove. The nearby Canada geese didn't seem to be concerned as they swam closely by.

Maybe they knew he had just eaten!?!?

When the eagle finally took off, they honked relentlessly!!
Enjoy the pictures!