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!!