Saturday, June 26, 2010

Troglodytidae - Birds Who Creep into Holes, Part 2

The Wren Family (Troglodytidae from the Latin, “one who creeps into holes”) consists of busy little brown birds who always seem to be up to something. Generally, they are not much to look at, but what wrens lack in the flashiness of their plumage, they more than make up for in the gaudiness of their songs.

With one exception, our local wrens are more likely to be seen than heard. The exception is the House Wren, and even he tends to stay hidden. While many birds will sing their song from a prominent perch, the House Wren usually stays hidden in the foliage. His incessant activity and abiding curiosity in our open backyards, allows us to see him as he hurries about his business.

There are four representatives of the Wren Family in southeastern Vermont: House Wren, Winter Wren, Carolina Wren, and Marsh Wren.

Carolina Wrens are the largest of our local wrens (5 3/4 inches) and also the most handsome, with a buffy breast and prominent while eye stripe. As their name implies, they are a southern species, though they have been extending their range northward. They have been nesting for a number of years in Brattleboro and the Connecticut River valley. They are moving up the river valleys; there have been nesting pairs in Williamsville and South Newfane for several years. They stay the winter (they are regulars on the Christmas Count) unless severe weathers causes them to withdraw southwards or does them in.

Marsh Wrens (size about 5 inches), inhabit reedy marshes. They epitomize the elusiveness of wrens. They are far more likely to be heard than seen. Occasionally, if you are lucky and very patient, you might see a Marsh Wren singing in the open, or glimpse one as it pops up to investigate some noise. But more often you will get only fleeting impressions as it flits furtively through the dense marshes.

The songs of the Carolina Wren and the Marsh Wren have been extensively studied by scientists, and the results are astounding. Male Marsh Wrens have a song repertoire that averages about 50 songs per male in the East, about 150 in the West. One western Marsh Wren had 219 songs in its repertoire. “A male will cycle from one song to the next, moving through his repertoire in a fairly predictable fashion. Neighboring males often will engage in matched counter-singing. The two males will follow the same song series, one of them offering the song just given by his rival. The function of the counter-singing among Marsh Wrens is unknown, but observers have suggested that it may ‘normalize’ relationships between territorial neighbors, possibly reducing active aggression and the injuries that result from it.” (Sibley in “Bird Life”)

Carolina Wrens have smaller repertoires (about 32 songs per male) and use them differently. They sing the same song over and over - up to 250 times, then switch to another song. When encountering other territorial males, they switch songs more often. “Researchers hypothesize that matched counter-singing in the Carolina Wren calibrates the distance between two rival males. Since both males know how each song should sound, they can determine how far away their rival is by how degraded (by trees, brush, and incidental noise) his song sounds. Thus if a male gives a song known by his neighbor, he very clearly announces his presence and location on his territory, possibly preventing territorial incursions.” (Sibley)

With such large song repertoires, how does one go about learning the songs? The Marsh Wren is the easier of the two. It has a “wren” quality to it: bubbly and rattled, but reedy. When you hear a wren, or a rather long, complex song, in a dense marsh (for example, the marshes in the Retreat Meadows or Herrick’s Cove), it is almost certain that you are hearing a Marsh Wren. The Carolina Wren is more difficult. It is very loud and clear-noted. Kaufmann describes the Carolina Wren’s song as “rollicking, full-toned chant, ‘liberty-liberty-liberty-whew.’ Many variations.”

Since both the Marsh Wren and Carolina Wren are members of the Family “one who creeps into holes,” they both nest in cavities, of a sort.

The Carolina Wren is “flexible” about the cavity in which it nests. It will choose a natural hollow in a tree or stump, an old woodpecker hole, the middle of a brush pile, a nest box, the crevice in a building, the shelf in a garage, and any other spot that may catch its fancy. The nest is often domed with a side entrance. Twigs, leaves, weeds, and many other material go into the bulky mass that makes up his home.

A cavity for a Marsh Wren is a bit more problematic. There are no logs, stumps, woodpecker holes, or convenient nest boxes dangling from branches in a marsh, and cattails, bulrushes, and marsh grasses hardly provide holes to be crept into. So what does the Marsh Wren do?

A few summers ago, I kayaked in the marshy mouth of the Missisquoi River in northern Vermont. Marsh Wrens were occasionally popping above the marsh grasses singing their reedy wren song, then dropping back down. I drifted with the desultory current along the edge of the grasses, catching glimpses of the wren as he popped here and there, hoping that he might give away his nest location. Searching through the thick, reedy vegetation, I looked for some anomaly. I found an oval brown mass, like the boil on a tree trunk, except this was attached to a cattail. Through binoculars I could see that it was intricately woven out of old wet grass and assorted marsh detritus. The wren continued popping here and there. One of his pops landed him on the top of the oval mass of grasses, a hop put him halfway down the side of the mass, and then he disappeared into the side of the mass. Inside, I later learned (from books - not from destructive investigation) the Marsh Wren’s artificial cavity was lined with fine grass, plant down, and feathers.

In the course of my drifting, I found two more Marsh Wren nests near the edge of the reeds. The homesteaders who had built these cozy nests vociferously protested my near invasion of their claim, but stayed hidden from sight.

Troglodytes - that avian family of the Wrens, the family of birds who creep into holes - always provide entertaining moments. Perhaps that’s why they are my favorite birds.

Good Birding!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tens of Thousands

Yesterday I had one of my best days of birding. We visited Parc National de l'Ile Bonaventure in Perce, Quebec, on the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. The island hosts the largest nesting colony of Northern Gannet in North America, and probably the world, and also the most accessible - an estimated 62,000 nesting pairs! I will have at least one column about the experience in a couple of weeks. Briefly, and for the moment, this was a breath-taking encounter with nature and birds.

After weeks of trying to photograph warblers and small songbirds, it was also a photograph's dream, with gannets in the thousands close at hand. On my traveling notebook, I have only sampled the hundreds of photographs from our few hours on the island. I think these will survive the eventual gleaning.

We have a gray and rainy day which is why I have the time to do a post. From my hotel window, I can see the ocean. Gannets are fishing close to shore, and Black-legged Kittiwakes are floating on the water's surface. In spite of the dreary day, I hate to miss opportunities, so I think I will take the camera and step outside ...

Good birding!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Troglodytidae - Birds Who Creep into Holes, Part 1

During our long morning of birding in Somerset, we heard Winter Wrens in every dark wood and tangled spruce thicket. The long, complex song of musical trills tumbled through the dank forests, so many notes falling over one another that you have to wonder how the small lungs can contain so much air to sustain the sound for so long.

By noon, the mountain clouds were finally being dissipated and patches of sun light filtered through the thick canopy of leaves. Even so, most of the forest was still in dark shadow; undergrowth was limited only to the most shade tolerant species. When a Winter Wren burst into song only a few feet from the trail, we went in search, approaching from different directions in an effort to surround the sound. He sang - first to my left - then to my right - then behind me - in front of me - to my left again. Somehow moving about, dematerializing and rematerializing. Or using some elaborate system of audio speakers, flipping switches from one to another to the next. Or with a ventriloquism that makes Charlie McCarthy or Lambchop look like real dummies.

Finally, on a thin twisted branch of a fallen hemlock, I saw a brown nodule quivering. The Winter Wren tilted its small body upward. Its stubby tail was cocked high. Its upturned beak shivered. Its throat quavered. The energy pulsed through its wings as it teetered and bobbed through its song. Note after note tumbled forth. I whispered reference marks to my companion, and then we both watched as this secretive little bird of dense woods poured forth his big song, from one perch after another - pausing only occasionally to do a quick foray beneath the log - or perhaps to check on a mate or nestling.

Finally we left him to his long, busy, contralto aria. Picking our way back to the trail we murmured something about a favorite bird.

The Winter Wren is a troglodyte. Troglodyte applied to a person suggests one with the character of a savage cave dweller. Troglodyte - or more specifically, “Troglodytidae” - is the Family name for the “Wrens” and derives from the Latin for “one who crawls into holes.” Most wrens, as a Family, use enclosed spaces for their nesting sites, such as tree cavities, holes among rocks, sometimes holes in buildings, or they build their own cavities, typically globular masses with side entrances.

As Kenn Kaufmann puts it, wrens are busy little brown birds, creeping about in thickets or peering out furtively from brush piles. They always appear to be up to something. That is of course, if you are able to see them. The generally drab nature of the wrens’ plumage is counterbalanced by their superb singing skills. There are about 70 species of wren, most of them in the tropics, and all but the Winter Wren (known in Europe simply at the Wren) are limited to the Western Hemisphere. Our Winter Wren sings a rich and complicated melody. But imagine - in the tropics one can find the Flutist Wren, Nightingale Wren, and Musician Wren!

The Winter Wren epitomizes the troglodyte nature of the Wren Family. Its full scientific name (Family, Genus, species) is “Troglodytidae Troglodytes troglodytes,” which might be translated as “one who creeps into holes, one who creeps into holes, one who creeps into holes.” At about 4 inches, the dark Winter Wren is the smallest of our local wrens - a “stub-tailed gnome that haunts northern evergreen forests in summer ... hard to see, creeping like a rodent under fallen logs, through dense thickets, along streambanks.” (Kaufmann) In spite of its name, most leave our area for the winter months, although a neighbor often has had a Winter Wren wintering in the cavities of his woodpile, and one winter thaw day, I spotted one disappearing into a hole in a sandy bank.

 In addition to the Winter Wren, three other members of “Family Troglodytidae” are found in our neighborhood of southeastern Vermont: House Wren, Carolina Wren, and Marsh Wren.

The closest relative to the Winter Wren is the slightly larger (4 ½ inches) and familiar backyard bird, the House Wren (Troglodytes aedon). Very early in the European settlement of North America, it received its common name because of its tendency to nest around homes or in birdhouses. The House Wren is an active and inquisitive bundle of energy. Its short tail held high, it bounces about, pausing often to sing its rich bubbling song.

Sibley describes vocalization as the wren’s primary defense mechanism (no “Speak softly but carry a big stick” strategy for this Family). If loquacity doesn’t work, the wren will employ physical confrontation. Last week, I watched a House Wren in my backyard drive away several intruding cowbirds. After the first brood had fledged, the House Wren had gone to work on another nest. The cowbirds were looking for a nest to parasitize or to rob. The House Wrens were having none of that. When the Brown-headed Cowbird - House Wren confrontation was over, I walked over to the nest box. The female looked out at me; she had sat tight on her nest while her mate defended his territorial prerogatives.

As much entertainment value as the House Wrens provide in my backyard, I have mixed feelings about them. They are so aggressive in defending their territory that they will often puncture the eggs of other birds nesting nearby (including those of other House Wrens). They are not feeding on the eggs, just destroying them, in an effort to protect their neighborhood and perhaps confuse predators with abandoned nests.

A few years ago, I watched a serious neighborhood dispute between House Wrens and Black-capped Chickadees. Several times the chickadees were driven out of boxes in which they were attempting to nest. I thought the dispute had finally been resolved when the wrens were busy caring for nestlings and the chickadees were lining yet another box with moss. But after the wren-cowbird confrontation, I checked the box where the chickadees were most recently trying to nest. The cup of soft moss was empty - no eggs, no nestlings, and no adult chickadees. When I closed the box and walked back to the house, the House Wren, hidden somewhere among the leaves of the apple tree, rollicked his song, proclaiming his dominance.

Like his close cousin, the Winter Wren, you may not be able to see him, but you always know when he’s in the neighborhood.

Good Birding!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Other Creatures

This is such a good time of the year for birding, that I have neglected some of the other sightings.

Probably the most exciting was the Gray Fox which visited our backyard at last light this past Friday. We watched it forage for seeds, grubs, and insects. The photo is not great (through the window at 8:40pm, ISO 2500, Shutter 1/3 sec), but a great opportunity to watch a usually elusive and shy animal. I have only had a couple of distant and fleeting looks at this fox; favorite companion had never seen one

The next evening, about 8pm, I looked to see if the Gray Fox had returned. Instead, I saw this raccoon. We know that we have had visits from raccoons in the past, but this was the first time we have seen it.

In mid-May I posted photos of the mink which I saw along the Connecticut River. We live along the Rock River; in the sand at river's edge, we have found mink tracks regularly this Spring.

Early this month we visited a remote area of Somerset in the Green Mountains. We followed an old forest service road to a barrier, then parked and walked. A few hundred yards along the abandoned road we came to a beaver pond where we interrupted this young gentleman as he was having breakfast.

So as not to slight the smaller creatures, I include this Green Frog ...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pieces of the Sun

I am fortunate that I do not have to wait for the weekend to get out birding, because this weekend is a dreary one. I saved some pieces of the sun from Friday for just such a gray time.

Photos are of several different male Yellow Warblers, all protecting their territory against each other and the likes of me - scolding me for intruding, then quickly distracted by their mate - or intruding neighbor - and flying in pursuit. (from the access road to the transmission towers at the Hinsdale setbacks)

Good birding!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Black-Masked Rogue

Birders have a technique for getting a small hidden bird to show itself. It’s called ‘pishing.” Softly one repeats, “pish, pish, pish.” The pace can be slow, or fast, or changing, and the cadence can vary. Birds respond to pishing in one of three ways. They get scared, hide, or fly away. They ignore it. Or - the hoped for response - they become curious and come to check out the noise. Is it food? Is it danger? Or is it some silly creature with deformed goggle eyes?

Birders pish in the hope that the more elusive birds in the neighborhood will move to a more visible perch, if only for a second or two. Often that is all that is needed to make a visual identification and have an “oh wow” moment.

Chickadees almost always respond to pishing, often coming quickly from a long distance. So do Blue Jays. And there are other birds that can be depended on to respond dependably and quickly. This column is mostly about one of those quick responders.

I was along an old forest service road in the Green Mountains. A twenty yard swath of brush ran along one side of the narrow lane. On the opposite side, young spruce trees formed a thick wall against the forest. Hidden in the spruce, I heard a Magnolia Warbler singing. I hoped I could lure it into some low branches for a good view, and perhaps a photo op. So I pished: “pish ... pish ... pish ... pish.” Almost immediately there was skulking movement in shrubby edge and low spruce branches. I pished some more, and glimpsed a rapid movement. I followed the movement, still pishing, hoping that my quarry would pause. I stared at the place where the bird last moved, and then the inquisitive little bird appeared - but not the Magnolia Warbler I sought. The black-masked rogue stared at me, head a-cock. Then he dropped out of sight in the thick branches.

In a hundred acre clearing filled with wild blueberry bushes, tangles of blackberries and raspberries, and scattered willow bushes, I wanted to get a good look at the uncommon Lincoln Sparrow. I had heard it a few days before and had a so-so look (sometimes referred to as a BVD look - better view desired). When I saw a brownish bird flit in a bush, I suspected Lincoln Sparrow. So I pished:  “pish ... pish ... pish ... pish.” Almost immediately there was skulking movement through the shrubby willows. I followed the tiny bird as it drew a half circle around me, flying fast from bush to bush. My pishing drew it closer ... until finally he showed himself. Head a-cock, the black-masked rogue stared at me. Then he dropped out of sight in the thick willows.

Downstream from the old, abandoned beaver pond, was an open area that had once been cleared by the beaver. Now it is overgrown with willows and cherry trees, and century old apple trees. The whole area was surrounded with leafy forest. It was perfect habitat for the black-necklaced Canada Warbler. A few days earlier I had been in this same spot with a friend when we heard it sing. We had good looks at this beautiful wood warbler. Now I was back in quest of a photo opportunity look.

I heard the Canada Warbler sing. So I pished:  “pish ... pish ... pish ... pish.” Almost immediately there was skulking movement, and I followed that movement. But by now, you know that the first responder to my pishing was the black-masked little rogue. Head a-cock, he stared at me, then disappeared in the thicket.

The black-masked little rogue is, of course, the Common Yellowthroat, a member of the American Wood Warbler family (Parulidae) and the only member of its Genus found in North American. Its scientific name was given to it by Karl von Linne, the eighteenth century German who developed the Linneaus system for scientific classification and naming. With so much to do, he quickly assigned the Common Yellowthroat to the Genus, Geothlypis, roughly meaning a kind of ground finch. Its species name is trichas, meaning a thrush. The Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas, is not a finch, sometimes puts its nest on the ground, and is certainly not a thrush. But Karl’s misnomer survives.

The Common Yellowthroat is common. It can be found in tangled shrubbery along a river, in dense cover along the edge of swampy woodland, in the matted reeds of a swamp, in the grasses and cattails of tidal wetlands, in woods and orchards and bushy pastures.

“To make his acquaintance,” wrote Edward Forbush, “one has only to visit his favorite haunts ... when presto! Up bobs that masquerading scrap of animated feathers, nervously voicing his alarm with a variety of scolding chirps and chattering notes, his black eyes sparkling with excitement. Suddenly he explodes in a vigorous outburst of song, as if to inquire ‘whatcha-see, whatch-see, whatcha-see’ and darting impatiently here and there in the low undergrowth, plainly announces that his privacy has been disturbed; his curiosity and indignation are soon over, and, scurrying to the shelter of his retreat, he leaves the cause of his disquietude flooded with emotions of surprise and delight.”

The black-masked Common Yellowthroat is a warbler that acts like a wren, even to cocking its tail upward  ... that is, when it is not cocking its head at some ridiculous pisher who is disturbing its peace. The male wears the mask; the female is an olive-yellow bundle who chips and head a-cocks as readily as her mate, but without the accompanying “witch-adee-witch-adee,” or “whatcha-see, whatcha-see,” or whatever local dialect he is singing.

Sometimes when I am trying to lure in some tree top warbler or vireo, and have the yellowthroat appear instead, I get slightly irritated. When I skip through my irritation and look at the black-masked little rogue, I immediately see that my irritation with him (because he is not the bird I wanted) is nothing compared to his irritation with me. His head a-cock, and his tail pointed up, all  tell me that I have no business in his neighborhood and if he was a half ounce bigger, he’d teach me a lesson.

Sometimes I do my birding in busy birding places where there are lots of other birders around. And sometimes, I will see one of these birders intently searching for the next bird to add to his day list. I will overhear him mutter, “Phooey, just another yellowthroat.”

When I hear something like that, I can’t help it. I leap to judgment, silently thinking that there is a person who takes his birding much too seriously. I was looking for the Magnolia Warbler, the Lincoln Sparrow, and the Canada Warbler, and each time and place I was first subjected to the critical scrutiny of the black-masked little rogue. Each time I smiled.

There are some things you should never get tired of. The Common Yellowthroat is one of those things. As he dropped into the thicket by the old beaver pond, he underscored this truth as he proclaimed: “Don’t-cha-know, don’t-cha-know.”

By the way, when I looked up from the low tangle where he had inspected me, the black-necklaced Canada Warbler was looking down at me. Good birding.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

... and More Riches

On Wantastiquet Mtn, I heard the Cerulean Warbler, but never saw it.

However, I had leisurely opportunity to watch a pair of Black-and-White Warblers carrying food to their nest. I did not try to find the nest, since they were a bit upset just with my presence.

Also gathering food by scratching among the leaves and forest floor debris was this Wood Thrush ...

Along an old railroad bed parallel to the Connecticut River, I found this one year old male American Redstart singing for all he was worth. The male does not acquire his black and orange nuptial plumage until his second breeding year, but this young man clearly hopes he charms will be noticed.

Unlike the more mature American Redstarts which almost never show any interest in "pishers," this one reacted immediately, flying back and forth, and singing with vigor ...

Good birding!

Monday, June 07, 2010

More Riches

Last Friday I spent the morning in the Green Mountains, where patience produced more opportunities to observe closely our summer warblers and vireos.

Blackburnian Warbler ...

Northern Parula ...

Red-eyed Vireo ...

Good birding!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Monogamy Among the Birds

Last Saturday a small group gathered in the early morning for an Audubon field trip around a Dummerston marsh. Near the end of the slow amble (these trips can rarely be called hikes or walks), we stood looking at a gnarled cherry tree. About seven feet from the ground was a one inch hole. A pair of chickadees went to and from the tree, and in and out of the hole. They were carrying food. Inside the hole was a nest with hatchlings.

During the ten minutes we watched the hole, the chickadees made at least ten visits to their nest, probably more, since no one was counting carefully. They exhibited a hurried energy and focused urgency which left us catching our breath. When the group finally moved on, it find stimulus in a waiting coffee pot.

While watching a chickadee duck into the hole with a beak full of food, then fly out rapidly on another foraging trip, one of our group said something like, “That’s why birds are monogamous; it takes more than one to feed the young. Mammals are polygamous; only the mother feeds the young.”

That is a sweeping generality, and like all sweeping generalities, arguable at hundreds of points and with exceptions running all over the place. With that acknowledgment, however, let’s take a generalized look at the mammal side. Ancient potentates exhibited their power by maintaining huge harems. Wise King Solomon, for example, reportedly had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines, which makes me wonder how he ever had time to think up proverbs of wisdom. Indeed, that report presents a serious challenge to his supposed wisdom. Nevertheless, he did not have to spend any time with hands on child care.

Better evidence is even closer at hand. Polygamy may not always be evident among mammals, but the prevalence of single parenting appears to be the norm. Field mice, chipmunks, and squirrels on the small end, and deer, moose, and bear on the large end, all leave the raising of young to the diligence of the mother. She does all of the feeding on her own until her young can begin to care for themselves. If we wanted to argue that mammals are the most advanced evolutionary order, then we might also have to conclude that in this most advanced order, the male is only needed - only good - for one thing.

But let’s go back to the birds. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of all bird species are socially monogamous. That is, they form a pair bond for at least one breeding season and cooperate in raising young. The chickadees which we watched as they brought food to the hatchlings in the nest, bonded together a few weeks ago. In essence, they made a pact with one another to raise those young. When the hatchlings fought their way out of the egg shell, they were altricial - blind, naked, helpless, and voraciously hungry. With the untiring energy of the attendant pair of adult birds, in a few short weeks those hatchlings will leave the nest. Soon after, they will be independent and on their own.

The completely helpless condition of the young when they hatch necessitates social cooperation if anyone’s genes are going to survive. But this social cooperation, or social monogamy, is distinct from genetic monogamy. With the development of DNA studies, scientists are discovering bird species after bird species that engage in “extra-pair copulations.” Or in vernacular terms, they cheat on their spouse.

The female chickadee in the cherry tree nest hole laid 6-8 eggs. It is probable that the eggs she laid were fertilized by two or more males. Her partner may have fertilized the majority of the eggs, but it is unlikely that he fertilized all of the eggs. It is also possible that she did not lay all of the eggs. Though less common, females who may not have formed a pair bond, may drop an egg in someone else’s nest. Or maybe she has formed a pair bond, but drops one of her eggs in someone else’s nest anyway.

“One key characteristic of many socially monogamous species is that two parents must provide care in order to raise the young successfully. When both the male and female are necessary to provide adequate care, social monogamy is common.” (Sibley, Guide to Bird Life & Behavior)

There are, of course, many different strategies which different bird species employ during the breeding season. Hatchling shorebirds and waterfowl are precocial, able to feed themselves soon after hatching. A parent may have to protect them from danger; recently I watched a mother Mallard do an elaborate and energetic injured bird act in an attempt (successful) to keep me from looking for her young. A parent of precocial young may have to show them how to find food, but there is none of the frantic work that the chickadee parents engaged in.

Some species engage helpers, often a young bird from a previous breeding season, which stays with its parents and helps out. Corvids often use this cooperative strategy. The nesting crows in my neighborhood are three in number; I surmise a bonded pair and a helper.

About 2 percent of bird species are polygynous; a male has a breeding partnership with two or more females. Red-winged blackbirds are polygynous, as are Wild Turkeys. The counterpart in which a female partners with two or more males is polyandry.

The Brown-headed Cowbird is a very successful breeder without forming any pair bonds or doing any parenting. The species is a brood parasite. The female lays her egg in another species’ nest, and then takes off. The raising of the young is left entirely to the host parents.

Social monogamy in birds develops when two parents are needed to raise the young. This is true for most songbirds, hawks, and herons. They are weak, helpless, and unable to maintain their body temperature. They need to be kept warm, fed and protected - a two parent job. A pair of adult birds contracts with one another to raise their young together for at least one breeding season, and perhaps many seasons. In general, the bonded pair are the genetic parents of most of the young they raise.

A couple of days after the Audubon amble, I returned to the marsh to watch the chickadees. They seemed aware of my presence, uneasy with me sitting 25 feet away and staring at their nest hole. They were nervous on the nearby branches, uneasy about flying to the hole and giving away its location. One chickadee lingered inside for a while, then poked its head out the hole. It stayed there, as though assessing whether I posed any threat or danger to its helpless young. Finally, it concluded that I was benign, and it flew off to forage.

I did not stay for long as the chickadees were feeding their offspring. Even though I was just watching, they could do without my extended presence. Better that I spend my time advising my offspring how to raise their offspring. Unlike Solomon, I have the wisdom of experience.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Sampling ...

The first Vermont breeding record for the Red-bellied Woodpecker was in Brattleboro in 2001. Nine years later, it is being reported throughout Vermont, and is common in Windham County. On Monday, I returned to Phyllis' marsh in Dummerston and found this pair at their nest near the road ...

My return to the marsh was specifically to observe the nest of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. The female returns with food for her young ...

In Brattleboro, the Prairie Warbler is still singing on territory, although this pose resulted from his curiosity about my presence ...

Atop Newfane Hill this morning, the colorful birds were high in the canopy, or silent. Not to worry. It was a good morning.

Dark-eyed Juncos breed in this forest. So common around the bird feeders during the winter, it is a very different experience to encounter them singing in deep woods during the spring and summer ...

In a patch of open forest, I found this Eastern Wood-Pewee vocalizing enthusiastically between short flights for food ...

... and finally, another nondescript flycatcher went from forest edge to apple tree top, barely interrupting his enthusiastic, if unmusical, vocalization: che-bek, che-bek, che-bek, che-bek. Least Flycatcher ...

Good birding!


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