Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Project FeederWatch- Week 3

It's been raining all day but that hasn't stopped the birds! They were a little slow to rise, but sure enough around 11:00 they were swarming the feeders. I couldn't believe how active they were even when the rain was at its heaviest.

It's been just the usual suspects so far, but I did see an interesting sparrow. Since I've been watching from the safety of my covered porch I wasn't able to get close enough to get a good shot, and had to rely on the strength of my Canon PowerShot's zoom. Fortunately I had the steadiness of my new tripod in my favor. It's not very tall, but I can set it up on the table in the porch. It works out pretty well.

The rain has added an interesting element to my shooting today. Some of the pictures make the birds look like they have white specs on them.

Dark-eyed Junco and Tufted Titmouse:
Male Northern Cardinal:

Blue Jay and Squirrel:
I know squirrels are a nuisance but I don't see very many of them (this is maybe the second time I've seen one at my feeder) and I thought this was a cute picture.

I also had a sparrow visit briefly, but I couldn't get a good enough picture because the rain was coming down hard when I saw it. The most distinguishing characteristics I saw with my binoculars were a dark grey underside and brown wings/top feathers. My best guess is a Swamp Sparrow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Project FeederWatch- Week 2

I just completed my second count for Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch. I happen to have today off so I was able to spend more time than usual watching the feeders in my backyard.

It was a light week, compared to last week:
Black-capped Chickadee- 4
Blue Jay- 1
Dark-eyed Junco- 2
Tufted Titmouse- 1
White-breasted Nuthatch- 1
Northern Cardinal- 2
Song Sparrow- 1
The Song Sparrow was the only one that threw me off because I'm not used to seeing them when they start to bulk up for winter.

Here are some additional pictures of my second feeder, hung on a fallen scrub pine tree. It doesn't look too nice laying on our back lawn, but I haven't had the heart to cut it up because the birds love it. Considering the open landscape of our back lawn, it's nice to give them someplace to hide from raptors while they're visiting the feeder.

Here is a Black-capped Chickadee at the feeder. They especially love this feeder because I only fill it with the black oil sunflower seed, and it's a lot easier to get at it since there's a tray on the feeder.
Here is a picture of some bittersweet vines that cover the trees at the back border of our yard. One of the questions on the Project FeederWatch questionnaire was about the presence of fruited trees/shrubs in your yard. The birds seem love the bittersweet berries- I saw a Tufted Titmouse and some Chickadees climbing on them just now. Since I know it's poisonous to humans, I had never thought of birds eating it. I just did a search online and found some information in online gardening forums saying birds do eat it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Project Feederwatch

Today is the official start to Project Feederwatch, operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This is my first year participating and I'm excited because it will make me much more disciplined about birdwatching. I've never done counts before, so I think it will be helpful in getting into the habit of doing that.

Although today is the official start date, I won't be starting my counting until Tuesday. I've decided to count on Tuesdays and Wednesdays since the odds of me being around are much higher than the weekends. Plus, it will be good motivation to get up early to watch the feeder before work (and start my day earlier on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). With the time change, it's actually daylight when I get up now so it shouldn't be too hard.
This morning I went out back for a practice run. I knew there would be a lot of birds since I had been hearing them outside starting around 7am. The feeders were in rough shape (the smaller one was empty, and the long tube one only had seed at the very bottom and it was difficult to get at).

That didn't bother the birds though—the yard was teeming with groups of dark eye-juncos, titmice, and Carolina wrens. I was most excited about the Carolina wrens since I find that they're usually pretty shy. The video I got of the Carolina wren's song at my parents' house on the Cape shows just how hard they can be to capture- they're constantly flitting around. I also had never observed more than two at a time. As you can imagine, their activity this morning caught me entirely off-guard. I counted about 7 max. at one time. They were hanging out in the maple tree right outside my bedroom window. I usually only see them in low brush. Even stranger, one at a time, a few of the boldest ones visited the tube feeder! Ironically, the Project FeederWatch site features an image of a Carolina Wren at a feeder, so I guess it's not as rare as I thought:

Image source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu

Here is my official count from my time out there this morning:

Blue Jay - 3

Northern Cardinal - 2*

Tufted Titmouse - 4

Dark-eyed Junco - 8

Carolina Wren - 7

White-breasted Nuthatch - 2

House Sparrow - 8

Song Sparrow - 1

American Robin - 3
Black-capped Chickadee - 2

I'm also supposed to record temperature and precipitation. I didn't really pay close attention to it this morning, but I do know it's not raining and it's 63 degrees. I'll have to pay closer attention to that on Tuesday.

*According to the data collection rules, males and females must be counted separately even if they are sexually dimorphic (males and females look different). They can only be counted as 2 if they are both seen at the same time. In my case I had a male and female pair on the feeder tree at the same time.

Here are some pictures from this morning.

Tufted Titmouse:

Song Sparrow:

Monk Parakeet Nests in Bridgeport, CT

Here are some pictures I took last weekend in Bridgeport, CT. Steve and I went to a concert in New York on Halloween and then on Saturday we went for a walk in nearby Bridgeport with some friends. Our friend Katelyn wanted to show us the monk parakeets but they were nowhere to be found. I did take some pictures of their huge nests. An urban legend she had head was that a priest kept them as pets and when he died the birds were released since there was no one to take care of them. I just did a little bit of research and didn't find anything that interesting- most sites just say they're the result of families tiring of them and releasing them since they didn't make very good pets.