Through the Window: April 2013 explosion (of species seen)

“Spring has sprung, tra-la-la-la-la / Spring has sprung!” — the Swing Peepers

Look at these lists! Spring is amazing. All of these in the first list were seen April 1st (and generally also later in the month). Bold ones are those we didn’t see last month!

  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Common Grackle
  • Blue Jay
  • Fox Sparrow (four on 4/9, 4/20)
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • American Crow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • White-breasted Nuthatch

Then we saw…

  • Common Redpoll (4/6,  4/24)
  • American Robin
  • Tree Sparrow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Cooper’s Hawk (4/3, 4/15)
  • Song Sparrow
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (First of Year 4/9)
  • Northern Goshawk (4/13)
  • Evening Grosbeak (the female with the healed-but-dropping wing, and returnees)
  • Brown-headed Cowbird (4/18 and later)
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • American Goldfinch
  • Wild Turkey
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Northern Flicker (4/23)

In the Little Pond (we have this as bird bath/water source, among other reasons):

Mammals included the mink, a cottontail rabbit, red and gray squirrels, and the eastern chipmunk.

At the Big Pond (across the road and up through the meadow, then into the forest):

  • A pair of mallard ducks (4/15)
  • Wood ducks (~4/20)

If you want to get involved with NestWatch, let us know how we can help you!

The “Through the Window” series is an informal record of observations made by staff, volunteers, and visitors. Anyone at the Museum may add to this list. Observations are usually through our viewing window: a large window with a film to make it more difficult for birds to see the watchers. We have chairs and binoculars to try there, a white board, and many identification guides. Outdoors, several feeders are attached on a single, bear-resistant pole. A small pond, flowers and water plants, shrubs and trees add cover and other food choices. You can sometimes see what we see via our webcam.

Through the Window: March 2013 migrants and an unexpected mammal

It’s spring! Really! What do you mean, it’s snowing again? Of course it is! It does that in spring!

Anyway, back before the spring equinox we watched some birds. And then we did it again after, too. Of course. It’s wonderful what you see when you just sti still and look.

  • Black-capped Chickadees
  • Hairy Woodpeckers (males chasing each other 3/3)
  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • American Crow
  • Blue Jay
  • Mourning Dove
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Common Redpoll (flock of about 15 on 3/26)
  • Common Grackle (3/15)
  • Red-winged Blackbird (3/18 and later)
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Wild Turkey (3/24)
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Northern Goshawk (3/30)

The female Evening Grosbeak was also seen, across the road in the tress, on March 30.

Of course we had some red and gray squirrels. We noticed an Eastern Chipmunk crossing the road on March 26.

To our great surprise (and some delight) we saw a weasel on March 30 and 31. It’s hard to tell the long-tailed and short-tailed weasels apart sometimes, but we think we saw a short-tailed weasel (ermine). It was still in its full winter coat: white with a black tip to its tails. It seemed to be stalking the squirrels, and its presence would go a long way towards explaining why fewer mice were in the bird seed closet traps this winter!

We’re looking forward to NestWatch coming up soon (exactly when depends on where you are; they have a spiffy new website too)

The “Through the Window” series is an informal record of observations made by staff, volunteers, and visitors. Anyone at the Museum may add to this list. Observations are usually through our viewing window: a large window with a film to make it more difficult for birds to see the watchers. We have chairs and binoculars to try there, a white board, and many identification guides. Outdoors, several feeders are attached on a single, bear-resistant pole. A small pond, flowers and water plants, shrubs and trees add cover and other food choices. You can sometimes see what we see via our webcam.

Through the Window: February 2013 with Bird Counts

Several boards to combine for today’s post: the usual white board, the Feedwatch tally sheet, and the Great Backyard Bird Count board!

  • Black-capped Chickadees (10 seen at the GBBC)
  • Hairy Woodpeckers (male and female; also 2 seen at the GBBC)
  • Downy Woodpeckers (male and female; also2 seen at the GBBC)
  • Common Redpoll (31 seen at the GBBC)
  • Dark-eyed Junco (1 seen at the GBBC)
  • Common Redpoll (31 seen at the GBBC)
  • Blue Jay (1 seen at the GBBC)
  • Mourning Dove (18 seen at the GBBC)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (1 seen at the GBBC)
  • Tufted Titmouse (2 seen at the GBBC)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch (1 seen at the GBBC)
  • Evening Grosbeak (female with the injured wing, seen at least twice, including 2/27/13 up on the platform feeder)
  • American Crow (1 seen at the GBBC)
  • Common Raven (1 seen at the GBBC)
  • Brown Creeper (on a yellow birch near the feeder area)

Of course we had some red and gray squirrels!

Project Feederwatch started November 10th. We usually do our observations at lunch, and thos species are included in the list above. This is a great project to do with kids. The Great Backyard Bird Count is another beginner-friendly (and expert-friendly!) citizen science project. This a short-term project (4 days), rather than a multi-month one. We’re looking forward to NestWatch coming up soon (exactly when depends on where you are; they have a spiffy new website too)

The “Through the Window” series is an informal record of observations made by staff, volunteers, and visitors. Anyone at the Museum may add to this list. Observations are usually through our viewing window: a large window with a film to make it more difficult for birds to see the watchers. We have chairs and binoculars to try there, a white board, and many identification guides. Outdoors, several feeders are attached on a single, bear-resistant pole. A small pond, flowers and water plants, shrubs and trees add cover and other food choices. You can sometimes see what we see via our webcam.

Cold Winter, Warm Birds

Who hasn’t looked out the kitchen window this month and felt surprise at the sight of plump black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice on low, nearby branches? We may wonder why these birds look so fat in winter’s wind and cold. While many of their feathered neighbors head south for the months of fall and winter in response to the lack of available food such as worms, flying insects, and nectar-rich flowers, birds that live in Vermont year-round are well adapted to dealing with the cold and snow.

Birds are equipped to take advantage of certain elements in their habitat that may provide shelter. In addition, birds have the capacity to lower their activity levels and rate of metabolism to regulate body temperature and save energy. We all know that feathers are important, unique, avian structures. Not only are feathers critical to the achievement of flight, but their colorful patterning functions as a form of communication for birds of the same and other species. Just as important, feathers perform a lifesaving function in frigid temperatures. Special muscles attached to a bird’s feathers allow the bird to raise a network of feathers in creating protective air pockets that keep heat close to the body and cold blocked out. Remember that plumped up bird sitting on the clothesline in February? She is keeping warm by keeping insulated.

We often spy a bird standing on one leg with the other pulled up under its body or the bird’s head tucked under one shoulder wing. These postures are behavioral adaptations for keeping vulnerable parts of the body warm. Some birds reduce heat loss from their legs and feet by reducing blood flow to the lower legs and feet (regional hypothermia). Tendons comprise much of a bird’s foot with minimal nerve and vascular tissue so blood flow is directed to a bird’s core when it is trying to conserve heat. Arterial blood vessels pumping warm core blood mesh with veins carrying cool blood from cold extremities (countercurrent exchange), thus circulating warmer blood around vital organs.

Shivering is a phenomenon we all know from personal experience. Humans are not the only animals capable of shivering. Birds employ rapid muscle contractions to generate heat, especially during nighttime sleep.

During cold nights, many birds such as the black-capped chickadee and golden-crowned kinglet are able to enter into a state of torpor wherein they can lower their body temperature (normally about 104 degrees Fahrenheit down to about 86 degrees) to a point where they will conserve energy and stretch their fat reserves from the daily food intake (10% above normal body weight) to support them through the night.

Favorable overnight shelters must be sufficiently compact and secure to protect a bird from harsh wind and frigid temperatures. From tree cavities to low conifer canopies or tangled vines, many birds find space to survive the night, some even huddling with kin from the same species. Winter roosting boxes constructed by local bird fans show a distinct feature regarding the entrance hole. The roost box orients the opening at a lower front corner (as opposed to an entrance at the front top used in spring nesting boxes). With heat retention the primary goal for a roosting bird, simple physics and logic agree that warmer air given off by a sleeping bird will rise to the top of the box, the same area in which the bird is resting against the back wall’s wire grid. One would hope birds have been able to locate natural shelters with the same layout.

Ruffed grouse are locally-common, ground- nesting, game birds. With autumn transitioning to cooler days, the feet of ruffed grouse undergo modifications for winter. Horny, comb-like scales develop along the edges of the grouse’s toes enlarging the surface area of the bottom of the feet. This adaptation enables the bird to walk along the top of the snow and so, conserve energy. In extreme weather, ruffed grouse will dive into snow cover that is at least 10” in depth, to survive the night in their sheltering tunnel.

Observant and enterprising humans have taken a page from bird adaptations to the cold. Carving out snow caves for camp shelters, bundling up in down parkas, and strapping on snowshoes for efficient trekking all enable us to conserve energy and make the most of winter in these great outdoors.

Post by Allison Gergely, Museum Educator at the Birds of Vermont Museum. This article will also appear in Vermont Great Outdoors Magazine, a digital publication.

Through the Window: January 2013 for Brrrrrrds

Didn’t get everything noted on our white board, so we checked our Feederwatch notes too (see below). What a nice mix of birds. I’m sure we’d see more if we just sat by the window all the time!

  • Common Redpoll (both mail and female; the larges flock was about 30 birds)
  • Common Raven (overhead, not at the feeders)
  • Blue Jays
  • Mourning Doves (the largest flock seen was about 2o birds)
  • Wild Turkey (7  on the 21st, 1 male) (this flock was seen several time, perhaps because of Audubon Vermont’s nearby logging demo? Or perhaps just for the corn!)
  • Black-capped Chickadees
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • Hairy Woodpeckers
  • Evening Grosbeak  (the female with the drooping wing was noted on January 9th and 22nd. She fluttered up to the platform on the 22nd!)
  • Northern Cardinals (male and female)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch

Of course we had some red and gray squirrels. Funny little things! Some of them you can tell apart somewhat easily, but subtle marking or differently-colored fur patches.

Project Feederwatch started November 10th. We usually do our observations at lunch. This is a great project to do with kids. The Great Backyard Bird Count (in February) is another beginner-friendly (and expert-friendly!) citizen science project. We do that do, and the Museum will be open on February 16 so you can count, learn, and enjoy it with us.

The “Through the Window” series is an informal record of observations made by staff, volunteers, and visitors. Anyone at the Museum may add to this list. Observations are usually through our viewing window: a large window with a film to make it more difficult for birds to see the watchers. We have chairs and binoculars to try there, a white board, and many identification guides. Outdoors, several feeders are attached on a single, bear-resistant pole. A small pond, flowers and water plants, shrubs and trees add cover and other food choices. You can sometimes see what we see via our webcam.

Through the Window: December 2012 … a little sparse

We were busy out and about, and had few visitors (a disadvantage of our “by appointment” season), so not so many observations. The female Grosbeak with the damaged wing continues to live nearby! You can find out more about her in October’s entry. Here’s the rest of our December list.

  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Blue Jay
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Mourning Dove
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Evening Grosbeak  (the female with the drooping wing was noted on December 22)
  • Northern Cardinal

Project Feederwatch started November 10th. We usually do our observations at lunch. This is a great project to do with kids. The Great Backyard Bird Count (in February) is another beginner-friendly (and expert-friendly!) citizen science project. We do that do, and the Museum will be open on February 16 so you can count, learn, and enjoy it with us.

The “Through the Window” series is an informal record of observations made by staff, volunteers, and visitors. Anyone at the Museum may add to this list. Observations are usually through our viewing window: a large window with a film to make it more difficult for birds to see the watchers. We have chairs and binoculars to try there, a white board, and many identification guides. Outdoors, several feeders are attached on a single, bear-resistant pole. A small pond, flowers and water plants, shrubs and trees add cover and other food choices. You can sometimes see what we see via our webcam.

Through the Window: November 2012 Gets a Little Quieter

Our plucky female Grosbeak friend is still around! You can find out more about her in last month’s entry.

  • Evening Grosbeak (including the feamle with the injured wing. Still going!)
  • Blue JayTufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Pine Siskin
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Fox Sparrow (11/6/2012)
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Mourning Dove
  • Wild Turkey (usually 6-10, but we did see a flock of 23!)

Project Feederwatch started November 10th! We enjoy having our lunch while “standing watch”. When do you take your data?

Of course some Red and Gray squirrels appeared quite pleased to hoover up some of our corn and black oil seed from the ground.

The “Through the Window” series is an informal record of observations made by staff, volunteers, and visitors. Anyone at the Museum may add to this list. Observations are usually through our viewing window: a large window with a film to make it more difficult for birds to see the watchers. We have chairs and binoculars to try there, a white board, and many identification guides. Outdoors, several feeders are attached on a single, bear-resistant pole. A small pond, flowers and water plants, shrubs and trees add cover and other food choices. You can sometimes see what we see via our webcam.

Through the Window: October 2012 with a Big Sit too

The Big Sit! event always boosts the size of the October list. Something about actually sitting around and watching for birds, instead of trying to notice them while you’re talking to other visitors…  Bold birds are the ones we didn’t record last month.

  • Blue Jay
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Evening Grosbeak*
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • American Crow
  • Mourning Dove
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Purple Finch
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk (caught something on October 19!)
  • American Goldfinch
  • Pine Siskins (more than 20!)
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Wild Turkeys (a flock of 9)
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Song Sparrow? (10/12, observed by Jim O. Not bolded due to uncertainty, although Jim is an expert birder.)
  • Cedar Waxwing (during the Big Sit)
  • mystery Duck (a Big Sit observation–too silhouetted to identify properly)
  • Common Raven (also during the Big Sit!)
  • Rusty Blackbird (10/17)
  • Pileated Woodpecker (flew over 10/12)
  • Canada Geese (heard overhead 10/23)
  • American Robin (10/23)
  • Common Grackle (10/07)
  • Ruffed Grouse (in the crab apple tree 10/28)

*Observe? Or Act?

We observed several Evening Grosbeaks, male and female. One female seemed to have an injured right wing. Over the course of the month, she continued to make appearances, generally foraging on the ground and hopping back to shelter in the cedar hedge. However, one day she did fly—perhaps flutter is a more accurate verb—up into some shrubs as well. We saw her off and on through the end of October, and we wish her well. Her persistence does raise the question: what, if anything, should we do about her? Catch her? Send her to rehab? Observe her without interference?

Also,  Project Feederwatch starts November 10th! Are you ready? We are!

The “Through the Window” series is an informal record of observations made by staff, volunteers, and visitors. Anyone at the Museum may add to this list. Observations are usually through our viewing window: a large window with a film to make it more difficult for birds to see the watchers. We have chairs and binoculars to try there, a white board and many identification guides, and several feeders outside on a single, bear-resistant pole, as well as a small pond, flowers and water plants, shrubs and trees. You can sometimes see what we see via our webcam.

Through the Window: September 2012 Bye-bye, (Humming) Birdie

Last of the Hummingbirds! We’re confident that our feeding of them didn’t slow their departure; rather, feeding seems to supplement migrating birds rather than delay them.  If you’re curious about what we saw in high summer, you can see that list too. Bold birds are the ones we didn’t record last month.

  • American Goldfinch
  • Mourning Dove
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • House Finch (female)
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female last seen 9/15/2012)
  • Blue Jay
  • Northern Cardinal
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Purple Finch
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • American Crow
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Wild Turkey
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Northern Flicker

Some typical (and observed) wee neighbors:

  • Red squirrel
  • Gray Squirrel
  • Chipmunks

You can always compare our informal list to other area records on eBird—that’s where we record the observations from our monthly bird monitoring walks (thanks to our wonderful volunteer MM) . We will be part of Project Feederwatch this winter of course, as well as the Great Backyard Bird Count.

The “Through the Window” series is an informal record of observations made by staff, volunteers, and visitors. Anyone at the Museum may add to this list. Observations are usually through our viewing window: a large window with a film to make it more difficult for birds to see the watchers. We have chairs and binoculars to try there, a white board and many identification guides, and several feeders outside on a single, bear-resistant pole, as well as a small pond, flowers and water plants, shrubs and trees. You can sometimes see what we see via our webcam.