Through the Window: September Feeder Birds

Against the shifting foliage, we’ve seen many birds (some the last of the year, as they migrate southwards).  Nearby, we also observed a mammal of some note!

Birds:

  • Blue Jay
  • Grackle
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (last male on 9/7/2010; last female on 9/14/2010)
  • Purple Finch
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Mourning Dove
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak (still here 9/11/2010)
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • White-throated Sparrow (9/17/2010, 9/29/2010)
  • Easter Phoebe
  • Pileated Woodpecker — swooping over and museum
  • Song Sparrow
  • Bluebird (9/28, 11:30 a.m.)

Mammal:

  • Bobcat sighted by a cyclist on 9/20/2010 at 1:33 p.m., just north of museum parking lot on Sherman Hollow Road

And something you can’t actually see from the window, but must get up and walk to:

Autumn Flowers at the Birds of Vermont Museum
Autumn Flowers at the Birds of Vermont Museum. Photo taken in September 2005 in the field between the road and the pond.

Feeding hummingbirds in fall

I received a call today from a woman wondering what to do about hummingbirds. Two juvenile birds still come to her feeder, but she hasn’t seen the parents in some time. Should she take in the feeder? Is the food she provides keeping those young birds from migrating? Will they migrate without the parents? Are the parents still around, just not coming to her feeder?

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Female (woodcarving)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Female (carved by Bob Spear)

I asked Bob Spear, since he’s got considerably more experience as a naturalist than I do–decades more.

“Leave it up,” he says. In fact, our hummingbird feeders are still up at the Museum and we saw a female ruby-throated hummingbird on Tuesday the 14th of September.  He tells us the males head south earlier than females and young ones, and he suspects that the female parent of the two juveniles is still nearby. Furthermore, migrating individuals from further north may stop at feeders on their way south (and in this week’s chilly rain, every bit helps). “It’s a myth,” he says, “that our feeders will keep them from migrating when it’s time for them to go.”

So enjoy your last glimpses of these little birds, glinting against the autumn leaves.

A beginner’s notes from the Annual Butterfly Walk

post by Kir Talmage, Museum Program Coordinator

I’ve just come back from the Annual VES Butterfly Walk.  Thank you so much to Bryan Pfeiffer, Trish Hanson and many others for sharing their knowledge! We had about 35 guests or so on the walk, ranging from young kids to grandparents, new explorers to professional (and retired) entomologists.  I’m a new explorer, practically a rank beginner with bugs.  I love it.

You’ll no doubt get much more by coming on a walk, going outside, and paging through field guides. I went out with my  just my notebook and camera, though. So, from my notes:

Grandfather and grandchild exploring for butterflies
Grandfather and grandchild exploring for butterflies on today's VES Butterfly Walk

About observing tools: Water nets and butterfly nets are not the same. A butterfly net (for field insects, etc.) is longer, cone-shaped, and of a very fine soft mesh. The longer shape (compared a vaguely trapezoidal water net) allows one to “flip” the net closed, so the insect won’t escape while you are examining it. That’s less of an issue with a water net; water beetles and dragonfly nymphs aren’t so likely to fly off.

About Butterflies: Lepidoptera — the order that contains butterflies — means “scale(d) wing”, for the thousands of tiny, often iridescent scales that cover the wings.  We found a clouded sulphur female (Colias philodice). One way (of  several) to tell this was a female was because she had spots in the dark margin of her upper wing.

Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis) on child's hand
Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis) on child's hand. This one is an "old lady" -- about a month or so!

About Dragonflies and Damselflies: When identifying them, look at where the color is on which segments of the abdomen — look very closely! Also look at the profile of the claspers at the end of the abdomen. The different shapes (hook, c-clamp, straight, knobby, etc.) helped in identification.

About Daddy-long-legs:  I had never noticed how the mouth parts fold so neatly, making such a even oval profile of their bodies. Lovely.

Here’s a cool online resource I just found too, for comparing multiple pictures of butterflies (and others): http://www.discoverlife.org/20/q?guide=Butterflies What are your favorite online resources for Insects and Arachnids?

Young Entomologist
Young Entomologist on the VES Annual Butterfly Walk

A Meditation on a Child and Birding

Guest post from Dr. Stewart Kirkaldy, Museum Volunteer

Every once in a while one has an experience that is profoundly moving. This happened to me recently on International Migratory Bird Day at the Birds of Vermont Museum where I was working at the viewing window. A young couple came in with three children, the eldest of whom was a serious birder. She was 10 years old or less but had a “life list” of fifty-eight on arrival. Very soon she saw her first Hummingbird to which she responded with incredible vocal enthusiasm, jumping up and down and rushing across the room to give her father the news. (She added two new species to her list that afternoon.) Her interest and enthusiasm was evident all day. She was an inspiration and rejuvenated hope in my heart for the future of humanity.

The realization dawned on me that she is at one end of the spectrum of human activity and, sadly, too many are at the other end as exemplified by Big Oil Company Executives whose actions and indifference led to the recent catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But what she left me with was the hope well expressed in a hymn that ends “… when man’s crude acts deface no more / the handiwork of God.”

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (male), carved by Robert Spear, Jr.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (male), carved by Robert Spear, Jr.

Sunday morning walk

[As posted to VTBIRD mailing list by Erin Talmage]
We started with a soggy morning walk and ended at the Museum’s viewing
window drinking bird-friendly coffee and eating local baked goods.

Our species list for the entire morning:

Great crested Flycatcher
Cedar Waxwing
American Goldfinch
Phoebe
Oriole
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
American Robin
Wood Duck
Black and White Warbler
Grackle
Blue Jay
Yellow bellied Sapsucker
Evening Grosbeak
Brown-headed Cowbird
Mourning Dove
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Wild Turkey
Dark-eyed Junco
Indigo Bunting

Join us on June 13th, June 20th, and/or June 27th  for another bird walk.
(We always end our walks with coffee and goodies!)

For more details and a complete schedule of events see
www.birdsofvermont.org

Early Morning Bird Walk

Shirley Johnson and Alison Wagner have been leading the Early Morning Birds Walks this spring. (Haven’t been on one yet? Come on Sundays at 7:00 a.m.; we will be doing these through June).  They post the birds the group observes on a white board here at the museum, and report some of the highlights to us over coffee.

Last week, Alison lead a group despite the snowy weather. Yes, they were successful, observing some dozen or so species.

Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler (carved by Bob Spear). One of the species identified on today's Early Morning Bird Walk.

Today, Shirley reported hearing two barred owls having a “party”, cackling and laughing back and forth to each other. She also said they’d heard a Louisiana Waterthrush, and compared the sounds of that species as recorded by the iFlyer and the Birding by Ear CDs.

Come along on our next trip! See http://www. birdsofvermont.org/ events.php for the schedule. There’s no fee, and coffee is provided.

Through the Window: April birds and more

This was a seriously happenin’ month! Birds, mammals, amphibians. And yes, they were all seen through the windows of the museum. As always, these are roughly in the order we saw them.

Mourning Dove with nest, egg
Mourning Dove with nest, egg; carved by Robert N. Spear, Jr.
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Red-winged blackbird (female, April 3)
  • Mourning Dove
  • Ruffed Grouse (April 1)
  • American Goldfinch
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Evening Grosbeak (April 3)
  • Eastern Phoebe (FOY, April 3)
  • Sapsucker (April 3, FOY)
  • Song Sparrow (April 6, FOY)
  • Chipping Sparrow (FOY, April 7)
  • Kestrel (April 6)
  • Northern Flicker (April 6)
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird (FOY, April 10)
  • White-throated Sparrow (FOY, April 13)
  • American Robin (April 29)

For amphibians, we noted a wood frog on April 1 and a spotted salamander April 11. Wood frog eggs were noted in our little pond (the one near the viewing window) on April 3 and April 6).

We observed chipmunk, red squirrel, gray squirrel, a woodchuck (a.k.a. groundhog, on April 3) and, in a lucky moment, a bobcat on April 16.

The birds were recorded in our eBird record as well.

March Through the Window

We’ve seen these through the window in March, sometimes while passing by, and sometimes while directly observing for Feeder Watch. The ones we didn’t see last month are in bold.

  • American Crow
  • Wild Turkeys (20 on 3/16; 2 displaying Toms)
  • Blue Jays
  • Chickadees, Black-capped
  • Purple Finch
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Fox Sparrow 3/26
  • Common Grackle 3/28
  • Red-winged Blackbird 3/20
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Song Sparrow 3/23
  • Ruffed Grouse 3/25
  • Northern Cardinal 3/28
  • Red Squirrel
  • Gray Squirrel
  • Eastern Chipmunk

February at the Feeders

Noted through our viewing window in February (more or less in the order we saw them; the ones we didn’t see last month are in bold):

    Downy Woodpecker
    Downy Woodpecker

  • Blue Jays
  • Mourning Doves
  • Hairy Woodpeckers
  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • Black-capped Chickadees
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Wild Turkeys
  • Red-Breasted Nuthatches
  • Common Raven
  • White-breasted Nuthatches
  • Tufted Titmice
  • American Crow
  • Red Squirrels
  • Gray Squirrels

January Feeder Birds

Hairy Woodpecker via our FeederCam
Hairy Woodpecker via our FeederCam

At lunch, we like to eat while gazing out of the Viewing Window at the museum.  We keep an unofficial list of birds (mostly) seen at that time, jotting them down on a nearby whiteboard.  Here’s who we saw in January:

  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • Hairy Woodpeckers
  • Black-capped Chickadees
  • Blue Jays
  • White-breasted Nuthatches
  • Red-Breasted Nuthatches
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Mourning Doves
  • Wild Turkeys
  • Tufted Titmice
  • Red Squirrels
  • Gray Squirrels

You can see some of what we see with our FeederCam, too. We also participate in in Project FeederWatch, a more formal way to  collect and record bird data.