First in a series.
Archive for May, 2009
Birds are actively proclaiming their territories with song. As you walk along the trails, you will be able to hear where one Wood Thrush's territory ends and another begins. The same is true for Ovenbirds. The Veery is finally filling the woods with its beautiful song. Peewees are also singing now and will continue to sing through most of the summer. Right now, some of the other vocal birds in the forest include the Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Worm-eating Warbler. I heard a Magnolia Warbler this morning while taking a short walk. In the meadows, the Indigo Bunting is singing often, and it is not hard to see this stunning bird. Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and Field Sparrows are also active in the meadows.
Most woodland wildflowers are putting energy into converting fertilized flowers into seeds for another generation. The Maple-leaved Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) is one of the few things that is blooming in the forest shade. In the meadows, the hawkweeds and Wild Geraniums are in bloom.
Soon, we will be turning to Butterflies for color in our lives. The Easter Tiger Swallowtails are very active right now visiting Tulip Tree blossoms. Spicebush Swallowtails can be seen in both the forest and meadows. Beginning on June 9, the Tuesday Morning Walks will shift focus to butterflies at Mariton.
This week we birded a Wy-Hit-Tuk Park, part of the Northampton County park system which connects to the Delaware Canal State Park. (A truly wonderful resource.) Then we walked the Towpath for two miles to where we had staged our shuttle back up to the park. We saw Baltimore Orioles the entire time, and several of their nests. We also saw a few Orchard Orioles. This species is not as common, so it is a treat to see them. (Photo of Orchard Oriole by Carole Mebus.)
We also heard lots of American Redstarts, but we only had a few glimpses of them as they flitted in the dense foliage. We saw a large bird of prey high above Earth, seemingly frozen in air currents. It was too distant to make a positive ID, but could have been an immature Bald Eagle. We also spent some time trying to identify a sandpiper as it fed on an island in the River.
Bill spotted a Bluebird using this natural cavity as a nest. We watched the female land on the broken limb and saw a gaping mouth inside the hole begging for a morsel of food. (Photo by Carole Mebus.) In all we counted 47 species of birds; and we stayed dry despite the weather man's predictions.
Did you ever wonder how much of the preserve is forest, farm field, or meadow? I sure do as it helps me track costs and best management practices.
There have been many new blooms opening at the preserve. Forget-me-nots and common buttercups have been showing up here and there. The tuliptree has been blooming and now the flowers are beginning to fall.
Many people asked me about learning bird songs this past spring. It is an important tool for me, especially after leaf-out when it is difficult to find birds in the tree tops. There are a lot of different ways to learn bird songs, and finding the one that works best for you is a bit of experimentation. There is also a lot of new technology that can help. I think it is helpful to bird a lot in the spring, hear a lot of songs, and try to figure out who is singing. The harder you work to identify a songster, the easier it is to remember the song.
Baby steps. If you learn 5 or 6 songs every year, in a few years you will have quite a mental library. (I still have to reacquaint myself with a few songs every spring. And I still try to learn a few new ones each year.) Start with the birds in your backyard. You will get more practice, and more enjoyment from your new knowledge. Birds like the Cardinal, Robin, House Wren, Song Sparrow and Goldfinch are a good place to start. The Tufted Titmouse has many different songs, and I still get confused by them. Blue Jays are another bird with a giant repertoire that confuses beginners and pros. As your repertoire builds, you will not only be able to identify songs, but also rule out others as you discover new sounds in your travels.
I used the Peterson record (back when there was vinyl and turntables), but now I keep the CD version on my desk. If I hear a call in the woods that I don't recognize, I will work out a description or some mnemonic to help me remember the song, and then listen to the CD when I return. The iPhone has an app that I am very impressed with. (Some of the birders in our group have it and it has proved to be a powerful tool.) The Cornell website is another great resource. Finally, birding with others helps. Mnemonics work, but different people hear the same thing differently. What one person may hear as witchity-witchity-witchity (Common Yellowthroat), another hears as something completely different. Finding the mnemonic that helps you remember a song is easier if you bird with a variety of folks.
And remember, birds don't always sound like the recording. They have local accents and dialects. Rufous-sided Towhees are known for their Drink your tee-e-e-e-e-e song. Sometimes they juxtapose the notes, and often you will only hear DRINK! At Jacobsburg this week, we had a Field Sparrow that had us totally flummoxed. If we hadn't watched it sing the notes we were hearing, we still wouldn't believe it. It improvised the leading notes, and then seemed to try to imitate a Chipping Sparrow with its trill. Remember, baby steps. You don't learn how to play Shostakovich before you learn Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
The four baby bluebirds in the yard have fledged out. You should be able to see some of them flying around the yard on your next visit to Mariton. We also have a pair of Tree Swallows nesting in a box along the driveway.
In the fields, 4 baby Bluebirds have hatched. Another Bluebird nest has four eggs. A Chickadee nest now has 5 eggs. A Tree Swallow nest has 2 eggs. The Tufted Titmouse is guarding her brood, so I can't count how many young she has, or how much they have developed.