Christmas Bird Count

This is the 115th year that people all over the continent count birds contributing to one of the largest, longest running data sets in the world that is collected by Citizen Scientists.  If you’ve never heard of it, I strongly recommend that you click over to the Audubon website that gives the history and importance of this effort.

CBC map

I joined a team this morning down at Audubon.

Spatterdock Pond

Temps were in the high 30s. Walking was challenging. The slowly thawing foot of snow covered with a quarter inch of ice was noisy and difficult. I have to wonder how many birds we scared away as we crunch-crunch-crunched along the trails.

Christmas Bird Count - Audubon Nature Center

We didn’t see anything rare. But it was fun when we got to the tower to see over 200 Mallards from the tower.

Christmas Bird Count - Hugh Wood Tower

Don and Scott would continue on through the afternoon, then join other teams for a potluck dinner during which all the numbers would be tallied. One of these years, I’ll make it for the entire day!

Bird Banding 2014

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Emily Perlock works with two Penn State students who are learning to tell the age of a bird by looking at wing feathers.

And so our bird banding season is underway! Licensed bird banders Emily Perlock, Scott Stoleson, and Don Watts generously give their time, talents, and expertise to show visitors how scientists collect data on birds.

Throughout the season, Terry LeBaron and I will be taking pictures to be used at our September First Friday program.  In addition to giving highlights of the banding season, there will be a quiz and maybe even prizes!

I was only able to stay for a short while on Saturday.  Still, I was able to see lots of birds.  One of the most surprising things happened during the first net check:  fifteen Yellow-rumped Warblers all in the same net!  Over the years, the banders have rarely seen “butter butts” here at Audubon.  Veteran bander Scott Stoleson says this species can be tricky to age.  Penn State students Clay and Nathan got LOTS of practice!

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These are both Yellow-Rumped Warblers.

At this time of year – during the peak of migration, we are also apt to see a lot of birds that are just passing through on their way to breeding grounds further north.  Yellow-rumps have been known to breed here, but most don’t.  (Check out the range map at the Cornell Lab site by clicking here.)

Another migrant with similar bold yellow, white, and black is the White-Throated Sparrow. We caught several on Saturday.

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Click here to see the White-throated Sparrow range map on the Cornell website.

The Cornell site describes the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet as a “tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy.”  We were delighted to catch a few of these on Saturday!

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Click here to see more information about Ruby-Crowned Kinglets.

Not all of the birds banded on Saturday were necessarily migrants. While some MAY have been passing through, these could well be sticking around to breed at Audubon:

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Swamp Sparrow, Song Sparrow

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Eastern Phoebe

I left banding early on Saturday to attend a bridal shower. I’m told there were many other wonderful birds in the mist nets. In addition, Don Watts and friends climbed up to one of our Screech Owl boxes and banded an owl! Wish I had been there for that!

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Double-crested Cormorant at the farm pond on Route 62.

Spring banding demonstrations continue for three more Saturdays. After that, Emily Perlock and her students will continue MAPS banding through the summer. Check Jamestown Audubon’s website for schedule information.

Bonus!  On the way home, I saw a bird at the farm pond along Route 62 between Audubon and Jamestown.  Turned out to be a Double-crested Cormorant!

A Delightful Surprise

Tundra Swans

I photographed these Tundra Swans in 2008. The flock we saw today was MUCH bigger!

One of our favorite bird guys stopped by Audubon to pick up the calendars he had ordered.  It was late afternoon and the meetings were over and I was just finishing a project… So when he suggested we go see if the Snowy Owl was still working the field up the road, I said, “Yes!”

Before we could even hop into the truck, we heard, “Coo coo coo…”  Looking up there was a HUGE flock of Tundra Swans – Don estimated it at 180 birds – flying just overhead.  I’ve heard lots of Tundra Swans this fall – often they are flying above the clouds, though, and I don’t get a chance to see them.

We climbed into Don’s truck and drove off.

Rough-legged Hawk – photo by Gerrit Vin. Click the photo to see source, and an account about this bird at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site.

First stop, the corner of Route 62 and Riverside Road where TWO Rough-legged Hawks were active – one light morph, the other dark.  We watched as one pounced on something in the field, then flew to a tree where the other sat – then took off heading toward the Audubon sanctuary.

Next we drove around the Kiantone-Stillwater area where the Snowy Owl has been seen.  We saw a Red-tailed Hawk in a tree in the swamp along the road that connects Route 60 to Peck-Settlement Road… But alas, no Snowy Owl.

Snowy Owl – Photo by Michaela Sagatova. Click the photo to see an article about Snowy Owls at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

We both had time, so Don suggested we drive up to airport hill where owls have been reported.  Within minutes of arriving a Snowy Owl flew up from the edge of a fence and out to sit in the middle of the field.  I suspect it must have found food.  It sat there for a bit, then up onto the fence post where it posed so prettily it made me wish I had my camera!!

Then I spotted another large bird flying over the field.  Darker than the Snowy…  Have you guessed??

Short-eared Owl – Photo by Janet and Phil. Click the photo go to an article about Short-eared Owls on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

It was a Short-eared Owl!

On the way back, we chatted about other winter birds I’ve never seen and Don gave me hints of where to find them.

It was such a wonderful day of winter birding.  Thanks, Don!

Bird Banding

We had a great, if a bit chilly, day at bird banding.  Here are some of the birds we caught, banded, and released:

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Gray Catbird

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Song Sparrow

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Black-capped Chickadee

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Common Yellowthroat

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Yellow Warbler

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White-throated Sparrow

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Hairy Woodpecker, Female

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Blue Jay

The ever observant Terry LeBaron also noticed a Song Sparrow fly up out of the grass, then went over with his camera:

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He found the nest!

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It’s always fun at bird banding.

ASP – Day Two

On my second day at the Park I decided to try a more challenging chunk of trail.  After all my troubles with my back and knees this winter, I was a little worried, but I managed OK!  I started at ASP 3 and hiked north along the North Country / Finger Lakes Trail.  This section of trail is very rocky at the beginning and very steep.  My heart was pumping hard!  Toward the crest the snow became deeper and covered the trail making my footing a bit unstable, so I turned back.  Still, I was on the trail for three and a half hours, taking loads of pictures – many of which I’m not ready to show… yet!

If hikes have themes, this hike was all about macros, scat, and butterflies.

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Honey Mushroom rhizomorphs (Armillaria mellea)

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A fallen log, covered with sapsucker holes that were beginning to be covered with moss.

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I’m pretty sure this was fox scat.

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And this is probably from a coyote.

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I have no idea what this is, but there were at least a couple of piles of it and Lolli felt obliged to roll in it.  Very odoriferous!

There was also plenty of deer and turkey scat, which I didn’t photograph…

As the sun warmed up the air, the Mourning Cloaks began their bouncy flight all around me. Most of them teased and would not allow a photo. This poor tattered thing rested long enough for me to close.

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Banding a Little Screechie

Screech owl in nest box

Photo by Jeff Tome

There has been a Eastern Screech Owl using the kestrel box in the Audubon parking lot all winter. Sometimes, if the sun shines, we see him poking his head out. Yesterday, as Jeff was leaving work, he noticed the fluffy face and sent a text message to Don Watts, a licensed bird bander, who drove right over.

Being a considerate soul, Don checked the box before coming inside to interrupt our work.  To keep the owl from leaving, he stuffed one of his hundreds of ball caps into the opening.

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A hat in the entrance keeps the owl from exiting.

Sarah, Katie, and I were all too happy to take a break from our duties to meet the little guy face to face!

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Don climbs the ladder to retrieve the owl.

Katie got a new camera recently. She was trying the video function – making Don, Sarah, and the owl into movie stars!

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Until Katie posts the movie somewhere, you’ll have to be content with my stills:

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After returning the little guy back to the box, Sarah and Katie returned to work while Don and I checked two other boxes, hoping to find the owl we banded last fall. Sadly, both of the other boxes were empty. I hope that just means the other guy is resting elsewhere.

Just another day at Audubon. Don’t I have a great job?


ANP Logo

May 31 – June 2, 2013

On another note, I’ve been working on the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage website. I still have a lot to finish up with the program descriptions and leader bios… but it’s getting there! Click on over and consider putting it on your calendar!!