Category Archives: Birds

Birds

Dastardly Deeds on the Delaware River?

THE MYSTERY OF THE DEPOSIT DEPOSIT!

A few days ago, I met up with my Swedish fly fishing buddy Peter Bjorkman, at Deposit, New York, for a day’s fly fishing on the West Branch of the Delaware River.  On this occasion, though, I had left my own rods at home and took my cameras, instead.

After a morning fruitlessly ‘swinging a streamer’, Peter switched to one of my own favourite techniques, that of ‘Czech nymphing’, and started to have success.

The 'scene of the crime' - The West Branch of the Delaware River, at Deposit, NY. All of the bodies were in the bottom-right corner of the photo!
The ‘scene of the crime’ – The West Branch of the Delaware River, at Deposit, NY. All of the bodies were in the bottom-right corner of the photo!

In the meanwhile, I was moving along the bank and occasionally in the shallow edges of the river, and while doing so I spotted the waterlogged body of what appeared to be a cormorant, floating among grasses.

The neck and skull ow what I believe to be a cormorant were bare bone but, as shown here, the body and feathers were just below the surface
The neck and skull ow what I believe to be a cormorant were bare bone but, as shown here, the body and feathers were just below the surface

Having gone closer, to take a look, I then found an equally sodden duck’s wing nearby.  And then some relatively dry, breast feathers from a lighter coloured bird — possibly also a duck.

The green 'speculum' on the dead duck's wing
The green ‘speculum’ on the dead duck’s wing

All of this was in an area no more than 12 feet in length, and it seemed too much to be coincidence.

Feathers, apparently from a third 'victim'
Feathers, apparently from a third ‘victim’

I changed my search and started looking for signs of a perpetrator, and almost immediately I got what I presumed was a result.  On a rock a few feet out into the water was some scat (about 1½ inches in length).

“That’s not otter,” I thought (though I’m only aware of what Eurasian otter scat looks like, not their American cousins, and I merely presumed it would be similar).

Scat on a prominent rock - typical behaviour for riverside hunters
Scat on a prominent rock – typical behaviour for riverside hunters

“Maybe it’s mink,” seemed like a reasonable conclusion, so I took photographs of all the bits of the various birds and of the scat, so that I could check my animal tracking books when back home.

My sleuthing didn’t pay off though, because according to my books the scat looked absolutely nothing like that of otters or mink, or of any other riverside predator I could think of.  If anything, it looked most like that of the humble musk rat — to my knowledge not a creature that’s likely to be inclined or able to kill and eat large birds.

If any reader happens to belong to that elite group of people who can recognise creatures by their after-dinner deposits, could you kindly let me know what the scat might have belonged to and thereby hopefully solve the question as to whether this was likely to have been murder most ‘fowl’ (sorry!) or simply a coincidental gathering of body parts.

Peter with a beautiful, very light coloured Brown Trout (which was immediately returned to the water, unharmed - 'catch-and-release' fishing)
Peter with a beautiful, very light coloured Brown Trout (which was immediately returned to the water, unharmed – ‘catch-and-release’ fishing)

And as for my friend Peter, he just kept on fishing, not at all interested in whether or not I had discovered the crime of the century. (And I can’t say that I blame him really!)    {;-)

Renewing acquaintance with the excellent Five Rivers NYS DEC wildlife preserve

Back in 2012, while living in Albany, I was able to visit the Five Rivers EEC/preserve several times and came to like it greatly, so now that we are back in the Capital District I’ll be renewing my acquaintance with this delightful location.

One of Five Rivers’ greatest advantages is its broad mix of environments – from grasslands and scrub, to pine and deciduous woodlands, the seeps and streams, and – last but by no means least – a variety of ponds.

My first photo, here, is simply a snapshot that I took with my cell phone to use on Twitter, and it’s a view of one of a cluster of the smaller ponds – a great place for Belted Kingfishers and Green Heron.

Pond at Fiver Rivers NYS DEC Preserve - April 2015
Pond at Fiver Rivers NYS DEC Preserve – April 2015

At the above pond, a large Snapping Turtle was basking on the sloping bank until a couple of people nearby spooked it and it launched itself back into the water with a tremendous splash.  Plenty of Eastern Painted Turtles were out basking, as well, but a gaudy interloper in the next photo looks to me like an entirely different species (unless it is just in mating colours).  It’s front legs had yellow stripes on a blackish background. It eventually gave up trying to get onto the ‘sun deck’ and slipped back into the water, so I never got a look at its upper side.  Can anyone help me identify it for certain, please?  My books aren’t helping!

Eastern painted Turtles basking, but what's the one that's pushing in?

Moving on from amphibians to reptiles, the only snake I saw was a tiny, 7-inch-long juvenile Garter Snake, and he was too far under a thorny bush for me to want to go crawling after his portrait!

A dead oak literally hanging on, from last year. Five Rivers - April 2015
A dead oak leaf,  literally hanging on, from last year. Five Rivers – April 2015

For those with botanical interests, all was visibly starting to stir.  There were still a few dead leaves left on some branches but there were also plenty buds in various stages of development and – for me – the first flowers of spring: the delightful Coltsfoot.  (Yes, I know that sadly this is one of many introduced species, here in North America but for giving us the first bright glow of spring, I still can’t resist it.)

So who can resist or ignore the sights and sounds of spring?

Bud Light!
Bud Light!

 

Honey Bee on Coltsfoot at Five Rivers - April 2015
Honey Bee on Coltsfoot at Five Rivers – April 2015

On slower sections of the streams and in among dead cattails on the ponds, Water Striders were busy whizzing around, looking for other insects trapped in the surface layer.  These fascinating creatures of the genus Gerris use their short front legs to grab prey, their middle pair of legs to ‘row’ at great speed, and their back legs to steer.  If you want a lesson in patience and frustration, try getting a sharp, close-up photo of them!

A 'Gerris' species of Water Strider - insects that we Brits refer to as 'Pond Skaters'
A ‘Gerris’ species of Water Strider – insects that we Brits refer to as ‘Pond Skaters’. Five Rivers.

 

 

The last photo I’m posting here is of another creature that often will not stop still long enough to have its photograph taken, but this time it’s the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) a tiny (4¼-inch) bird which, along with its North American cousin the Golden-crowned Kinglet, is closely related to the very similar Firecrests and Goldcrests in Europe, in the same genus.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Five Rivers - April 2015
Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Five Rivers – April 2015

 

Here the ‘ruby crown’ is deliberately hidden away by drabber feathers on the top of its head, but when it has cause to display, just watch the dramatic change!

As for Five Rivers, I’ll be back… as often as I can!

Eddie Wren

Presque Isle at Erie, PA, for the Warbler Migration – 11 May 2014

 ____________________________________________

 

In the excellent National Geographic book, ‘Guide to Birding Hot Spots of the United States‘, authors Mel White and Paul Lehman write:

Audubon's "Festival of Birds" weekend at Presque Isle.
Audubon’s “Festival of Birds” weekend at Presque Isle.

When it comes to variety and rarity, Pennsylvania’s birdiest place is a 7-mile-long spit of land that extends into Lake Erie from the city of Erie. Though it’s made of sand, Presque Isle State Park seems to have magnetic qualities for migrant birds, both regularly occurring species and long-distance wanderers. More than 320 species have been found in this relatively miniscule sliver of beach, ponds, marsh and woods. Though many records are of once-in-a-lifetime vagrants, the odds are better here than anywhere else in the state that something unusual will turn up….

Only six of our WWNP group made the 2-hour trip from Buffalo, NY, to Presque Isle on 11th May (although, to be fair, it was Mothers’ Day!), which was nice in terms of our small group size at the park but a pity for those who missed it.

Two-thirds of the WWNP ‘A-team’!

The day we went was also the final day of the Audubon Society’s ‘Festival of Birds’ weekend, and to be honest I was astonished at how few people — relatively speaking — appeared to be at that event, too, although I suspect they may have limited the numbers on purpose…. No bad thing!

A bright Yellow Warbler, surprisingly well camouflaged amongst the opening buds.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
A bright Yellow Warbler, surprisingly well camouflaged amongst the opening buds. (The rust-coloured streaking on the breast shows this to be a male, supported by the fact that it is singing.) Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

Of course, now that spring has eventually arrived (and not before time!) the trees buds are starting to open and are doing two things to nature watchers and photographers, namely making the spring ephemeral flowers wilt and disappear, and making it harder to see — and particularly to photograph – small warblers! The result is that we saw several more species than we were necessarily able to catch on camera.

A lightly-marked Yellow warbler, indicating that it is a female. (Males have red or rust-coloured streaking on the breast.)  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
A lightly-marked Yellow warbler, indicating that it is a female. (Males have red or rust-coloured streaking on the breast.) Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

The other delightful aspect, however, came from the fact that just as Julie Andrews’ hills were apparently alive with the sound of music, so the woodlands of Presque Isle were absolutely brimming with the sound of bird song. This fact, along with unbroken sunshine and temperatures in the high seventies, meant the day simply couldn’t have been better.

Another Yellow Warbler, glowing in the full sunshine.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Another Yellow Warbler, glowing in the full sunshine. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

According to bird books, the song of the Yellow Warbler sounds like: “Sweet, sweet, sweet;  I’m so sweet!” but until I’ve heard a bird a few times for myself, I’m rarely able to relate to such chorus-lines from books and I tend to make up my own word-strings to help me remember various bird calls, so — for me — the Yellow Warbler sings: “Two, two, three;  listen to me!”

Birders and bird photographers wait patiently (or impatiently!) for months, for the 3-4 weeks of the main warbler migration period each spring but the problem is that, once it’s here, it hurtles past so quickly.

Great Horned Owl chick/owlet, absolutely motionless, watching us watching it!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Great Horned Owl chick/owlet, absolutely motionless, watching us watching it! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

Early in the day, Andrea introduced us to a friend of hers, Brian Berchtold, who is a Presque Isle State Park ambassador/ volunteer and wildlife photographer. Amongst other things, Brian was kind enough to take us to see a Great Horned Owl’s nest, from which one of the two owlets could be seen peeping over the edge of the broken tree trunk and watching us watching it. One of the parent birds remained nearby but with not only branches but the aforementioned opening buds constantly thwarting our view, I don’t know whether any of the group got good photos of the mature bird.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker searching for food.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A male Red-bellied Woodpecker searching for food. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

For my own sins, I was also engrossed with a new lens that had arrived via UPS less than 36 hours previously: a Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, to give it its grand title (and which was used for all the photos on pages one and two of this post). Sadly, my current camera doesn’t have ‘back-button focussing’ which I rather suspect made me a bit slower with the warblers than might otherwise have been the case. Never mind; that can be rectified in due course.

Ever spectacular, a male Northern Cardinal.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Ever spectacular, a male Northern Cardinal. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

The other problem I met with was that as a lifelong birder I found myself sometimes watching new or less-common species through binoculars for too long and by the time I got around to attempting a photograph, they’d gone! {:-)

Highlights of the day included excellent views of several relatively common but still spectacular birds, such as Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, Black and White Warblers, American Redstart, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and one of nature’s finest — Northern Cardinals.

One of several important signs that some people saw fit to ignore!
One of several important signs that some people saw fit to ignore!

If there was a down-side to the day, it was the fact that at the eastern tip of the Presque Isle peninsula I saw several people blatantly ignoring signs telling everyone to keep out of sensitive nesting areas — one of the few situations in life that can make me wish I was still a police officer!

Continued on next page….

 

Presque Isle at Erie, PA, for the Warbler Migration – 11 May 2014 — Page Two

Back to Page One/Introduction

This page shows my own remaining photographs, with very little commentary.  If any of our WWNP group that went with us to Presque Isle  send me suitable images, I’ll create an additional gallery on a third page.

A male Baltimore Oriole singing.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A male Baltimore Oriole at his singing station. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A male Baltimore Oriole in the early stages of building a nest. (One of the materials that can be seen here is discarded fishing line, which can be dangerous to some wildlife and should always be taken away and destroyed.)   Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A male Baltimore Oriole in the early stages of building a nest. (One of the materials that can be seen here is discarded fishing line, which can be dangerous to ducks and swans, and should always be taken away and destroyed.) Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A male Baltimore Oriole nest building, with his female partner looking on.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A male Baltimore Oriole nest building, with his female partner looking on. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

Watching a male Baltimore Oriole starting the construction of a nest under the watchful eye of his mate was a light-hearted moment. She was certainly keeping an eye on his every move!

 

A female Baltimore Oriole examines the early stages of her nest.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A female Baltimore Oriole examines the early stages of her nest. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Redstarts were present in significant numbers.  One of my shots of these was of an immature bird and another was a grab-shot of a male flying above us, with the sun gleaming through the orange patches on his tail.

An immature American Redstart (i.e. one of last year's young).
An immature American Redstart (i.e. one of last year’s young). Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

An adult male American Redstart with the sun glowing through his tail. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
An adult male American Redstart with the sun glowing through his tail.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps it is too easy to ignore some birds on the basis that they are ‘common’ or drab, but I — for one — actually find that hard to do.

A female Brown-headed Cowbird, looking positively prehistoric! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
A female Brown-headed Cowbird, looking positively prehistoric! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The same female Brown-headed Cowbird, looking positively pugnacious!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
The same female Brown-headed Cowbird, looking pugnacious! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many new birders are surprised when told this is a female Red-winged Blackbird, but how about this for a spectacular pattern!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Many new birders are surprised when told this is a female Red-winged Blackbird, but how about this for a spectacular pattern! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of nature's great mimics: the Gray Catbird.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
One of nature’s great mimics: the Gray Catbird. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even some hummingbirds are as big as or even bigger than the Kinglets, of which this is a Ruby-crowned.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Even some hummingbirds are as big as or even bigger than the Kinglets, of which this is a Ruby-crowned. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White-crowned Sparrow.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
White-crowned Sparrow singing. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My one wader/shorebird of the day was well camouflaged against dead cat-tails and reeds:

Spotted Sandpiper.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
Spotted Sandpiper. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, a species I have so far failed to identify, so if any good birders out there can help me with this one, I would be grateful.  (Please use the ‘Leave a Comment’ link at the top of the page, if you can help.)

Currently unidentified.... Help welcome!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Currently unidentified…. Help welcome! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some more of the warblers that we made our 210-mile round-trip specifically to see:

The delightful Black & White Warbler, the only bird in North America except nuthatches that can walk down as well as up tree trunks.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
The delightful Black & White Warbler, the only bird in North America except nuthatches that can walk down as well as up tree trunks. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An acrobatic Black & White Warbler.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
An acrobatic Black & White Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rufous-capped Palm Warbler.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
The rufous-capped Palm Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
Palm Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Warbler.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
The ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Yellow-rumped Warbler in full song.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
A Yellow-rumped Warbler in full song. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The yellow rump of a Yellow-Rumped Warbler!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
The yellow rump of a Yellow-Rumped Warbler! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

<– The End! 🙂

 

 

 .

Spring’s Top 10 Wildlife Spectacles in the USA (The Nature Conservancy)

“Looking for an excuse for a road trip, or maybe just an afternoon at a local park? Here are ten top must-see natural spectacles that you can catch each spring….”

Eddie adds:  The good news is that events in at least three of the ten categories (four, if you are a fly fisherman) happen here each year in the North East USA, so check out the suggestions in the above link, from The Nature Conservancy!

Live cameras watch for first Eurasian Crane chick to hatch in Britain for 400 years!

Eurasian Cranes (Grus grus), last known to have nested in Britain in the 16th Century.  (Wikimedia Commons)
Eurasian Cranes (Grus grus), last known to have nested in Britain in the 16th Century. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

An attempt by a pair of cranes to raise the first wild-hatched crane in western Britain in 400 years is being filmed on a webcam.

The webcam has been installed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at its Slimbridge reserve in Gloucestershire.

The 4ft (1.2m) tall cranes… first tried to nest at the centre last year but their chick died.

The one or two eggs are due to hatch mid-May and can be watched by internet users via the trust’s website.

The cranes are part of a reintroduction programme to re-establish the once-common birds in the UK….

Read the full article, from the BBC.

 

Braddock Bay Raptor Research Center, NY — Part 4: WWNP Group Photo Gallery

Please submit photographs for our various WWNP ‘gallery’ pages (600 pixels on the long side, e-mailed as attachments (not zipped) to: blog [AT] eddiewren [DOT] com — just remove the [AT] and the [DOT] and replace them with the correct symbol, with no spaces…. writing it this strange way helps us reduce the number of spam e-mails we receive!)

And PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COMMENT ON EACH OTHER’S  PHOTOGRAPHS…. see the ‘Leave a Comment’ link, above.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher during banding.  Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna.  All rights reserved.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher during banding. Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna. All rights reserved.
Golden-crested Kinglet during banding.  Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton.  All rights reserved.
Golden-crowned Kinglet during banding. Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton. All rights reserved.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet during banding. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz.  All rights reserved.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet during banding. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz. All rights reserved.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet during release.  Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz.  All rights reserved.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet during release. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz. All rights reserved.
Captive Owl.  Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna.  All rights reserved.
Captive Owl. Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna. All rights reserved.
Captive Barn Owl. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz.  All rights reserved.
Captive Barn Owl. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz. All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration.  Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton.  All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz. All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration.  Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton.  All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration. Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton. All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration.  Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna.  All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration. Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna. All rights reserved.

 


Other sections of this topic:

Part 1: Songbird Banding

Part 2: Raptor Watching

Part 3: Captive (i.e. Injured) Raptors

Part 4: Photo Gallery — you are on this page