Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Black-crowned Night Heron

Friday, April 23, 2010

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Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Thursday, April 22, 2010

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Migrants Arrive

Finally some spring activity at the landfill. Things have been very quiet but today started off well. I got my first Palm Warbler and Common Yellowthroat of the season today, along with a pretty male American Goldfinch. Sure the goldfinches aren't migrants, but when they are so bright and pretty and pose so well, it is hard to not take a quick pic.

Palm Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

American Goldfinch

Since it seems things are beginning to get exciting I will have my camera at the ready and the battery charged. Check often as I will be updating regularly throughout the spring season.

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Broken Wing Display

I have to admit: Today, I was duped. Big time. I was telling my buddy who was riding with me in the truck about a bird that pretends its wing is broken to distract predators away from its nest and young. As soon as I was done explaining he looked out the window and said, "What's wrong with that bird?" I look out the window and sure enough there is a Killdeer laying on the ground rolling around. Granted I just finished telling him about the Killdeer's broken wing display, but this bird really looked hurt. It was rolling on the ground flicking its wings and I was genuinely concerned.



So I got out of the truck to investigate, completely convinced the bird was actually hurt and not just putting on a ruse. As soon as I got close, BAM, up it went into the air, and I realized I'd just been had.



It was the most convincing broken wing display I've ever seen and if I could I would nominate this bird for an Oscar. Usually I get the token limp wing while the bird looks over its shoulder at me. What I saw today was Meryl Streep material. A little farther up the road we caught up with the rest of the family and I got to see why the parent birds were working so hard to distract me. A group of four little fluffy golf balls, otherwise known as Killdeer chicks, were happily running around and calling back and forth to each other and mom and dad. They are lucky to have such dedicated and talented parents. The feral cats on the landfill don't stand a chance.

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Rusty Blackbirds

I was lucky enough to find a group of Rusty Blackbirds that have been roaming the swamp at the landfill for over a week. I originally came upon them thinking they were a mixture of Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles. So I did my job and turned on the starling distress call that plays over speakers on top of the truck. Usually birds fly away when they hear the call but instead the birds came to me, and to my surprise they weren't Red-wings or Grackles, instead what I found was a flock of around 50 Rusty Blackbirds. Below is a picture of them coming to investigate the distress call.


Rusty Blackbirds are not as common as they used to be with some estimates showing their population declining 98% over the past 40 years! Clearly that is an alarming collapse of the population. It is yet unknown what the cause of the decline may be, however many suspect it is due to habitat loss. Rusty Blackbirds favor wooded swamps both in their nesting and wintering grounds. The habitat they are using at the landfill is a large patch of swamp, maybe as large as 50 acres, that appears to be flooded hardwood forest. There are many tall trees standing that are dead and around them younger species such as cottonwoods and willows that are growing in shallow areas and around the perimeter. There is also a great deal of cattails mixed in as well.


The population decline has not gone unnoticed. Recently a citizen science effort has been under way to help scientist better study Rusty Blackbirds in their wintering territory. The Rusty Blackbird Blitz is an attempt to map where Rusty Blackbirds are spending the winter and the concentration of birds in their winter roosts. Any user of eBird can participate between January 30th and February 15th. You can do your part in helping to understand the Rusty Blackbird decline by participating and also by submitting your findings on Rusty Blackbirds to eBird year round. They really are beautiful birds and we should all do as much as we can to help scientist discover what is causing the decline so Rusty Blackbirds do not become a species of the past.

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Tent Caterpillars


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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Red Maple

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Eastern Box Turtle



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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New Feature: eBird Observations

I've been looking for a gadget like this for a while and I finally got serious about it tonight and found a good tutorial online that showed me how to create the code. The gadget is in the right sidebar under the title "Recent Sightings" and it shows what birds I have seen that have been submitted to eBird over the past 5 days. This will be especially neat as spring migration gets under way and you will be able to follow what birds are seen on the landfill on a daily basis. Hopefully I will get some great pictures to go along with the sightings. Last year the birds seemed to arrive late towards the end of April but maybe they will show up a little earlier this year. In the past week I have seen four species of swallow (Barn, No. Rough-winged, Tree and Purple Martin) return along with Vesper Sparrows and a Brown Thrasher. So stay tuned and check often as I will be updating frequently once the birds arrive in earnest!

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