Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baby Birds are Bustin' Out All Over

Here are a couple of baby doves in our yard on East Main Street.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Urbanism in the Raptor World

Every once in a while a person is given a special treat. Such has been the case in watching a s nest of Red-Shouldered Hawks,

Its not unusual (thanks Tom Jones) to find bird nests in the city, beside a busy street, tucked away in a bush or in the branches way up in the trees. Peregrine Falcons are known to nest in big cities on skyscrapers with no problem.

But I have to say this is the first "large" raptor nest I have seen in the open, right beside a street in the middle of a completely urban setting. ( I sure it happens, I Had just never seen it before)
But a very stern note of caution, if you see a hawks nest with babies, look, admire and move on. If you do not keep an eye for the parents, one of the parent may just surprise you by trying to take your face off!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Species Spotlight: The Tenacious American Crow

Boisterous, rambunctious, cunning, clever thieves with plenty of intelligence. If it weren't for the last word, one might think this posting is about politicians, but no its about the American Crow. A large black corvid that is plentiful all across the North American Continent.

Crows are extremely social birds, and can often be seen in large groups, most of which are family, as the young often will not breed until they are 3 or 4 years old, and help in raising their younger siblings.

With their intelligence, American Crows are adept at solving problems, and with such can often obtain food from the most unlikely sources, even being so astute as to reportedly following other adult species of birds to find their nests in order to raid the nest for eggs or babies, which shows that they are able to rise above simple problem solving skills, and to be able to plan. It has also been said that crows are able to use everyday objects as crude tools, for example if they happen to come across a shellfish such as a muscle they will fly up in the air with it, and drop it onto roadways to crack open the shell. They are also team players and will work together to solve problems, such as working in teams to chase of potential predators such as raptors that may pose a threat to them or their families.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) feeding on a dead fish

American Crows live plenty long enough to learn these skills of survival as they can live for as long as 16 years in the wild, some reports of these birds living twice as long in captivity have been recorded. Some crows have displayed behaviors such as "collecting", where they will decorate their nests, which both the male and female will build and maintain, with shiny objects that they find.

A definate master at survival, whether is calls home open fields, woodlands, wetlands, or urban environments, this loud mouth of the bird world deserves some respect for its intelligence, its dedication to its family, and its ability to readily adapt and overcome. The American Crow, definately one of my favorite birds, which around my house we refer to them as CAW CAW birds!

Friday, March 5, 2010

And then it was gone...

One day last week I was driving down Old emery Crossing Lane in Clarksville on my way to work, and as usual I had a nice distraction before my work day of watching a beaver climbing out on the ice to have gnaw on a tree it had been working on for quite sometime. I watched the fuzzy little bugger for about 5 minutes and went about my way.

That afternoon, I decided the lightign was fairly decent, so I would stop by the beaver pond on the way home to try and get some more shot of the beaver, or perhaps the bald eagle that I had spotted around there recently, if not the eagles, certainly the chances were good to get a shot or two of the Northern Harriers, or one of the three species of Herons that have come to frequent the beaver pond.

Much to my amazement, the pond was pretty much gone. A couple of utility truck and an older green dodge intrepid were parked in the area, being a good boy I went about my business.

the next morning I drove past the pond (or what was a pond 24 hours earlier), and it was bone dry with the exception of a little water running through the natural creek channel. Sitting high and dry was the beaver lodge, and surprisingly enough, there were no herons, no raptors, no deer, fox, beaver, to be seen.

All that was there was teh white box truck with the picture of a backhoe on the side and the green intrepid.

Days later, I learned through a nature photography contact that potentially the city of Clarkville was concerned about flooding, and hired a crew to destroy the beaver dam, and had asked the DNR to trap and move the beaver.

This pond is on the route of the emerging "greenway" path that connects the three cities riverfronts together, and to create a mixed use trail for users to experience the nature, and scenery of the Ohio River Shoreline. What a way to celebrate nature than to tear out one of natures most crucial habitats.

Interestingly enough, if the reports I heard are true and it was done out of flooding concerns, I find that strange, as the pond is located on the river side of a flood wall, in a natural floodplain of the Ohio River, in a very sparsely populated area.

Besides, is it not true that wetlands can absorb and dispense of excess water much faster than regular land?

Of course it is too late to fight the change, after the DNR built an overlook deck, installed a grill and picnic table, and had become a quite busy destination for nature photographers, and bird watchers from all across our area.

Of course we wont stop to mention the increase in species in the area since the beaver pond came about;
Blue Wing Teal
Great Blue Heron
Black-Crowned Night Heron
Green Heron
Great Egret
Northern Harrier
Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Northern Shoveler
Wood Duck
Greater Scaup
Red Fox
Eastern Box Turtle
Wild turkey
Grey Tree Frog
Leopard Frog
Bull Frog
American Toad
Northern Water Snake
Red-Eared Sliders
Common Snapping Turtles
Red-winged Black Birds

Just to start of what has been seen around that pond, but hey, those are just animals after all right?

Aix sponsa

What is arguably the most beautiful duck we have around here, the Wood Duck (aix sponsa) is a small duck that is quite at home in wetlands, small ponds, back coves of large bodies of water and streams. It is also one of the few ducks in North America that nests in hollows in trees.

As true to form for most bird species the males are much more colorful than the females. And in my humble opinion is only seconded by the mandarin duck for its beauty and grace.

But the females, what they lack in style can make up for that in craftiness. If there are no suitable nesting cavities in their area, a female wood duck is not to shy to lay her eggs in the nest of another wood duck, leaving the young to be hatched and raised by another. which is why at places like Muscatatuck it is nothing to see a mother wood duck with as many as 25 ducklings trailing along behind her.

Most of the time, the nest cavities are very close to water, but sometimes they can also be very far away from water as well. And upon hatching, when its time for the young to venture forth into the world, they start their lives by diving out of the nests (which are often high up in the tree) and falling to the ground or water below. ( NAT GEO VIDEO ON YOUTUBE )

When most people think of ducks calling out, they think of the harsh QUACK usually associated with a mallard, but wood ducks have a soft whistle.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The American Kestrel

male (left) and Female (right) American Kestrels

The American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, (once known as the Sparrow Hawk), which happens to be the most common Falcon in the United States, is probably my favorite raptor. This pint sized bird of prey should not be judged by its small size. What they lack in size, they certainly make up for in tenacity and ability.

They are probably the most colorful bird of prey in the world, with the males sporting beautiful hues of oranges and blues, and distinctive patterns of spots on there chest, bellies and under its wings.
Kestrels can be spotted hovering over Fields hunting for its prey, which includes insects, small mammals, small birds, amphibians, and reptiles. While the hovering ability is one of the abilities that make these little raptors stand out, it is not used that often, reserved for areas where there isn't a good perch to hunt from.

Most of the time I see these guys sitting on telephone lines over looking Fields and roadsides. The are pretty easy to identify from a distance due to their habit of flicking their tails up and down while sitting on their perch when hunting.

A Male American Kestrel Showing his best colors

So if you happen to see a bird hovering over a Field, or sitting on a line twitching its tail in a rhythmic fashion, chances are it may be the American Kestrel, a very capable hunter who is just as at home in urban environments as they are in agricultural areas, natural and man made Fields, and open woodlands.