Saturday, July 14, 2007

Another Mystery Nest, Or Perhaps A Burrow?

Now what kind of bird or beastie uses that?

It all started when I forgot the hoe. I'd walked out to the garden carrying gloves, trowel, the watering can and, oops. I'd forgotten the hoe. Drat, back I go in the other direction. Wow, the grass coming out of that mound reminds me of the Meadowlark nest. Of course that was coming out of raised substrate and this is a mound. Wait a minute, just what is that "mound" doing in the corner of the sidewalk anyway. Hmmm.

Up the step, to the hoe and I look down. That looks like a grass mat. The needles didn't just wash into the corner of the walk in the rain. The Evergreens are in the front yard and far back to the side in the backyard. Too far away and uphill over the mound of earth besides. Bunnies? No. That mat wouldn't cover many baby bunnies so too small for them. Maybe the needles blew there?
Nope. It's woven in a circular pattern. Nature tends towards circles. (Human building tends towards straight lines, ever notice that?) Definitely a mat.

I move some of the grass aside.
AHA!!! There's the hole! Big enough for a variety of birds but I haven't seen any ground nesters around and that heap of dirt came from digging. Digging birds? I'd have noticed a Burrowing Owl, the holes too small and the thought too far fetched. Drat, I'd love to have Burrowing Owls in the backyard. What about a Chipmunk? I've seen lots of Chipmunk holes and it 's the right size but I've never seen one covered with a mat? Perhaps it's only covered with a mat when there are baby Chipmunks involved?

What do you think? Here's a view with a trowel for perspective.
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Cowbird and The Chipping Sparrow

Walking past the patio door, I heard the most intense baby bird begging sound. I looked out and there was a rather large gray chick, with a huge red gape, being fed by a Chipping Sparrow.

Wait just a minute, those birds don't match. Is that chick a Cowbird.

And indeed, it is. The chick follows Dad Chipping sparrow into the flower bed. It stands on a rock surrounded by foliage that obscures its view. Dad does an evasion and heads for the bottom of the Spruce tree.

Cowbird chick waits. Dad goes over under the Spruce and begins feeding several of what look like through the branches, chicks of his own species.

Dad makes several runs back and forth to forage and goes back to the Spruce. Cowbird chick begins to doze.

Attentive to all his chicks, Dad then returns with a snack for Cowbird chick who begs intensely.

Dad is off again but Cowbird Chick remains on the look out to start his intense begging movement and vocalization the second Dad comes into view again.

There's another mouthful for Cowbird Chick.

Cowbird Chick continues heavy begging. Chipping Sparrow Dad checks out the activity level at the bottom of the Spruce tree where the other chicks are gathered. Then heads out for another foraging flight a few feet north of the flower bed.

C.C. catches sight of where he is going this time and alertly watches Dad forage through the leaves.

Keeping his eye on Dad, C.C. then begins to walk towards the foraging area. Then he begins to scramble faster. If he makes it to the foraging area before Dad takes off, perhaps he'll get a double helping as he had under the bird feeder by following the adult.

Then he is gone. Dad is on the fly and C.C. follows.
I now realize why one Chipping Sparrow in particular begins to forage before dawn and is still foraging after sunset. He is not only raising a full or nearly full brood of his own progeny but is managing to keep the Cowbird Chick fed as well. He is working overtime but it is working. So far he's managing to feed everyone.
Donegal Browne

A Couple From Eleanor and a Feel Good from the NY Times

Eleanor Tauber, frequent contributor of her lovely photos to the blog, delivers Red Admirals...

and a young Catbird, whose red coverts are showing seen in Carl Swarz Park.

Plus, check it out in the New York Times---(How come I don't live there? Maybe if I wore a pig suit and ran down Broadway...)

NEW YORK REGION July 7, 2007
Rounded Up in the City, Then Coddled in Style By KIM SEVERSON
Farm animals found running loose in New York City often end up living at Farm Sanctuary, 175 acres of vegan nirvana in the Finger Lakes region.

Donegal Browne

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Fishermen unhook eagles, not fish

(COURTESY OF THE JANESVILLE GAZETTE, Published Sunday, July 8, 2007)

By Mike Heine/Gazette Staff WALWORTH
The most memorable part of a Canadian fishing trip for Walworth's Bob Hansen and his adult son Mike wasn't landing a trophy walleye or northern pike.

It was rescuing two bald eagles that tumbled into a lake after their talons tangled, probably during a midair battle.

Bob, Mike and fishing guide Ron Kaye were seeking walleye the afternoon of June 15 in Kabinakagami Lake in Ontario.

They heard a loud splash in the distance but didn't think much of it until a half-hour later, when they motored to a new fishing spot and saw two adult bald eagles struggling in the water.

"We couldn't figure out what was wrong," Bob said. "As we came closer, they didn't seem antsy or nervous.

"We took (Ron's) fishing net and lifted up the one wing. We could see their talons were locked together."

Bob put the landing net over the head of the closer eagle while Ron put on leather gloves and reached for the talons. Mike snapped photos and watched from the other side of the boat.

Ron was able to pry apart one set of the birds' toes with his hands, but he needed pliers to wedge the other two apart, Bob said.

Once free, the birds separated and swam toward shore away from each other.

"Just talking to anybody, nobody knew eagles could swim, but they can. They're funny looking, but they can. They flop," Bob said.

They followed the smaller of the two birds toward shore.

"We saw them get up on higher ground, then a little higher ground. We never did see them take off, but they were OK," Bob said.

Both birds were exhausted and presumably needed to dry out and rest before flying, Bob said.

Bill Volkert, a wildlife educator and naturalist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, thought the eagles were either fighting or courting in midair.

Because of the timing of the incident, it was more likely the birds were fighting, said Volkert, who has studied birds for 30 years.

In courtship ritual, the birds lock their talons in midair and tumble toward the ground, releasing at the last second to soar skyward again. It's rare, but not unheard of, for eagles to perform the ritual this late after the mating season, Volkert added.

Bob said the big birds were amazingly calm while the men helped.

"I don't know why, but they were. They were watching us close with their eyes.

"Their beaks are huge. You wouldn't want to tangle with one. They'd rip you to shreds. "We were more concerned with getting them free," Bob said.

The rescue probably saved the two birds from drowning, but it was very risky, Volkert said.

"It was definitely a bold move," Volkert said. "They did the right thing, and it's a good thing they were able to help (the eagles) in a way that didn't cause themselves any harm."
I love people who see what needs to be done and just go ahead and do it in a practical helpful way. No weenies these guys. I would like more info on the pliers though and hopefully the Eagles weren't too exhausted or shocky to eventually get it together.
In Central Park we've seen Pigeons, House Sparrows, Finches, and Woodpeckers swim. Now we know Eagles have the talent as well. If Eagle swimming is comparable to that of the smaller birds, they use a lurching breast stroke. From the rescuers description is sounds like they do. They flop forward as both wings go forward and then back in tandem. No Aussie Crawl for these guys. But none of the little guys had to stay afloat for a good length of time because their talons were entangled with another bird.
Therefore, not only should one not underestimate a Red-tail as we found with Jr. and Charlotte picking up where they left off in the care of their eyass but now Eagles need to be added to the group as well.
Donegal Browne


Published: July 8, 2007
Pale Male’s Cronies

Stuart Goldenberg
Q. I thought I saw a hawk chasing a squirrel in Mount Morris Park in Harlem. We all know about Lola and Pale Male, but are there other hawks around the city?
A. Pale Male and Lola, the two persecuted red-tailed hawks outside the co-op at Fifth Avenue and 74th Street, have indeed gotten more publicity than Brangelina. But your question comes at a good time: New York City Audubon just did a special bird-of-prey census in May and June.

“Manhattan is no stranger to hawks,” said Colin F. Grubel, a spokesman for New York City Audubon. He said the census counted five nesting pairs in Manhattan, including Pale Male and Lola, and a possible sixth. People have reported a pair of red-tails around Harlem, but that hasn’t been confirmed, he said.

There are also peregrine falcons and American kestrels in Manhattan; peregrines are especially common in Manhattan, where they like high places near water. (Peregrine chicks hatched this year atop towers of the Verrazano-Narrows and Throgs Neck Bridges.)
Two known red-tailed hawk nests can be found in Brooklyn, Mr. Grubel said, at least three in the Bronx, at least four in Queens and at least four in Staten Island. In five cases in Queens, spotters have seen additional pairs but not their nests.

These counts do not include this year’s chicks, Mr. Grubel said, because fledglings have a high mortality rate, and they may leave the city for other territory. The nesting pairs are more committed residents.

The red-tails can often be seen in Central and Prospect Parks, Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and Alley Pond Park in Queens.

“Ospreys are found in the waters of Jamaica Bay and around Staten Island, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and Alley Pond Park in Queens,” Mr. Grubel wrote. “Though none nest near Manhattan, an osprey has been seen flying over Central Park on occasion.”

And of course, our beloved Divine Red-tails, who nest on The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, may be found in Morningside Park.

Donegal Browne