Archive for the ‘Birds and Birding’ Category

Birds in the Winter

January 19, 2011

Unlike veteran field birder and blogger Brownstone Birder I don’t feel comfortable with field I.D. of many smaller birds. However, this year’s harsh Winter season has provided many occasions to view birds at close range at my feeders. I have managed to photograph birds that I have seldom, or perhaps never, seen in field and wood. Attached herein are several photographs of birds seen through my back window here in Middletown. (Note: a loss of image clarity is the inevitable result of shooting through window panes; oh, and please correct me if I have misidentified any bird) (All photos: click to enlarge)

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Carolina Wren

Song Sparrow

Mourning Dove

White-Breasted Nuthatch

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Some Recent Photos From Around Middletown CT

February 14, 2010

First Year Hawk
First year hawk, most likely Red Tail, seen Coginchaug River vicinity

Wetmore-Starr House (1752)
The Wetmore-Starr House (1752) Washington St

Kid City Children's Museum
The Kid City Childrens Museum; Washington Street

Little House in the Graveyard
Graveyard scene; Vine Street

Wesleyan U. College Row fm High Street
College Row Panorama; High Street

Note: You may click on the photos for more information and image sizes; you will be redirected to my Flickr page.

Birds Poisoned by USDA Litter New Jersey Town

January 27, 2009

European Starlings by the thousands, according to some reports, fell from the sky over one New Jersey community after being poisoned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Starlings are an introduced and well established species across the United States. Apparently, as non-native birds, they are not protected and can be considered, as in this case, pests. Starlings, and other black birds, congregate in huge flocks at this time of year and frequently descend in droves to lucrative feeding spots on farms and feed lots. Health and agriculture authorities say that is when the birds can contaminate and consume animal fodder. Other native blackbirds often congregate with the starling flocks and one would expect they would be victims of this culling as well. So far, the reports seem to be only about dead starlings. The Bergen Record reports:

Last night, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services confirmed the dead birds were part of a USDA program to reduce the European starling population. Donna Leusner said the state health department was not part of the culling program but had been notified of plans to feed the birds a “controlled substance.”

From the Associated Press via Fox News:

FRANKLIN, N.J. —  The black carcasses of dead starlings still pepper the snowy roads and lawns of central New Jersey’s rural Griggstown community three days after federal officials used a pesticide to kill as many as 5,000 of the birds.

Many residents Monday were still getting over their shock from the sudden spate of deaths. Some were unaware that the deaths resulted from an intentional culling and that the pesticide used was harmless to people and pets.

“It was raining birds,” said Franklin Township Mayor Brian Levine. “It got people a little anxious.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture called local police last week and the Somerset County Health Department to warn them that a culling program was under way, but there was no notice that dead birds could fall from the sky, Levine said.

“A lot of us are concerned because it’s so odd,” said Chris Jiamboi, 49, as his vehicle idled along a stretch of road in Griggstown marked with the flattened remains of dead starlings. “There were a lot of them dead in the roads and no one drives fast enough around here to kill a bird. Then they started showing up dead in people’s backyards.”

All about European Starlings: (excerpt)

All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds released in New York’s Central Park in the early 1890s. A group dedicated to introducing America to all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works set the birds free. Today, European Starlings range from Alaska to Florida and northern Mexico, and their population is estimated at over 200 million birds.

European Starling

European Starling

Leaving Seattle….

September 28, 2008

I’ve enjoyed a wonderful ten days in Seattle; fact is all of my time here was spent wholly within the city. Only tomorrow, for the first time, I am going out of town for a visit to Snoqualmie Falls of “Twin Peaks” fame. I’ll be back in Connecticut Monday morning. Some photos I made today are attached. Today was an exceptionally good day to view Seattle and the mountains including, of course, Ranier.

Committees of Buzzards!

September 1, 2008
Quote:
SANFORD, Fla. — Homeowners in neighborhoods still flooded from Tropical Storm Fay continue to battle high waters and other problems, like huge committees of buzzards.

I don’t have my copy of “An Exaltation of Larks” handy but I have consulted some other sources and can find no reference to “committees” as a name for a group of “buzzards”, or more accurately, vultures. Here’s a link to a drawing from Florida show one such “committee” awaiting the decomposition of an alligator. In another photo we see the “committee chairman” at lunch. More “buzzard” news:

Quote:
BARTOW (FL) | A flock of about 200 black vultures has invaded southwest Bartow, picking the rubber casing around car windows and shingles off roofs.

h/t lvn600 for Black Vulture shot; a handsome specimen. (click here for full size)

British Birds: Some Decline While Others Increase….

July 17, 2008

Nightingale

In an earlier posting we noted that one species (Great Tits) of British birds was coping quite well with alleged climate warming. A report today in The Independent (U.K.) shows that, while many British birds are declining in numbers, others are increasing. Causative factors in decline included intensification of agriculture causing loss of farmland birds such as grey partridge and corn bunting; changing woodland management methods, increased deer populations, predation by grey squirrels, and problems on wintering grounds in Africa of migratory species as causes of declines in woodland birds. (willow tit -77%, wood warbler -67% etc).

Changes in vegetative undergrowth caused by deer browsing is listed as the most likely factor in the decline of woodland birds. The nation is seeing a rapid increase in deer population led by the muntjac, an introduced tropical deer.

The good news, however, is reserved for the so called garden variety birds: many are exhibiting substantial increases in numbers probably due to backyard feeding and warmer winters: (oh, oh there’s that climate warming bugaboo again!) great tit +55%, goldfinch +39%.

River Paddle Floating Meadows: July 12 9 AM

July 6, 2008

Mattabesset and Coginchaug

River Paddle

July 12, 9 a.m.

Last year’s event was great fun!

Departure from Harbor Park at 9 a.m. to catch the end of the flood tide, so that we will be in the Floating Meadows at high tide. Professor Barry Chernoff will offer short talks on river ecology along the way. If you plan to attend and if you wish to be informed in case of cancellation due to weather, email Hall.john.c@sbcglobal.net

Help Save Neotropical Birds: HR 5756

June 26, 2008

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Please urge your U.S. Representative to co-sponsor the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (H.R. 5756), which provides vital funding to protect some of the world’s most beloved — and imperiled — birds.

Go to Defenders of Wildlife for more information.

Neotropical Birds Need Your Help

The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation provides vital conservation funding for cerulean warblers (photo above) and other migratory songbirds.

To date, the Act has supported vital conservation projects in 44 U.S. states and territories, 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries, and 12 Canadian provinces, benefitting roughly 3 million acres of migratory bird habitat.

But without improved funding for important projects like these, the songs of cerulean warblers and many other neotropical birds may fade from America’s wild places.

Bird Mites and Human Infestation….

June 7, 2008

News articles today (here and video here) about a Long Island woman, infested with bird mites, who was taken from her home in a HazMat suit and put in quarantine isolation gave me quite a jolt. The woman was most likely infested by mites from an abandoned bird nest in her bathroom vent.

While I don’t have any of the horrific symptoms of this type of bird mite infestation I live in close proximity to birds and regularly feed them. Birds, mainly sparrows and starlings, nest in the eaves, gutters and crannies of my house and I have several feeders on my porch. Doctors are quoted in the stories saying that, although the bird mites can cause extreme discomfort to humans they don’t feed on humans, only attacking them when their bird host dies or leaves the nest.

Several websites (here and here) dealing with these pests strongly disagree with that assessment saying there are numerous instances of people driven to the brink of suicide by total household and personal infestation depriving them of sleep, causing constant torment. One man bought a parakeet in the hope that the mites would attack the bird and leave him alone. They got the poor bird alright, attacking it so hard that it had to be put down, but the pests remained in the home. Below is a photograph of a Northern fowl mite, one of several type of bird mites.

The Long Island woman, Nina Bradica, gave this account of her ordeal:

“My whole shower was covered with them,” said Bradica, 45. “I didn’t even know they were there at first, I was drying myself with my towel in the bathroom. That’s how they got on me.”

One of Bradica’s doctors told CBS 2 HD bird mites can be a very severe problem.

“They can be a nuisance and some people have been infected for years with these bird mites and have had difficulty eradicating them,” said Dr. Kenneth Steier.
Added Dr. Shadab Ahmed of Nassau Medical Center, “They can stick to the body. They are extremely tiny. I just sent three to be tested to the parasitology lab for identification.”

Doctors say there is absolutely no public health hazard. Mites can’t feed off human skin and will eventually drop off, but until then …
Bradica tried to describe her discomfort.

“They do go inside you. They go in your nose. They go in your ears. They go in your mouth.”
she is covered with welts and red bumps and wonders if her home will ever be livable again.

Great Tits Cope Well with Warming….

May 9, 2008

The blog title above is the actual headline from a BBC News article. The discussion is about how some British birds are coping (or not coping for that matter) with climatic changes. The Great Tit, for example is doing quite well, adapting to the earlier arrival of its Winter Moth caterpillar food by laying its eggs earlier. Thus the chicks have abundant food when they hatch. (from the article, emphasis added)

At least one of Britain’s birds appears to be coping well as climate change alters the availability of a key food.

Researchers found that great tits are laying eggs earlier in the spring than they used to, keeping step with the earlier emergence of caterpillars.

Writing in the journal Science, they point out that the same birds in the Netherlands have not managed to adjust.

Understanding why some species in some places are affected more than others by climatic shifts is vital, they say.