Tuesday, May 19, 2015

5.19.15 - Cape Cod Museum of Natural History - Tuesday Tweets - John Wing Trail
Brewster, MA

Spring scents were in the air as we began our walk and they typical symphony of bird calls and songs were clear on both sides of the trail.  It was wonderful to see familiar faces as well as some new visitors.  The Osprey were in sight as we approached the marsh and we could hear that haunting seaside sound of a Willet in flight.  Then, there it was again once we entered the woodsy section of the trail on Wing Island... that mystery warbler!  I hadn't researched it yet and watching birds for me is exciting largely because it's about learning CONSTANTLY!  When you have a busy family, full of pets and more than one job, it's impossible to be able to keep up with what I want to do and read about.  When the situation presents itself - I get to it.  I finally know that our mystery warbler is a Prairie Warbler.  What a bird!  They were everywhere too!  I'm definitely old-school when it comes to learning as well, I don't use any apps (though maybe I should try) but I consult my comfortable reliable sources, and I find I learn better that way, when I'm researching.  I know, it can take time, but for me it's time well spent.  I'll never NOT recognize that upward spirally song coming from the Prairie Warbler.  It was an experience having everyone see him teasing us from the tree tops!  We caught a brief view of Cape Cod Bay before I had to turn around.  Oftentimes an hour is just not enough, but it is an hour well-spent, in Brewster Massachusetts.  Thanks for the great Prairie Warbler photos Susan!  (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List: 
Brown-headed Cowbird
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Blue Jay
Downy Woodpecker
Canada Goose
Herring Gull
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Osprey
Red-winged Blackbird
Willet
Tree Swallow
American Crow
American Goldfinch
Praire Warbler (!!! - our mystery warbler)


Osprey

Willet

Song Sparrow

We took time to smell the lovely flowers!

Searching for the mystery warbler - a Praire Warbler!

Prairie Warbler - male (PHOTO CREDIT: SUSAN)

Prairie Warbler - male (PHOTO CREDIT: SUSAN)

Praire Warbler silhouette from below

Westward view of Cape Cod Bay

Tree Swallow

Canada Geese

Gulls in search of herring

Mrs. Osprey

Came across a Common Yellowthroat on the way back

Next opportunity for Tuesday Tweets: 6.2.15 at 9:30am $2Members/$4NonMembers
Happy Birding!

Monday, May 18, 2015

5.18.15 - For The Birds - Enrichment Class - Wixon Innovation Middle School, Dennis MA

I thought we would try something different today when we were outside in the school yard.  I wanted to discuss migration.  First we tested our "wings" and compared flapping our arms to soaring with our arms.  Everyone agreed that soaring was much easier on their body.  So many birds are still in migration, heading to breeding grounds, and Cape Cod is a perfect stop off habitat.  Not all birds migrate, but for those who do, it is often a perilous journey, that many birds do not survive.  One of the main reasons I feel the need to discuss this concept with kids is that I've seen kids, and dogs, run at a flock of birds, particularly on the shore.  I get it.  Witnessing a flock take flight is a spectacle.  Imagine now though you ARE those birds, and you're on a fueling up break, to rest, replenish, build fat for flight... you're physically EXHAUSTED.  Then a predator startles you into flight, expending precious energy that you're already tapped of.  It sounds dramatic, but in all honesty, for some birds, that could be their last bit of flight.  It's TOUGH being wildlife - so please - give them a break.  My daughter has been known to directly approach random children on the beach politely (though irritated on the inside) asking them to leave the birds alone and enjoy them from a distance.  Proud momma.  

Back to our Migration Game... it was the first time I've ever tried this game with students and they enjoyed it so much - they wanted to play again!  SO WE DID!  Each student got to choose which species they wanted to represent.  (Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Blue Jay, Snowy Owl - some of the species they chose were non-migrators, but I was just happy they were choosing birds they were familiar with!)   The "birds" took steps forward and/or back depending on circumstances that I called out, like: 2 steps forward for a good tailwind, or 3 steps back because you left late, not enough food.  The "birds" were asked to sit down if they didn't make it to their destination due to getting sick, being an inexperienced migrant, drinking toxic water.  I wanted to demonstrate how difficult migration can be and just another reason to have a deeper respect for nature and how cruel it can be.  I also included photos of one of the students who had a recent trip to Florida.  She brought her bird notebook with her and recorded a BUNCH of species she saw while in Florida. I was QUITE impressed!  These kids truly have a gift for birdwatching and I can tell they care.  How wonderful!
We even got a little birdwatching in while playing our game. (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List:
Song Sparrow
Blue Jay
House Finch
House Sparrow

Northern Cardinal
Black-capped Chickadee


House Sparrow - male

Bird notebook filled with species from a Florida vacation!

Look at all those bird species!  IMPRESSIVE!

Flapping our wings


Soaring with our wings - expending less energy

"Birds" lining up to play the Migration Game

"Birds" about to "migrate"

Some "birds" didn't make it to their destination

"Birds" on the ground "died" on their migration from dangerous factors

Successful migrating "bird" numbers are falling...

Northern Cardinal - male

Northern Cardinal - male

Northern Cardinal - male
We also saw the female, but she dashed off to build their nest.  
We know this because her beak was FULL of nesting material as she flew by us.

Where IS that Black-capped Chickadee?!  
Even the bus driver stuck his head out of the bus to see!

View of the Black-capped Chickadee from below - s/he was SO loud! 
I'm happy to report that I believe everyone in this enrichment class knows 
the call & song of the Black-capped Chickadee!

'Til our next class...
Happy Birding!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

5.12.15 - Bird Nerd Moment - Neighbor's front door - Yarmouth, MA

So I got a call from a neighbor whom I haven't heard from in a while.  It's funny... I don't ever remember discussing birds with her in the past, but she called with a question.  She has some birds nesting in a basket on one of her front doors... naturally the door she most often uses.  It was especially weird hearing from her because I'd been by her house when walking my dog to ask her a question, but no one ever answered when I knocked and/or rang the door bell.  I had tried to reach her by phone unsuccessfully, which is why I stopped by, and both times when I did, I noticed a pair of quite lively (1 female & 1 male) House Finches.  SO - when she called, I IMMEDIATELY said, "Oh, you've got a pair of House Finches nesting right there!!!"  I was more excited about the situation than she, and I assured her that it would be fine to use the other front door as an alternate until they fledge in a few weeks.  How perfect is it that she has a grand daughter who gets to experience each stage of this new life, starting in a quaint basket on a front door?  Pretty wonderful... (double click photos to enlarge)


Hanging basket of silk flowers on my neighbor's front door... but look more closely...

FIVE House Finch eggs!

Happy Birding!

Monday, May 11, 2015

5.11.15 For The Birds - Enrichment Class - Wixon Innovation Middle School, Dennis MA

May!  I'm always so delighted with how Cape Cod looks & smells the second week of May. We were able to take in more sunshine and we headed toward the woods behind the school to explore the area to, from and around the vernal pool.  I handed out bird flash/information cards in the school lobby before we began our walk outside.  Each bird card represented a species of bird we've seen on one of our walks.  I was pleased that as soon as we walked out the door, a bird sang out...and not one, but at least two of the students recognized the call of a Black-capped Chickadee!  We also heard a Song Sparrow in the school yard when we paused to read each card.  It was a nice and warm afternoon and perfect for enjoying the outdoors.  The birds have been difficult to catch on camera during my quick visits.  Capturing them being still at a close enough distance when with this group has been challenging.  All of us did get to see a couple of Blue Jays yelling their familiar call out.  We even got to hear their mimicry call!  It sounded just like a hawk and one of the students figured out that it was a Blue Jay, not a hawk.  We discussed how and why mimicry even used through sound is a tool that natural creatures can use to their advantage.  As we were watching the gigantic dragonflies zoom over the top of the water, we also noticed a large shadow cast over us as a larger bird swooped high above us between the rays of the sun and where we were standing... a true bird nerd moment. (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List:
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-tailed Hawk
Song Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
American Goldfinch
Blue Jay
Reading cool facts about familiar species we've seen during our enrichment birdwalks

Into the woods

Large vernal pool

Watching the giant dragonflies

Dragonflies

Pollution - part of a lawnmower



Learning more about Northern Cardinals


See you Monday!

Happy Birding!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

5.10.15 - Bird Nerd Moment - Mother's Day - Fort Hill - Eastham, MA

My family is awfully good to me in that they'll allow me to drag them to a nature walk (bird walk) on Mother's Day... well, they have last year and this year anyway!  I decided on one of my favorite destinations, Fort Hill in Eastham.  Free fun for me is always a bonus!   Fortunately it was sunny and warm, no bundling up necessary!  I swear most of us in the Northeast are having post traumatic weather stress still.  I'm afraid to leave the house without a fleece!  We've been on the trail at Fort Hill before, but never the swampy boardwalk section, so we checked it out.  There's something about a trail in the woods that brings out the curiosity in humans and the boardwalk definitely makes it feel all the more welcoming.  Turns out part of the boardwalk is closed due to damage and so we back tracked to return to the main trail & head up to Sharpening Rock.  There's even a new section on the trail through the woods dedicated to natural wood carving art - see a couple of photos below.  Thanks family for the Mother's Day gift!  Time outside together and allowing me time to take photos and to take in the gorgeous day it was! (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List: 
Northern Mockingbird ( I ALWAYS see them here!)
Red-winged Blackbird

Common Grackle
Song Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Yellow Warbler
Gray Catbird
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Tree Swallow
Osprey

Red-winged Blackbird -male

Fort Hill - looking east to the Atlantic


Fern Fiddlheads

Common Grackle

Boardwalk under the tree trunk


Nest in a red maple... just about to sprout those fancy leaves


Upturned oak that did not survive the winter


Sharpening Rock





Great Egret & Snowy Egrets

Red-winged Blackbird

On the trail...

Red-winged Blackbird

Happy Mother's Day!!

Happy Birding!