Monday, March 28, 2011

Yellow Crowned Diary

October 16, 2011
Of course the birds are long gone but I wanted to spend a few moments of this fine day to see if enough leaves have fallen to be able to count the nests from the bridge. They had not but I wanted a photo of one of them for a discussion group.

September 4, 2011
There is not much to report. I took my daughter to the site and we could only see a few of the nests as the leaves are still too abundant. The birds of course are long gone. I'll check back in a month to see if enough leaves have fallen to view the many nests from the bridge. I'll let you know.

July 17, 2011
I was camping at Point lookout last weekend and therefore missed the final fledgling of the season. The youngest threesome were nowhere to be seen on this visit...nor were any others. It was a good spring, none of the hatchlings died. They all looked healthy and were maturing as one would expect.

I'm not sure where they head to but since a few miles north is a popular Yellow Crowned Night Heron summer resort. It is Robert Lee Park where I have visited many times but not during the last 19 months as it has been closed. It was there on the banks of the 150 year old man made falls that represent the headwaters of the Jones Falls that I have seen copious numbers of Yellow Crowns both mature and otherwise. I have also seen both in the stream that runs through the Mount Washington neighborhood of Baltimore but none were there when I looked early Sunday morning.

I am determined to keep a routine vigilance of the rookery despite its desertion. When this blog is complete it will be about a year and a half because I am interested in the early mating season towards the end of winter.

I'll keep you posted.
July 2, 2011
From my vantage point on the bridge overlooking The Jones Falls, I can see four nests, obscured as they are by dense foliage. In two of the nests I can no longer see any activity. I have to guess that the new birds have fledged and are out their learning to eat real food by watching their parents along nearby streams.

In the other two nests the hatchlings remain but are actively touring the large branches. They do some sunning and stretching their wings.

June 25, 2011
As usual I go to the park to check the new borns out pretty early in the morning. Its cooler and there is less traffic. For a while the dense foliage obscured the view from the bridge but the young ones are growing fast. They are not ready to fly as their wings are not developed enough. That at least is how I surmise it. They do a lot of wing stretching and there is a lot of gap in the feathers at this point.

From underneath the nests there is a lot more to view. It is not possible (at least with my technology) to get a good photo as the trees canopy the area into a nice cool shady spot. Here is a photo of a few of the young ones taken this morning.

June 19, 2011
I was out of town last week but got out to Stieff early this morning. This time with a friend in tow who not only enjoyed the hatchlings but also saw her first Baltimore Oriole which are regular visitors to the area. The hatchlings appear healthy and the nests intact.

With lush foliage one can only see four nests from the bridge but climbing down into the park below one can see seven nests.

After a good long walk we hiked up to Druid Hill Park and I was exposed to a path that was brand new to me and quite lush and beautiful. We ran into another friend and three of us walked for a few miles. When we got to the reservoir we found a pair of Cedar Waxwings only a few feet away and at eye level. They flitted around some and we could watch them for quite awhile. In my mind they are the most beautiful bird that Maryland has to offer and it was a first for my friends. I do not see them so often to ever get bored with them.

June 5, 2011

The herons are hatching now. Here is a photo of a mother and young. From below I count 6 nests. From the bridge I can only see three since the leaves are out and are broad.

May 22, 2011

Finally, a beautiful spring like weekend morning. Today I saw my first hatchlings in two of the nests north of the bridge. Here is an early photo.I'll keep you posted.

May 15, 2011
It’s pretty quiet at the 6 nest rookery over the Jones Falls near Druid Hill Park. It would appear that all nests have eggs as there was a bird on each one at 7:30 in the morning. It is all quiet to the human observer that is. There is a lot of gestation going on.

May 8, 2011

In my weekly (or more when possible) visit to the Yellow Crowned rookery I chose to walk under the nests to see what new discoveries I might find.

From the vantage point of the bridge the nests are getting more obscured by the leaves that are in abundance and view blocking. From below I actually found 6 nests rather than the four reported earlier. Judging from the nesting habits I would think that eggs lay in each of them. I can only see eggs on the north side of the bridge.

Last year the one on the north side of the bridge disappeared shortly after the eggs hatched. I thought (and reported) that young boys successfully destroyed it but calmer and more knowledgeable heads prevailed and told me that there were plenty of natural events that could have occurred to sink the nest. One such notion as I have learned from research, suggested that first nests are often too fragile and ill made to endure the time necessary to render chicks free to live their lives. I have also learned that nests get reinforced even after chicks hatch, by the more experienced parents. I am seeing that in action this year.

Let’s see what happens. I know a bit more than last year and will learn more this year as I watch as the late spring unravels.

May 1:
Once or twice a week now, I go to the Jones Falls bridge near Druid Hill Park to keep fresh on the Yellow Crowned Night Herons that nest under that bridge. I am learning more about their nesting habits and photographing them routinely. Currently there are five nests that can still be seen from the bridge. Four on the south side and one on the north. You can look into the one on the south side and on April 30 there were two eggs visible. Since it is easy to spot herons sitting on the south side nests which were constructed prior to the south side one it is hard to imagine that they are not egg filled as well. You just cannot see into the nests to confirm the existence of eggs.

The adults continue as couples at least through the mating season and rear the young together so there are a lot of these herons hanging around the branches or on the nests themselves.

The Peregrines are back on the downtown buildings and I often hear them and less so see them. It is clear that years after the DDT ban, Peregrines are rebounding as a species. Curiously it seems that the last few generations are making urban America and Canada their habitat. I suppose that is fine though I am not convinced of it. There are plenty of Rock Doves and other birds available for their sustenance but are those birds, with their urban diet of french fries and other scraps, providing the nutrition either for their own survival or that of their predators? It seems like it wouldn't be but I do not know.

I'll keep updating on the success of the herons.

This morning I walked the reservoir at Druid Hill Park and saw approximately 1 billion Red Wing Black Birds. They are not too afraid of humans and will perch very close allowing a really good view of them. In the water itself I saw one Bufflehead and one Barrows Goldeneye neither of which I expected to see there.

Stay tuned.
March 28:
It is migration time. In February I came home to something like 50 Robins in my yard, eating the dried berries that were fruit last summer. Within a few days I came home to about as many Grackles. The latter was reminiscent of Hitchcock’s The Birds as these starkly black birds hovered everywhere.

On my morning walk of about a mile from the Light Rail stop to work is still in the dark (owing to the recent change to Daylight Savings Time) and as I head east I can hear the Peregrines screaming above. One morning shortly after daylight became real, I saw two of them on the roof of the old Community College building on Lombard Street. They will become more obvious for the next couple of months.

My big news has to do with a life bird. One morning about 3 weeks ago I found a nearly all black small duck in the inner harbor during one of my walks. I did not know what it was but do keep a field guide in my office and determined that it was a Black Scoter. Several days later I saw another one (or perhaps the same one a second time). Within a week I saw them everywhere including at one sighting, ten of them at once. I did some research and understand that they summer in the Hudson Bay so I expect they will be leaving soon. It is nice to see a visitor. It is also nice that they are good posers so I have some photos.

Last fall on a beautiful day, many Terns came by the harbor for one day. I am not sure if they were Least Terns or Common Terns but they were Terns and they crashed into the water with a boom in search of victuals. No camera that day though.
Down near the Stieff Building above the Jones Falls, the Yellow Crowned Night Herons are back building nests and getting ready to brood. There are no leaves yet so the view is clear. Here is an early shot of some of them. I saw five perching within view of the bridge.

In the backyard I have a dearth of birds on most days. The nuthatches that wintered here are gone as are the Juncos (of course 10 minutes after writing that I saw two of them bouncing around the porch eating the spilled seeds of a feeder). Today it is pretty boring with only the standard Cardinals and Song Sparrows hanging around. There are crows above (yesterday I looked up at all the caws and saw what appeared to be a Crow Tree as so many perched on it). They looked like fruit.

I still do my volunteer work with Lights Out Baltimore and that began a few weeks ago. We walk a four mile downtown path around particular buildings in search of compromised birds. They are in their state mostly because they have crashed into buildings while migrating confusedly through a downtown area. We are apt to come upon some exotic birds because it was not their intention to stop here. Sometimes we can save them thanks to the volunteers who are trained to restore as much of them as possible. Unfortunately we still have about 75 carcasses to donate to science every season.

If I learned anything during the last 12 months is that if you look every day, you will see something new.

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