Winter/Spring 2015 birding news
Well in the traditional sense today marks the first unofficial day of summer. We can wear white shoes. I have spent the days of this long weekend doing some serious exploring so this input will start from the most recent and go backwards.
On Saturday I got up and did my volunteer monitoring of downtown Baltimore with Lights out Baltimore (LOB) which if the reader is unfamiliar, constitutes about 3.5 miles of walking a planned route through the very heart of Baltimore’s business district. The goal is to find birds that have died, been injured or are in some way compromised. We collect the dead and compile some demographic highlights, seal the bird and the notes into a plastic bag which will be frozen and delivered later to a scientific lab for various studies.
Injured birds are collected and safely placed in paper bag following a specific procedure and delivered to a nature sanctuary in hopes that they can be nursed back to a free life in the wild. Compromised birds such as those under an awning who cannot seem to figure out how to escape. We essentially “scare” them enough for them to begin trying to escape us and find their way out of their jam.
So I did that early in the morning then headed out to Wyman Park to observe any nesting Yellow Crown Night Herons. On this day there was only one that I could find from the bridge but I did not go underneath where I was likely to find more. That will have to wait until next week. Last year their rookery collapsed for reasons unknown to me. Some of them rebuilt and laid a new clutch in mid-June but they abandon the efforts shortly thereafter, leaving eggs in the nests that lasted for several weeks or more.
On Sunday I went to North Point State Park and found many of the birds I expect to find this time of year such as white morph, Great Blue Herons, Little Blues, Cattle Egret and the standard deciduous forest passerines. I did see several Bald Eagles and in one case soaring above was an adult followed by a juvenile. What was particularly cool about this trip was finding a Rough Green Snake which is a beautiful, emerald color little snake that I was glad to not have stepped on.
On Memorial Day, I spent about 2.5 hours exploring my favorite Robert E. Lee Park. There I saw a Scarlet Tanager and several Sandpipers which will require some scrutiny before I can correctly identify * them more specifically. Otherwise I saw typical birds of that forest and waterway. I could hear a Bald Eagle and many Woodpeckers but could not see any of them. The fish were not jumping so perhaps I was too early.
I spotted a toad about the size of a child’s palm and the color of dead leaves which nearly obscured it from my view. I only have Peterson’s Reptiles and Amphibians (1998) to rely on for help and there was a dearth of it there.**
From about the onset of the season until early February I was able to do some local birding at Robert E. Lee, The Druid Hill Reservoir and Cromwell. These were all entertaining but nothing new. Pileated Woodpeckers are not building their nests yet. A few Great Blue Herons winter here and Hooded Mergansers come down for the winter to Robert E. Lee. This is all fun but it is also annual so there is not much to get excited about.
I also spent the long Martin Luther King weekend in Southern Maryland and hiked Point Lookout State Park pretty substantially. There were a few common winter birds there such as brown nuthatches and bald eagles. It the water were many buffleheads. I wanted to test a few other parks but there was a lot of cold rain that thwarted those plans.
Over New Year’s I was in western Maryland hiking civil war sights where it was very cold and windy. I was not at my ardent best for that reason and I was also with a few old friends. There were many turkey vultures which made me wonder if they presented themselves during the battles at Gettysburg and Antietam further adding to the terrors of those events. In all of the photos I have seen of the events nary a vulture was seen.
Most of bird watching post early February was done through my kitchen and office window due to the conditions. I had purchased a few bags of dried corn cobs to feed crows in the front yard. They did come and get it. My plan was to hide behind a window and slowly open it in order to photograph the birds and their pecking order from a ground level perspective. That is still my plan but crows are skittish and even the subtle sound of opening the window is more than these corvids could bear. I did get to watch them and could determine who the alpha was and see when he was willing to let his girlfriend and others peck away. This is a plan in progress and there are plenty more cobs and weekends to pursue it.
On February 15 which was very cold and sunny about 10 degrees, several hundred American robins alit on the many trees in my back yard. I did get a photo of a block of them as they huddled in the niches they chose. Every one of them hoping for some warmth in numbers. Likewise large numbers of crows have been flocking around the neighborhood these last few frigid weeks.
A Hawk of unknown species given how high in the tree it was, stayed for an hour the other day. This is routine. I see a hawk in the trees about six times a year and since I still work full time I can only see them during limited hours.
There you have it, a short report of the first five months of bird watching in 2015.* Spotted Sandpipers
** Fowler's Toad