Monday, April 28, 2014

Bluebirds at Springbrook

 In the cold rain yesterday we caught this male Eastern Bluebird in between showers during Springbrook Nature Center's banding program.  The female was close by and called for him until he was released after he was banded.

His blue color was very intense, contrasted with the rusty red breast.
 During the banding process the wing feathers are inspected to determine which feathers have been molted recently, which helps determine age of birds caught.

It gives a chance to see the brilliant blue that these birds have on the upper part of their body.
By looking at these feathers it was determined that this bird was an after second year male, which means it hatched in 2012 or earlier.

With the habitat restoration project leaving many forested areas in Springbrook more open, bluebirds will have more areas to nest, and may increase in numbers over the next few years.

I hope so, as they are always a pleasure to see and hear.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Black Capped Chickadee Nest Cavity Making

 Black Capped Chickadees are cavity nesters, and they were making their nests yesterday at Springbrook Nature Center.

I found this one yesterday actively working on this cavity.  I don't know if the hole was started by the Chickadee, or if the Chickadee was just remodeling a pre-existing cavity, but he was very busy.

The mate was close by calling and watching.
 I think Chickadees must have some woodpecker DNA, as they seem very capable of excavating cavities in dead wood. 

One big difference is that Chickadees are very tidy, and don't want any wood chips near the nest, so they carry all the wood peices away some distance.  This one would be inside for two or three minutes, then cary several loads of chips away, and then back to work. This must be a way of reducing predator curiosity of why the wood chips are present.

Woodpeckers generally just throw the woodchips over their shoulders as they work away at their nest cavities. 

Hopefully, in a few weeks  I can photograph this pair of Chickadees feeding their babies.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pasque Flowers Bloom For First Pollinators

With the last two warm days the Pasque Flowers have recovered from last weeks 8" snowfall and popped out of the leaf cover to bloom. 

Yesterday, these native prairie wildflowers were starting to open for the first time shortly after sunrise, one week earlier than last year.
 By 10 AM several of the flowers were completely open and enjoying the bright sunsine and 60 degree temps.
 By noon the flowers were pointing straight at the sun and withstanding the stiff breezes of the day.

Some of the flowers are more tentative and only opening a little, while several are still waiting for a bit more confidence that the warm weather is here to stay.

As I was taking these pictures I was surprised to see a small wasp show up and get completely covered with the pollen of the flower before flying off to look for some other early flowers.

Pollinators get to work as soon as the first flower opens up.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Red Winged Blackbird And Pussywillows

 As I write this blog post it is snowing heavily outside my window, but yesterday the sun was shining, and the Red Winged Blackbirds and the Pussywillows were thinking spring.

The Red Winged Blackbird in this picture likes to sit in this Pussywillow bush at Springbrook Nature Center and make his spring territorial calls.  It makes for a nice spring-like setting. 

Male Red Winged Blackbirds arrive from migration here a few weeks before the females.  That gives them time to stake out territories before the arrival of the females. 

The calls and the brilliance of the red and yellow "shoulder patches" are their calling cards.  The females then just pick the one that has the best area for her nest, in her opinion.

The male Red Wing below has a more open spot further along the boardwalk at Springbrook.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Downy Woodpeckers Begin Making Nest Cavity

 The Downy Woodpeckers at Springbrook Nature Center have started excavating their nest cavities in some of the dead trees in Springbrook's woods. 

This male approaches the nest hole he has been working on. 

These woodpeckers are shy and do not like me stopping to photograph them, even though I am standing on one of Springbrook's trails while taking this picture.
 Both the male and the female have been captured and banded in the past by Springbrook's bird banding program.  The band is visible on their right leg.

The male here is about to begin another work session where he uses his beak to break out small pieces of wood to shape the cavity the correct size and depth.

I would need lots of tools and rulers to make this, but he does it all by "eye."

Here he is at work.  He seems to just be getting started, as he is not going in very far.

The female is always close by, as can be seen below.
The female does not have the red on the back of her head, but otherwise looks just like the male.

Her leg band is very visible here.

She seems to be casually looking for food in the bark of the tree as she watches the male working on the cavity.

I was surprised to hear her "drumming," which is the way woodpeckers declare their territory areas.  I had thought only the males did this.
Here she is "drumming."  Her head is a blur but her feet are still as she hammers on the dead tree.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Migrating Birds Confront April Snow Storm

 Yesterday's serious snowstorm had some of the newly arrived migrating birds, and some regulars, inventing new ways to find food fast.

This Common Grackle has just arrived, and in the middle of the storm last night and this morning he discovered the seed tray other birds were using.  He is a fast learner, and stepped right up.
 Grackles will be staying here to nest, and need energy to set up territories, as well as to recover from the body fuel drain caused by migrating.

Snow is not their normal habitat.
 This Mourning Dove has been here for several weeks, and has already started to nest.  It has been calling with a mate for two weeks now.

But the snow kept it close to the feeders.

In the picture below it is easy to see that Doves are not made for really cold climates, as parts of this one's toes have frozen during the cold and left only stubs with no toe claws.

 This Starling learned to get some calories from the suet feeder.  He is in his spring colors, with the bright yellow bill and speckles all over.

His legs were not made for holding onto a wire cage, so he would often drop into the snow below to retrieve fallen bits of suet.  But how to find them in the snow?
 Here he can be seen grabbing mouthfuls of snow in the search for bits of suet.

Sometimes he found some, but the expression on his face below sems to suggest that he would like an easier way the find food.