Archive for the ‘Birding’ Category

Where to See Birds Now: CUBA

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Where to See Birds Now:  CUBA

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Blue-headed Quail-dove
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

As Cuba becomes easier to visit it is rapidly becoming a hot “bucket-list” destination for travelers.  For birdwatchers it offers a variety of habitats and over 20 endemic birds – birds that can only be found in Cuba.  If you are keeping a list of the birds you see, this tropical island certainly will add to your growing list.  And part of the allure is that these endemic birds are only recently able to be seen after many decades of isolation.  If seeing birds your friends haven’t seen appeals to you, then book a birding trip to Cuba!

The best time to visit to see birds is in spring – March

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Cuban Emerald
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

and April are especially good.  You will see some of the same warblers and songbirds we get in the eastern US overwintering there. But by spring, if they haven’t left for their northern nesting ranges, they will be in their best mating plumage.  I was there in March 2016 and saw a number of migrants like Black-throated Blue, Black and White and others all looking terrific.

While intact habitat is feeling the pressure from the new wave of construction, the birds are fairly easy to see and photograph.  To get the most out of the time you are spending, book with a reputable birding tour company which will take you to as many locations and habitats as possible during your time there.
No birding trip to Cuba is complete without visiting Zapata which is a terrific wetlands area with some interesting endemic birds.  Part of this visit will be by boat to access areas these birds frequent but which are not easily accessible by foot.  Your trip also should take you to the coast like Cayo Coco, where amidst construction on new tourist hotels, you may see waders, waterfowl, some of our overwintering Osprey and flocks of American Flamingos.  Whatever your itinerary, you are definitely going to want to see Cuban Tody, Zapata Sparrow, Cuban Quail-Dove, Cuban Green Woodpecker and the incomparable Bee Hummingbird —  but these famous species are just the beginning!
Cuba is getting much easier to reach, and you don’t have to go very far to have the chance to see some really beautiful and special birds which have not been easily seen in a long time.  And if the rest of your family or group of friends aren’t birders, that’s OK too  – there are lots of other things to see and do where the birds are.   Everyone can enjoy this trip!

Duck Mating Behavior

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Duck Mating Behavior

When you are watching ducks and other waterfowl this winter, get ready for a lot of action, because it’s also mating season!

red_breasted_mergansers_mating_display
Photo Credit: Stan Tekeila

Waterfowl mating behaviors can be pretty weird – ranging from the slightly unusual to the outrageous. We found a few videos you might enjoy for a little insider info on what you might expect to see.

Cornell Lab or Ornithology has this great video and aticle about how to recognize different courtship displays of some of the more common waterfowl you will see.
Another nice video of Cinnamon Teal displaying from Arkive.

How Do Birds Keep From Crashing Into Each Other in a Flock?

Monday, December 19th, 2016
Flock Behavior: Why Birds Don’t Crash Into Each Other
Do you ever watch flocks of birds flying tightly

shorebirds_in_flight_flock

together and wonder how they maintain their distance from one another? Flying in a tight flock helps birds in a number of ways. One of the most important is that a large tight flock makes it more difficult for predators to pick one of them off in flight.
Scientists knew that birds flying in flocks work together as an organic whole to maintain the flock integrity, and don’t follow a leader. But how do they manage avoiding collisions? They discovered that birds flying in tight flocks like this spectacular synchronous murmur of starlings, are able to make quick turns and altitude changes without collisions with each bird making split second decisions as they determine their relationship to the seven birds closest to them.  When within striking distance of another bird, each bird instantly changes altitude and turns to the right.

What birds do intuitively to avoid crashes is what human pilots are also instructed to do when faced with a potential collision!

Backyard Suet Feeders to Make or Buy

Sunday, November 20th, 2016
BACKYARD: Suet Feeders
It’s time to break out the suet feeders! Suet provides lots of calories to keep some of your favorite birds like chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers warm.  There are lots of different suet feeders you can buy or make, but the best ones are those which are ergonomically correct for
suet_feeder_wbu
Tail-prop suet feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited

woodpeckers. Woodpeckers feed with their tails propped on the tree which gives them better balance and stability. Feeders which allow woodpeckers to easily balance, like this paddle-shaped model are a good choice. You can make or purchase blocks of suet designed to fit into these feeders and they are easy to use.

Another great suet feeder is a natural piece of branch with holes drilled in it for the suet. You can refill the holes with either pre-made plugs you purchase or with suet you make yourself. Whether you purchase one or
log_suet_feeder_thegardenroofcoop make it yourself, keeping a suet feeder available all winter will keep your backyard busy during the coldest days.
Want to make the log feeder yourself?  With 5 minutes and a few basic tools, anyone can make this attractive feeder and kids will love helping.  Try these easy plans, fill the log holes with suet (recipe and image from thegardenroofcoop.com)and start watching birds at your new feeder!

Your Fall Backyard Tuneup

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
Your Fall Backyard Tuneup
In fall, birds’ needs start changing. The bird houses you setjuvenile_cardinal up in spring and which saw a lot of activity are now vacant. Pressure to secure food for hungry mouths in the nest has subsided, and now many birds are bulking up for migration. To create a friendly backyard for migrators and help your year-round residents, here are a few things you can do now.

  • Once all your nestboxes are vacant, clean them out. Remove the nests, and clean the houses with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts of water — making sure you rinse them thoroughly afterwards, and let them dry completely open in the sun. For more info on cleaning out houses, click here.  You can store them once they are dry, but if you live in a place which gets cold in winter, unless you are putting up roost boxes later, some birds may find the nest boxes to be a needed refuge during the coldest times.
    • Clean your birdfeeders! These need to be cleaned often to keep bacteria from spreading to the birds. You can use the same 1:9 /bleach:water solution as for the houses, then rinse them thoroughly and leave to dry outside. Do not put seed in them until they are totally dry and have had time for the bleach to evaporate.
    • Now fill those feeders! Migrating birds need the energy from fresh seeds.  So, keep your feeders filled and leave them in the same spot for the winter for local residents to easily find food when they need it.
    • If you have native wildflowers, you can collect the seeds now and store them in a cool place in a paper bag over the winter to be planted in the spring. If you prefer, many of them can be scattered in your native plant meadow in late fall to take advantage of  freezing in winter and the opportunity for an early sprouting.
    • Now is a great time to get native trees and some shrubs in place so they can establish before winter. Native trees, plants and shrubs are essential to making your backyard a haven for birds and other wildlife as they attract the right insects and provide the right natural food for wild birds and butterflies in the area. Don’t miss the opportunity to add a few more fruiting shrubs the birds can enjoy all winter.

    Late Season Nestcams

    Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
    Late Season Nestcams!

    Many of the birds from the nest cams we have previously been watching are growing up or have successfully fledged.  Now we have a new Guillemot nest, as well as chicks and juvenile laysan_albatros_juv_nestcam birds from some of the nests we have been following. We especially love watching the juvenile Layasan Albatross pictured here.

    A Day at the Beach

    Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
    A Day at the Beach

    What could be more summer-like than a day at the beach? Who doesn’t love having fun in the water and on the sand? And the beach is a popular spot for wildlife as well. Terrapins cross busy streets to get from the marsh to

    piping_plover_chick
    Piping Plover chick

    the sandy shores to lay their eggs, then return home across those same busy streets; horseshoe crabs lay their thousands of eggs along the shoreline, and eating the eggs gives long-distance flying shorebirds the energy they need to complete their migration; Osprey and terns ply the waters close to shore, diving for food; beach nesting birds lay their perfectly camouflaged eggs in the sand

    and raise their equally camouflaged young there.  On beaches, there’s a lot going on! And it might not be a surprise to know that birds that use our shores face some big challenges.

    Next time you’re at the beach, take a careful look around. All beach nesting birds, like the oystercatchers below,  lay eggs directly on a little shallow in the sand. For their protection from predators, these eggs all blend in perfectly with the sand, as do the teeny chicks who when hatched, are extremely difficult to see. Many areas where birds nest on the beach are roped off so they can enjoy a zone away from the rest of us enjoying the same real estate.

    Want to help beach-nesting birds?  Here are some things you can do:
    If you see a nesting area that has been roped off, don’t enter it for any reason.  The eggs or chicks, if they have hatched, could be anywhere.  Plus, the adults have a difficult time herding their precocial chicks, and see everything that moves as a potential predator — including pets.  Even if your dog is on a lead and outside the nesting area, his presence can distract the adults who may
    oystercatcher and chick at beach
    American Oystercatcher and chick on beach

    feel they need to leave their chicks to defend against a passing dog. This might lead to an opening a gull or crow has been waiting for to grab an unattended  chick.  Plus some birds, like Piping Plovers, need to safely escort their chicks to the water’s edge multiple times each day to feed them. A busy beach is a challenging place for a beach nesting bird! If you are respectful, they will stand a much better chance of successfully raising their young.


    The beach is a great place to spend hot summer days, and its also a terrific place to see wildlife.  Enjoy the beach and be respectful of the wild birds and other animals with which we share it.  This is the best way to ensure they will be there in the future for all of us to continue to enjoy.

    Your Summer Backyard

    Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
    Your Summer Backyard
    Your backyard in summer is different from the rest of the year. In each rose-breasted_grosbeak season,
    birds have different needs, and summer can be extreme – both because of the heat and the additional pressure of feeding baby and juvenile birds. You may be providing a lot of food for birds – in feeders as well as from the native plants and flowers you planted earlier this year. You should also be providing regular access to clean fresh water to keep birds cool, maintain their feathers for flight and keep them hydrated.  But some of the birds you want to attract to your yard may be different during summer, as migratory birds like grosbeaks and hummingbirds may take up summer residence in your area. Here are some ideas to keep your summer backyard a busy and popular spot for birds.
    During summer, fruit-eaters like orioles migrate in. You can put out orange halves, dark colored fruits like red grapes and cherries, and grape jelly for these birds who may then make your backyard a prime feeding spot and possible nesting area. Nothing beats a beautiful male Baltimore Oriole feeding on oranges for some great summer viewing!oriole_feeder
    Hummingbirds also make an appearance. Check out our story in our last newsletter on making your yard attractive to hummingbirds.
    Water is essential for any bird during the summer, so don’t skimp on clean water. You can buy attachments for your bird bath like a mister which will provide a fine spray that birds love in summer. There are many economical kinds, but if you want to make it a backyard feature, here’s a suggestion.
    If goldfinches frequent your area, niger or thistle seed is essential for them to raise their families in July and August. Many other birds will find these small nutritious seeds attractive as well, so keeping niger seeds available will help attract and feed a variety of species.
    Keep in mind that during summer you need to make sure the seed is kept dry so there is no chance of mould. So unless the birds empty your feeders every day, you may want to only fill them half way. And suet is difficult to keep fresh during summer, so you may want to hold off until cooler weather before putting it out.

    There are lots of things you can do in summer to attract birds, and we always recommend to make sure you landscape with native plants to ensure your birds have food choices year round.  Couple native plantings with fresh water, and you have the basis for an ideal haven for wildlife.

    More Nestcams!

    Friday, May 27th, 2016
    More Nestcams!

    arctic_tern_chick_nestcam


    ‘Tis the season!
    Birds are still nesting, and this month, there are a few new nestcams including

    Atlantic Puffins, Arctic Terns, Allen’s Hummingbird, Peregrine Falcons, Osprey and Double-crested Cormorants.

    atlantic_puffins_nestcam

    NEW nests with lots of chicks and behavior to watch!

    CATCH UP on what’s happening with the chicks:

    Watching Migration Fly By

    Friday, May 27th, 2016
    Watching Migration Fly By
    cornell_migration_map We couldn’t resist this terrific piece of info on migration from  Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Using millions of pieces of data from ebird combined with other sources, they put together an animated map of 118 species of birds and their movements including migration, throughout one year. It’s fascinating to see that some of the birds who go the furthest south are the fastest migrators and breed the furthest north. Check out the migratory paths of these birds and watch the show! Want to know which birds are which?  Here’s the key.
     

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