Friday, July 20, 2012

How the Black Skimmer got its name.

The Black Skimmer gets its name from skimming the surface of the water with its longer lower mandible. It was originally known as Cut Water, named because it cuts through the water surface leaving a thin wake behind.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the Nest

Two Ruby-throated Hummingbird chicks, about 17 days old, fill their nest. The older of the two is on the left. Watch as their mother comes in to feed them, followed by the chicks preening, stretching their wings and the older bird practicing to fly.
Taken at John Heinz NWR, Philadelphia - June 21, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

House Wren dismantling a chickadee nest

In mid-march Carolina Chickadees built a nest in our nest box. The nest was abandoned due to harassment from House Sparrows. Yestreday the first House Wren of the season showed up and it did not take him long to inpect the nest box! House Wrens are naturally aggressive, and since they use twigs to build their nests, he began to dismantle the soft moss and hair nest the chickadees had constructed, and lay claim to the box!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

#86 Sapsucker Holes

Did you ever wonder who created those neat rows of tiny holes on the bark of a tree?  This is the clever work of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, a member of the woodpecker family, and uncommon winter resident in our area.

The birds drill into the bark in order to release the sap from inside, hence their name. These interesting hole designs - that also can be rows of squares - do not damage the tree.

Hummingbirds are attracted to sapsucker holes not to consume sap, but to feed upon the insects that are also drawn to the sweet liquid. The insects provide a valuable source of protein for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as they migrate northwards to their breeding grounds.

It's amazing that the efforts of one sapsucker can have such wide-reaching affects!
photo © adrian binns

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

#85 Field Tip: Irruptions

In the birding community, "irruption" is the word used to describe an irregular, migratory movement of a large number of birds that does not normally occur in a given area.

Irruptions do not apply to all species, but are known to occur with crossbills, siskins, purple finches, redpolls, bohemian waxwings, red-breasted nuthatches, and also some owls.  By definition, irruptions are irregular, but studies show that they occur in cycles of approximately 2-10 years.

Species irruptions occur when food sources are poor on their wintering grounds, compelling the birds to spread out more widely than usual, and in larger numbers.  Finches and other seedeaters move in as a result of poor crop production.  Owl irruptions coincide with cyclical crashes of rodent populations, which happen to rely upon seeds.

Interestingly, irruptions do not always involve the same species at the same time, and are not related to cold winters.  While last winter there was an irruption of Saw-whet Owls, this winter we are currently experiencing an irruption of Snowy Owls, which are being reported in unexpected areas throughout the Delaware Valley region, much to the delight of birders!
photo © adrian binns

Thursday, January 5, 2012

#84 Backyard Tip: Put your Xmas Tree to use

Now that the holidays are over, here is a wonderful suggestion for what you can do with your Christmas Tree.

I see so many placed out on the curb, and know that homeowners are missing out on creating a small micro-habitat for birds.

Do not discard your evergreen tree. Instead, I place mine outside near my feeding station. This now provides an additional place for the birds to hide, and find protection from the elements and predators.
photo © adrian binns