Thursday, June 29, 2023

A new yard bird and more flycatcher drama

This week I added a Veery to the yard bird list, the 76th species. The Veery is a "true thrush," in the same family (Turdidae) as the American Robin and the European Common Blackbird. It was a cloudy gray day and I obtained very poor photos because of the low light. The demure brown bird spent most of the time in heavy foliage, although I thought my exposures through a space in the leaves had a pleasant  ethereal quality:

My only bright shot was due to the accidental firing of the in-camera flash:

Moments later a Yellow-throated Vireo came into the same tree and posed on some open branches:

Dissatisfied with my photos of the Veery, I searched  my archives for a more suitable portrait. I was surprised to find that my very first photos of these two bird species occurred on August 28, 2012 in Illinois (the day before my 77th birthday-- Oh, to be 70 again!) . They were not very good images, but on that day, within a few minutes, I photographed my first Veery along with my first Yellow-throated Vireo. Quite a coincidence. Here is that Veery:

This week we also have had other colorful resident visitors, including American Goldfinch...

...Prairie Warbler...

...Rose-breasted Grosbeak...

...and Scarlet Tanager:

A male Downy Woodpecker in a gnarly tree stretched his wing:

The three nestling Great Crested Flycatchers who were the subject of my prior blog, "A Flycatcher Adventure" are doing very well. Their eyes opened when they were about 5 days old. On Tuesday night (when about 9 days old) we stopped bringing them inside overnight, as they were well-feathered and the weather was fair. Our covered patio was intended to be their permanent home until they were expected to fly freely at the age of 14-15 days. I tied their cardboard "nest box" to the chair with string to keep it secure from wind bursts.  

Their faithful parents continue to feed them regularly:

On their 8th day this one used its wing power to skate across the floor as I was tidying the nest box:

On the evening of the the 9th day, they spent the night outside. Early the next morning (yesterday) we were surprised to find that two of the three had already fledged. The last chick perched on the edge of the "nest," calling out loudly. 

The last photo of the last chick on the nest:

In a moment it flew, strong and directly, to a crabapple tree, where the parents continued to feed it. We heard the two other chicks calling and being fed in separate trees but could not see them. Chick #3 was safe in the Crabapple tree and was immediately fed by a parent:


The local Woodchuck "Fat Boy" appeared at the far edge of the back yard:

One morning I found this motionless Polyphemus Moth floating on the surface of the swimming pool I assumed it was lifeless:

The next day I was surprised to see it still floating there. Our granddaughter Graci retrieved it and found it was still alive:

The clear-cut area in the rear of the property is now flush with weeds, dominated by Sow Thistle, a plant in the aster family which blooms in late summer and produces fluffy seeds. Deer love to eat it, and It is very attractive to the goldfinches, as it provides down (pappus) for their nests and seeds to feed their offspring.

Once again, since I have been rather limited to the back yard, I must dig into my archives to find a photo with a reflection. I selected this one, taken at our local Florida wetlands in the summer of 2021. 

It demonstrates anti-crepuscular rays from the sun, which is rising over the ocean behind me on the opposite (eastern) horizon. This effect requires a cloudless sky containing just enough moisture or other particles to reflect the rays, which must first be broken up by storm clouds offshore. Although the rays are parallel, they converge at a vanishing point, which is the shadow of the earth.  

This week's header: Singing Veery, Flipped Header 20230625

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, June 22, 2023

A Flycatcher adventure

The Great Crested Flycatcher is a common summer resident across most of  eastern USA into southern Canada. Despite its loud and distinctive calls, it is rather reclusive and hard to find, high in treetops. A large flycatcher, it has a long bill, rusty-red wing and tail feathers and yellow undersides. It is the only flycatcher in the eastern USA which utilizes nest holes.

My best photo of one, until this week, was in Florida, back in 2011:

Here in Connecticut I photographed a pair exploring an exhaust vent with an unprotected opening, high on the rear exterior wall of our residence. We thought that the frequent operation of the fan would discourage them. However, they persisted until it was obvious that they had brought in much nesting material which needed to be removed before replacing the broken cover. It is their habit to rapidly fill any nesting cavity almost to the entry hole and include all manner of trash. If available, shed snake skins are included and may even protrude from the nest hole, possibly effective  in deterring predation.*

This week, while tending to the garden directly beneath the opening, our granddaughters heard soft high-pitched calls coming from under the spreading leaves of a daylily. They discovered four newly-hatched chicks of the species.  

Returning them to the nest was impossible because the slope of the terrain and lack of an appropriate ladder. Graci, the older of our granddaughters took charge of the situation. She called a local wildlife rehabilitation line and followed their advice, to put the chicks in a cardboard box with a towel and place them as near as possible to the nest, in hopes that the parents would feed them. 

Since they were cold she added a sock filled with a cup of dry rice, heated in the microwave for 30 seconds. It was pleasantly warm. The chicks began calling and begging to be fed. Sure enough, the parents came to feed them almost immediately after they were placed in the garden. I took photos from a second floor window:

We were amazed when one of the adults brought in a dragonfly which was almost the same length as the chick:

I was amazed to see the last of the dragonfly disappear into the baby's gullet:

The eyes of the chicks will not open until they are about 5 days old. They normally do not fledge until they are two weeks of age. One of the four was quite listless the entire time and never begged to be fed. The approach of nightfall presented a dilemma. We could not leave the box on the ground for predators to find. 

Before dark, after the adult flycatchers had disappeared, we moved them in the box to a table under the covered patio. For extra safety, Graci placed a chair on the table to provide even greater elevation:

She positioned it just outside my bedroom window so that I could keep an eye on it:

We included the warm sock, as the overnight temperature was expected to drop below 60 degrees. It actually dipped to 57°F  (13.9°C). Early the next morning I found that the weaker nestling had perished. The other three were cold and nearly unresponsive. Graci brought them inside and after warming them up for a few minutes they began to beg for food. She fed them live mealworms and rather than place them on the ground we decided to see if the parents would return to feed them on the patio.

An adult perched on one of the chairs soon after I exited the patio. I presume it was  responding to the calls of the nestlings.

Soon, both adults visited the new location and started bringing in food for the chicks, Light was poor and I was shooting through the windows. They continued feeding and removing excrement throughout the day.

That night we decided it was best to bring the chicks inside the house to avoid the chill and threat of rain. It was a good move. They slept all night with the towel covering the box and all three  woke up hungry and begging. I warmed up the rice-filled sock and placed the box back on the chair atop the table. The adults immediately began feeding them. I think it is unusual for acavity-nesting bird to so readily accept an open nest. Of course, the instinct to nurture and protect their offspring is strong indeed.

As of this morning, the fourth day since taking charge of the baby flycatchers, all is going well. The three chicks are thriving. Doting parents were waiting for them before sunrise as I brought them out to the patio after spending a second night inside our home. The chicks immediately began calling. Just now, a Gray Squirrel ventured very close to the patio. One of the adult flycatchers attacked the squirrel and appeared to peck its back. The squirrel hastily retreated.     

A word of caution. Generally, you should not try to capture a baby bird which appears to have been abandoned by its parents. If able to walk or run it very likely is a fledgling which will be fed periodically by its parents and have survival instincts to protect it for a few days before it takes flight. If it is a younger naked or fluffy nestling it rarely may be possible to return it to the nest if it is accessible and not damaged. Follow Graci's example and call a wildlife rehabilitator for guidance. For more information see: When You Should—and Should Not—Rescue Baby Birds

Sunset over Hartford on June 20:

Morning view of Hartford earlier this week through residual smoke from the Canadian forest fires:

Reflection on the lake

REFERENCE: Birds of the World (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology):

The potential for snakeskin to deter nest predation was first tested experimentally in nest boxes in Florida (KEM); addition of snakeskins to Great Crested Flycatcher nest boxes during Mar-Apr subsequently repelled southern flying squirrels from reoccupying the nest boxes; snakeskins placed in artificial nests in the same nest boxes during Jun reduced the frequency of predation by small mammals. These findings suggest use of snakeskin by the species may be adaptive, at least in this locality where flying squirrels are significant nest predators (Miller 2002, Miller and Leonard 2010). However, some have interpreted this behavior as nothing more than an affinity for shiny and wrinkly items, given that fragments of birch (Betula sp.) bark, onion skins, cellophane, plastic wrappers and other trash are also routinely used in the nest (Whittle 1927b: 263).

This week's header: Sunset over Hartford

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display