When birds attack!!!

22 07 2009

My dad sent me this story from England about Buzzards attacking joggers. Good to see the guy who was hit seemed to take it all in his stride as opposed to the usual levels of hysteria one encounters when these kind of things happen. Anyway it made me remember my own close encounter with a rather upset Northern Goshawk pair.

I was taking a hike through the property around the Saugatuck reservoir when I heard the screeching calls of a Goshawk (listen here) as it bombed through the dense Hemlocks, making something of a beeline towards my head. I admit I was momentarily drawn between admiring this stunning bird as it gracefully weaved through the trees and throwing myself head first in the dirt. As it closed upon me I quickly ducked and it passed just a couple of feet above my head. Terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

I moved on down the path realizing that I had probably stumbled upon a nest site and needed to withdraw to a distance that the bird no longer perceived me to be a threat. Of course the way I was heading was taking me back into the path that the bird had taken, giving him another chance to have a pass at my head. Ducking away at the last second as it came in again, I felt somewhat like a matador must feel as I skipped away from further attack.

By this time I noticed that the second adult had arrived and they began to work like a wrestling tag team, one sitting up watching my movements as the second bird came in for a bash. It was all over in a couple of minutes but felt much longer as I retreated carefully but fairly sharpishly from their domain. A pretty exciting experience and quite an adrenalin rush, although a couple of their passes were a little too close to my head for comfort. Who says birding isn’t an extreme sport!

Thought I’d also stick up this clip of ‘The Birds’ trailer. Pretty fun. I like old Alfreds little sarcastic digs at our relationship with our feathered friends.

Death Defying Hummingbirds

10 06 2009

Collared Inca (Ecuador) - Luke Tiller

Collared Inca (Ecuador) - Luke Tiller

A cool article about the aerial acrobatics of humminbirds. Seeing as the paper has illustrated the article with  completely inappropriate photo (of a Broad-billed Hummingbird). I thought I’d do the same. OK I just don’t have any picture of Anna’s Humminbird truth be told. Anyway pretty amazing stuff and goes nicely with the other recent hummingbird post (see below).  Article here. I have decided to make no comment about males doing ridiculous things to impress the female of the species!

Just like Elephants…

19 05 2009

It seems that Mockingbirds never forget either. Here’s a cool video and article from the Guardian Newspaper in the UK which shows that Northern Mockingbirds seem to remember people that they feel have threatened them in the past. This is thought to be the first published account of wild animals in their natural setting recognising individuals of another species. Visit the Guardian website here.

If the birds don’t know…

8 05 2009

Chipping Sparrow - Luke Tiller

what chance do we have? I had an amusing and interesting experience in my yard this morning where I was messing with my iPod. In theory I can have Worm-eating, Pine and Chipping Sparrow all nesting around my yard (I was pleased to confirm the nesting Pine gathering nesting material a week or so back). Anyway I was listening to what might have been a Worm-eating calling down the slope in my yard. Not wanting to go trampling down the slope which is steep and fairly dangerous I came up with a idea, I’d play my iPod and see if the Worm-eating responded and hopefully get a feel if the bird was back this spring after a year without them in 2008. Anyway as I set up my iPod and played the song I suddenly had a bird zoom straight in and almost take off my head. As I looked into the apple tree where it had alighted after buzzing me I realised it was one of the local Chippers. He continued to act agitated with the Worm-eating playing so I switched off the iPod and just watched him. He sat there for another minute or two singing vociferously and perhaps a little triumphantly (having driven off the other bird), before he decided to move on. I know these three songs are pretty similar but it was fascinating to me that even the birds themselves might at some point be confused by similar sounding calls.

To here the three birds songs check out Pine (here), Chipping Sparrow (here) and Worm-eating Warbler (here). Interesting to compare the three songs. When I am trying to make an ID on song of these three the general rule is that the Chipping Sparrow has a long flat rattley call – much like song 2 on the Cornell site (from California). It often ends very abrubtly as well. Pine usually is ‘sweeter’ and more musical sounding to my ear and often tails off as if on a fade out setting. Of course the first track on the Cornell site from West Virginia has that slightly ‘sweeter’ sound which makes the ID somewhat harder but does at least have the abrupt end that I associate with Chippings. If you compare the Worm-eating it is much more similar to the California recording of the Chipping and has many of the same qualities. To my ear it is a little buzzier (often described as more insect-like), but it can be tough. Habitat often helps with making an ID with these two I find,with Chipping unlikely to be found in deep woodland settings . It’ makes me feel better to know that the birds themselves sometimes find it tough 😉

Beers, Dancing and Birds

4 05 2009

Not just the end to a fine Sunrise Birding tour ;), but rather a combination of a few cool science articles sent to me over the last couple of weeks. The first is one passed on by Mike Ferrari, one of the Sunrise Birding walk regulars about how blue birds develop their amazingly bright plumage, not through pigment but through nanostructures that to the layman have a similar structure to beer foam (here).

I’m sure a few of you have also seen some of the viral videos on the web that have been doing the rounds of amazing dancing cockatoos. Well it seems like there are some scientific studies (this kind of study makes me wish I hadn’t given up on science after my Chemistry GCSE) that have discovered that as well as humans, some birds have an absolutely spot on sense of rhythm. The BBC website (here) has an article and some cool videos of the birds in action!  I have to say in my experience that the birds could probably teach most of the people I see down in SONO a bit about getting their groove on!!! Although to be fair the birds probably aren’t quite so influenced by the liquid mentioned in the first article when they get to strut their stuff.

Tis the season to go Woodcocking!

13 03 2009

Spring is here and the woodcock are already out and about at Allen’s Meadows in Wilton. Thought this cool video from the Bird Chick might be entertaining to see. My personal note would be to pick an evening where the wind is pretty much still, as even a fairly light wind seems to keep the Woodcock from going into full display mode and they just hang out on the ground or chase each other around. I also once read that you need a warm evening over 40 degrees but I think that is more of a guide to when they might first show up. We’ll find out tonight as they are predicting it to only be around 38 degrees.

This ones for all the ladies out there…

18 02 2009

Leucistic Northern Cardinal - James Van Acker

After the interesting gynandromorph and leucistic Cardinal pictures (see above) on my blog recently and my mention that both male and female Northern Cardinals sing, my wife got in on the act and sent me this interesting article about Cardinal vocalizations (here). Appears that the old male Cardinals aren’t the quickest on the uptake when it comes to learning songs. In fact they lag rather noticeably behind their female counterparts in learning smarts. I have the feeling that my wife was trying to hint at some general inference here! Anyway an interesting piece of research about a common backyard bird.  The Science Daily Website also has a host of other interesting articles about bird song, animal intelligence etc and is well worth a perusal.

Finch Behavior

15 01 2009

At sunset, I noticed that a handful of Pine Siskins were heavily investigating one of the squirrel dreys in my yard, which made me recall  an event from a few years back: after a particularly heavy daytime winter shower I went into the garden and discovered all of these Goldfinches (maybe a dozen or so) appearing from underneath a drey. My guess at the time was that they were sheltering under it during the downpour, which I thought was rather smart.

I then read today that dreys are generally only used as nests by squirrels in the summer (they prefer cavitie nests in winter) and also that the entrances were underneath, so as to protect them from the intrusion of the  elements.  So I wonder: a) whether those Goldfinches those years back were actually sitting out the storm inside the nest? and b) whether birds might use abandoned nests like this for overnight roosts?

Kind of interesting. It certainly seems like they might make the perfect overnight home for a cold finch. I’ll have to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to see what, if anything, flys out. Of course the other possibility they were just investigating them for food?