11 Jun Newburyport Birders’ Update – June & July – 2018
Observe ~ Appreciate ~ Identify
Observe the Chimney Swift which is one of our most aerial birds. In flight, it dines on flies, termites, flying ants, beetles, bees, moths and wasps. This on the wing specialist, drinks, collects nesting material and likely copulates in mid-air. It nests in house chimneys one pair per chimney and often the chattering of the nestlings can be heard.
Appreciate the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. This sprite is a fast flier and can stop instantly. It hovers and adjusts its position up, down, or backwards with exquisite precision. A frequent visitor to hummingbird feeders and tube-shaped flowers, it is a fierce defender of food sources. You can sometimes see it plucking tiny insects from spider webs.
Identify the Least Tern by its plunge dive into water from flight. Often you’ll witness it briefly hovering before taking the plunge. On the seacoasts and on beaches, it nests right in the sand.
Most shorebird species nest in the Canadian Arctic and tundra regions. Adult shorebirds start their southern migration in early July. The youngsters then head south two weeks later. They arrive at staging areas along the coast. Juvenile shorebirds, each with its own built-in navigational system, arrive and forage on the rich mudflats in Essex County.
There are many types of shorebirds, and learning to identify them a challenge. These birds often flock together and have similar plumages and behaviors; patient birders can observe and identify them.
Here are a few clues to aid in identification:
Overall SIZE and SHAPE;
Markings on HEAD;
Bill length and shape;
Color of UPPER PARTS – back and wings;
Markings on UNDERPARTS – chest, abdomen and flanks;
WINGS – markings when folded or in flight, whether edges or tips are lighter or darker than wings;
Marking on TAIL or RUMP;
LEG length and color.
In addition to visual clues, shorebirds can also be identified by habitat use [field, mudflat or wet grasslands].
Sorting through the birds at staging areas is great fun at low tide and at high tide while the birds are roosting [resting].
Enjoy this impressive migration!
“For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams sets out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain.
From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to groves of eucalyptus in California, Williams investigates the science at the confluence of environment, mood, health, and creativity. Delving into completely new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and ultimately strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.”
“Fascinating…Williams, a contributing editor at Outside magazine, presents all of this with the zip of a trail runner covering a lot of ground sure-footedly. She’s got the pop-sci presentation down pat — breezy enough to draw in the lay reader, thorough enough to satisfy the expert. She gamely volunteers to be researchers’ human guinea pig, including wearing a portable EEG unit in the woods and looking like a “shriveled sea urchin.” —The New York Times
“Williams’s findings are eminently reassuring” —The Atlantic
“In her wonderful new book The Nature Fix, journalist Florence Williams writes that nature serves as a welcome reprieve from the seemingly endless demands and constant stimuli of modern life. She makes the compelling case that nature not only makes us subjectively feel better, but it also alters our biology, measurably subduing our fight-or-flight stress response.” —New York Magazine
“[Williams] presents the benefits of spending time outdoors . . . entertainingly but with enough scientific detail to satisfy the expert.” —The New York Times Book Review,
“[A] powerful environmental call to arms.” —Publishers Weekly
TIP OF THE MONTH FROM BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN: “BACK OFF”
“While driving on the highway, from time to time you’ve probably encountered that assertive bumper-sticker, slapped onto a car in front of you: “Back off!” This announces to other drivers the driver’s annoyance when it comes to tail-gating. This is a good reminder to all of us to maintain an appropriate distance to cars in front of us when driving.
Unfortunately, bird nests don’t come with any equivalent signage. At this season, as many birds are nest-building, incubating, or feeding young, they are extremely vulnerable. And there are no good reasons why we should make their lives any more vulnerable or more difficult.
Of course, being dive-bombed by a Northern Mockingbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Northern Goshawk, or a colony of Common Terms is plenty of notice that you’ve come too close to a nest site. So is the “broken wing act” (a.k.a. distraction display) of a Killdeer, or the “rodent run” of a Piping Plover.
Too close an approach to a nest can lead to severe consequences. And reoccurring visits in particular, can leave a path or a scent trail for potential predators to follow. If you find a nest, don’t simply go back the way you came, leaving a dead-end trail to the location; try to leave the area by another route.
Basically, if you come across a nest, and unless you’re doing real research, it’s time to move on. Don’t linger. Don’t photograph it. And don’t record it for YouTube posterity. Indeed, most of us should refrain from photographing nesting birds altogether. In many cases the practice is unnecessary, unjustifiable, and often can add up to harassment.
This season is a stressful time for birds, and usually they will let you know when you are getting too close. Under those circumstances, and for the good of the birds, it’s a good time to back off.”
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