Spring Migration in a Pandemic

This morning was the first day that Fort Harrison State Park was charging for admission again after a period of nearly 2 months when the park was open with no fee to help park employees social distance. It demonstrated an example of the combination of good and bad factors for wildlife that I have observed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

There has been much discussion on the Internet of how Covid-19 might be benefiting wildlife. People have posted photos of animals in places that they would never be seen because they are typically crowded with humans and vehicles. People have also posted some hilarious memes making fun of those photos. One of my favorites comes from Reddit, where someone posted that dolphins are returning to the Indianapolis canal:

dolphin canal

Nature is healing! ūüėÄ

I have a hypothesis that migrating birds are being positively affected by the decrease in air traffic, cruise ships, and lights in tall office buildings. It is far too early to tell if this is true, but we may eventually have enough data to test it

via Spring Migration in a Pandemic ‚ÄĒ The Prothonotary Birder

 

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Birds of North America 

 

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High Power Monocular Smartphone Holder 

Wild Bird Wednesday ‚Äď Backyard Birds ‚ÄĒ

 

Hi everyone! It’s Cindy here. Last week I showed you our Bluebirds so this week I want to show you some of the other birds around our yard. Let’s start with the largest.

There is no difference between male and female Blue Jays but the next pair has subtle difference between genders.

The only gender difference between the Downy Woodpeckers is that the male has a red spot on the back of his head. The next two birds are about the same size and are some of the smallest birds we have around our yard.

via Wild Bird Wednesday ‚Äď Backyard Birds ‚ÄĒ Bird Brains & Dog Tales

 

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Birds of North America 

Birding in the Midwest, USA

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Birding is the opposite of being at the movies‚ÄĒyou’re outside, not sitting in a windowless box; you’re stalking wild animals, not looking at pictures of them. You’re dependent on weather, geography, time of day‚ÄĒif you miss the prothonotary warbler, there isn’t a midnight showing. – The New Yorker

 

The every popular Western Meadowlark.  The western meadowlark has distinctive calls described as watery or flute-like, which distinguish it from the closely related eastern meadowlark. The western meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming.

 

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  • Made From Fir
  • Cute, Dutch Style Roof & Rope For Easy Hanging
  • Stands 6.5‚ÄĚ Tall With 1.5‚ÄĚ Hole For Bird Entry
  • Hanging Rope Included With This Wooden Bird House

Bird House

 

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The Hooded and Common Merganser.  In most places, the common merganser is as much a frequenter of salt water as fresh water. In larger streams and rivers, they float down with the stream for a few miles, and either fly back again or more commonly fish their way back, diving incessantly the whole way. In smaller streams, they are present in pairs or smaller groups, and they float down, twisting round and round in the rapids, or fishing vigorously in a deep pool near the foot of a waterfall or rapid. When floating leisurely, they position themselves in water similar to ducks, but they also swim deep in water like cormorants, especially when swimming upstream. They often sit on a rock in the middle of the water, similar to cormorants, often half-opening their wings to the sun. To rise from water, they flap along the surface for many yards. Once they are airborne, the flight is strong and rapid. They often fish in a group forming a semicircle and driving the fish into shallow water, where they are captured easily. Their ordinary voice is a low, harsh croak, but during the breeding season, they (including the young) make a plaintive, soft whistle. Generally, they are wary, and one or more birds stay on sentry duty to warn the flock of approaching danger. When disturbed, they often disgorge food before moving. Though they move clumsily on land, they resort to running when pressed, assuming a very upright position similar to penguins, and falling and stumbling frequently.

 

The Ruffed Grouse.¬† Ruffed grouse have two distinct morphs: grey and brown. In the grey morph, the head, neck and back are grey-brown; the breast is light with barring. There is much white on the underside and flanks, and overall the birds have a variegated appearance; the throat is often distinctly lighter. The tail is essentially the same brownish grey, with regular barring and a broad black band near the end (“subterminal”). Brown-morph birds have tails of the same color and pattern, but the rest of the plumage is much more brown, giving the appearance of a more uniform bird with less light plumage below and a conspicuously grey tail. There are all sorts of intergrades between the most typical morphs; warmer and more¬†humid¬†conditions favor browner birds in general.

Displaying male

The ruffs are on the sides of the neck in both sexes. They also have a crest on top of their head, which sometimes lies flat. Both genders are similarly marked and sized, making them difficult to tell apart, even in hand. The female often has a broken subterminal tail band, while males tend to have unbroken tail bands, though the opposite of either can occur. Females may also do a display similar to the male. Another fairly accurate sign is that rump feathers with a single white dot indicate a female; rump feathers with more than one white dot indicate a male.

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The red-necked grebe is a migratory aquatic bird found in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Its wintering habitat is largely restricted to calm waters just beyond the waves around ocean coasts, although some birds may winter on large lakes. Grebes prefer shallow bodies of fresh water such as lakes, marshes or fish-ponds as breeding sites.

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500 Piece Bird Puzzle

The red-necked grebe is a nondescript dusky-grey bird in winter. During the breeding season, it acquires the distinctive red neck plumage, black cap and contrasting pale grey face from which its name was derived. It also has an elaborate courtship display and a variety of loud mating calls. Once paired, it builds a nest from water plants on top of floating vegetation in a shallow lake or bog.

Here are some good resources if you like birding:

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National Geographic Birds               Birds of the Midwest

How to Rewild? Try Birding

White and Black Birds Piercing on Tree Branch

“In order to see birds, it is necessary to become park of the silence” – Robert Lund

A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago. A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago.

Shallow Focus Photography of Gray and Orange Bird

The early interest in observing birds for their aesthetic rather than utilitarian (mainly food) value is traced to the late 18th century in the works of Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick, George Montagu and John Clare   The study of birds and natural history in general became increasingly prevalent in Britain during the Victorian Era, often associated with collection, eggs and later skins being the artifacts of interest. Wealthy collectors made use of their contacts in the colonies to obtain specimens from around the world. It was only in the late 19th century that the call for bird protection began leading to the rising popularity of observations on living birds. The Audubon Society was started to protect birds from the growing trade in feathers in the United States while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds began in Britain.

Birding in North America was focused in the early and mid-20th century in the eastern seaboard region, and was influenced by the works of Ludlow Griscom and later Roger Tory Peterson. Bird Neighbors (1897) by Neltje Blanchan was an early birding book which sold over 250,000 copies. It was illustrated with color photographs of stuffed birds.

Here is a great resource if you like birding:  

  National Geographic Birds

Fabulous Birds of South Dakota

“Birds are the most popular group in the animal kingdom. We feed them and tame them and think we know them. And yet they inhabit a world which is really rather mysterious.”¬† David Attenborough

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Let’s start with the state bird, the colorful Ring-Necked Pheasant which name is used for the species as a whole in North America and also the collective name for a number of subspecies¬†and their intergrades that have white neck rings.

It is a well-know and of regional importance perhaps the most widespread and ancient one in the whole world. The common pheasant is one of the world’s most hunted birds;¬†it has been introduced for that purpose to many regions, and is also common on game farms where it is commercially bred. Ring-necked pheasants in particular are commonly bred and were introduced to many parts of the world; the game farm stock, though no distinct¬†breeds¬†have been developed yet, can be considered semi-domesticated. It is¬†one of only three U.S. state birds that is not a species native to the United States.

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The amazing American Avocet measures has a wingspan of 27 – 30 inches and weighs on average about 12 ounces. ¬†The bill is black, pointed, and curved slightly upwards towards the tip. It is long, surpassing twice the length of the avocet’s small, rounded head. Like many¬†waders, the avocet has long, slender legs and slightly webbed feet.¬† The legs are a pastel grey-blue, giving it its colloquial name, blue shanks. The plumage is black and white on the back, with white on the underbelly. During the breeding season, the plumage is brassy orange on the head and neck, continuing somewhat down to the breast. After the breeding season, these bright feathers are swapped out for white and grey ones.¬†

 

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The sandhill crane is a species of large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. The common name of this bird refers to habitat like that at the Platte River on the American Plains. This is the most important stopover area for the nominotypical subspecies, the lesser sandhill crane  with up to 450,000 of these birds migrating through annually.

The sandhill crane was formerly placed in the genus¬†Grus, but a¬†molecular phylogenetic¬†study published in 2010 found that the genus, as then defined, was¬†polyphyletic.¬† In the resulting rearrangement to create¬†monophyletic¬†genera, four species, including the sandhill crane, were placed in the resurrected genus¬†Antigone¬†that had originally been erected by the German naturalist¬†Ldwig Reichenbach in 1853.¬† The specific epithet¬†canadensis¬†is the¬†modern Latin¬†word for “Canadian”.

 

Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. Six species have been recorded in South Dakota.

The western grebe is the largest¬†North American grebe.¬†¬†It is black-and-white, with a long, slender,¬†swan-like neck and red eyes. It is easily confused with¬†Clark’s grebe, which shares similar features, body size, behavior and habitat, and¬†hybrids are known. Western grebes nest in colonies on lakes that are mixed with marsh vegetation and open water. Western Grebe nests are made of plant debris and sodden materials, and the nest building begins roughly around late April through June. The construction is done by both sexes and is continued on throughout laying and incubation.¬†This species of waterbirds is widespread in western North America, so there is no specific place of abundance. Its subspecies, Clark’s grebe generally populate more of the southern part of North America. ¬†The western grebe has black around the eyes and a straight greenish-yellow bill whereas the Clark’s grebe has white around the eyes and an up-turned bright yellow bill. The downy young of Western are grey; Clark’s downy young are white.

 

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Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs, and very short bills. Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is cryptically colored to resemble bark or leaves. Four species have been recorded in South Dakota.

The common nighthawk is a medium-sized crepuscular or nocturnal bird of the Americas within the nightjar family, whose presence and identity are best revealed by its vocalization. Typically dark (grey, black and brown), displaying cryptic colouration and intricate patterns, this bird is difficult to spot with the naked eye during the day. Once aerial, with its buoyant but erratic flight, this bird is most conspicuous. The most remarkable feature of this aerial insectivore is its small beak that belies the massiveness of its mouth. Some claim appearance similarities to owls. With its horizontal stance and short legs, the common nighthawk does not travel frequently on the ground, instead preferring to perch horizontally, parallel to branches, on posts, on the ground or on a roof. The males of this species may roost together but the bird is primarily solitary. The common nighthawk shows variability in territory size.

This caprimulgid has a large, flattened head with large eyes; facially it lacks rictal bristles. The common nighthawk has long slender wings that at rest extend beyond a notched tail. There is noticeable barring on the sides and abdomen, also white wing-patches.

 

Here are some good resources if you like birding:

         1591934060

  National Geographic Birds               Birds of the Midwest

first birding expedition 2020 ‚ÄĒ The Write Side – South Dakota!

We began at 6:50 a.m. on Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 from our home in Madison, (Lake County) South Dakota. The sunrise was at 7:11 a.m. and we were hoping to get some good pictures of the sunrise as we headed out of town. On the highway near our old farmhouse we first saw a Great […]

via first birding expedition 2020 ‚ÄĒ The Write Side

Readers‚Äô wildlife photos ‚ÄĒ Why Evolution Is True

Today we have another batch of photos from evolutionary geneticist John Avise. This time they have a theme (his notes and IDs are indented): ‚ÄúAvian mug shots‚ÄĚ. Here are some of the responses I got when I asked these birds to look straight into the camera: California Gull (Larus californicus): Anna‚Äôs Hummingbird (Calypte anna): Barn¬†[‚Ķ]

via Readers‚Äô wildlife photos ‚ÄĒ Why Evolution Is True