Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Herrick's Cove IBA: May 9

This past Saturday morning while walking the perimeter of the Herrick's Cove parking lot scanning the brush and tree tops for the latest spring migrants, I heard from behind and above my right shoulder a soft gutteral "skyow." There in a boxelder tree about 15 feet off the ground perched a male Green Heron (top photo). Inspecting him through my binocs, he grew weary of the attention and nimbly like a high wire circus performer walked slowly down the thin limb placing one foot ahead of the other. And from there with as much dexterity stepped onto a branch of an adjacent tree repeating the moves until he assumed a more central position within the wooded thicket. Now I have been aware of the presence of a pair of Green Herons here for the past couple weeks and even briefly observed the male carrying twigs to a suspected but undisclosed nest site. However, on this occasion I forced myself to take time to scope the area more closely with the hope of locating the nest. After several minutes scanning the trees through the exploding new foliage, a basket ball size clump of twigs was spotted about 20 feet up an American Beech tree not too far from where the male was perched. Scanning the nest through the scope revealed a dagger-like bill protruding above the edge of the nest and barely visible at its base an eye with its gold iris. Aha...the female. Hunkered down on the nest she offered few opportunities to view much more of her. But once or twice she repositioned herself giving me the chance to click off a series of camera shots through the scope with the hope of getting at least one fair image of her (bottom photo).

I must admit taking such an amount of time to observe the behavior of a rather common bird has been a recent development over my 30+ years of birding and stems from my participation in the most recent Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas. Inventorying bird species within my assigned survey blocks was definitely not a new experience. On the other hand closely observing bird behavior to confirm nesting required an entirely different skill set including patience. So I suppose applying those experiences beyond the atlas years for me just adds a new dimension and deeper appreciation for the lives of birds.

As for the other birds observed at Herrick's Cove that morning, a total of 50 species and 286 individuals were tallied including: Canada Goose, 4; Wood Duck, 5; Mallard, 3; Wild Turkey, 1; American Bittern, 1; Great Blue Heron, 1; Green Heron, 2; Turkey Vulture, 2; Osprey, 1; Bald Eagle, 1; Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 1; Belted Kingfisher, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Northern Flicker, 2; Eastern Phoebe, 1; Great Crested Flycatcher, 2; Eastern Kingbird, 6; Warbling Vireo, 3; Blue Jay, 4; American Crow, 8; Tree Swallow, 100+; Barn Swallow, 2; Black-capped Chickadee, 13; Tufted Titmouse, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 1; Marsh Wren, 1; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 2; Cedar Waxwing, 2; Yellow warbler, 5; Chestnut-sided Warbler, 1; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 17; Pine Warbler, 1; Black-and-white Warbler, 1; American Redstart, 1; Common Yellowthroat, 2; Scarlet Tanager, 2; Chipping Sparrow, 1; Field Sparrow, 1; Song Sparrow, 11; Swamp Sparrow, 2; Northern Cardinal, 1; Rose-breasted grosbeak, 1; Red-winged Blackbird, 21; Common Grackle, 9; Brown-headed Cowbird, 3; Baltimore Oriole, 6; American Goldfinch, 11. Overall a great morning.

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