Bird list & other natural events, July 2011

A hot, dry month, but lots going on in the farm’s natural world. Multiple bird species are nesting and raising young, including these eastern phoebe chicks:

The above-left chick was first to leave home, surviving the two-story drop from its nest on an upper-level light beneath our roof eave. Its siblings, above right, took a little longer to get up their nerve. Anthropomorphization or not, I just love the expression on that chick’s face.

Our local pair of broad-winged hawks, which we’ve been watching carrying food into a nest site somewhere on the ridge west of our field, seem to have successfully raised their chick as well. We were able to observe some of the first flights of the young hawk; the parents continued to bring it food while teaching it to fly and hunt. They use a very different “language” when interacting with their chick, just as domestic birds do, and it was a real treat to observe this first-hand. After a few weeks of all three cruising together along the field, they seem to have partially separated, as one (we presume the juvenile) has started exploring other areas of the farm that we haven’t seen the adults on all year (they’re still in their old territory).

Other, somewhat less welcome, species have also been around. Below left, a cowbird chick in an indigo bunting nest. Cowbirds don’t raise their own young, but parasitize other species by leaving their eggs in the nests of smaller birds. When the larger cowbird chick hatches, it demands and gets all the attention of the parents to the detriment of the natural young. Under this big-mouthed brute are two much smaller bunting chicks it’s all but trampled to the bottom of the nest.

Below right, our first skunk of the year, in a field live trap intended for raccoons. I draped an old sheet over the trap to quiet it (and block any emissions), hooked a long rope to one end, and gently dragged it off away from the vegetables before gingerly opening the trap and letting it loose. I’m really glad it didn’t cut loose on any produce.

We were able to take a few hours away from the farm in mid-July, and headed down to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area to see what birds were around mid-summer, while taking a first-hand look at the rising Missouri River. The loose rock rip-rap below this picnic bench (below left) serves as a winter hibernaculum for various snakes; we’ve often seen throngs of them here in the spring and fall. Good thing they’re all dispersed for summer. I managed to get a nice shot of a dickcissell (below right), a prairie bird we hope will start appearing on the farm as we clear and restore more land.
Lots of birds are in various parts of the nesting cycle, making them more or less easy to observe and hear at various parts of the month. Our daily records are too detailed for this post, but help us notice when something vanishes and reappears, often a good indication of nesting behavior. This is effectively the same list as June, with a few oddballs coming and going.

PRESENT IN JULY (42 species)
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
Barred Owl
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Peewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-cappeed Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Wood Thrush
Northern Parula
Louisiana Waterthrush
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Black and White Warbler (heard)

Black-Crowned Night Heron (pretty sure I saw a pair fly over one evening)
Juvenile Bald Eage (we both saw this, but it flew over too fast)
Eastern Bluebird (think we heard multiple times, but no definite record)
Brown Thrasher

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