birds, nests, and a bioblitz update

We’re now into the homestretch of the Blogger BioBlitz week. I and others will be wrapping up our surveys of chosen areas over the weekend, and then working to compile the data to send to the team that will be putting together the final tallies. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the great collection of links to bioblitz reports that Jeremy Bruno has put together at The Voltage Gate. I’ve been visiting many of the blogs and it’s absolutely fascinating to see what each of the participants has found at their chosen survey sites. If you make the rounds of some of these blogs, do post a comment to let the bloggers know that you’ve enjoyed reading about life in their part of the world.

So, what have I been up to the last couple of days? I’d intended to post updates a little more than I have, but it seems I’ve been too busy trying to identify plants and creatures, edit photos and fill in the data sheets that will be used to compile the final bioblitz tally. As I’ve had time, I’ve been uploading photos of things seen here at the farm into an online gallery. I have quite a lot of photos yet to upload, but with any luck, I’ll get to that this evening. Right now, Don and I are just heading off to do a couple of hours of trail maintenance work with the “Friends of Ferguson Forest” at the G. Howard Ferguson Forestry Centre near Kemptville. Of course, I’ll be bringing my camera along and will take photos of anything of interest that might turn up while we’re clearing the winter’s accumulation of fallen trees and branches off the trails.

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours filling out a data sheet for my first bioblitz site, Murphys Point Provincial Park. If you’re curious about such things, here’s the online edition. I hope that link works. This is all *new stuff* to me as I’ve never used Google Spreadsheets before. It seems like the links to photos on the spreadsheet all work, so it’s kind of a neat thing. I can see some other interesting applications for the spreadsheets for future projects. Again, the bioblitz has been an interesting learning experience for me, and probably for most of the other participants as well.

Okay, last thing before we take off with our saws and snippers to do that trail clearing. A week or so ago, I checked into participating in Bird Studies Canada’s Project NestWatch. I guess you could say that Project NestWatch is an online extension of the Ontario Nest Records Scheme which has existed for many years. In the past, observers filled out and submitted data cards on nests that they had seen at various locations. To keep step with the changing technology, the project has moved online, and data can now be submitted through the website.

I decided to participate this year as we see many nests around our farm, so it’s easy enough to observe what’s going on and just fill in the online data sheets as necessary. The first couple of nest records will be for the above Mourning Dove that has been sitting on this nest since April 25th (see above photo). I’m not so sure it’s a great spot — it’s right next to our main hiking trail, so she sees us going by each day. However, she doesn’t seem to be too worried about our presence. Perhaps the scent of our tracks (Sabrina and I) passing by along the trail a few times a day, will confuse any fox or raccoons that happen to be passing by. The second record will be for the American Robin nest (seen below), that happens to be in a pine tree about 15 feet away from the Mourning Dove. The Robin also seems to be taking our presence in stride. Sometimes, she flies up into a nearby birch tree and scolds us as we pass through, but then soon returns to her nest. For a couple of years, we’ve had a Robin that builds her nest in an arbor practically right outside our back door. She flies out to shriek at me from a low branch of one of the trees while I’m weeding the vegetable garden, or dive bombs Sabrina when she’s walking nearby. If anything, she’s more intimidating than intimidated.

Well, time to pack up the tools and hit the trails. With any luck, maybe we’ll see a salamander or some nice snakes or millipedes while we’re clearing up fallen trees this morning!

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13 Responses to “birds, nests, and a bioblitz update”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    It always knocks me out how flimsy Mourning Doves’ nests are. I don’t know why the winds don’t just blow them away. We were seeing some nesting activity in our nest boxes, but the past few days have been very quiet. I think our Tree Swallows and Black-capped Chickadees are still looking around for just the right spot.

  2. Cathy Says:

    I really hadn’t thought of Robins as being that territorial. I suppose Sabrina just keeps her sweet composure.

  3. Marjorie Says:

    Bev, I stumbled upon the Burning Silo last week while doing a Google search on crayfish with my budding naturalist and have LOVED reading your bioblitz posts and browsing through your archives.’Caddie’, ny 10yold has been studying nests in general and watching two Northern Cardinal nests and a pair of Brown headed Nuthatches this spring. Last year we had Carolina Wrens and Tufted Titmouse nests on our deck. We do quite a bit of nature study at our home and your blog/site is a fabulous resource and read. I read the “about” Burning Silo post aloud to my husband the other night and we were both laughing so hard it hurt. I am glad we found you!

  4. burning silo Says:

    robin – this little Mourning Dove has just made its nest in a depression in the meadow grass beneath the Pine tree. Each time I pass by, she is facing in a different direction, and almost invisible until I’m within a few steps of her. This week, a lot of other birds have begun migrating in – Barn and Tree Swallows and others. It’s great to see the skies and trees filling up with birds.

    Cathy – Robins seem to be quite territorial, or at least they are very vocal about defending their nest sites. Often, that’s how I first notice a nest — because a Robin is scolding me from a nearby treetop. Regarding Sabrina, yes she just takes all of the bird activity in stride and pretty much ignores it. The only creatures that provoke her a bit, and even then not much, are the Red Squirrels that race around through the bushes near the house. Sometimes they run along the window sill in our living room and Sabrina will bark at them. I don’t think she likes their chaotic behaviour.

    Majorie – Welcome to my blog! I’m glad you’re enjoying the bioblitz and other posts. It sounds like Caddie is a great birder and that you have an excellent site for observing nest. I just a bit of time to visit your blog and it looks wonderful. I’ll be back to visit soon!

  5. Wayne Says:

    I’ve been enjoying listening to the mourning doves here, and have tried to catch photos of them, but that’s a particularly precious find of yours.

    Are you using Google Spreadsheets because of not having Excel, or is there something extra about them? I haven’t investigated that, but I do use Excel very frequently for all kinds of stuff.

    I’ve been gradually listing all the things I’ve done wrong, or inadequately, in this bioblitz. It’s not so many really, but with all the other things around my neck I haven’t used binoculars at all. I admit that my eyes are usually on the ground. And I’ve been bad about recording numbers, insofar as that is usually possible. How do you record the numbers of twin-spotted jumping spiders when you only saw two? But when they’re several hundred feet apart, how do you indicate that there must be hundreds? AND, armed with the recent experience, I ID’d one yesterday on the front deck.

  6. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – Yes, I’m using Google Spreadsheets because I can’t run Excel in my Mac. I could if I bought a program to enable me to do so, but now that I’ve found how I can upload an Excel file into GS, I’ll be able to use that instead. Apple has a spreadsheet program of its own (AppleWorks). I guess I could have done my sheets in that and then sent them to someone who could convert them, or see if GS would convert them — I just suddenly thought of that this second and may give it a try for the last sets of sheets. By the way, I created a sheet for each site I’ve blitzed as it was too confusing (to me) to try to combine everything I’ve seen this week on a single sheet. The nice thing is, I can share a finished sheet on the net, which could be kind of interested for future posts on my blog. I’m now tossing around some ideas now that I realize how all of this stuff works.
    I haven’t really kept a list of things that I would do differently next time round. My only real thought — a recommendation — would be to hold the blitz about a month later so that everyone would have a greater chance of seeing insects and birds, and also being able to ID plants. I know this is one point that is already being considered for next year, so I think everyone is in favour.
    Recording numbers, I haven’t inflated them on creatures — if anything, I err to the lesser side. My biggest problem has been with trees — estimating numbers of a certain species in a woodland. Most areas where I’ve been blitzing have huge numbers of some species of trees, so I usually pick a number that would be below the top amount likely, and then go with that. To my way of thinking, numbers aren’t really so important as species records for a site — and that seems particularly true of such things as spiders. Just knowing that a species is at a site is a pretty good indication that there are probably many more of them around.
    I think I’ve done an okay job of looking around for things, but having done a lot of surveys in the past, there’s always that feeling that you could do better given enough time. I tend to base my surveys on amount of time — I begin with what’s obvious, then keep going deeper depending on how much time is left. Using a camera helps a lot as I’m accustomed to just walking (or wading) around, photographing plants, insects, animal tracks, birds, etc… and almost making notes on bird and frog calls, and then listing everything later. I’ve pretty much been doing informal habitat surveys on walks and canoe trips and writing up my notes after for a pretty long time, so it has become second nature to me now. My greatest weakness is in not knowing some of the birds better. I know quite a lot of species on sight and by song, but I can’t remember all of the different warblers. I’m hoping to work at that some more this summer. Because of the date of this blitz, I didn’t have to contend with the warbler problem. Even a week or two from now, it would be an entirely different situation!

  7. Laiku Oh Says:

    I hear mourning doves a lot too. But I only saw them once or twice in my life. I have a bird dilemma. There is a bird’s nest in a silver rumpled pipe used for household uses, and we took two babies out. I do know that these birds, as adults, have blackish, rainbowy sheened feathers with gamboge yellow beaks and feet. The babies are blackish gray, and the adults seem very audacious. They are relatively common, too. Help me! I’m a softie to baby animals but have no bugs or bird food for it to eat. I don’t think it’s too late to save it, what do I do? I don’t want it to die!

  8. bev Says:

    Hi Laiku – I don’t have an answer for the moth questions as I don’t usually kill insects, so I don’t know much about it. Regarding the young birds, it sounds as though those might be european starlings. Raising baby birds is never easy. Here’s a page with info about raising baby starlings:
    Some cities have a wild bird care center where orphaned birds may be taken. They would have more experience with such things and the right foods, etc…,

  9. Laiku Oh Says:

    Today, this morning, my dad suddenly found out that the baby starlings were gone. He was on his way to get some water, and poof! they had disappeared. If they’ve been in that pipe long enough, then their mother must’ve come and taught them how to fly. Did they really learn to fly? It boggles my mind…

  10. Laiku Oh Says:

    The baby starlings. They disppeared. My dad figures they’ve been in that pipe long enough to be mature enough to let their mother show them to fly. Is that really how they went poof?

  11. bev Says:

    Laiku – Yes, it’s possible. Starlings fledge (get the feathers that make them capable of flight) at quite a young age. Robins and many other birds grow and fledge quite quickly too. So, yes, it’s possible that they learned to fly and are gone now.

  12. Laiku Oh Says:

    Sorry for commenting twice. I did that by accident, thinking that my first one didn’t go through. Anyway, my dad saw wrong. In the morning, right after I commented before this day, the two little ‘uns were huddled together in a corner of a gate door, and their mommy had just brought food to them! What a happy reunion… I just hope nothing eats them. I shudder at that thought.

  13. Laiku Oh Says:

    The birds are very cute, and they’re growing fatter with each day. Their mother starling monitors us most every time in the day when we come to check on them. They are very timid of us, which would be quite expected. I’m so glad their mom came to rescue them. Do they need to be very clean? I hope not, because there’s a lot of excretion around them, though they’re not touching it or coming in contact with it.