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Marian’s Wildlife Blog – September 2017

Pileated Woodpecker by Doug Pederson

Now that fall is here, have you got your bird feeders up and running again? Or maybe you feed birds all summer long. In either case, its both personally gratifying and  valuable to science to keep records of the birds you see at your feeders and in your yard. We hope you will send your records to Westford Wildlife Watch of course, and also you may enjoy joining Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project Feeder Watch. If you join the approximately 300 Massachusetts residents who are already Project Feeder Watch reporters, you can send in your reports online, see what other reporters are observing, and help out the cause of citizen science.

Checking the Feeder Watch website, one can see the birds which were reported from all states and years. For the Massachusetts 2016-2017 season, we can see that 90 species of birds were reported. Most common birds reported were the usual suspects, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Blue Jay, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal and White-breasted Nuthatch. These resident birds were reported in 80-90% of sites during the entire season. Some of these birds, such as Blue Jay and Black-capped Chickadee represent a welcome come-back from West Nile virus which ravaged their populations a few years ago. American Crow, that was hit hardest by the virus, has had a much slower come-back, and is still only seen at about 25% of sites.

Some statistics are surprising. For instance,   read more…

September 2017 – Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman

Pileated Woodpecker by Doug Pederson

Now that fall is here, have you got your bird feeders up and running again? Or maybe you feed birds all summer long. In either case, its both personally gratifying and  valuable to science to keep records of the birds you see at your feeders and in your yard. We hope you will send your records to Westford Wildlife Watch of course, and also you may enjoy joining Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project Feeder Watch. If you join the approximately 300 Massachusetts residents who are already Project Feeder Watch reporters, you can send in your reports online, see what other reporters are observing, and help out the cause of citizen science.

Checking the Feeder Watch website, one can see the birds which were reported from all states and years. For the Massachusetts 2016-2017 season, we can see that 90 species of birds were reported. Most common birds reported were the usual suspects, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Blue Jay, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal and White-breasted Nuthatch. These resident birds were reported in 80-90% of sites during the entire season. Some of these birds, such as Blue Jay and Black-capped Chickadee represent a welcome come-back from West Nile virus which ravaged their populations a few years ago. American Crow, that was hit hardest by the virus, has had a much slower come-back, and is still only seen at about 25% of sites.

Some statistics are surprising. For instance, we think of Wild Turkey as practically ubiquitous in Westford yards, but it is only reported in 8-17% of Massachusetts sites. Carolina Wren, a formerly southern bird, but one we think of as a  common resident now, is reported from only 20-23% of sites. American Robin, which we think of as an overwintering bird now, is still seen mostly in the spring when 59% of sites report it. In the winter, only 10-15% of sites report robins. The same pattern is seen in Eastern Bluebirds, which are seen at about 19% of sites in the spring, but only 4-8% of sites in the winter. Some birds are reported only rarely, such as Pileated Woodpecker, reported from only 1-3% of sites.

These statistics make interesting reading, and make one eager for the upcoming Feeder Watch season. Yes, participating in Project Feeder Watch, can even make you look forward to winter! If you’d like to join Project Feeder Watch, simply log on to their website, feederwatch.org, and click on “join”. You can also read all the information on this great site without joining.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of September. Please send reports by October 26, for inclusion in next month’s column. You can write me at 10 Chamberlain Rd., call me at 692-3907, or e-mail me at mariancharman@verizon.net.


Late August Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. August 25, Carolina wren around, six chipping sparrows eating seeds–cute little birds. August 27, a wood pee-wee calling from back woods. The fruits of the row of sumacs along edge of woods are deep red now, later in winter, when food is scarce, some birds will begin to eat them. August 29, flicker’s shrill call from nearby woods. Female hummer busy visiting potted flowers. Two house sparrows have joined the family of chipping sparrows eating seed. August 31 at Howard Rd. wetland, numerous painted turtles, last of the purple loosestrife and St. Johnswort blooming , soft plumes on the tall reeds getting larger. At Beaver Brook Rd., a family of mallards on pond side, along with the family of five swans. The three youngsters getting quite big. On the other side of the road one adult swam alone, a newcomer. Blue chicory running out of blooms.

Barbara Theriault, August 27, blue heron standing in middle of Grassy Pond.

September Reports:

Doug Pederson, Woodland Dr. September 1, pileated woodpecker landed in a tree just above where I was sitting in my yard. Coopers hawk here chasing the crows. Now I have a tamed crow who sits outside my door for food, waiting there as early as 6 a.m. Also, I feed all the birds at my five feeders, a rabbit that has been around here for a number of years, turkeys and many squirrels.  At Beaver Brook, swan family of five, six mallards and a family of six or more wood ducks.

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. September 4, chickadees and titmice, taking turns in bird bath out front. Lots of small bumblebees visiting hydrangea, hummers still coming to potted plants. September 5, goldfinches on feeder, then they came to pots of coneflower on front walk. September 7, a flicker robing holes in grass by front walk. Five doves on ground under bird feeder. Two female hummers arguing over a hanging impatiens plant. September 8, sat on front step listening to a lively conversation between two white-breasted nuthatches. One male goldfinch taking sips from bird bath, several turkeys wandering around near feeder, five doves on back lawn. Four downies on deck taking turns at suet. September 10, three house finches in bird bath together, water going everywhere. September 14, another long conversation, this one between three flickers. September 17, small cooper’s hawk again swooped low, just missing doves on ground under feeder. Colors slowly beginning to change– vines first, then the wetland shrubs and on to the trees, a beautiful process that we can take the time to enjoy just by looking out the window. Where did the summer go?

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. September 5, a bear came for a visit and bent the strong steel pole that holds our two feeders, also went after the nearby goldfinch feeder and pulled the bottom out. Some other neighbors’ feeders were destroyed too. Very loud coyote heard at 11:30 at night. September 9, red-tailed hawk eating a small bird on the shed._

Leslie Thomas, September 5, a bear sighted on Groton Rd., coming in to Pilgrim Village.

Buffie Diercks, Depot St. September 7, four young bobcats playing in my backyard last week [Buffie sent a video of them-MH].

Gute Fernandes, on Russell’s Way, September 7, spotted salamander crossing the road.

Len Palmer, Colonial Dr., September 9, two deer and twenty or more turkeys in front yard at the same time today. The deer are eating my lilies and the turkey are wiping out this year’s wood frog young.

Marilyn Day, September 22. At Stony Brook, fishermen catching nice sized large mouth bass and lots of pickerel. At Graniteville Rd., a cuckoo heard around the yard recently.

Diane Duane, at Grey Fox Lane, September 23, monarch butterfly. At Haystack saw another. This must be the last (4th) generation that will be migrating south.

Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane, September 24, Canada geese, mallards, woodchuck, grasshopper sparrows, dead Northern leopard frog in street.

 

August 2017 – Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman

Black capped Chickadee by Doug Pederson

Do you have a large glass window or slider at your house? If so, chances are you have seen a bird strike that glass at some time. If the bird is lucky, it will just stun itself, perhaps need a few minutes to “come to” and then fly off. Sometimes, though, the bird is killed by the window strike. Living Bird, a publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, reported on this problem in an article titled “Glass Action for Birds”, in its winter 2014 edition. It has been estimated that up to a billion birds are killed each year by window collisions in the United States alone.

Scott Loss of Oklahoma State University has done bird strike research for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He found, surprisingly, that the majority of annual bird deaths occur at residential and low-rise structures. The average family residence kills one to three birds a year. Loss found that six species seem to die of glass strikes most commonly: Ruby-throated hummingbirds, brown creepers, ovenbirds, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, gray catbirds, and black and white warblers. It seems that these long-distance migrants may be less familiar with the structures in areas they pass through on migration. I notice that at my house, however, the birds mostly likely to strike the glass are mourning doves, downy woodpeckers, chickadees and titmice. It seems that they do this when they are flying in panic to avoid a hawk predator.

Daniel Klem a Muhlenberg College professor has been studying what works to help birds avoid collisions with glass. He found that birds, like people, do not see glass and do not recognize the structural clues people use, such as window frames and building walls. Glass can act as a mirror reflecting the sky and vegetation. New UV windows or windows with dot arrays have been found to be only moderately effective. Klem finds that windows with vertical stripes spaced four inches apart or horizontal stripes spaced two inches apart on the outside of the glass work best. Stripes should be at least 1/4″ wide and light colors are better than dark colors.

What can we do at home? Cornell Lab suggests keeping feeders a foot or less away from windows, so birds that fly away from feeders cannot gain enough speed to hit the glass. Apply paint or decals, hanging strings, soap or tape in vertical rows four inches apart or horizontal rows two inches apart, on the outside of the window. Decals on the inside may be invisible because of the reflections on the window. You can use any decals placed in lines, even holiday shapes. Fine netting placed over windows or regular window screens inside the window should also work. For more information go to the American Bird Conservatory website, http://tinyurl.com/birdwindows. This site has some great photos of ways you can effectively treat your windows, and some suggests some places to buy materials.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of August. Please send reports by September 26 for next month’s column. You can call me at 692-3907, write me at 10 Chamberlain Rd., or e-mail me at mariancharman@verizon.net.


Late July Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. July 19, chipping sparrows, flicker, goldfinch, house finch and downies around early morning. At 8:45 p.m., one bat swooping about over back lawn. July 22, listening to a catbird in the woods early morning. Hearing him, with his wide range of calls, you would think there was a group of all different kinds of birds gathered together–love these catbirds. Male cardinal on feeder. Queen Anne’s lace blooming around sumacs, many interesting mushrooms by edge of front woods. July 25, three little downies still arguing over suet, as they have all summer. Now a fourth downy has arrived on deck. He seems a bit timid, not approaching suet. July 26, sitting out front, I saw a pretty eastern swallowtail butterfly visiting various potted plants. Watched a chipping sparrow sipping from bird bath. Two titmice hopped in and both enjoyed noisy baths. July 27 noon, at Howard Rd. wetland, saw what appeared to be a little short-tailed weasel hurrying across the road and down toward the water. Growing in the water, water hemlock, an extremely poisonous plant which looks like Queen Anne’s lace. Monadnock Dr. evening, one blue jay parent feeding suet to two begging youngsters. Five downy woodpeckers on deck. July 28, under Parkhurst power lines, peppergrass, ragweed, rabbit’s foot clover, spotted knapweed, Queen Anne’s lace. Heard a towhee repeating his “Drink your tea” call. Pretty little hummer visiting my potted plants on deck. Female red-bellied woodpecker on suet and a little downy watching. July 30, purple loosestrife appearing here and there in wetlands, but not huge areas of it as I used to see. July 31, many small bumblebees around my potted plants, especially at the zinnias. Many flowers are in their best high summer bloom now. Cicada calling from high in a tree out front, others calling from all directions. A row of sumacs along back wood, not poisonous, their seed heads getting darker red every day. Birds will enjoy them later in the winter when food is scarce.

Diane Duane, Howard Rd. July 22, two monarch butterflies during the water chestnut pull in our kayaks on Stony Brook near the Stepinski well area. Also a beautiful white admiral butterfly in the same area, with some swamp milkweed. What a beautiful area to kayak!

August Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. August 1, Another nice day in the 80’s. Stopped by Howard Rd. wetland. Numerous painted turtles of various sizes in water, mostly floating with heads above water. Loud truck went by and heads all disappeared for a moment, then promptly all popped up again. At some point many turtles began wandering around all over the water, staying close to water plants. Some purple loosestrife by edge of water, a few violet blue pickerelweed flowers blooming. Pleasant little wetland.  August 2, a red-eyed vireo repeating his call out back. August 5, little house wren poking around forsythia. August 9, watched one chimney swift flying around over building and back woods. A turkey vulture over woods, two titmice bathing together, a female house finches hopped in as soon as titmice life. August 10, stopped by a field on Hildreth St., heard an Eastern wood peewee nearby. At Howard Rd. wetland, many turtles, small bumblebees on last blossoms of flowers, a huge blue-black wasp around, dragonflies everywhere. Under power lines in Hildreth Hills, saw late goldenrods, spotted knapweed, common St. John’s-wort, rabbits foot clover all puffed out and pink, so soft to the touch. August 11, noticed a beautiful cooper’s hawk perched on a large boulder near bird feeder, just looping around after a failed attempt. He then flew to a tree for a better look. Forty-five minutes later the hawk flew out of the tree and disappeared. August 15, a saucy hummer visited plants on deck, took a moment to closely buzz around a downy, who kept ducking his head. August 16, Howard Rd. wetland, at least fourteen turtles of various sizes. Pretty purple-topped grasses by the side of the road. On pond side of Beaver Brook, two adult swans drifting about with their two grey and one white youngsters, a mallard family in the distance. On brook side, at edge of or in the water, buttonbush, pickerelweed, yellow pond lily and white fragrant water lily. Under Hildreth Hills power lines, heard chattering goldfinches, one catbird on shrub. Many shrubs and vines all showing early color changes, goldenrods beautiful. Green acorns of all sizes in caps, scattered about on ground. Titmice taking baths out front, then they head to feeder for some snacks. August 18, opened a window after dark and was delighted to hear the loud chorus of summer night insects, in full voices, competing to be heard. “Len told me some of the warblers have already begun to migrate south. After hearing that and seeing vines and shrubs showing early colors, I had better enjoy every lovely day that we are allowed to have….This has been a lovely summer, no big drought so everything green and pretty. I’ve enjoyed it all.”

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. August 6, Carolina wrens are feeding babies on our screened porch again. They come in and out through a hole in the screen. Two juvenile barred owls calling. We could see them well when we briefly shone a flashlight on the branch they were sitting on. August 15, two baby Carolina wrens fledged from the nest on our porch today. August 17, two beautiful spotted fawns walked in the grass along our driveway towards the street. When a car went by, they turned and bounded into the pasture. A walk at Lakeside Meadows and Shipley Swamp. Birds: Crow, goldfinches, pee-wee in the woods, catbird, at least ten cedar waxwings in the field eating bugs or seeds. Plants seen: maiden pink, cattails, purple loosestrife, prostrate tick trefoil, Indian pipes, showy tick trefoil, spotted knapweed, white water lily, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, common tansy. Also seen, two tiger swallowtail butterflies feeding on milkweed, baby bunny.

Marilyn Day, Graniteville Rd. August 12. A coyote loping across the front yard at 12:10 p.m.

Diane Duane, Howard Rd. August 14, a beautiful monarch in our front garden on common milkweed. It looks like she laid eggs and we see at least one on a leaf [Diane sent a great photo-MH].

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. August Report: titmice, chickadees, nuthatch, two pairs of blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, some grackles, balding on the blue jays. Two pairs of cardinals, one juvenile, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, several house finches, goldfinches. Chickadees seem to like the goldfinch feeder, hawk circling overhead, wren on deck. A bird nest in between the gutter guards in front of house, hummingbirds very active at feeder, but dropped off considerably last week. I didn’t notice any change in bird behavior during the eclipse of the sun., a few turkeys around. Also, four gray squirrels, one red squirrel fussing at the gray squirrel, several chipmunks, lots of rabbits, young as well, enjoying my flowers. A deer with fawn in the woods. Good to see a fair number of bumble bees at flowers. August 25, a blue-spotted salamander was under a flower pot I removed! I put pot back so maybe it will return. [Rosemarie sent a good photo of this rare salamander-MH] Many thanks to those who are removing the invasive vines around town. But, still see much bittersweet climbing on trees, bushes around town. This will destroy the tree if not removed.

          Marian Harman is a member of the Westford Conservation Trust, a non-profit conservation organization whose purpose is the preservation of Westford’s open spaces and trails. The Trust welcomes new members and volunteers.

Marian’s Wildlife Blog – August 2017

Black capped Chickadee by Doug Pederson

Do you have a large glass window or slider at your house? If so, chances are you have seen a bird strike that glass at some time. If the bird is lucky, it will just stun itself, perhaps need a few minutes to “come to” and then fly off. Sometimes, though, the bird is killed by the window strike. Living Bird, a publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, reported on this problem in an article titled “Glass Action for Birds”, in its winter 2014 edition. It has been estimated that up to a billion birds are killed each year by window collisions in the United States alone.

Scott Loss of Oklahoma State University has done bird strike research for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He found, surprisingly, that the majority of annual bird deaths occur at residential and low-rise structures. The average family residence kills one to three birds a year. Loss found that six species seem to die of glass strikes most commonly: Ruby-throated hummingbirds, brown creepers, ovenbirds, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, gray catbirds, and black and white warblers. It seems that these long-distance migrants may be less familiar with the structures in areas they pass through on migration. I notice that at my house, however, the birds mostly likely to strike the glass are mourning doves, downy woodpeckers, chickadees and titmice. It seems that they do this when they are flying in panic to avoid a hawk predator.   read more….