I was up and out early again today to do my atlas-ing of the Booth Lake block. I don’t just randomly drive around hoping to see birds. There is some method to this madness. Nature has a biological clock just like we do. I’ve pretty much established what birds are present on each of the blocks, but now I have to find proof of their breeding. The easiest ways to do this is to see a species building a nest, carrying food for young in their beaks, or finding recently fledged young ones. It all depends on the calendar.
Male wood duck.
There are a couple of general rules of thumb. Just as the larger the bird, the longer its lifespan, the same goes, in general, for the larger the bird, the longer the eggs need to incubated before hatching. That little chestnut-sided warbler nest we found will only take 12 days or so to produce young. Eagles, and ducks, and larger birds will take up to or more than a month to hatch.
Then there’s the matter of whether the hatchlings are precocial or altricial. A precocial bird is capable of moving around on its own soon after hatching. Altricial means the babies are incapable of moving around on their own soon after hatching and remain in the nest for some time. Robins, warblers, finches, and blue jays are examples of altricial birds. On the other hand, loons, ducks, swans, and killdeers are examples of precocial birds. Those babies are up and walking or swimming within a day or two. Can you see the connection to Mother Nature’s calendar here?
I don’t even want to talk about the two nasty snapping turtles that I ran into in the early morning light today! Both of the females were intent upon digging out a hole to lay their eggs in. Seems the middle of the back road track is the easiest digging. They were each on a mission, and grumpily hissed at me with open jaws! I gave them a wide berth.
Most little birds have made their nests and are sitting on eggs. The larger birds started their nests earlier since they’re not so dependent on insects. So, this week I expected more little fluffy precocial birds, and I wasn’t disappointed. I confirmed trumpeter swans with signets, and Canada geese, hooded mergansers, and ruffed grouse with fluffy young.
While on my journey today, I couldn’t ignore the blooming of the smooth wild rose. There’s a virtual rainbow of wildflowers in bloom right now, and the bees are loving it!
Next week, the little birds should start hatching, so I’ll concentrate on finding adults with food in their beaks for the young ones. Of course there are always exceptions to the generalities I’ve talked about, but it does help me to focus my attention on ‘nailing’ certain species according to Mother Nature’s calendar.
After checking the weather forecast for the week, it appears that tomorrow should be the best day for doing the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route through the refuge. That means I have to set my alarm for 3:15 in the morning in order to be at the starting point of the official count exactly a half hour before sunrise. Uf-duh! I haven’t been up that early in the morning since the day of my hip surgery almost six months ago.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy