Random Synapses, Class Aves
Greetings, gravity-bound hominids and other carbon-based life forms!
About half way through Wild America (Peterson and Fisher, 1955), White-throated swifts are mentioned as being the fastest known birds. Having recently watched them piloting the winds/updrafts and slicing through the air along the south rim of the Grand Canyon , I can understand the reason for this belief over 50 years ago.
Defiance of gravity among birds ranges from hummingbirds (at great metabolic expense) to the albatrosses and vultures (at comparatively little metabolic expense). As a child, I had recurring, vivid dreams of being a swift or a swallow and I often wished for the ability of flight. However, considering my intense fear of heights, flying seems a strange thing to wish for, eh?
Last night I was sitting at my desk enjoying the night air, perfect temperatures, and the soothing sound of crickets thru my open window by the computer… until a skunk “deodorized” me. Believe me, I now smell better than I did after two weeks in the field in northern Arizona , far and away from the nearest shower! ;-)
When my alarm clock went off this morning I was dreaming about locally nesting Green herons, maybe because Bob Wilson had recently suggested this possibility to me? Or maybe because Rich Levad had always challenged me to find a GRHE nest here in the valley? Truthfully, I have no idea why I was having that dream.
Today we had a black-capped lemon (male Wilson’s warbler) singing in our front yard and he didn’t stray from the small patch of trees in our raised bed. I thought it very strange that he lingered there so long, singing profusely in such a confined space, no where near his breeding habitat.
We are currently feeding quite a few hummingbirds, and we find that mid-May is usually when our north-bound population of hums peaks at our feeders. Typically, our hummer population consists of about 95% male black-chins, with the remainder being female BCHU (no broad-tails). So, who has all the female hums? Coen? Steve? Andrea ? Dona?
Returning soon to Arizona , wandering randomly from transect to transect, counting birds…
Have been away from the keyboard a few weeks, but not away from birds! =)
On a yellow-billed cuckoo quest at several potential sites in southwest Colorado , I came up empty. Otherwise, I have heard of only three reports of YBCU this year in western Colorado : one near the Utah state line along the Colorado River , one (or more?) in the Hotchkiss area, and one in the Gunnison area. If anyone knows of other locations where birds have been encountered, please email me offline. Sincere thanks!
While doing the above mentioned cuckoo surveys for RMBO, I enjoyed a few other interesting birds:
-- Lucy’s warbler and summer tanager along Yellow Jacket Creek
-- Black-chinned hummingbird feeding nestlings near Mancos (8400 ft in ponderosa)
-- Above tree line at Engineer Pass were golden eagle 2, brown-capped rosy-finch 6, and American pipits too numerous to count, but no ptarmigan
-- American dipper feeding young along the river in Lake City , while black swift 3 swirled around above the river
-- Mountain bluebirds feeding nestlings in a drain pipe under a cattle guard near Spring Creek Pass ! Huh?
-- Bumper sticker I saw in Alamosa featured a schematic of a walking fish and these words: “We have the fossils. We win.” ;-)
Has anyone encountered ponderosa pine at elevations lower than 5700 ft in western Colorado ? I found them at this elevation in two locations… along highway 151 in Archuleta County and along highway 141 in Mesa County .
Is anyone tracking the acorn woodpecker population at Rafter J? Are they increasing substantially? I found two on a telephone pole on my way to their usual location, but well before I got there.
Vireo no, shorebirds yes! I went looking for Coen ’s yellow-throated vireo at Beaver Creek fishing access yesterday morning but came up empty. Lots of songful species were there, however. En route home I stopped at Cheney Reservoir and saw ibis species 7, long-billed dowitcher 2, solitary sandpiper 1, greater yellowlegs 1, willet 1, and loggerhead shrike 1.
This morning, Missy and I drove out to Highline State Park to identify the fledgling raptors that Alexis had emailed me about. We found two of them perched in a large cottonwood between camp sites 26 and 27, the smallest, fluffiest, fledged red-tailed hawks I have ever seen, standing right next to their nest. We then went looking for Nic’s white-winged doves along Mesa Ave in GJ and found two of them before we had the car doors closed. Thank you, Nic!!! =)
In our yard, the familiar array of sounds created by adult male Rufous hummingbirds has returned and subsumed all other avian sounds. Their whining wings and incessant cussing are welcome “music” to my ears! Inefficient flight, yes, but pure kinetic energy! Missy reports our first Rufous was on 17 July and our first Calliope was on 24 July, both males of course. Today, males of all four expected hummingbird species have been here at our feeders. Unusual for our yard (4600 ft elevation) in July have been a northern mockingbird (at our water feature), white-breasted nuthatch, mountain chickadee, western bluebird, and ca. 40 common nighthawks overhead.