Wednesday, April 30

Rutland (VT) Herald on Bird Populations

There's a headline from today's Rutland Herald which reads "Vermont's bird population has increased by 17 new species, new survey shows."

This sounds like a good thing, but when you read the article itself, the prognosis isn't so good. Some choice excerpts:

A new survey of Vermont's bird populations shows that the state has breeding populations of 17 more species than it did in the late 1970s, but it also raises concern about the future of some species.

  • The eastern meadowlark was spotted in half as many places in Vermont as it was 30 years ago.

  • The common nighthawk has all but disappeared.

  • Breeding pairs of four kinds of northern warblers weren't found anywhere. Vermont's first breeding bird survey helped establish the state's list of threatened and endangered birds, according to ornithologist Sally Laughlin, of Cambridge, director of the first atlas and a member of the state Endangered Species Committee.

After the loon, peregrine and osprey were put on the list, the state developed programs to protect them to the point where all three now have healthy breeding populations.

These are major issues. When bird populations decline dramatically, it's generally a sign of major environmental changes. When the Rusty Blackbird declines by 98% (see the photo: I couldn't find this bird in Vermont; I had to go to New Mexico to get a photo of one), it's a sign that things are changing.

So, yes, we have more breeding species in Vermont. These include the Tufted Titmouse and Northern Cardinal, both of which used to be uncommon in the Northeast. They're beautiful birds, and I'm glad I have the chance to view them, but it scares me that they climate here has changed to the point where birds that used to live a bit further south have become so prevalent in Vermont.

Friday, April 11

Friday Bird Blogging: Eastern Bluebirds Return in Force to Vermont

Last year, I had a few brief sightings of eastern bluebirds, but they were few and far between and I only spotted them a few times. This time, I've had multiple sightings of them. While last year, several of my sightings were directly connected with nesting boxes, this time, the sightings have been frequent and in areas with no visible nest boxes throughout the region.

I'm still relatively new to birding, so I find it difficult to know how much of this is my eye changing over time and being better at spotting (combined with having much better camera equipment than I had two years ago), and how much of it is a change in the environment or conditions from this year compared to last.

Cornell has some interesting facts on Eastern Bluebirds:

The male Eastern Bluebird does a "Nest Demonstration Display" at the nest cavity to attract the female. He brings nest material to the hole, goes in and out, and waves his wings while perched above it. That is pretty much his contribution to nest building; only the female Eastern Bluebird builds the nest and incubates the eggs.

Eastern Bluebirds typically have more than one successful brood each year. See a Birdscope article for data from The Birdhouse Network that show this graphically. Young produced in early nests usually leave their parents in summer, but young from later nests frequently stay with their parents over the winter.

Eastern Blue birds are, by the way, quite a bit different from Western Bluebirds, which tend to have a very similar shape, but the males have a darker throat and the females and less contrast on the chest and throat.