The 275th bird species I have photographed in Missouri and contiguous states turned out to be a special one. This Eastern Screech Owl is definitely the current most famous bird in the bi-state area. Many thanks to Miguel Acosta for the information. A long time coming.
Today I watched as park workers cut down this tree at Wild Acres Park in Overland, MO, a municipality in St. Louis County. I estimate they have removed nearly 75% of all standing dead trees in this park during the last six months. This tree, that provided shelter and food to a number of Woodpeckers, the tree I watched and photographed an Olive-sided Flycatcher this past spring, two dead oaks that I watched Great-horned Owls display and duet in numerous times over the past 6+ years, a tree that provided a place for a nesting Great-horned Owl, dead snags near the pond that provided perches to herons and wood ducks that were stopping to rest on their way to somewhere more worthy. Even if the trees must come down due to “safety”, I wish that they would see the benefit that these trees can bring while decomposing in a forest. Lately, they are even hauling away the carcasses.
The original plans for the park when first established seem to suggest that the park was conceived to provide wildlife with an oasis amidst a suburban desert as much as it was to be a benefit to the humans with similar desires. I find little evidence in recent years that the park management has goals to this effect.
Mulberries and insects were what was on the menu when I was at the nest tree to watch.
As seems to be pretty typical of species that provide bi-parental care, the ratio of female to male visits seemed to be ~ 3:1… 😉
I’m not sure what the next couple of years might show me in the park. It sure looks as though there will be fewer resources for feathered friends.
The Goldfinch have really taken a liking to the Silphium in my garden this year. Every time I’m out there I observe at least a couple picking the seeds. The two images of this post show them with their more famous plant source, the thistle, taken this summer at RMBS.
Earlier this spring I watched with anticipation as a pair of Flickers inspected a potential nest cavity in a wood lot where I work. I watched over several mornings as they came and went and made a ruckus. Here, the male admires the view from the front door.
The female is pictured above, inspecting the potential nest sight.
But alas, for whatever reason, the pair decided this wasn’t the spot for them this year. Ah well.
Sarah and I found this girl on her eggs this spring at Clarence Cannon NWR. According to Harrison (Peterson Field Guides – Eastern Birds’ Nests), the male of the species will “make various scrapes in the ground” and one is chosen by the female to deposit and incubate her eggs. As most of us familiar with the bird know, the Killdeer will usually nest far from water and often within human disturbed habitat. This girl’s nest was along the side of a gravel road within the refuge.
Warning: although I find the material in this post quite interesting and I am pleased with the observations made and detective work accomplished, there is not, unfortunately, a happy ending.
Having the fortune of living within minutes of a few Ste. Genevieve County gems, this summer Steve was fortunate to find something we had been on the lookout for while on a stroll at Hawn S.P. He sent word that he had found an active nest of a pair of Acadian Flycatchers. Not only that, but it was in a fairly nice position for photography and the pair did not seem too concerned if the viewer stayed low and silent. Needless to say, I was excited. We visited days later to find mom on the eggs – yet to hatch.
The female would leave the nest for less than three to four minutes at a time to feed herself. The male was primarily concerned with scouting and announcing his territory, vocalizing continuously as he traveled its circumference.
Once in a while both parents would be at the nest at the same time. Gee, I wonder why dad doesn’t come around more often… 😉 We were surprised by the relatively large size of the bird’s beaks and the small size of the nest!
To give some idea of the habitat these guys were using… These are definitely forest dwelling birds. This section of Hawn was close to a 50:50 mix of Short-leaf Pine and deciduous trees. The nest itself was located in a Black Gum that was approximately 30-40′ tall.
A follow up visit a week later found that two visible chicks were in that tiny nest! In the photo below, one of the parents had just brought a spider back to feed to one of the altricial young.
The next photo documents the large, developing eyes of these sightless young. Also take note of the characteristic nests of these birds. The tendrils on these nests are strung up with spider webs and can be up to a meter long. According to the literature, this nest is near the maximum height range from the ground (~25′) that this species will build. As great as this was, I would love to find a nest built lower.
The following Saturday we visited during prime lighting hours for where the nest was located. With the relatively quick fledging time of these songbirds, we gave it about a 50% chance that the chicks would still be in the nest. We got to our viewing spot – a dry creek bed that gave us partial cover, and waited. Other than an occasional song from dad at a distance, we had no sign whatsoever of anything going on at the nest. After sitting silent and ready for about 40 minutes, we had concluded that the nest was no longer in use. The chicks might have fledged?
We decided we could safely walk directly under the nest without interfering with anything. When we arrived we were disappointed to find that both chicks were lying directly underneath the nest, dead. For a while we contemplated what could have happened. Could a storm or wind gust have knocked them from the perch? As we lamented the demise of these fresh beings, Steve saw something near the crotch where the nest branch met the trunk. Here is what we observed and answered our questions.
See that bulge in this young Rat Snake? We hypothesized that this was a third chick that this guy had preyed upon. We suppose that during the process of ingesting this chick, the other two were either pushed or decided they were better off jumping from the nest, then wait for the fate of the unfortunate sibling. We were fortunate to arrive at the nest in time to spot this snake before it had moved on. We bothered it long enough to take some images, then let him hide in peace to digest his meal.
Perhaps the most appropriately named warbler, this special bird is said to nest almost exclusively in pine trees and is one of the earliest nesting warblers within it’s range. These special birds were a thrill for us to find and watch. Closeup images of the male bird were taken at Big Spring State Park, while the nest was located in a Short-leaf Pine located on a parking lot within Shaw Nature Reserve.
The chicks were adorable and near-helpless, only able to open their gigantic craws at anticipation of a juicy insect meal.
During the time Steve and I strained our necks watching the child care from ~50 ft below, we were able to observe that when dad visited the nest he always approached from the side of the nest facing us as seen in the image below. Mom always visited on the opposite side, affording us poor looks. It was interesting to observe that both parents approached the nest in a slow and indirect manner, usually starting low in the nest tree or an adjacent neighbor. They would then hop from branch to branch, often in a spiral up the tree to reach the nest. I do not remember watching either parent make a direct flight to the nest.
Sarah helped me nab this shot of a singing Grasshopper Sparrow recently at Confluence State Park. It was interesting to me that out of such a large area of potential habitat, the only two birds we had singing this day were right on top of each other.