Rose by Harriet Alger, other photos by John Koscinski

304 West Avenue

http://www.blackriveraudubon.org

Elyria, OH  44035

440-322-0820

EDITORS: JACK SMITH / HARRY SPENCER.  PHOTOGRAPHER: JOHN KOSCINSKI

                                                                                 

                                                            December 2007

Program

Sandy Ridge Nature Center, 7 PM, December 4

(Note the location!)

Put the Nesting Birds of Ohio on the Map!

Aaron Boone, Project Coordinator, Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II

            Aaron Boone has worked as a field ornithologist in research projects for Idaho State University, Clemson University , and The Ohio State University. He holds an M.S. in natural resources from the OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Field Trips

Elyria Christmas Bird Count

Saturday, December 22

Wellington Christmas Bird Count

Saturday, December 29

(More information about the two counts at the end of this issue of WINGTIPS.)

Young Birders Hike

Saturday, December 8, 8 AM

Wellington Reservation and Upground

Reservoir

Birders Alphabet

W Water dance

By Carol Leininger

            Water dancing is a form of mutual group display by members of the auk and grebe families. In spring Guillemots (auk family) gather as pairs on water near the nesting colony. The birds call and show red linings of the mouth, form lines on the water for a few seconds, and suddenly break formation, dive, and chase each other. Grebes put on spectacular courtship displays, including the "rushing" display in which pairs move side by side rapidly across the water. They move so rapidly that their erect bodies are completely out of the water with necks arched and bills pointed upward. I would describe it as a synchronized water ballet that is unforgettable when observed.

October 18 Birding by Tram

Sandy Ridge Reservation

By Harry Spencer

            On a typical fall day, windy and sunny at the start and sprinkling at the conclusion, Jim Brown, Friends of Metro Parks volunteer, drove four physically challenged and two not-as-challenged birders on our second Birding by Tram outing.

            Species identified: Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret,

Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, American Coot, Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker,           

Blue Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, Lincoln 's Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, American Goldfinch

 

                                    

                                                                        Tram ride photo by Harry Spencer

Trumpeter Swans at Caley

By Harry Spencer

            The thought of Trumpeter Swans automatically triggers my memory of a field trip arranged and led by Mary Warren to see the newly reintroduced birds at Magee Marsh.

On a summer day sometime in the early or mid-nineties, Mary drove a small group of Oberlin College about-to-become first-year students along the dikes looking for the swans. We spotted about half of the dozen or so that had been released, each with its clearly numbered neck band.

            Since then other Trumpeter Swans have been introduced in various wetlands in Ohio, and the birds seem to be thriving. This largest species of North American birds may have been native to Ohio wetlands in the distant past, but disappeared for unknown reasons. In fact no direct evidence of their Ohio residency has been discovered.

A few neck-band-free Trumpeter Swans frequent the wetland ponds at Caley Reservation, and here is a photo of some of the six swans, two adults and four juveniles, that spent much of October 2007 on Caley ponds.

                                              

                                 Trumpeter Swans (adult and three juveniles)  photo by Harry Spencer

 

                    October Bird Identifications

In October Black River Audubon members filed 70 eBird checklists at eleven sites: Black River Reservation, Avon Lake Power Plant, Bacon Woods, Caley Reservation, Carlisle Reservation, Columbia Reservation, French Creek Reservation, Lorain Harbor, Oberlin Arboretum/Cemetery, Sandy Ridge Reservation, and Wellington Upground Reservoir. We identified 126 species,  which represents about 1 out of 7 of those filed for all of Ohio. We identified 63% of all species identified statewide.

            Our list of species follows:

CANADA GOOSE, TRUMPETER SWAN, TUNDRA SWAN, WOOD DUCK, GADWALL, AMERICAN WIGEON, AMERICAN BLACK DUCK, MALLARD, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, NORTHERN SHOVELER, NORTHERN PINTAIL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, RING-NECKED DUCK, HOODED MERGANSER, RUDDY DUCK,

WILD TURKEY, PIED-BILLED GREBE, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, AMERICAN BITTERN, GREAT BLUE HERON, GREAT EGRET, GREEN HERON,

TURKEY VULTURE, OSPREY, BALD EAGLE, NORTHERN HARRIER, SHARP-SHINNED HAWK,        COOPER'S HAWK, RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, RED-TAILED HAWK, AMERICAN KESTREL, MERLIN,       PEREGRINE FALCON,

YELLOW RAIL, SORA, AMERICAN COOT,         SANDHILL CRANE, KILLDEER, AMERICAN AVOCET, PECTORAL SANDPIPER, WILSON'S SNIPE,

BONAPARTE'S GULL, RING-BILLED GULL, HERRING GULL, GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL, CASPIAN TERN, COMMON TERN, FORSTER'S TERN,

ROCK PIGEON, MOURNING DOVE, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, CHIMNEY SWIFT, BELTED KINGFISHER,

RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER, YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, DOWNY WOODPECKER, HAIRY WOODPECKER, NORTHERN FLICKER, PILEATED WOODPECKER,

EASTERN PHOEBE, WARBLING VIREO, BLUE JAY, AMERICAN CROW, TREE SWALLOW, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, TUFTED TITMOUSE, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, BROWN CREEPER, CAROLINA WREN, HOUSE WREN, WINTER WREN,

GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, EASTERN BLUEBIRD, SWAINSON'S THRUSH, WOOD THRUSH, AMERICAN ROBIN, GRAY CATBIRD, BROWN THRASHER, EUROPEAN STARLING, AMERICAN PIPIT, CEDAR WAXWING,

TENNESSEE WARBLER, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, NASHVILLE WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, MAGNOLIA WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, PALM WARBLER, BLACKPOLL WARBLER, AMERICAN REDSTART, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, WILSON'S WARBLER,

EASTERN TOWHEE, AMERICAN TREE SPARROW, CHIPPING SPARROW, FIELD SPARROW, VESPER SPARROW, SAVANNAH SPARROW, GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, LE CONTE'S SPARROW, NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROW, FOX SPARROW, SONG SPARROW, LINCOLN'S SPARROW, SWAMP SPARROW, WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, DARK-EYED JUNCO,

NORTHERN CARDINAL, RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD, EASTERN MEADOWLARK, RUSTY BLACKBIRD, COMMON GRACKLE, BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD,    PURPLE FINCH, HOUSE FINCH, AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, HOUSE SPARROW

 

Black River Audubon Donations

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007 Black River Audubon made small donations totaling $105 as reported in the September 2007 WINGTIPS. The Western Reserve Land Conservancy inadvertently included Black River Audubon as a major donor in their Donor Report covering the same time period.

Record 102 Bluebirds Fledged

Wayne Shipman, Conservation Co-Chair, announced that a record 102 Eastern Bluebirds fledged this year in the 283 nesting boxes maintained by Black River Audubon. Results for the last three years are given in the following table.

                        

Bluebird-Trail Summary 2005 - 2007

Year

2005

2006

2007

Number of boxes

283

Number of boxes monitored

191

Number of monitors

14

15

House Sparrow nests removed

201

172

152

House Sparrow eggs removed

144

186

86

House Wrens fledged

46

96

108

Tree Swallows fledged

229

219

278

Eastern Bluebird eggs

64

112

Eastern Bluebird eggs hatched

29

90

Eastern Bluebirds fledged

29

90

102

 

The 2007 monitors were: Steve Jackson (Augusta Olsen); Bob Holland (Burr Oak); Dave Bragg (Caley); Dick Lee (Carlisle Duck Pond, Carlisle wetlands); Harry Spencer (Carlisle Equestrian Center); Bob Mitchell (Day's Dam); Cheryl Pruitt (Findley); Wayne and Nancy Shipman (Forest Hills, Indian Hollow); Nan Miller (High Meadows); Nina Love (Kendall);  Joe Strong (LCCC); Ron Cherney (Mill Hollow);  Arlene Ryan (Sandy Ridge); Steve Chavez (Wellington).

                                       

                                          

Photo by John Koscinski

Eastern Bluebird

Sialia sialis

A. Population Loss and Recovery

By Jack Smith

            The male Eastern Bluebird pictured on this issue's cover has been described as a bird wearing the sky on his back with a breast of brilliant orange. It is one of our most colorful birds.

            Yet for the first three-quarters of the last century, populations of bluebirds drastically declined for most of North America, and by 1980, Eastern Bluebirds were nearly extirpated in Lorain County. Several factors contributed to this population decline.

The introductions of two European species, House Sparrows (1851) and European Starlings (1890), accounts for much of this decline. Both species expanded explosively throughout North America. Eastern Bluebirds, House Sparrows, and European Starlings are cavity-nesting birds, and the European intruders challenged aggressively the more passive natives.

Simultaneously agricultural practices changed. Wooded areas with their cavity-containing dead trees were converted to farm lands. Metal posts replaced wooden fence posts with their many cavities suitable for nests. And many fence rows were eliminated to make room for more crops.

Expansion of urban and suburban areas eliminated many dead trees and their cavity nesting sites.

Introduction of toxic insecticides both poisoned bluebirds and reduced food sources such as insects and other invertebrates.

Dr. Lawrence Zeleny pioneered efforts to reverse the decrease of bluebird population with his book The Bluebird: How You Can Help Its Fight for Survival (Indiana University Press, 1976), (paperback edition 1978) and by spearheading the founding of the North American Bluebird Society. That Society encourages construction, mounting and monitoring of nesting boxes across the country.

Black River Audubon under the leadership of Mrs. Clara Coragin, Conservation Chair, in 1979 and 1980 began a program of installing bluebird nesting boxes in sites around Lorain County. With the help of the volunteers of Black River Audubon, bluebirds made a remarkable recovery in Lorain County during the ensuing years.

 In many other parts of the county, also, birds with the sky on their backs now can be seen and heard. Because this nest-box program has been largely accomplished by volunteers, restoration of Eastern Bluebirds has been inexpensive. Certainly relative to the costs associated with the successful restoration of the Bald Eagle, it has.

Zeleny's book gives details on construction of nesting boxes. I mention only how one dimension eliminates the competition of starlings. The diameter of the entrance hole should be one-and-a-half inches, too small for a starling but adequate for a bluebird.

B. Description and Behavior

By Jack Smith

Eastern Bluebirds, Western Bluebirds, and Mountain Bluebirds are members of the thrush family, scientific name Turdidae (Pronounced TUR-dih-dee), which is derived from the Latin word for thrush.  Worldwide some three hundred thrush species are known.

Bluebirds are primarily insectivores with special insect-capturing characteristics. A bluebird will sit quietly on an exposed perch or a lower limb and scan the ground. Suddenly it will swoop to the ground to capture an insect, often returning to its former perch. Using this method during the nesting season, bluebirds catch huge numbers of grasshoppers.

Bluebirds use other methods of foraging. Occasionally a bird will behave like a flycatcher, darting from its perch to catch an insect in mid-air. If perches are not available, a bluebird may hover kestrel-like above the ground before diving to catch prey. As insects become scarcer in late summer and fall, bluebirds supplement their diet with berries, and in winter the birds subsist mainly on berries.

Although not spectacular the springtime bluebird courtship has a gentle beauty. The male usually arrives first from the wintering area, which may be nearby or in a more southerly location.

Of note is the observation that compared to just ten years ago, more bluebirds seem to be year-around Lorain County residents.

 The newly arrived male searches for a cavity nesting site pleasing to a potential mate. Upon locating such a site, he stays nearby while warbling softly. In human terms, this warbling seems to be a message of love and persuasion for the purpose of attracting  a mate.

Within a few days, a female may arrive, but she does not search for a nesting site. His warbling may attract her to make an inspection of his chosen cavity. She accepts with a soft warble.

After mating she begins nest building. It is well constructed and composed mostly of grass and weed with an inner lining of fine grass, horsehair, or down. The male may help some by bringing nesting materials.

The cup of the nest is about two and three-eights inches in diameter and two to two and one-have inches deep. The total nest height is usually four to five inches when completed.

Upon completion of the nest, she begins to lay an egg a day until she has 3-7 eggs although the usual numbers are four or five.

When the last egg is laid, she incubates for a period of thirteen or fourteen days. Only female birds have a bare brooding patch, so only females incubate eggs. However, male bluebirds enter the nesting cavity to guard the eggs while females depart relatively briefly. Viable eggs hatch in a narrow time period.

Both males and females feed the hatchlings soft-bodied insects, and the female broods the chicks until they grow most of their feathers. Both parents keep the nest clean, removing fecal sacs that they deposit some distance from the nest.

As the hatchlings grow older and larger, the parents begin feeding hard-shelled insects, such as grasshoppers. Sometimes the young from the first nesting of the season will help the adults feed the young and remove fecal sacs.

(I wonder if this altruistic behavior of the young birds of the first brood suggests that the small bluebird brains possess the ability for some form of reasoning, Are the young and adults able to communicate? Or is this innate behavior programmed by evolutionary processes during the struggle to survive and propagate?)

Our bluebirds have other important characteristics. The birds may have two, sometimes three, broods in a season, and the birds molt completely in August and September. As colder weather approaches, bluebirds congregate in small numbers, sometimes staying through the winter if an adequate supply of berries is available.

If the ventilation holes are closed, the nesting boxes can be converted into wintertime life-saving shelters. In fact, on a cold night a box may house several birds stacked on top of each other.

With the advent of warm spring nights, the bluebird life cycle starts anew.

C. Monitor's Role

By Harry Spencer

Unfortunately hole size that eliminates starlings does not eliminate sparrows, but human hands can. Because House Sparrows are non-native birds, their nests and eggs can be legally destroyed. And doing so is perhaps the most important function of monitors. Frequent visits by monitors to the nests, perhaps once a week,  are required. And destruction of House Sparrow nest and eggs is effective. After a few losses of nests and eggs at one site, House Sparrows abandon nest building at that location.

Tree Swallows, House Wrens, and sometimes Black-capped Chickadees also nest in bluebird boxes. They are native birds and their nests and eggs are protected by law.

Detailed instructions for monitors are given by the North American Bluebird Society:

http://nabluebirdsociety.org/monitor.htm

The following is a copy of their directions on how to monitor, including identification of nests and eggs by species.

Monitoring Directions

Nest monitoring should only be done during calm, mild, and dry weather conditions to reduce the chance of chilling the chicks or eggs. Open the nest box being careful not to allow the eggs to fall out or chicks to jump out. Songbirds have a very poor sense of smell and will not abandon the nest due to your handling the nest, eggs, or chicks. If chicks are in the nest, look under the nest for signs of blowfly larvae. The chicks themselves should be examined for small scars, particularly under the wings, which indicates blowfly parasitism. Sometimes you may observe the larvae attached to the chick. These are easily removed by hand. Complete the monitoring as quickly as possible to minimize disturbance. When handling the chicks or removing them from the nest a monitor should  place chicks in something that will protect them from the sun or wind but prevent their escape. Avoid disposing used nest material near the nest site because that material may attract predators. Always be certain to close the box door securely before leaving. Record what you observed.

Nest Identification

Eastern Bluebird: The 1-4 inch tall nest is built with fine grasses or pine needles with a fairly deep nest cup. Eggs (4-6) are powder blue or occasionally white.

Tree Swallow: Their nests are also made of grasses, but they may use somewhat coarser fibers than a bluebird. The nest generally has a flatter cup than a bluebird's nest and is usually lined with feathers or occasionally scraps of paper. Eggs (5-7) are white and smaller than those of a bluebird.

House Wren: Wrens fill a nest box with sticks and line the deep nest cup with fine plant fibers or feathers. "Dummy nests" without the nest cup are often built in all other cavities within the male wren's territory to reduce competition for resources. The eggs (6-8) are tan, speckled with brown and quite small.

Black-capped Chickadee: Chickadees build a nest of moss and plant down with the nest cup lined with hair. They lay 5-8 white eggs covered with brown speckles. Eggs are often covered with moss when the female leaves the box.

House Sparrow: House sparrows build a tall nest of coarse grasses, often with pieces of scrap paper, cellophane, or other garbage. The nest forms a canopy with a tunnel-like entrance to the 5-7 cream-colored eggs with brown markings. 

                                                    

                                                                American Robin photo by John Koscinski

                                                       Amish Birding

                                                         (American Birds, Volume 61, 2007)

The Ohio Amish community has embraced birding! Teachers encourage young people to learn about nature and birds.

Christmas Bird Counts 2007

By Dave Bragg

Last season's Christmas Bird Count (CBC)  is in the record books and preparations are well under way for the upcoming 108th Christmas Bird Count here in Lorain County sponsored by Black River Audubon. The CBC is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society. It is an early-winter bird census, where volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. Its not just a species tallyall birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. All individual CBCs are conducted in the period from 14 December to 5 January (inclusive dates) each season, and each count is conducted in one calendar day.

Here in Lorain County we have two counts sponsored by Black River Audubon. First is the Elyria Count on Saturday, December 22, 2007 encompassing an area fifteen miles in diameter centered in Elyria, and second is the Wellington Count, an area fifteen miles in diameter centered in Wellington. on Saturday, December 29, 2007.

All birders are welcome to participate, especially new birders young and old. Registration for both counts has begun so contact CBC Coordinator Dave Bragg @ 440-647-2355 or via e-mail at dbraggohio@hotmail.com.

First Christmas Bird Count

    (from the Toledo Blade, December 4, 2005)

The first count in 1900 involved 27 conservationists in 25 North American locales. Professor Lynds Jones, Oberlin College, was one of the counters, giving Ohio a place in birding history. He counted 14 species, including a Red-shouldered Hawk, 40 American Tree Sparrows, 14 Purple Finches, and a lone Northern Cardinal.

        

                                     

 

 

    John Koscinski

 

Bluebirds and their recovery featured in this issue.

Join us for our annual Christmas Bird Counts. See Dave Bragg's instrustions in this issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 John Koscinski

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Eastern Bluebird by John Koscinski.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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