Thursday, February 28, 2008

Learning about birds . . . Ring-billed Gull

Pretty much every summer my family visits the North Shore of Lake Superior where we see all kinds of birds including many gulls. Ring-billed and Herring gulls are the most common gulls to see and I'm always amazed at their agility in the air.

- Young Ring-billed Gulls tested at only two days of age showed a preference for magnetic bearings that would take them in the appropriate direction for their fall migration.
- Many, if not most, Ring-billed Gulls return to breed at the colony where they hatched. Once they have bred, they are likely to return to the same breeding spot each year, often nesting within a few meters of the last year's nest site.
- Although it is considered a typical large white-headed gull, the Ring-billed Gull has been known to hybridize only with smaller, black-headed species, such as Franklin's, Black-headed, and Laughing gulls.

Ring-billed Gull (Developing done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom)
The Blue Gull

Friday, February 22, 2008

Learning about birds . . . Rose-breasted Grosbeak

A saw my first Rose-breasted Grosbeaks this last summer. Below is a shot of one that I saw at Springbrook Nature Center.

- The nest of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is so thinly constructed that eggs often can be seen from below through the nest.
- The Rose-breasted Grosbeak will mate with the Black-headed Grosbeak where the population densities of both species are low
- A group of grosbeaks are collectively known as "a gross of grosbeaks."

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Learning about birds . . . Ruby-throated Hummingbird

We have a number of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds visit our yard during the summer months. Our feeder sits just above our deck hanging on branch only a couple of feet above our heads. These little guys zoom in above us whether we are sitting near the feeder or not. I've spent a number of hours over the summer watching the "Hummers" come in for a snack. There were so many cool things about Hummingbirds I wasn't sure what to add here, but I will tell you that a quick search will reveal a tremendous amount of information on these birds. They appear to be quite popular with birders. So here are a few facts that I liked:
  • These tiny birds have devised a fascinating way to conserve energy when they can't be eating—at night or when the weather is too cold or too rainy for feeding. They go into a sleep-like state known as torpor. During torpor, the tiny bird's body temperature can drop almost 50 degrees. The heart rate may slow from 500 beats per minute to fewer than 50, and breathing may briefly stop. A hummingbird consumes as much as 50 times more energy when awake than when torpid. If you were to find a hummingbird in torpor, it would appear lifeless. If a predator were to find one, it would be lifeless indeed! While torpor has benefits, there are risks too. It can take as long as an hour for the bird to come back into an active state, so a torpid hummer cannot respond to emergencies.
  • The extremely short legs of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird prevent it from walking or hopping. The best it can do is shuffle along a perch. Nevertheless, it scratches its head and neck by raising its foot up and over its wing.

Ruby-throated Humming Bird

  • HEARTBEATS: About 250 times per minute while at rest, about 1,220 per minute while flying
  • HEART SIZE: About 2.5% of total body weight
  • BREATHING: About 250 breaths per minute while at rest
  • FLIGHT MUSCLES: Make up about 25% of bird's weight (compared to 5% pectoral muscle weight in human beings)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Sunday, February 03, 2008

No posts for a bit

I'll be quite busy with work this week so I won't be posting for a bit . . . probably not until next weekend. For those of you that don't know, I work for Adobe Systems Inc. as a Senior Quality Engineer Lead on Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. With an obivious bias forLightroom I do all my photo organization and developing in Lightroom.
With all of that said, it's going to be a busy week so I'll leave you with this Proverb and photo of Carlos Avery WMA.

"A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song."
Chinese Proverb


Friday, February 01, 2008

Learning about birds . . . Tree Swallow

So this weeks bird is the Tree Swallow. It's a very cool bird that I see regularly at Carlos Avery WMA every summer. I've never been sucessful getting a flight shot of a Tree Swallow, maybe I'll be luckier this summer.

Tree Swallow:
  • Outside of the breeding season the Tree Swallow congregates into enormous flocks and night roosts, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands. They gather about an hour before sunset at a roost site, forming a dense cloud. They swirl around like a living tornado and as darkness approaches they then wheel low over the cattail marsh or grove of small trees. Large numbers drop down into the roost with each pass of the flock until the flock disappears.

Tree Swallow

  • The Tree Swallow uses many feathers from other birds in its nest. The feathers help keep the nestlings warm so they can grow faster. They help keep levels of ectoparasites, like mites, low too.

Tree Swallow.jpg

  • The Tree Swallow winters farther north than any other American swallow, and it returns to its nesting grounds long before other swallows come back. Its ability to use plant foods helps it survive periods of bad weather.