Saturday, July 18, 2009

Black Phoebe with very unusual plumage

Yesterday I saw this very unusual looking Black Phoebe at my friends place just east of Canon City,CO. I was fairly stunned by the odd plumage on this bird. In the past 15+ years I have seen several hundred Black Phoebes, many of which I have followed for hundreds of hours but I have never seen one that looked like this. That said, I think I understand why it appears to have a 'mohawk' cut on it's crown--I think it has lost several feathers between the smooth feathers just back from it's beak and the very rugged looking raised crest--this gap in feathering accentuates the difference between the forward and rear crown feathers, giving the bird the appearance of having a 'mohawk'.
I expect that the remainder of the ruffled and rugged look are due to the bird being in a molt though I must add again that I have never seen a Black Phoebe molting so severely. Possibly due to missing feathers due to molt, it's primaries appear unusually long. I believe it is undergoing a Definitive Basic molt which is a complete molt according to Birds of North America online. Not only would this not be a PreBasic molt because that molt is incomplete but I saw this bird 8 days ago when it was apparently in earlier stages of molt and it was clearly already in Definitive Basic plumage.
You can enlarge these pics to see this rare hair-do better by double-clicking on the pic. I took some pics then and will add them in the next post for comparison purposes. SeEtta

Sad ending for W Kingbird nestling

My friend said he checked the jury-rigged nest for the Western Kingbird nestling first thing this morning but it wasn't in there and he didn't see it in the area around the nest. This afternoon I found the poor little thing directly across the dirt road from where we had hung the jury-rigged nest--it appeared it had been run over. Apparently it managed to get out of that wire basket nest then walked/flew about 12 feet across the road to the edge. Unfortunately there are several different people who drive up and down this road every day. And this little bird was difficult to see from inside a vehicle--I drove past it several times myself today and didn't find it until I was on my evening walk with my dogs. Darn it. SeEtta

Jury-rigging a new nest for the W Kingbird nestling

After I moved the young nestling out of immediate harms way in the road, it occurred to me that this little bird would not survive the night on the ground in this area which is a rural area and adjacent to the Arkansas River. Besides farm cats in the area there are racoons, coyotes and other wildlife that were likely to find this quite helpless bird that could barely ambulate and was nowhere near ready to fly (if the mother laid the egg that became this nestling on the date I saw her on the nest, this bird could be as young as 6 days old, though I suspect from it's plumage it is more likely between 8-10 days old; but these birds don't leave the nest until 13-19 days of age)So I jury-rigged a replacement 'nest' to hopefully hold this little bird for a few days until hopefully it is able to fly to a branch where it has some safety. I found an old 3 tier wire hanging basket that my friend was willing to donate to the cause. Though it displayed an open beak as menacingly as a fluffy little thing could. However, it was too young to even try to bite me, it just held it's beak open. It did, though, cling with it's tiny claws to a piece of wood it was on and I had to very gently pry it off. I placed it in one of the wire baskets (pictured here) in which I had placed some dry grass and my friend hung it from a branch as close as he could get to the nest of origin (about 15 feet). It was getting dark so I left with my fingers-crossed that it doesn't jump out.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Update on W Kingbirds that nested in oriole nest

On June 27th I posted about a pair of Western Kingbirds that had it's first nest blown off it's moorings on a utility pole build another nest on the top of an old oriole nest. This unusual nest was directly above the entry road at my friend's and where I walk almost every evening with my dogs so I got to watch them frequently. The longer the female brooded on this oddly shaped nest, the more she pushed the nest materials into a kind of elongated shallow trench that was deeper at one end. This causes the nest to point slightly downhill on the other end, a fact that likely relates to what comes next.
When I walked this evening I saw the tail of only one of the three nestlings sticking over the edge of the nest. As I looked for signs of the other nestlings I heard my younger dog, Chase, investigating something several feet away--it was a nestling! I yelled at my dog to 'leave' and it did (probably because it recently got into a lot of trouble for not going after a Robin nestling). These pics are of that very young nestling that clearly left the nest prematurely, quite possibly due in part to the nest that leans downward at one end and that is really too narrow for 3 nestlings. Double-click on these pics for killer close-ups. Continued in the next post. SeEtta

Social Swallows

I saw this intrepid Barn Swallow and her nestlings under a window at Denny's Restaurant in Canon City, CO. Fortunately she wasn't dive bombing the patrons using the door that was only about 20 feet from her nest. SeEtta

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Western Wood-Pewee nestlings

Here are pics of a Western Wood-Pewee, her nest and nestlings in Pathfinder Park near Florence,CO. Unfortunately her nest was located high in the middle of a cottonwood canopy which is fairly dark. Because I am handholding the camera I have to use fast speeds which require more light and my 400 mm lens is also a light gobbler, so the pics came out dark.
The mother bird was bringing food to her nestlings in the top two pics but I didn't catch her feeding them. In the bottom pic I did catch her engaged in basic housekeeping--taking a fecal sack out of the nest. SeEtta