Monday, July 2, 2012

June is Baby Bird Month


If May was the nest-building month, then it goes to reason that by mid June we would see young birds testing their wings, learning how to find food and water, and how to act like the species it belongs to. Mid to late June and early July are definitely Baby Bird Months.

A Young House Wren out of the nest for the first time, Crystal Cove State Park, CA; 6/14/2011.
During a walk through Crystal Cove State Park (CA), a year ago, I was able to capture young twin House Wrens (One Above and One Below Top) out of the nest for the first time, while their Mom hovered close by (Below Bottom).
The twin of the House Wren Above, Crystal Cove State Park, CA; 6/14/2011.

Keeping a watchful eye, is the Mother House Wren of the two younguns above,Crystal Cove State Park, CA; 6/14/2011.
Young Triplet Black-capped Chickadees learning where to find water, Rockford, IL; 7/5/2011.
I witnessed three young Black-capped Chickadee chicks learning the ropes of becoming a Chickadee for a few days stretching form late June to early July last year. I watched their mother bring them one at a time to the bird bath in our yard. I was hoping to get all three at the bird bath at one time. It didn't happen for several days. Whenever I spotted them out and about, the three youngsters were never very far from eachother - learning their acrobatics in the tree branches, how to find seeds, berries and insects.  I guess they gave each other confidence and learned from each other what to do and what not to do. Late one morning as I was working on a project and looking out the window, I noticed that all three were foraging around the yard and hopping up and down off the bird bath. I waited patiently for the right moment, and when it came, I was ready. All three of them hopped onto the bird bath at the same time and were taking turns drinking. I was able to snap the photo (Above) before thay all went exploring in different directions.

A young American Robin on its first legs out of the nest, Rockford, IL; 6/15/2007.
Several years ago, another youngster that showed up in our yard was an American Robin (Above), looking very timid and unsure. It was easy to spot as newly fledged as it still had baby hair sticking out the top of its head, lots of dark spots on its breast, and the soft looking downward curved bill that seems common in newly out-of-the-nest birdlings. It didn't show a lot of confidence flying, as it repeatedly hopped up and down off a foot high rock in our front yard. It didn't seem to want to test any perches at a higher distance. I walked out of the house to test its fleeing ability. At first it looked at me not sure what to do and let me get pretty close before it decided I was not a safe bet. Then suddenly it was able to find its wings and took off and flew across the yard a good 50' or more before it landed. It passed the test with flying colors.
A Young Mourning Dove seemed hopelessly lost, Tower Hill State Park, WI; 6/30/2011.
Not all young birds have been fully fledged, as it seemed in the case of a very young Mourning Dove (Above) which was sitting in the middle of a trail at Tower Hill State Park in Wisconsin. Val and I were hiking and she asked me if I saw the bird on the trail and wondered what kind it was. When I located it, it was hiding in the long grass just off the trail. As I approached, it didn't fly away and generally didn't seem to know what to do. It either left the nest too early and couldn't fly, or it was too frightened to fly. I would guess the former because it didn't even try to flex its wings. It kept its wings tight against its flanks.
By the look of its scrawny neck, it just didn't seem old enough to be out of the nest yet.
The trail we were hiking was next to a rather tall cliff that had some historical buildings at the top.  I figured that the Mourning Dove nest was somewhere at the top perhaps even built on one of the old buildings, and that it had fallen out of the nest prematurely and made its way to the bottom of the cliff where it had to fend for itself.  I also figured that if it didn't learn to fly soon, it would end up being a tasty meal for a fox or some other predator.
This Owlet (Species unknown - perhaps Great Horned) was definitely too young to be out of its nest, Rockford, IL; 4/21/2006.
Another unlucky baby bird we found on one of our walks was an Owlet (Above). One April evening at dusk, Val and  were taking a walk around the mile long block in our beighborhood, when we heard a strange scratchy vocal sound. The sound was very near and I was sure that it sounded like an owl, but a not an adult. On the farm I grew up on, I heard this sound often and it was attributed to baby owls that nested near and around our farm buildings.  As we peered through the evening light (as it was very near to darkness) to find the source of the sound. We located it at our feet. Sure enough, there on the ground next to our neighbor's mailbox post sat a little white bundle of fur. Like the young Mourning Dove, it didn't try to get away. It obviously couldn't fly as it had few feathers to speak of. It sat there looking at us. Val left to get our cameras. While I stayed with the owlet. We took a few flash photos. Then in the large evergreen tree in the yard behind where the Owlet sat, we heard some fluttering movements and some soft grunting noises that sounded like they could have been made by a Great Horned Owl. The movements were very frantic and it seemd clear that the mother of this infant was looking for her youngun. I wanted to take it home to try to help it, but thought it best to leave it be and hope the mother was able to protect it or get it back to its nest.  The next mourning I walked out to the spot where it had been sitting and there was no sign of it. One positive clue was that there were no pile of feathers where a predator might have gotten to it before the mother coul help it. I have seen a coyote once in our neighborhood and knew they were around. I tried to look at the evergreen to spot a nest, but I couldn't detect one, nor could I hear or see any evidence of a Great Horned Owl.

In the next few posts I will feature more photos of the newly formed families of the bird world: ducks, geese, swallows, and woodpeckers.

No comments: