Friday, June 20, 2008

Breeding Birds and Their Babies

I've been doing breeding bird surveys around the ranch lately to see what birds live here. I'm using a point count protocol, which means to do the survey, I count all the birds I see or hear during 10 minutes, then move 300 meters to the next spot and count again. There are ten points along the transect. In addition to noting what birds I notice, I write down approximately how far they are from me and if they are showing any signs of breeding. This last week I noticed some definite signs of breeding in the form of baby birds. I was able to get a photo of this group of five ducklings partly because they can't fly yet. My camera is good at close ups but not so good with far away objects, so I don't have many photos today.
One of the common birds on the ranch near some of the ponds is the Yellow-headed Blackbird. (Don't ask me why, but common bird names are usually capitalized, but mammals, reptiles, amphibians, etc. are not.) This particular Yellow-headed Blackbird was part of a big family group including several immature birds. They have a raucous call that reminds me of being at a bawdy party.
This baby Killdeer was so cute. It and its sibling were following their mama around on the sand bank. Its legs look so long for its little body. 
We've had three Great Horned Owl babies hanging around our yard, and this is one of them. It doesn't look much like a baby now, growing rapidly over the last few weeks. We hear the owls a lot at night, sometimes waking us up if they're close to our bedroom window. 

I love breeding bird surveys because they make me focus just on the birds for a few hours. I'm always amazed how many different birds are out there, and how moving just a short distance from one habitat to another changes the bird composition greatly. I got excited this summer seeing my first Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows out in the alfalfa fields, watching the Long-billed Curlews chase a Swainson's Hawk that had been perching on an irrigation pivot, and listening to the dinosaur-like Sandhill Cranes. As we enter July, the birds don't sing quite as much because they no longer need to attract a mate, but they still provide lots of color on the landscape that will be turning brown under the hot sun.


Sarah said...

Great photos! You're making me yearn for a return visit- first to play with Nature Boy, next to just plain explore your neighborhood!

Sylvia said...

I agree with Sarah. The baby birds this time of year are a treat, surely. A good summer for babies.

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