June can be a slow time for bird watchers, but a great time to do some behavioral observations. Our local migratory bird species are back on Island. These birds, large and small, have found a mate, designed their nests, and settled in to raise their families. If conditions are ideal, they may raise more than one brood a summer.
Birds become more secretive, but patience and persistence will reward you with a view of the where and how birds raise their young. If you spot birds carrying food, watch where they go as chances are very good that they are headed to their nests to feed the ever-hungry nestlings. It is important to keep your distance while observing the child-rearing process in birds, but with a pair of binoculars you have a good chance of seeing plenty. It is fun to check how many times the adults go to the nest per day and, if you can tell the male from the female, which parent does more hunting and feeding.
Near the end of the breeding season, once you have either seen all the young birds out and flying about or notice that the adults are no longer bringing food to the nest location, you can check out the nest. Hopefully you have mentally marked the spot and now can part the bushes, look under the eaves, up in the crotch of the oak tree or maybe some place you would never expect a nest to be.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is conducting a “funky nests in funky places” challenge. The Lab has collected information from people like you and me that birds place their nests in the oddest places. Not only that, but they build them out of the strangest assortment of materials and all sorts of shapes and sizes, the smallest being that of the hummingbirds and the largest of the bald eagle in North America.
Several years ago, Joan and Pat Jenkinson had what I would consider a prize winning funky nest. Pat had left his swimming suit hanging in the garage over the winter. When he went to put it on come July 4 he found a Carolina wren had built her nest in the jock part of the bathing suit. Needless to say, Joan bought Pat a new suit for that season. It is a shame that there were no photos taken as I am sure that would be a prize winner in the funky nests in funky places challenge.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology is giving prizes for the best photo of a funky nest. The prizes include a Leica camera, bird feeders and shrubs for planting. If you are interested you can enter by e-mailing your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org. Write “Funky Nests” in the subject line. Include your name and mailing address and explain why you submitted your entry — what is the story behind it? One entry per person please. The deadline for entries is July 31, 2009.
There are only a few sightings this week. The most exciting one was of a black-necked stilt spotted by Rick and Bonnie Whitten-Stovall on Poucha Pond June 12.
Claudia Rogers spotted two black-crowned night herons at the foot of Fuller street on June 13.
Susie Bowman was pleased to have yellow warblers in her West Tisbury yard. She noticed that there seem to be many more yellow warblers than she had noticed in the past.
Charlie Danielson watched the wandering osprey fly over the regional high school on June 12. He noticed that it had a transmitter on its back. He called Dick Jennings who determined that the bird Charlie spotted was Conomo. Both Rob Bierregaard and Dick Jennings reported that Conomo has flown the coop again and is fishing in Connecticut. As Dick so aptly put it, “Conomo has ants in his feathers.”
Dick Jennings and Gus Ben David both reported that there is another pair of osprey on the Island. This pair has constructed a nest on the chimney of a Seven Gates home. Luckily for the osprey, the owners of the house have graciously allowed the pair to complete their nesting. In the meantime Gus and Dick are looking for a location to erect a pole and move the nest after breeding season.
Gus Ben David was pleased to report that the nesting boxes in his yard have eastern bluebirds in one, tree swallows in the second, black-capped chickadees in a third and white-breasted nuthatches in the fourth.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-627-4922 or e-mail to email@example.com.