This is a lifer for me! When we were in Concord last weekend we spotted a big yellow bird in the trees above. At first we only saw the belly, and I had no clue what it was.
When it moved to a different branch, we got a good look at it, but I was still was baffled. It looked like a flycatcher, but much larger (and much yellower)than I expected a flycatcher to be. An expert would have known immediately, but I have never been one to look high in the treetops. My eyesight isn't that good! In my defense, however, I offer a description from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology "All About Birds" website, which says the bird is a "treetop hunter of deciduous forests and suburban areas, the Great Crested Flycatcher is easier to hear than to see."
Great crested flycatchers build large nests in natural cavities or excavations made by other species. They build a bulky nest, and therefore prefer deep cavities. Before constructing a nest, they will generally fill a deep cavity with trash to a level of 12 to 18 inches from the top. They are known for their habit of including a snake skin in the nest or dangling from the cavity, and if no snakeskin is available they will substitute a piece of plastic. No one knows for sure why they do this, but most likely it is to deter real snakes and other predators. Pretty smart, huh?
I've always liked Cormorants very much I don't think they are ugly or funny looking, and I like how recognizable they are when flying.
If I am going to lose my beloved Great Blue Herons to a bunch of cormorants, I will heartbroken and resentful. Just the possibility fills me with horror. I don't know why the Great Blue Herons give up their ancestral homes so easily, but the sheer volume of cormorants that appeared this year suggest they are simply outnumbered.
Did you know how LOUD a Great Blue Heron rookery can be during June and July? I didn't know that a Great Blue Heron rookery (or heronry, which is one technically correct term; heron colony is another) was noisy because "my" rookery is on an island, and the sound doesn't carry over water. We visited a different rookery on Friday, and we learned just how deafening these youngsters can be when they're hungry. The noise is hard to describe; something like a flock of loud quacking ducks mixed in with a few large barking dogs and a Wild Turkey gobble or two thrown in for good measure. It's deafening!
This Great Blue Heron rookery is not on an island, but it is isolated and fairly inaccessible to snakes, mammals, (especially humans) and other predators by virtue of being in the middle of a swamp and high in the dead treetops.
"Heron species tend to desert nests and entire rookeries if repeatedly disturbed during the periods of pair formation, nest construction, or egg laying" (Buckley and Buckley 1978). The buffer between this heron colony and human civilization is not large, but it is pretty effective.
Certainly the herons seem to be thriving (when seen from afar, at least.) There are many large healthy looking broods. What GBH parent wouldn't be proud of these almost identical twins? (Are all nestlings genetic twins, or is there no such thing as twins in the bird world? I have no idea.)
For the first two months after hatching, Great Blue Heron chicks stay in their nests and are fed by their parents. If there are three or four youngsters that are almost full grown, like the family pictured above, keeping the chicks fed is a herculean task even with both parents working at it full time. These guys are still getting regurgitated food from their parents, but when they get a little older Mom and Dad will just drop fish into the nest for them to fight over.
Purple Martins, but about 2 inches smaller.This is an immature female Tree Swallow. The female retains the brown immature plumage throughout her first year and well into her second. Males and fully mature females have beautiful iridescent blue coloring. Tree Swallows are related to
This shot was taken by my husband, and has excellent detail. Nonetheless, I am not sure if these two are females or subadults of either gender.
It is hard to tell if these two like each other or are about to attack each other! I'm not even sure if they are a pair or a parent and child.