Friday, July 22, 2016

Gray Catbird Singing



Unlike their classic cat-like "meowing call" the Gray Catbird sings much like a Mockingbird - a close relative. Unlike the Mockingbird the Catbird is often hidden in heavy cover and you probably hear its song more often than you know. But when you hear the "mewing call" there is no doubt of the Catbirds presence:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfWx6W7B1V0
Gray Catbirds are close relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, and they share that group’s vocal abilities, copying the sounds of other species and stringing them together to make their own song.
Male Gray Catbirds sing a long, halting series of short notes collected into "phrases," which combine to make a song. One whole song can last many minutes. Sounds include whistles, squeaks, gurgles, whines, and nasal tones. The notes often are imitations of other birds as well as of frogs and mechanical sounds. The series of sounds is random, but certain notes are often repeated. While mockingbirds tend to repeat phrases three or more times, and Brown Thrashers typically sing phrases twice before moving on, Catbirds usually don’t repeat phrases. Females sing infrequently, and when they do, their songs are sung more quietly.


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Gray Catbird Singing

Chipmunk Versus Tufted Titmouse


Tufted Titmice and Chickadees take on a greedy Eastern Chipmunk for superiority of a stash of choice bird seed - note I said "bird seed" not Chipmunk seed! Watch to the end to see who wins this Titanic Battle of wits - I'm not betting on the hairy mammal's little brain!
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Chipmunk Versus Tufted Titmouse

Eurasian Collared Dove Pair Close Up


A pair of large Eurasian Collared-Doves are rare visitors to the Backyard feeder which is obviously too small for them, but they manage to improvise. These may be a breeding couple. These doves are big and ravenous, but their size and relative slowness compared to their much smaller cousins the Mourning Dove makes them easy prey for hawks and these Doves are very nervous and easy to spook in the open. See Coopers Hawk kill a Eurasian Dove:

Introduced from the Bahamas in the 1980's they have spread far and wide, but around this area of Florida they are just too easy picking for all the raptors and their numbers are small.

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Eurasian Collared Dove Pair Close Up

Sick Pine Siskins - Bird Salmonella



Avian Salmonella. A few sick Pine Siskins show up at the bird feeders in spring, it is most likely Salmonella and time to take action to prevent spreading the disease! Narration in the video is adapted from these excellent sources of information on songbird salmonella, especially regarding Pine Siskins linked below.
If You're Seeing Sick or Dying Pine Siskins
http://wildbirdsunlimited.typepad.com/the_zen_birdfeeder/2013/02/if-youre-seeing-sick-or-dying-pine-siskins.html

Fact Sheet: Coping with Diseases at Bird Feeders
http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/publications/fact_sheets/coping_with_diseases_at_birdfeeders.jsp
The Precautions against Disease
People who feed birds cannot ignore the disease issue. Eight relatively easy steps can be taken to prevent or minimize disease problems at feeders.

1. Give them space - Avoid crowding by providing ample feeder space. Lots of birds using a single feeder looks wonderful, but crowding is a key factor in spreading disease. If birds have to jostle each other to reach the food, they are crowded. This crowding also creates stress which may make birds more vulnerable to disease.

2. Clean up wastes - Keep the feeder area clean of waste food and droppings. A broom and shovel can accomplish a lot of good, but a vacuum such as you might use in your garage or workshop will help even more.

3. Make feeders safe - Provide safe feeders without sharp points or edges. Even small scratches and cuts will allow bacteria and viruses to enter otherwise healthy birds.

4. Keep feeders clean - Clean and disinfect feeders regularly. Use one part of liquid chlorine household bleach in nine parts of tepid water (a 10 percent solution) to disinfect. Make enough solution to immerse an empty, cleaned feeder completely for two to three minutes. Allow to air dry. Once or twice a month should do, but weekly could help more if you notice sick birds at your feeders.

5. Use good food - Discard any food that smells musty, is wet, looks moldy or has fungus growing on it. Disinfect any storage container that holds spoiled food and the scoop used to fill feeders from it.

6. Prevent contamination - Keep rodents out of stored food. Mice can carry and spread some bird diseases without being affected themselves.

7. Act early - Don't wait to act until you see sick or dead birds. With good prevention you'll seldom find sick or dead birds at your feeders.

8. Spread the word - Encourage your neighbors who feed birds to follow the same precautions. Birds normally move among feeders and can spread diseases as they go. The safest birdfeeders will be those in communities where neighbors cooperate with equal concern for the birds.

The Complete Story
Birds do get sick. Disease is one of many natural processes affecting wild species. Sick birds do show up at feeders, and other birds can get sick as a consequence.

Just because bird feeding is not problem-free does not mean that it is bad or should be stopped. It does mean you have an ethical obligation not to jeopardize wild birds. What is called for is intelligent bird feeding. Follow the precautions listed above, and you can continue to enjoy feeding healthy wild birds.

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Sick Pine Siskins - Bird Salmonella

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Green Ladybugs - Spotted Cucumber Beetles




"Green Ladybugs" honey bees and butterflies feast on thistle nectar high in the Great Smoky Mountains. These pretty green ladybugs, are not really ladybugs at all, but Spotted Cucumber Beetles! They are native and non-invasive and normally live quiet lives in the forests and meadows doing little damage, but when they invade backyard gardens and farms they become a serious agricultural pest. There really are no greenish ladybugs - ladybugs are more "rounded" and have very short antennae compared to the cucumber beetles.

Those Aren’t Green Ladybugs!
If you find little chartreuse-colored beetles that look like ladybugs
scurrying around your vegetable garden or in among your roses, they’re
not your friends! Most likely they’re western spotted cucumber beetles,
Diabrotica undecimpunctata.
Cucumber beetles are very common pests in vegetable gardens and may
also attack ripening stone fruit. The western spotted cucumber beetle is
greenish-yellow and has twelve black spots on its back. Sometimes confused with predaceous lady
beetles, they can be distinguished by the antennae - lady beetle antennae are short and stubby; while those of cucumber beetles are long and threadlike. Adult beetles are shiny with black heads; larvae are whitish and slender with three pairs of short legs; the head and tip of the abdomen are darker.
Adults feed on the leaves of many vegetables as well as on soft fruit,
shoots and blossoms. They may also spread cucumber mosaic virus or
wilts in cucurbits. Larvae feed exclusively on roots, but do not generally
damage garden plants, although corn may occasionally be damaged.
Management of cucumber beetles is difficult. Most older plants can
support substantial numbers without serious damage. The best strategy
for most vegetable gardens may be to place protective cloth over
emerging plants and remove it when plants are old enough to tolerate damage. On stone-fruit trees, early harvest may be the only option. Various general predators are known to attack cucumber beetles. http://ucanr.edu/sites/MarinMG/files/147777.pdf

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Green Ladybugs - Spotted Cucumber Beetles



Aeroplankton - Plankton In The Sky!



Look Up! The air above us is alive with billions of tiny organisms called "aeroplankton" just like the plankton in the oceans.  Hundreds of feet above the forested valley floor the nearly horizontal rays of the setting sun briefly illuminate this amazing atmospheric soup for just a few minutes. Some of this soup consists of tiny insects and spiders that bats and birds eat. It is always there carried on the air currents, but is rarely seen except under unique circumstances such as this. 
Aeroplankton (or aerial plankton) are tiny lifeforms that float and drift in the air, carried by the current of the wind; they are the atmospheric analogue to oceanic plankton.

Most of the living things that make up aeroplankton are very small to microscopic in size, and many can be difficult to identify because of their tiny size. Scientists can collect them for study in traps and sweep nets from aircraft, kites or balloons.

The aeroplankton comprises numerous microbes, including viruses, about 1000 different species of bacteria, around 40,000 varieties of fungi, and hundreds of species of protists, algae, mosses and liverworts that live some part of their life cycle as aeroplankton, often as spores, pollen, and wind-scattered seeds.

A large number of small animals, mainly arthropods (such as insects and spiders), are also carried upwards into the atmosphere by air currents and may be found floating several thousand feet up. Aphids, for example, are frequently found at high altitudes.

Many species of spiders deliberately use the wind to propel themselves. The spider will find a vantage point (such as a branch, fence or surface) and, pointing its abdomen upward, eject fine threads of silk from its spinnerets. At some point, the force exerted by moving air upon the silk threads is great enough to launch the spider into the air. This is called ballooning. Such ballooning spiders (e.g. Linyphiidae) are capable of drifting many miles away from where they started. The flexibility of their silk draglines can aid the aerodynamics of their flight, causing the spiders to drift an unpredictable and sometimes long distance.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroplankton

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Aeroplankton -  Plankton In The Sky



House Wren Song



Male House Wren has claimed a nest box and has a mate and spends much of the day loudly singing his upbeat gibberish song for all Backyard birds to hear. These are delightful little birds to have around as they constantly scold anyone who enters "their territory" while mating and raising their young. Often producing two broods a season these little birds eat a prodigious amount of insects and spiders. 

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House Wren Song

Loudest Woodpecker Drumming - Mini Documentary



World's Loudest Woodpecker Drumming and Pecking! Northern Flickers use real man-made steel drums - metal chimney caps - that makes them intelligent "tool-users" and likely among the loudest woodpecker drummers in the world. But loud doesn't begin to describe what the 15-minute long drumming and calling sessions sound like  inside the house whose chimney top is used as a drum. Enjoy this short documentary and imagine what this sounds like at the break of dawn as a male Northern Flicker defends his territory, mate and nest box!

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Video: Loudest Woodpecker Drumming



Black and White Warbler



The elusive Black and White Warbler -  a first time capture for me! Much like a nuthatch, the Black and White Warbler works rapidly up and down the bark of trees exclusively for its meals. Although the video is short and quality less than normal due to rapid motion of the warbler it does show its characteristic feeding behavior and its feet adapted just like a nuthatch for spending time on the trees. This is a bird in a hurry finding as many small bugs on the bark and branches of trees as it can in a short amount of time.

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Black and White Warbler



Large Carpenter Bee Sounds - Close Up



A Large loud female Carpenter Bee is looking for a place to start a nest in wood. They generally avoid treated deck lumber as in this case, but they spend considerable amount of time looking. She does a nice little dance in the process. Only the female can sting, but generally they are very "friendly" bees and tolerate me taking video just a few inches away and often hover near people with no ill will intended, just curious. The problem is they make nests by tunneling into wood, however I have never had them do any damage to houses etc. as their numbers appear small. Often people trap and kill them, but another option is to make or buy houses for them and see if they will adopt them, they are after all native bees and are by nature excellent pollinators.

In America north of Mexico, the subfamily Xylocopinae is composed of two genera, Ceratina (small carpenter bees) and Xylocopa (large carpenter bees). These bees get their common name from their nesting habits: small carpenter bees excavate tunnels in pithy stems of various bushes; large carpenter bees chew nesting galleries in solid wood or in stumps, logs, or dead branches of trees (Hurd and Moure 1963). The large carpenter bees may become economic pests if nesting takes place in structural timbers, fence posts, wooden water tanks, or the like.

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Large Carpenter Bee