Saturday, May 21, 2016

Kildeer at BHS pond


As a non-birder who loves birds, I have an advantage: I am often delighted to discover a "new" bird even though the bird guides call it "common."  This morning I saw my first kildeer in the pond in front of Brockton High.  It flew from cover on the pond shore out to the low "island" in the middle, where it waded in the shallows with a buddy.  The striking neck rings made me think vaguely of piping plover, and I was pleased to find that kildeer is in the plover family.  I took photos, recorded the call on my phone, and found the ID with no difficulty on my Audubon Bird app.  Very satisfying, all around!

Kildeer prefer just the sort habitat in which I found them: ponds with shallow water to provide food for their young.  They nest on the ground, making the little island just the place--provided the pond level doesn't rise due to rain!  The other bird is probably the mate, since the sexes have similar plumage.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Oaks in Flower

Oaks have been bustin' out all over.  The black oaks broke buds first--almost exactly a month ago--beginning a long, slow reveal.  From the buds comes a fountain of tightly-folded leaves and catkins.  then, as the leaves begin to unfold and expand, the catkins--which begin as stumpy little things--stretch out and hang.  Finally the catkins turn from green to golden and begin to shed pollen, and the oak orgy is on!  The female flowers, meanwhile, are tiny bud-like things on the elongating twigs: it is they that capture pollen floating on the wind from another tree, completing sexual reproduction and beginning the process of building one or two acorns.

As of now, black oaks are done flowering--many trees have dropped their male flowers, making a tan drift on street and sidewalk.  Red oaks are now shedding pollen, I think, while the white oak catkins are stretched out but still green.

These photos are all of the same tree, and nearly all of the same twig.

 The little round red things at the base of most leaves are not buds, but female flowers.
If fertilized by pollen from another tree, they will grow to become acorns.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Chimney swifts are back in town!

I first heard their rapid, chittering calls as they zoomed their aerobics above me yesterday, May 14.  They are "late" this year: the last two years I noticed them first on May 11.  (Perhaps they were here a day or two ago, but were subdued by all the overcast and rain.)  Always they seem to be in flight, chasing insects on the wing--I never see them perch.  They are a cheerful ornament to spring, here.

Chimney swifts are long-distance migrants, coming all the way from South America.  They are so called because these days they nest almost exclusively in chimneys--which is harder and harder to do since many homeowners today cap them.  (Long ago, they nested in cavities in trees, but natural cavities that meet their needs are rare today.)

Learn more about them from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, my chief go-to site on birds and bird song.

Rob Curtis,