Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Plans are Underway to Celebrate Urban Birds

Materials have been ordered, the Avimor staff is meeting to finalize plans for the event, the band is on the schedule, plant donations have been arranged, and we are really excited for this event!

We even came up with a theme song called "Out on the Bird Walk" to the Drifters' tune of "Under the Boardwalk". Click on the link to see the YouTube Karaoke version of the original song, and then just sing the new lyrics really loud!

(Oh) When the sun comes up
And all the birds begin to sing
You get binoculars
Field guide in hand
You know I just love Spring

Out on the birdwalk
What will we see? (yeah)
Spotting birdies is my hobby
That's where I'll be.

(Out on the birdwalk) We'll see Waxwing
(Out on the birdwalk) We'll see Starling
(Out on the birdwalk) There's a Warbler above
(Out on the birdwalk) I hear Mourning Dove
Out on the birdwalk (birdwalk!)

From the park you hear
the piercing call of a Killdeer
Mm-mm, you can really hear
the Cowbirds and Sparrows so clear

Out on the birdwalk
down by the creek (yeah)
Watching Orioles feeding babies
That's where I'll be.

(Out on the birdwalk) We'll see a Crow
(Out on the birdwalk) We'll see Swallow
(Out on the birdwalk) I hear a House Finch
(Out on the birdwalk) a Heron in a pinch
Out on the birdwalk (birdwalk!)

[instrumental break]

(Oooooh) Out on the birdwalk
What we will see? (yeah)
Spotting birdies is my hobby
That's where I'll be.

(Out on the birdwalk) Mallards we'll see
(Out on the birdwalk) A Falcon possibly
(Out on the birdwalk) Pigeons all around
(Out on the birdwalk) Robins on the ground
Out on the birdwalk (birdwalk!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Who" are you?

Just look at those grumpy eyes! We have a nesting pair of Great Horned Owls right on the greenbelt near the corner of Streams Edge and Claymore. They are using an old Magpie nest and the mate is in a tree nearby. They are extremely visible to the naked eye. Pretty cool!

Please enjoy it without getting too close and agitating them. We want them to stick around so we can watch them raise the chicks.

Eight Canada Geese were at the Avimor Town Lake this morning too. I've seen them fly over, but this is the first time I have observed them on the ground visiting Avimor.

The Western Meadowlark and Killdeer continue to increase in numbers. The Starlings and Robins appear to be establishing their mates and nests. The Dark-eyed Juncos are still here in large numbers and they really seem to be enjoying all the seed I put out for last weekends bird walk.

The American Goldfinch appear to be starting their Spring molt. During the winter they are brownish with faint traces of yellow. This morning I was seeing lots of bright lemon yellow faces. It won't be long before they are bright yellow all over. (see pictures below to see the plumage changes)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Celebrate Urban Birds: Avimor Community wins Mini-Grant!

We just received notification from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that the Avimor Community has been awarded one of the mini-grant prizes to carry out a Celebrate Urban Birds event. We are very excited about this opportunity. You can look forward to art projects for the kids related to the birds of interest, a short bird walk to Foothills Heritage Park, planting some bird and wildlife sustaining plants, and enjoying live music from a great local band. More details to follow over the next month!

If you would like to volunteer to help at this event in any way, please send an e-mail to Robert at (robert dot mortensen at suncorID dot com) or leave a comment on this blog with your contact info. (comments are filtered by me so I can privately view contact information and not post your comment)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Avimor Bird March: Report

It was a beautiful day for the Avimor Bird March. Nineteen guests joined us on the walk along Spring Valley Creek and around Foothills Heritage Park. Twenty-one species of birds were identified and reported on eBird:

Ring-necked Pheasant (heard, but not seen)

California Quail (heard, but not seen)

American Kestrel (two mating pairs?)

Spotted Towhee (a male and a female)

Robert had placed some wild bird seed from Zamzows in various locations along the trail during the prior week which helped us observe the Juncos and White-Crowned Sparrows. We learned from Habiscapes’ Michael Wiegand to identify the juvenile White-Crowned Sparrows by the brown and buff head stripes as compared to the adults with white and black head stripes.

The Spotted Towhee’s were shy but most in the group were able to see them.

Another experiment was tried using bird calls from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs and the BirdJam software on a Zune MP3 player with a portable speaker. This ethics of this practice is still being debated in the birding world, but I felt we did it responsibly and only for a couple of resident birds. The Song Sparrows responded to every bird call. The Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and the Spotted Towhees also briefly responded before realizing they were getting faked out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shakespeare's Starling

All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds released in New York's Central Park in the early 1890s. A group dedicated to introducing America to all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's works set the birds free. Today, European Starlings range from Alaska to Florida and northern Mexico, and their population is estimated at over 200 million birds.

It is believed to be responsible for a decline in native cavity-nesting bird populations, but a study in 2003 found few actual effects on populations of 27 native species. Only sapsuckers showed declines because of starlings, and other species appeared to be holding their own against the invaders. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project. (info from All About Birds)
The Starling is actually a pretty and interesting bird if you take the time to watch it. In the right lighting it will have some pretty cool colors along with all the spots. Starlings can frequently be found along Spring Valley Creek at Avimor. I found a few this morning already taking up residence in some woodpecker holes.
I'm a fan of Shakespeare, but I couldn't recall where in all of his works a Starling is mentioned so I looked it up. Here it is:

The starling is mentioned only once by Shakespeare, in a passage which shows that in his time this bird, which has so remarkable a power of imitation, was taught to say some words. The fiery Hotspur declares that although the King had forbidden him to speak of Mortimer he would find his Majesty...

“When he lies asleep,
And in his ear I’ll holla ‘Mortimer!’
Nay, I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak
Nothing but ‘Mortimer,’ and give it him,
To keep his anger still in motion.”
[1st Henry IV – I, 3]

Monday, March 9, 2009

Avimor Bird March - This Saturday!

The onset of Spring makes birding a lot of fun. There are new species arriving every couple of days. With the warming weather I expect to see many more birds this weekend than we have seen in the last couple of months.

Who: We always welcome people of all ages and abilities, birders at every skill level, nature and wildlife enthusiasts, scout troops, etc.

What to bring: Hiking boots or sturdy comfortable shoes are important as we will take a bit longer route this month with some short uphill climbs on improved trails. Please dress appropriately for the weather. Bring binoculars and cameras if you have them. Free bird guide booklets will be available.

When: Saturday, March 14th. Meet at 8:45 A.M. - we'll hit the trail at 9:00.

Where: Avimor Information Center

How long: Plan for approximately two hours to walk the couple miles of trail. The amount and difficulty of the hiking will be adapted to the group.

Cost: FREE as always!

A drawing for prizes will be held after the bird walk at the Information center where refreshments will also be served!

Did you know?

These birding and nature walks will fulfill Boy Scout rank and merit badge requirements:
2nd Class Req. 5; 1st Class Req. 6; some Bird Study, Nature, and Plant Science merit badge requirements.
This beautiful Western Bluebird was photographed by Art Robertson today near Merrill Park in Eagle. Gorgeous, isn't he?! I was taking my regular lunch-time bird walk and was lucky enough to arrive there at the same time as Art to see it. These bluebirds aren't seen very often in town, so it was pretty cool to see today.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Horned Larks in the Hills

Horned Larks can be found in the hills throughout Avimor. They usually aren't down around the trees along a stream, but rather up in the more barren hills and on the edges of trails and dirt roads. A pretty reliable spot to find them is up around the water tank along Broken Horn Trail/Rd. They are a very striking looking bird and often will let you get fairly up close views of them.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Avimor's American Idol

The Western Meadowlark is Avimor's most prodigious vocalist and they have returned for their Spring and Summer tours! Just about anywhere at Avimor you can hear them singing from the tops of sage brush or old wooden fence posts. Put a pair of binoculars on one sometime and check out one of the most stunning shades of yellow!

This morning I also saw a Black-billed Magpie working on a nest in some of the taller brush up on the hills at the entrance of Burnt Car Draw.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Celebrate Urban Birds

Avimor is a top 20 semi-finalist to receive a mini-grant for the "Celebrate Urban Birds" event promoted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology!!!
This is an opportunity to be awarded funds to carry out an event celebrating birds, art, and music. The purpose is to educate children and focuses specifically at 16 easily recongizable species of birds, 15 of which are possible to be found at Avimor.
Check out their website and vote by writing-in Avimor!