Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Ethan Has Posted Photos from Camp Chiricahua 2009 July 22, 2009

Filed under: Amphibians,Animals,Birds,Bugs,Mammals,Reptiles,Seasons,Summer — saltthesandbox @ 12:25 pm
Tags: , ,

My 14-year-old son, Ethan, spent early July at Camp Chiricuhua, an Arizona birding camp for teens. It’s run by Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and co-sponsored by the American Birding Association. (Go here for more information.)

He had a really great time! He saw or heard 69 life birds, plus four kinds of Rattlesnakes, a Black Widow Spider, and a really big Tarantula. He took his camera along, and he’s been posting photos online, including dozens of kinds of birds, snakes, spiders, scorpions, insects, flash floods, and  “a caustic pit of death.”

Here are two samples. First, an Acorn Woodpecker (original here):

Acorn Woodpecker, Portal, Arizona. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

Acorn Woodpecker, Portal, Arizona. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

Next, a mother scorpion with babies on its back (original here):

Mother scorpion with babies on its back, Portal, Arizona. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

Mother scorpion with babies on its back, Portal, Arizona. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

There are lots more photos in Ethan’s Flickr photostream. Here’s the link to his Camp Chiricahua, Arizona, set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/36997518@N03/sets/72157621780821598/

Ethan’s complete photo stream, including Midwestern and (soon) California photos can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/36997518@N03/

We hope you enjoy them!

—–

Ethan’s fellow camper, Benjamin, has also posted about Camp Chiricahua, 2009, on his blog: http://warblings.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/camp-chiricahua-2009/

 

Catching up with Spring April 17, 2009

Spring is about change, and right now change is happening so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Yesterday we showed one Dwarf Iris flower and two buds — today there were three flowers:

All three Dwarf Iris buds have opened!
All three Dwarf Iris buds have opened!

The Trout Lily bud we showed two days ago has not yet opened, but more flower buds have appeared, and most bud stems are no longer nestled in protective leaves:

Most Trout Lily buds were standing free, not wrapped in protective leaves.
Most Trout Lily buds were standing free, not wrapped in protective leaves.

Two fruit trees have burst into bloom along Garfield Street, east of Ridgeland Avenue:

I'm not sure what kind of tree this is, but it did attract the first honey bee I've seen this spring.
I don’t know the name of this tree, but I think it’s an ornamental fruit.

So, some flowers are already blooming; others are catching up with their first buds of spring. Here’s a Lily of the Valley from the Oak Park Arts District, along Harrison Street:

As usual, the first Lily of the Valley buds formed along a south-facing wall.
As usual, the first Lily of the Valley buds formed along a south-facing wall.

After watching for more than a week, I finally spotted the first Virginia Bluebell of the year in Columbus Park:

Virginia Bluebell is a native wildflower, although these may have been planted by the Park District.

Virginia Bluebell is a native wildflower, although these may have been planted by the Park District.

Now let’s move from flowers to fruits, and the animals that eat them. In late February we posted photos of Staghorn Sumac fruits, which added color to the winter woods. We saw squirrels eat some sumac fruits this winter, but most remained on the trees until last week. That’s when I noticed Northern Flickers and Downy Woodpeckers eating sumac fruits. By today the sumac trees were stripped bare:

It seems the Flickers and other woodpeckers had eaten all the sumac berries. Perhaps it was for wood, but the may have also used the red sumac pigments to brighten the colors of their feathers.

Flickers and other woodpeckers ate all the sumac berries. Perhaps it was for food, or maybe they used red sumac pigments to brighten up their feathers.

Here’s more news of animals in our neighborhood: I heard my first Columbus Park Bullfrog of the spring — it croaked as it jumped into the lagoon, too fast for me to see. I also watched Painted Turtles sun themselves on lagoon logs, and I spotted my first Cabbage White Butterfly of 2009 in a meadow near Austin Boulevard. And my first Honey Bee of 2009 was feeding on the fruit tree flowers on Garfield.

Finally, back in early March we started following hummingbird migration on hummingbirds.net. According to the online map, the first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds reached our area more than a week ago. We finally put out our hummingbird feeder yesterday:

Our backyard hummingbird feeder. We use a mix of one part sugar to 4 parts water, and we don't add any dye.

Our backyard hummingbird feeder. We use a mix of one part sugar to four parts water, heated to boiling, and we don't add any dye.

Why the wait? No matter what we see on hummingbirds.net, we don’t know any birders who’ve seen Ruby-throats this year in Illinois. There have been no reports on IBET, and none on eBird, either. According to eBird, last year’s earliest Ruby-throat for our County was April 27. Last year we saw our first in Columbus Park on May 23.

So, these days we don’t have much faith in hummingbirds.net. It’s possible those folks are seeing a different species — perhaps Rufous Humingbirds, which wander here in colder weather — or maybe something else is going on. Anyway, our feeder’s out, and we’ll keep it filled and fresh until next fall.

And that’s the news. We’re caught up — until the next time we walk outside. There’s sure to be some new sign of spring tomorrow!

 

Yesterday’s Birds, This Morning’s Weather Radar April 12, 2009

Yesterday the boys and I went on a birding field trip to eastern Lake County, Illinois, with the Evanston North Shore Birding Club. We visited sites along Lake Michigan and a few miles inland, and we saw some cool birds. We saw some species that have been found in our area all winter, like this first-year Glaucous Gull:

First-year Glaucous Gull on the docks at North Point Marina. (Another gull is right behind it.)

First-year Glaucous Gull on the docks at North Point Marina. (Another gull is right behind it.) Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

We also found some relatively recent spring migrants, like this Ruby-crowned Kinglet:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet flicking its wings in a tangle of branches.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet flicking its wings in a tangle of branches. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

We even saw a Garter Snake basking in the sun:

This Garter Snake was soaking up the sun beside the lake.

This Garter Snake was soaking up the sun beside the lake. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

However, I was disappointed that we did not see more recent arrivals to our area. In fact, most of the spring migrants were the same species we have been seeing for more than a week. We only added one year bird to our lists — Cedar Waxwing — and this bird may have been eating fruit around here all winter:

This Ceadr Waxwing was eating fruits in a tall bush beside a lake.

This Cedar Waxwing was eating fruit in a tall bush beside a lake. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

Part of the problem has been the weather. It’s not just that the temperatures have been relatively cool, it’s why it’s been relatively cool — because the winds have been blowing from northerly directions. Most birds won’t migrate with the winds against them. Last night, though, the winds started to change. As shown on this map from the Chicago Tribune‘s website, to the west of us the winds were from the southeast. During the night the winds here in Chicago started blowing from the east:

Last night the winds in our area shifted from northeast to east.

Animated winds map from the Chicago Tribune website. Last night the winds to the west of us were from the south. The winds in our area came more from the east.

The birds responded dramatically, as seen on this animated weather radar image from the Chicago Tribune‘s website:

The green and pruple washes are migrating birds in flight. (The purple areas are just above freezing, so the weather radar computers interpret the birds as sleet or freezing rain.)

Animated weather radar from the Chicago Tribune website. The green and purple washes are migrating birds in flight. (Temperatures in the purple areas are just above freezing, so weather radar computers interpret the birds as sleet or freezing rain.)

So, instead of hunting Easter eggs today, we’ll hunt for birds produced from eggs hatched long ago. We’ll look and listen to discover which new birds have arrived in our area. We’ll watch our backyard, make a morning trip to Columbus Park, and explore around my sister’s home in Glenview after we celebrate Easter with our family. (We’ll also wish we were in western Illinois or eastern Iowa, because the radar showed lots more bird migration there.)

We’ll let you know what we find. Why don’t you let us know what you find, too?

—–

You can study bird migration using radar images from WeatherUnderground (the source of the Tribune’s images) and the National Weather Service radar website.

To learn more about using weather radar to track bird movements: The Badbirdz – Reloaded blog includes a primer on using weather radar to track bird migration. For more explanations of birds and radar, try the New Jersey Audubon website.

—–

Aaron ended the day with 153 species on his year list, and I wound up with 144. Go here to see my updated year list.