I had a lot of gratifying bird encounters around Ithaca on Tuesday morning. Here are some highlights.
* The GREAT HORNED OWL mother and her two chicks still at their nest in the center of the Newman Municipal Golf Course (5:50 AM). The chicks are now about 4/5 the size of the mother, but are still covered with down. As far as I can tell, one owlet has essentially fully mature flight feathers, while the other’s secondaries are still encased in their long sheaths, at least on one wing. Even aside from their outward physical development, it’s clear that the owlets are very close to leaving the nest. Maybe especially in the early morning, they stand at the lip of the nest like little kids at the edge of a pool, half-petrified and half-eager to take the plunge. They stretch and flap their new wings. They bob their heads restlessly, side to side and back to front to back, like Pernell Whitaker slipping punches. They gaze around, often straight up to the sky, evidently absorbing and mentally mapping all the new sights and sounds around them. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see child-like wonder in their eyes at these times. On Sunday evening, I saw the mother for the first time this spring away from the nest, about 30 meters away in a separate patch of trees. I don’t know if she was encouraging the babies to branch out, or just giving everyone a bit more space, or preparing to forage. (I have seen the adult male nearby a few times this spring, but not for a couple of weeks now.) * A pair of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS building a nest in a box on the berm that crosses the main pond in Sapsucker Woods. * A pair of COMMON RAVENS flying in wide circles around the main pond, sometimes chased by crows and once by a COOPER’S HAWK. Prior to this year, I had seen ravens only as solitary flyby birds, but this year many birders have been seeing one or two every day over the past couple of weeks. I heard a mind-boggling rumor this morning that people have seen at least one of these ravens taking Canada Goose eggs. Has anyone confirmed other behavior that would indicate or confirm breeding here? * Two NORTHERN WATERTHRUSHES countersinging across the Woodleton Boardwalk, and another Northern Waterthrush singing at the edge of the green pond across the trail from the Sherwood Platform. The latter waterthrush sang a very distinctive song that ended with a high squeak. * One BROWN THRASHER also across the trail from the Sherwood Platform. At one point I had both the thrasher and the waterthrush in the same field of view, which I think must have been a first for me. The thrasher eventually sang a little too. * A dazzling BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER singing and working his way south from near the thrasher/waterthrush area to the Charley Harper bench. * A western PALM WARBLER also along the western pond edge. * One BROAD-WINGED HAWK perched near the Wilson/West intersection, then flying through the treetops to the west. Later, I saw another Broad-winged Hawk flying west over the Woodleton Boardwalk. (I am looking forward to seeing how many people count over the next few days…) Mark Chao -- Cayugabirds-L List Info: http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsWELCOME http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsRULES http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsSubscribeConfigurationLeave.htm ARCHIVES: 1) http://firstname.lastname@example.org/maillist.html 2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/Cayugabirds 3) http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/CAYU.html Please submit your observations to eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ --