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…)
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