Sunday, May 28, 2017

First Martin Nest Change

We did our first nest change of the season today. The chicks in gourd #1 are between 16 and 18 days old. This is on the tail end of the window before they are to close to fledgling to disturb. We found a few mites on the chicks. Their real problem is night time mosquitoes which we can see in the night cam ... not seem much we can do about that.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Four Purple Martins Hatch

In the first gourd, four of the five eggs hatched. Two of them early last Wednesday, the other two late on Thursday. The older two have the beginnings of darkening on the spine and rump from feather growth. They are now mobile enough to squirm a bit out of the nest cavity.

The fifth egg did not hatch and the female has not been trying to incubate it anymore. I removed it yesterday evening during the nest check. The pipping marks thought I saw in the video turned out to be dirt. There is no evidence of an attempt to hatch. It is shown below in comparison with a House Sparrow egg removed from gourd #7 (lower level to right of #1) along with the adults.

May 13 - Chicks progressing, oldest chick is a little over 9 days old.

May 23 - Oldest is now 13 days.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Red-Shouldered Feeding Time

The Red-Shouldered chicks across the street are nearly 3 weeks old, about half way through their nesting. They are hobbling around the nest and try to peer out. Occasionally, we see their big yellow feet. They don't actually walk on them yet. Here they are sharing some small furry mammal. Adult shreds pieces off and offers them to different chicks in turn. The pieces are much bigger than last week.

In the heat of the afternoon, the chicks sat with their mouths open and tongues out to keep cool. At one point, an adult flew in and landed where it would offer them shade - a different spot from where they feed the chicks.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Chicks in First Gourd

May 10 - Sometime before 06:00, the first Purple Martin chick hatched in gourd #1. Feeding attempts began around 07:00 with many parent switch-outs happening this morning. Second chick hatched around 10:15.

This is during the evening nest check, parents do a good job of hiding the chicks under leaves. Still only two at this point.

Update May 13 - Two more hatched late on May 11. The final egg looks pipped as if the chicked had made an attempt to get out but failed. I will give it another day or two before removing the failed egg.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hawk Chicks Visible

The Red-Shouldered Hawk nest near our house appears to have at least three chicks. They are just starting to be visible at feeding time. These must have hatch a few days apart as there is quite a size span among them.

After the parent flew off, the largest chick started to get feisty and crawl up out of the nest bowl.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Second Martin Female Murdered

Well, learn from experience, the slight enlargement to the SREH gourd entrance to let the male Martin get in easier was a very bad idea. Last Sunday, just after we left on vacation a European Starling claimed the gourd in which the second Martin pair were nesting. I watch in horror on the remote video playback as, when the female Martin came back in for the night, the Starling followed it in and spent the next hour brutally pecking it to death. After the Starling left, the male Martin came back and tried to stir life back into its mate to no avail. I have had a hard time watching this video sequence.

When we got home on Saturday, I disposed of the entire gourd and set a trap in the second enlarged gourd in which the Starlings are now trying to build a nest. Sunday morning, one of the Starlings entered and was trapped by the spring door. The second Starling pushed its way through the door and was trapped as well. Both were disposed of.

Aplomado Falcon

The Aplomado Falcon is a species that has been reintroduced to the Texas coast, including some releases on Mustang Island. We have been trying to see it for several years with no luck. This year, I got a tip from another birder about a location in the state park where one has been reliably sighted on the power lines.

We made a scan of that location and, sure enough, spotted it on the wire. We spent some time watching and photographing it from a distance and saw it sally out after prey several times. We saw several successful kills that it made.

In this view, the falcon is sizing up a target, bobbing its head up and down and side to side. I assume this is to get a better distance measure on the target. It then launched out across the marsh towards the seashore.

I expected a short flight but it dropped down almost a half mile away and came up with another shorebird chick and flew back to its perch to eat. That is some pretty impressive eyesight.

About this time, a wildlife biologist for one of the park services approached us making sure we were keeping our distance. He explained that this falcon was the male of a pair of unbanded (not one of the ones released on the island) birds nesting nearby. He pointed out the nest location out over the marsh in a low thicket bush. About that time, the female flew up from the nest to join its mate for a share of the most recent kill. Danielle read that as the chicks are being raised, the male will have to make 30 such kills a day to keep the family fed.

Later in the week, we stopped to watch again and found the male perched on the lower branches of the nest bush. He eventually flew back up to this perch.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mustang Island Birding

Back from a week-long birding trip down to the coast. We stayed at Mustang Island State Park as usual and visited the local hotspots each day. Total of 105 species identified including two new ones for me: the Aplomado Falcon, which we have been looking for each time we go down there, and the Mourning Warbler.

The evening of our arrival, Sunday April 30 was not too bad as they were on the tail end of a hot week. The next few days were pretty slow. Favorable migration winds had pushed all of the birds on out.  Wednesday night a strong front came through stopping the migration with a strong north wind. Though it did leave a better selection of warblers in the area, it also killed many birds, especially up near Houston.

Thursday and Friday were decent days with many Chestnut Sided, Black-throated Green, and Bay-Breasted Warblers. Nothing like last year but that was an exceptional two weeks.

Now, lots of pictures to process.