Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hawk Chicks Waiting for Mom

Some nice views of two of the Red-shouldered Hawks in the nearby tree sitting and waiting for the "food lady" to show up. The larger one is getting breast and head feathers in. Possible fledging window in a couple of weeks.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Returning with Lucy

Today I experienced something new ... the Amazon Locker. I needed to return an order I made on Amazon and found one of the return options to be "drop off package at Amazon Locker". What the heck, I opted for this. I got to select from several locker locations down in Round Rock which were open 24 hours. I printed out the RMA form to put in the package and a shipping label for the outside. I also received a "locker combination."  I drove down to the location named "Lucy".

At the kiosk screen, I typed in my combination into the kiosk. It opened up a locker door which was too small. I pressed "my package does not fit" on the screen and it opened up a bigger one. I put in the package, closed the door and was done. No worrying about UPS or FedEx hours with this technique. Well done Amazon!

Hawk Chicks Starting Six Weeks

Now approaching beginning of sixth week, the chicks are standing up much more often and have begun to exercise their wings.

On the menu today was a large snake which we think was a Yellow-bellied Racer based on the coloration of the bits we could see. The adult still rips off pieces to feed the chicks. However, they are also learning to rip pieces themselves and play tug-o-war with them.

After a big feeding, the chick appears to have a full crop

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; the late one remains developmentally behind but is getting his share of bugs. Today is at the tail end of the allowed window for nest changing.

My approach is to prepare an identical spare gourd ahead of time, then transfer the chicks into it quickly. I then put the new gourd up in place of the original one and can clean the old one at my leisure to use as the next replacment.  In this image, I am stuffing new straw into the replacement gourd.

We found a few mites on the chicks; no blowflies thankfully. Challenge yourself by looking for the mites in the pictures below! The bigger problem the birds face is night-time mosquitoes which we can see swarming in the video feed ... not much we can do about that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hawk Chicks Get Feathers

This is the start of the fifth week for the Red-Shouldered Hawk chicks. The oldest one is showing a solid covering of feathers on the wings. Meanwhile, we are seeing the adults in the back yard more often, here perched on our songbird houses. The hawks are more likely spying for rodents, snakes, and lizards than birds. They also hang out in the tree above the bird feeders. Again, I think they are preying on lizards that come for the dropped seed.

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.