Saturday, July 30, 2011

Teenage Drivers - a.k.a The fledglings

The first crop of songbird fledglings has taken to the air.  My first clue was the bird at the feeder with the residual fluff of downy feathers around it's crown, making it look a bit Einstein-ish.  This is inevitably followed by the occasional thump on our windows.  We live on the edge of the wildland interface, and I think that our small windows are the first glass many of the young birds experience.  We have feeders mounted on the windows, and markings on the windows, in attempts to make them more visible.  And even the cat plastered eagerly on the inside of the window is apparently no deterrent.  Although most fly off afterwards with little more than their bell rung, sometimes their fate is more tragic.

For one "lucky" young flier this week, we happened to have left the front door open.  Much to everyone's surprise, a young House Finch flew into the living room, just hours after it's compatriot met it's end at the front window.  The young bird was determined to escape by flying up, despite the presence of a ceiling, and ceiling fan.  We turned off the lights and attempted to usher the bird out towards the sunlight, with no success.   I was getting concerned that the young bird would hurt itself permanently, as it kept flying into the ceiling and it was loosing many of it's newly acquired feathers.  Therefore, I thought it would be less traumatic to catch it and release it outside.  Then there was reality.

The next scene is of me chasing the poor bird around the living room with a butterfly net, with the baby bouncing gleefully in the carrier (because I didn't want to set him somewhere the bird would fly into), and a toddler screeching with delight at the absurdity of the sight.

Despite the obvious imperfection of the capture plan, I did actually manage to net the bird, and much to it's relief, let it out the door after prolonging the experience for just a few photos.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Camera Trapping in Marin

I'm finally getting to some camera trapping results!

After some serious inspiration by the Camera Trap Codger's class last year, I got permission to set some cameras up on a few local public and private local properties.  I've got a little over a year's worth of results, and there are some fun shots that I want to share.  

The first set is "Location B".  Location B is on a property in the middle of densely wooded suburban development.  There is a small adjacent open space parcel with a seasonal water source.  Most properties in the region are not fenced, and there is extensive open space within range of many species.  The habitat is dominantly oak woodland, grassland, and riparian.   

This is one of my first nice Bobcat images from that site from last year.

  I just pulled this video from the camera yesterday.  It was taken roughly 3 weeks ago.  Watch until the very end of the clip for a surprise.    

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Screech Returns

The little owl made it!  After keeping the screech owl in veterinary care for roughly a week, Wildcare called my neighbors to come pick it up for release.  This photo was taken through a hole in the transportation box.

I've got my eye on you
That brave little owl looks very tough for what a weird experience it must be having.  It was obviously missing a few tufts from the top, but otherwise appeared healthy.  My neighbor said she could see the owl's piercing gaze watching her on the whole drive home.

I was really struck by was a diminutive creature it was.  Intellectually I knew that screech owls are small, but up close, it really looked like a miniature version of a "real" owl.  They are perfectly suited for this area, and because they are dependent on cavities for nesting, they can be enticed by nest boxes.  There is a local organization called The Hungry Owl Project, a program of Wildcare, which encourages erecting owl nest boxes (where appropriate) as a means of natural and sustainable pest control.     They offer owl boxes for sale, and although there are other well-designed boxes available, if you are considering putting a pre-made one up, getting one from the Hungry Owl Project a great way to help support a beneficial local non-profit.

Back to Screech.  That evening after dark, they hiked up the hill with the owl in the box, and released it into the night.  As soon as the box opened, the little owl just shot out and up into the trees, not missing a beat.  Hopefully our local owl has learned his predator, and is able to avoid any future encounters.
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