If you’re impatient for the New Year’s fireworks displays, here are some explosions of color in bird form.
At the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago recently, I got the chance to see some particularly charismatic birds, including a colony of squabbling flamingos, and Sophia the young Cinereous Vulture. Abandoned as an egg, Sophia was raised by humans—with a vulture puppet—until she was old enough to rejoin her parents.
The morning I saw her was overcast and cold, but she was in high spirits: a man was raking her enclosure, and while her parents mostly ignored him, Sophia was fascinated. She chased the rake; he shooed her away; she stalked it. “I helped to raise her,” the man said; then, rolling his eyes, “It’s impossible to get anything done with her around.” Eventually he dropped the rake, and Sophia got to investigate.
It’s rare that I have photos of the process of banding a nest, since usually everyone is holding a chick and we don’t have any extra hands for photographic documentation. For a few nests, however, I was lucky enough to have my father with us, and boy does he like to photograph things! Thanks to him I can show you what it looks like when we band a nest.
EDIT: If you click on these (or any photos on this blog) you can see them bigger.
After I made such a fuss about catching a sapsucker and a hummingbird early in the season, of course, we caught another sapsucker and another hummingbird. These guys are no longer quite so unprecedented—although they were novel species for me—but they are still awesome.
Male Williamson’s Sapsucker
As fledglings undergo their fall molt (the Prebasic I molt), their appearance changes from obvious-youngster to apparent-adult. In the middle of that transition, they look a little… wild. It’s a strange and fleeting look, here-today-and-gone-in-two-weeks. We’ve caught enough molting fledglings that I’ve been able to put together a series of photos showing the transition.
Fledgling juncos start out a streaky light brown, with dark bills and yellow gapes.
As they get older, the yellow gape shrinks.
Recently I found this nest, belonging to female MABY (named in honor of Arrested Development, if you’re wondering) and male ARKM.
The other day, I thought I’d try out a new camera lens by taking some photos of ducks. It turned out that the ducks were all having the duck version of a bad hair day. If the ducks were on facebook, they would immediately demand that I untag them from these pictures.
It doesn’t rain very often here, but when it does, the snails come out in force. I’ve always liked snails and their ilk; as a kid I kept slugs as pets. Unfortunately I think the snails here are brown garden snails, an invasive species.