Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Cordilleran. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Cordilleran. Sort by date Show all posts

July 29, 2006

10-Bird Meme: No. 6, Cordilleran flycatcher

Cordilleran flycatcher young, 13 days oldShould you name a wild animal?

I have always tried to avoid it, on the principle that “Nature cares about species, not individuals.”

Still, if you are Doug Peacock or Timothy Treadwell, and the animals involved are individualistic and, more importantly, capable of eating you, it would be understandable if you would name them. Honorable adversaries and all that.

But what about small birds?

This summer a Cordilleran flycatcher (Empidonax occidentalis) nested on a porch beam. We had a nest there last year, and also once in the 1990s. M., who takes the position that wild animals are individuals, named her Lucinda, a name that sort of incorporated her “tseet” call and was also a bit of a tribute. Her mate became Sidney.

She laid four eggs. As happened last year, the fourth egg hatched late, and that chick soon disappeared from view. This morning, after not having checked the nest for a couple of days, I saw only two fledglings, almost fully feathered and sitting outside the nest, but still being fed a healthful diet of moths by their parents. Did the oldest already depart, or did #3 die? I plan to check the nest for remains but not until it is empty.

Last year and this, they have influenced our lives. We never turn on the porch light, and we shush the dogs when they bark directly underneath the nest. During the incubation, we peer out the living room window to see if the female is on her nest, and we worry when she is missing during a thunderstorm. We watched Sidney drive off a larger black-headed grosbeak who landed on the telephone wire too near the nest, while Lucinda beat up on a pine siskin likewise.

Of course, we really cannot do anything for the flycatchers other than having provided them with a convenient nesting ledge.

UPDATE, July 30: This morning when I checked the nest, the two fledglings were gone. Maybe #1 made an earlier departure after all. Unlike last year, there were no dessicated remains of #4 in the bottom of the next, so that hatchling's fate is a mystery.

Talk about feeling like “empty-nesters.”

June 29, 2006

The bird on the porch

There is something about the vulnerability of a bird on her eggs that gets your attention. Margaret Soltan, a blogger normally concerned with university governance, found herself anxiously watching a wren's nest during heavy rains.

Cordilleran flycatcherLast year, a Cordilleran flycatcher (Epidonax occidentalis) hatched a brood in a nest on a beam on our front porch, even as the Mason Gulch Fire raged, the firefighters tromped up and down the porch steps moving all the furniture into the garage while we were gone, and all the rest of the commotion. It was a paradox in more ways than one. (Photo linked from this site.)

Four eggs hatched, but one hatchling perished. The remaining three grew up standing on the desiccated body of their sibling.

She--or one of her offspring--is back. For a couple of weeks, she and her mate flitted around the house. She would fly up under the eaves or try unsuccessfully to land on the conical top of the back-door porch light.

We went away for a few days, and on our return, there was the nest, in the exact same spot as in 2005, with one egg in it.

She didn't seem to sit on the egg much. (We wondered if she was just out hitting the bird bars.) Then there was another egg. Realistically, she must have to eat a lot of insects to get the nutrients for each egg, which is as big as her head.

Now there are four. She is on the nest more of the time--but right now, at dusk, she is gone.

I hear the male's two-note call in the oak brush, but there is nothing for him to do right now but eat. He will help to feed the young once they hatch.

Ornithologist George A. Clark, Jr., writing in the weighty Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior says, "Many Epidonax flycatchers use a nest only once." Reusing an old nest saves work, but old nests sometimes harbor parasites.

So by clearing away the old nest with the dead baby bird in it, did I encourage her to return--assuming it's the same bird?

July 19, 2014

All My Flycatchers, Season 10: Fly or Die!

Cordilleran flycatcher
(Cornell Ornithology Lab).


As I mentioned in the previous episode, there was a built-in design problem. Four fledglings, but only comfortable nest space for three.

One, probably the last-hatched by several days, always seemed to be the runt, the usual story.

Were its siblings shoving it out of the nest by the first week of July? Despite our efforts — putting a metal sheet between the nest and the top of the porch light where it was built in order to add a sort of safety zone before the drop — I came out a few days later and found the runt outside the nest, stiff in death.

The others kept growing and were suddenly starting to look like fuzzy adults. On the 13th I checked them — and one was gone, while another, startled, instead of cowering just flew away, a whole ten feet down to a railing.

Later in the day, #3 disappeared. And that was that. No practice flights, just go now!

And birds never come back to their old bedroom after venturing into the larger world.

It was over. They all dispersed. We hear an occasional flycatcher-ish peep! in the trees behind the house. At some point, it will be time to winter in Mexico.

M. and I felt a little diminished, that's the funny thing, even though it is nice to not have to duck our heads when going in and out the front door.

July 07, 2014

All My Flycatchers, Season 10: The "Plop Plop" of Falling Birds


This year's brood of flycatchers, on top of the front porch light.
Is four fledglings too many?

Right now, there is a large pillow — actually an L. L. Bean dog bed — laid under the porch light on the veranda.

Baby Cordilleran flycatchers keep falling out of the nest on top of the porch light, which they built in late May while we were away in Taos, ignoring my purpose-built special flycatcher nesting ledge on the back of the house.

This is an ongoing drama every year: will Lucinda (all females are named Lucinda) successfully incubate her eggs and raise some babies? Some times things go very wrong.

Often four eggs are laid, but only three hatch. Or four chicks are hatched, but one is found dead and dessicated in the nest.

This year, we still have four starting to grow adult feathers. But the nest, built according to whatever evolutionary pattern — and better sized for three — is not big enough. They are starting to fall out.

I was working at my desk Sunday afternoon when I heard M. scream at Fisher, the Chesapeake Bay retriever. "Bad dog!" etc.

But here he is, the product of umpteen generations of bird-dog breeding, catching the breeze just inside the front door, when a bird falls from the sky in front of him. Of course he went for it.

The chick seemed OK, I thought, just a little damp from saliva. So I put it back in the nest. M. put a baby gate in the doorway and moved one of Fisher's outdoor dog beds under the nest.

Thirty minutes later I looked out and there was a chick lying on the dog bed. Back into the nest with it.

Then we ate supper on the veranda, as usual, noting Lucinda's constant trips to the nest to feed the kids with whatever insects she was catching. (Her mate helps too.)

I started to carry the plates inside and, Whoa! "Grab Fisher!" I said. Luckily, he was still sniffing under the dining table for crumbs.

There were two fledglings on the dog bed. Back into the nest they went.

How long is this going to keep up? Do we have to keep Fisher off the veranda, where he is accustomed to lounging during the day between walks and meals?

They can't grow up fast enough for me. Or for Lucinda.

June 12, 2014

Birds, Beer, and Birds

This is not a condor nest.
¶ A California condor chick may have hatched in Zion National Park; nest still under observation.

SW Colorado sheriff tries shaming high-schoolers after end-of-year kegger that trashed a national forest site. Why the coyness about "a mountain town," Channel 4?

¶ Cornell's ornithology lab as a contest for "funky nests in funky places" — urban bird nests that are cute, funny, funky (a versitile word), or inconvenient (to humans).

I am not entering, but if I did, I would once again nominate the Cordilleran flycatchers, who sneaked in while M. and I were away in Taos and built a nest on the front porch light.

Of course, they ignored the nice, high, safe, sheltered nesting platform that I built for them on the back side of the house in favor of being right next to the front door.

The female is on the eggs, but I did not want to blast a flash in her face up close.

It's the annual flycatcher soap opera, a repeat of 2012's episode.

The photo contest entry deadline is July 1st.

May 09, 2013

Find a Funky Bird's Nest

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has a funky-nest photo/writing contest going.
Be creative! Take a photo, create some artwork, shoot video, write a story or a poem, or create a sculpture. Just show a bird’s nest built in some out-of-the-way or out-of-this-world place.
If I knew that I could win valuable prizes, I would take a better picture than this one, which originally appeared in this blog on July 5, 2008.

It is a Cordilleran flycatcher's nest on a piece of pipe that I left leaning against the chimney.

Amazingly, no fox walked by, reared up, and snatched the birds — the chicks fledged successfully.

After that episode, I built them a permanent nesting ledge higher up, which they do use — some years.

July 18, 2012

Held Prisoner by a Bird

Since I first started this blog, I have written at least one post each summer about our encounters with the Cordilleran flycatchers who like to nest on our house.

So call this All My Flycatchers, Season Eight.

In 2009, after some remodeling meant that their former favored spot on the veranda roof-support beam was not so private anymore, I built them a special flycatcher-nesting ledge, in a safe spot high on the back wall of the house.

It was a bigger success than my nest box projects.

This year they built a nest, but in the heat of June never laid any eggs. Or if they did, something got them. I never saw any.

But the flycatchers themselves were still around, calling, fluttering under the eaves.

M. and I went away for half a day a week ago, only to come back and find a new nest built on the front porch light.

Now if I had been smart, I would have removed the nest from the special flycatcher nesting ledge when I saw that they were not using it. They will not re-use a nest. Then they might have re-built and nested there. Instead, the nest is on the porch light.

Lucinda (all females are named Lucinda) has laid two eggs instead of the usual four. Must be a bit of late-season economizing, because normally the chicks would be hatched by now.

She is sitting the eggs — right by the front door! Obviously, we don't use that light.

In the summer, we use that long covered porch as an outdoor living room-dining room-work room. But walking out the door means scaring her off the eggs. Going out the back and coming up the steps means the same thing.

Dog traffic doesn't bother her, perhaps because she can look down on them. So I laughed when I saw M. crawling on hands and knees out the front door to bring in something from the porch.

Then I had to do it too—it's either that, or go out only when the bird is away from the nest.

Sure, we can go in and out the back door, but we miss eating outside.

It makes me feel more cooped up — that and having to do a lot of editorial work. So I have "penciled in" a fishing trip this evening, weather permitting.

June 23, 2009

A New Home for the Flycatchers


Not wanting to see a repeat of last year's reckless nesting behavior on the part of the Cordilleran flycatchers, I put up a nesting ledge more or less above last year's nest (and I moved the pipe).

Here is the female on her clutch of four eggs, the usual number.

I don't think that any of the other new or relocated birdhouses are occupied, however.

Evidently I understand dogs and flycatchers, but not cavity nesters.

July 05, 2008

Wily and Reckless Flycatchers

For the last three years, Cordilleran flycatchers have nested on our front porch.

This June we saw and heard a mated pair hanging around the house. But the favored porch-beam nest spot remained vacant. Where were they?

Duh! In back, on top of a pipe I had left leaning against one of the chimneys. And the young are already hatched.


August 03, 2007

"All My Flycatchers," Season 3 Final Episode


I was away on August 1st. On the morning of the 2nd, I found a dead fledgling beneath our nest of Cordilleran flycatchers.

The rest were gone. (The photo was taken on July 31st. Only three fledglings show, but the fourth could have been blocked by the others.)

Once again, four babies and three survived--we hope. Maybe we can catch a glimpse of them if they are still near the house.

And that wraps up this season of All My Flycatchers.

June 27, 2007

"All My Flycatchers"

SEASON ONE: After a lapse of some years, Cordilleran flycatchers return to our porch. Lucinda (all females are named Lucinda) investigates a philosophical paradox.

SEASON TWO: Lucinda starts a new family. Again she lays four eggs, but only three young survive to fledge.

SEASON THREE: Lucinda starts to build a nest in the same old spot, but June 6 brings an unseasonal windstorm. On June 7, I notice that the nest is gone.

Lucinda and a male are still in the area; we hear their calls. On the 22nd, with M. and me away in Colorado Springs and the dogs shut indoors, she starts rebuilding.

And she is still rebuilding. Is there time to rear another brood? In mid-July, a contractor will be coming to install new double-paned windows about ten feet from her nest site. Will she tolerate the disruption?

Stay tuned for All My Flycatchers, Season Three!

August 03, 2005

The Flycatcher Nest

M. and I were gone from July 24-30. When we came home, we checked the nest of the Cordilleran flycatchers that I mentioned earlier.

It was empty, except for the desiccated corpse of one chick--earlier I had noticed that one seemed to be smaller and weaker than the other two.

I was surprised that they had fledged so quickly, but this site seems to say that the time frame was correct.

July 21, 2005

The Flycatcher's Paradox

M. and I came home from a trip in mid-June to find a Cordilleran flycatcher (formerly known as a Western flycatcher before the "splitters" got involved) building a nest under a rafter of our front porch roof, where a telephone junction box makes for a platform.

Back in the mid-1990s, another of the same species had built a nest in the same spot, but until this year, no flycatcher returned. It could not be the same female, surely, but we had to wonder if it was one of her descendants. Or maybe not.

She sat her eggs, even with big dogs barking on the porch, our comings and goings, hot days, thunderstorms, and all the rest. They hatched about a week ago, as the Mason Gulch Fire was coming under control. Two of the three chicks are barely visible in this photo, as sightless, gape-mouthed, little grey-feathered creatures.

When they hatched, the male showed up, and the adults both bring insects to the nest.

The flycatcher's paradox? When the female was sitting on the eggs, she would return to the nest from a hunting trip in stages. First she landed on the telephone wire that runs from the porch to a utility pole. Then she would hop about half the distance to her nest, watching for danger. Then she would hop half of the remaining distance. Her actions made me think of Zeno's Paradox--of Achilles chasing the tortoise. If the flycatcher hopped each time half of the distance to her nest, would she ever reach it?