Journal archives for October 2022

October 09, 2022

Lots of Furtive Forktails in the Swamp

I wanted to note that I made a bunch of observations today of Furtive Forktails in the swamp. They were in the sedges and grasses along the second run. Every time I moved, several of them would fly and then softly land in a new area.

Normally I would not make so many observations of the same species on the same day, but they were so abundant that I wanted to make note of that by adding a few observations. There were both male and females around.

In addition, there were quite a few Fragile Forktails and as always, the Blue Dashers and Eastern Pondhawks.

Posted on October 09, 2022 12:49 AM by amybirder amybirder | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 13, 2022

Ladies' Tresses

Explanation by @arethusa

S. ovalis is a small plant with tiny flowers. More significantly, the lateral sepals are generally more separated from the petals and the labella are white or sometimes centrally yellow. S. odorata is actually the largest Spiranthes species in the United States and Canada, has lateral sepals which diverge little from the petals, and has labella which are centrally yellow or yellowish-green. The central yellow-green coloration isn't usually very strong, but it is visible in your photos if you look closely.

Posted on October 13, 2022 05:11 PM by amybirder amybirder | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Myzinum carolinianum - Wasp

Myzinum carolinianum
a member of Thynnid Flower Wasps Family Thynnidae

Helpful tip from @bob296
The yellow scapes and black antennae are the key

See observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/137988004

Posted on October 13, 2022 05:13 PM by amybirder amybirder | 1 comment | Leave a comment

Cantharellus - Golden-colored Mushrooms

From post https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/133401890
Assisted by @pynklynx

I think you have a species of Cantharellus, the color of the gills does not match Craterellus. You might not remember what they felt like but the texture looks off for Craterellus. Craterellus is much more "rubbery" compared to Cantharellus and won't shred like string cheese...it's hard to guess from photos but to my eye the texture looks right for Cantharellus.

Posted on October 13, 2022 05:16 PM by amybirder amybirder | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Downy Lobelia

Assistance provided by @mjpapay
For observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135795891

The key trait is usually the morphology of the calyx lobes.

In green calyx that immediately subtends the colored part of the flower, if the elongate calyx lobes are

smooth, bald, and toothless = Lobelia amoena (usually stream side)
pubescent similar to stem, the pubescence increased to short hairs = Lobelia puberula
not pubescent but with long bristly ciliate hairs = Lobelia syphilitica (underside of floral tube usually distinctly striped white)
bald, but margin with sparse but distinct chunky teeth = Lobelia georgiana

Posted on October 13, 2022 05:20 PM by amybirder amybirder | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Comments - searching

You can find and search your comments here: https://www.inaturalist.org/comments?mine=true

This doesn’t include comments added in an ID though, which is addressed here:
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/include-identification-comments-in-total-of-comments-comment-search-etc/1563

As far as I know, there isn't any way to get to these functions unless you just "know" the URLs. Frankly, that stinks if it is true. I don't remember squat--I rely on menus or buttons to navigate. I went through most of the menus/links that I could find (and I may have missed some and I'm on a tablet at the moment which also affects what I see on the screen) but I'm darned if I can find anything that does what the top link does.

And there SHOULD be a menu item or link or button for that!
Anyway, I hope this journal post will help me remember that link.

Posted on October 13, 2022 10:24 PM by amybirder amybirder | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 14, 2022

Green Heron

In 2018, I spent the summer observing two Green Heron nests on our property in Sealevel, NC.
To document what I'd seen, I put some of my photographs and my comments in a YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlYcvQ0LxOU&t=2s

Of the two nests, the first and earliest one was the most successful. Five Green Herons lived to disperse, although the immature birds kept coming back to the nest site or surrounding area in the evenings to roost.

The second nest was later in the season and out of four eggs, one didn't hatch. One of the chicks died during a tropical storm that swept through the area, leaving two Green Herons to survive. Those two fledged successfully and dispersed late in the season (late August).

I was never able to determine if the two nests belonged to one pair of adults who successfully raised one brood early and later attempted another brood or if it was one pair and then a second pair that arrived or simply nested later. I never saw more than two adults in the area at the same time, leaving me unsure.

Most species accounts indicate that Green Herons only have one nest per season and make no attempt to have a second nest, but from what I observed, I still wonder. It seems strange that I only ever saw the two adults in the area--I would have expected to see at least one more and possibly two if there were actually two pairs nesting in our small area.

I found the juvenile behavior particularly interesting. The siblings seemed to want to stay together as follows.

First Nest: 5 siblings. Two were smaller and very shy and left to forage on their own much earlier than the other three. The bigger three stayed together at the nest site even after the adults stopped coming. They foraged in the boat basin for quite a long time after they were able to fly. One by one, they did fly off during the day to forage, but often returned together in the evening to roost.

Second Nest: Only 2 survived to fledge. Those two really stayed together and they stayed at the boat basin for quite a long time--at least a month--after they appeared able to fly. In late August they began to fly to nearby areas to forage but continued to remain together. Like the first nest siblings, they often returned in the evening to roost.

In both cases, the siblings seemed to want to stay in contact with each other and would forage together and return to the nest site to roost together in the evening. They continued this behavior until migration in October.

I searched for more information on Green Heron nesting and juvenile behavior but there is a paucity of information available on actual behavior. What I observed between the siblings was very interesting. The group of three siblings often roosted during the day on a bare, dead tree before they began flying to other areas to forage. They would jockey for position on the snag, trying to be the one perched on the highest limb. I wish I could have banded them to know if the same bird always "won" the top perch or if it was first one and then the other depending upon who got there first.

With the two later siblings, it was interesting to watch them together because they would often take up positions so that one would face one way while the other faced another way as if they were "watching each other's back." They stayed closer to each other than the first bunch did and seemed to prefer roosting lower down on the Virginia Creepers and other vines twisted together closer to the water.

The nest site was in a sweet bay bush that was overhanging an old, disused boat basin on our property. Virginia Creeper vines were twined all through the bush and there were other bushes as well as an oak tree growing around the basin, providing a great deal of cover.

In more recent years, there were some Green Herons hanging around the boat basin this last summer (2022) but we never saw any juvenile or immature herons emerge from the vegetation so the adults may not have made a nest attempt but were just foraging in the area.

No other nesting attempts appear to have been made in that particular area more recently.

Posted on October 14, 2022 05:07 PM by amybirder amybirder | 2 comments | Leave a comment

October 16, 2022

How it all started

In 2018, I noticed adult Green Herons visiting our dock and the disused and overgrown boat basin on our property at Sealevel, NC. This was in April and May of 2018.

At the time, I didn't realize that the adults were actually nesting in the thicket of sweet bay and Virginia creeper overhanging the boat basin. This fact didn't come to my attention until I started seeing juvenile/immature Green Herons perching on the shrubs and an old snag at the boat basin. Once I saw them, I began observing the site more closely.

There were five chicks in this early, first nest attempt and I believe they hatched sometime around May 28, 2018. All five herons fledged and dispersed by the end of June. They did, however, stay in the area and I often saw them throughout the summer perching on docks near mine. Three of the young really seemed to stay together and always perched together in the evenings. Sometimes, one or two more of their siblings would join them, but those three really stayed together--at least within sight of each other.

I discovered a second nest later that summer. I believe the chicks hatched sometime around June 26, 2018. That nest produced three chicks and one egg didn't hatch. By July 18, only two chicks remained. We'd had a tropical storm in the interval and I believe the third chick was lost during that storm.

By July 24, the two chicks from the second nest were making experimental flights and preparing to disperse. One chick stayed quite near for another month, preferring to forage around the original nest site.

The adults and independent juveniles continued to visit Nelson Bay, the surrounding docks, and our disused boat basin quite regularly for the rest of the summer.

I created this project to document the two nest attempts and the behavior I noted in the juveniles. There appears to be very little information anywhere on actual behavior and it was absolutely fascinating to watch the interactions of the juveniles.

There is also an interesting point that I noted and that might be something researchers might want to study in future research.

In these two nest attempts by Green Herons and in other nest attempts I observed of Yellow-crowned Night-Heron on our property in Bladen County, I noted that nest attempts made in late June are far less successful than earlier attempts.

Sealevel - Green Heron
Of the two nest attempts, the first which occurred starting in May was extremely successful and resulted in 5 offspring fledging.

The second attempt which started in June was far less successful. One egg didn't hatch. One chick died in a storm. The two remaining offspring fledged.

Bladen County - Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
2018-2019 I've been watching nest attempts of Yellow-crowned Night-Heron for several years. Initially, there was just one pair of nesting adults. They almost invariably nested in April/May and I grew used to seeing five juveniles fledge from the nest each year.

In 2019, two pair of adults set up nests about 200 yards apart. Both nests were successful. The original nest (and perhaps the original pair?) again had 5 juveniles fledge. The second nest had 4 juveniles fledge. Both nests were set up in the April/May time frame.

In addition, I found three more nest sites within a mile radius. Two within 100 yards of each other in a pine stand at the edge of a swamp run and the third in a pine in the middle of a mixed hardwood swamp in the same general area. Of those, the earlies nests which were started again in the April/May timeframe, all produced 5 young which fledged. Any nests started in June invariably produced only 2 or 3 juveniles that fledged.

In 2019, we also started having issues with mid-summer droughts. The third nest I found in the mixed hardwood swamp area had been started in June and by July, the two surviving young were panting due to heat. By the end of July, I found their bodies below the nest. I believe they perished due to the heat and lack of rain/water.

In 2020-21 the drought continued and there was very little water in the swamp. The three nests that I had found that were not on our property were abandoned. In fact, the third nest where the young had perished of heat in 2019 was actually being used as a roosting/resting place by a Red-shouldered Hawk, who would fly there with some creature in its talons to sit and consume it comfortably on the remnants of the heron nest. I even saw a Great-crested Flycatcher going to the abandoned nest after the hawk, presumably to eat the flies and other bugs that had collected on the remains of whatever the hawk had eaten.

2021 also saw a tragedy with the two Yellow-crowned Night-heron nests on our property. Both nests had 5 juveniles each and were doing very well, having been started in late April/early May. But in June, raccoons found the nests. First, I discovered a puddle of adult feathers on the ground near the nests. The next day, I found puddles of juvenile feathers. Both nests were empty.

In 2022, the night-heron original two nest sites were abandoned. I did find a nest site much further into the swamp, along what would be the 4th run. But that site was started late--in June--and again, I found the bodies of two chicks beneath the nest in early July. We were still having drought conditions (and are still having drought conditions). I do not know what killed the chicks, but their bodies were entire and not eaten (except by the normal scavenger insects, etc) so I do not think it had been found by racoons.

So...the point is that I have noticed a distinct difference in the success rates of nests started early in the season versus those started later. Unfortunately, the Yellow-crowned Night-heron may have moved to other areas with more water, etc, so I do not know if I will get any more opportunities to study them.

The Green Herons at Sealevel have not nested in our disused boat basin in recent years, although we have seen adults periodically visit our dock during the summer months. I am hopeful that they may again nest at the boat basin in the future. If they do, I will record that information.

Posted on October 16, 2022 02:45 PM by amybirder amybirder | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 17, 2022

Nests at the Disused Boat Basin

There were two Green Heron (Butorides virescens) nests at the disused boat basin at Sealevel, NC during the summer of 2018. We didn't discover the first nest until "adolescent" birds were seen in the mid to late June timeframe.

Of the first nest, we don't know how many eggs were laid, but 5 birds fledged. The immature birds sorted themselves out into two groups: a group of 3 larger birds and a group of 2 smaller birds. The group of 3 hung out in the open, perching and jockeying for position on an old bare tree snag. They were very conspicuous and didn't bother to move or hide when we came out into the yard or even stood ten feet away.

Adults visited a few times and the youngsters annoyed them for food, tapping the adult's bills and heads in attempts to get them to disgorge food. This was earlier in June and unbeknownst to me, the adults may actually have been sitting on the second nest (I was unaware of its presence until later in June when I saw the chicks). The adults pretty much ignored the juveniles' attempts to get food from them. I was kind of surprised by this because I thought the adults had stopped feeding the juveniles fairly early in the juveniles' development. But it may be that this was a second group of adults and not the parents of the juveniles.

That is a big question for me because the literature states that these birds only have one nest per season. And yet I never saw sufficient numbers of adults (more than 2 and of those, mostly just 1 at a time) to account for two nests at the disused boat basin. The second nest was so much later in the season and the adults had stopped feeding the juveniles from the first nest so... I keep wondering if the same pair of adults actually had two nests. I'm probably wrong, but judging by the behavior and timing, it just seems like a possibility.

Anyway, in mid-June I thought there were only 3 young birds from the nest until I saw the other two. The group of two were smaller and much shyer. They preferred to stay in the shadows of the Virginia Creeper and bay bushes around the pond. If we approached the pond, those two would often edge further back into the bushes where they could not be seen (or photographed). In fact, they were so much shyer that I was not able to capture any photographs of them.

When they decided to leave the nest site around June 26, the shyer group of 2 left and flew away to other sections of marsh around Nelson Bay pretty much at dawn. The group of 3 again, as was their wont, strutted around the lawn and dock, out in the open, before they made any attempt to fly to nearby marshes around the bay. They were quite bold and unafraid.

The group of 2 did not appear to return to the nest site after once fledging and leaving it--or at least I was unable to identify them if they did. Or they may have returned/left during dawn and evening hours when I was not watching the site.

The group of 3 however were noticeable as a group all around Nelson Bay for the rest of the summer. They routinely flew back together and landed as a threesome on docks in the area and frequently made it back to the nest to roost at night.

On July 10, I noticed the "gang of 3" had returned to the boat basin and they were very much annoyed by finding an adult Green Heron there, visiting the second nest. One of the gang of 3 and the adult raised the feathers on their heads and made aggressive/annoyed/dominance displays at each other. This can be seen in this observation (although I was only able to photograph one of the herons): https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/139127633

However, the adults visiting the 2nd nest were very secretive and usually made their visits at dawn/dusk and other times when the juveniles were not around to harass them.

Which actually made me worry about the survivorship.
Theory: This is a question I now have and have not been able to answer because we had no way to band either the adults or the juveniles while we watched them. We therefore don't precisely know which bird was which or which have returned in more recent years.

Given the above, I now wonder if the bolder juveniles survived quite as well as the more secretive ones. True, the bolder ones apparently--given the size differences in the young--got more attention and food from the adults and were therefore larger. BUT (this is a big "but") the smaller, more secretive ones might be more adept at avoiding predators due to their more secretive nature. They started out smaller, but they may have been more skilled at avoiding detection and therefore, more able to survive.

Another factor however will be health and ability to migrate, and the larger, bolder juveniles may have the edge there.

So as I mentioned, I cannot come to any conclusions about this since we were not able to band any of the birds (our banding license had been long expired by 2018). But it was interesting to watch them.

Posted on October 17, 2022 05:04 PM by amybirder amybirder | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 19, 2022

Second Nest at the boat basin

We discovered the second nest at the disused boat basin a few days after the chicks had hatched so we were fortunate to be able to watch their development.

Here are the general aging guidelines I found from various sources including Bent's life history of birds of North America and the Birds of the World website run by Cornell University.

The aging information is only approximate (+/- 2 days, more or less)

  • 1-9 Days; Parents stay or cover chicks
    Chick's iris is pale gray

  • 3 Days; Down on back, neck and femoral track
    Beak is pink with black tip
    Eye ring is pale yellow-green

  • 4 Days; Pin feathers appear
  • 5 - 6 Days; Feathers on spinal, ventral, and femoral tracts
    Around day 6 the eye ring is pale green

  • 7 - 8 Days; Feathers on neck
    Iris grayish white

  • 9 - 11 Days; Feathers on head and tail
    Around day 11, beak more orange with black tip

  • 14 - 17 Days; Eye ring greenish yellow
    Around 16th day, juveniles leave nest to explore surrounding area

  • 17 Days; Iris greenish to yellow
  • 21 - 22 Days; Eye ring greenish blue
  • 25 Days; All juvenile feathers present although there may be down on the head
    Juveniles may fly with parents to feeding grounds

  • 37 Days; All down gone

Sometime around June 26, 2018 there was a second nest at the disused boat basin that produced 3 chicks and 1 unhatched egg. The third chick was lost during a storm, but the other two chicks remained at the boat basin and only began to make experimental flights and forage elsewhere around July 24.

The juveniles from the first nest and one or two adults continued to visit the boat basin, especially in the evening, presumably to roost. The older juveniles and adults left around dawn if they had returned to roost.

In the development of the chicks in the second nest, it was interesting to watch them around day 9 because when the adults left the nest to forage, the chicks would poke around the nest area. By about 10 days they would experimentally bite twigs as if testing for edibility, but they never left the nest or ventured out of the cover of overhanging vegetation. In this observation, one of the chicks is biting a nearby twig. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/138844436
Pin feathers were clearly visible and even at this stage, they were a greenish-blue (cyan) color, making the chicks identifiable as Green Heron despite their young age.

By around 11 days, the young were "flexing their muscles" and chestnut pin feathers were clearly seen on their necks and chests. The flexibility of their beaks was also very noticeable as they yawned. This flexibility can be seen on observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/138844430
They frequently went to the edge of the nest to look around but didn't quite leave its shelter.

By approximately the 16th day after hatching, the chicks were starting to explore the area around the nest. By this time, some feathers had started erupting and the chestnut neck and cyan coloration of the wings and back were becoming more noticeable. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/139127636

The initial feathers continued to erupt and by day 21, most of the juvenile feathers were present although they still had downy heads (and rear ends). They were much bolder by this point and were exploring the area around the nest as well as making experimental foraging attempts in the boat basin. In this observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/139127649
the juveniles are approximately 24 days (give or take) and despite the feathers, bits of down are still visible here and there.

The immature herons at 24 days were attempting to forage in the boat basin and often caught small fish or crabs. The adults had stopped returning by this time (actually, they stopped well before this time) or only infrequently returned and did not appear interested in feeding the immature herons. I was rather surprised at how early in the juveniles' development the adults appear to have stopped regular feedings.

The two surviving chicks seemed to like to stay together, but this was more evident when they were between 24 - 30 days old. When they were younger, they individually explored the area close to the nest but didn't pay much attention to each other. As they grew a little older however, and moved 20-30 feet away from the nest, they preferred to remain close to each other. One would often look one way while the other looked the other way, as if visually trying to "cover the area" for potential threats. They were also very much aware of an osprey that had flown overhead and first one and then both turned to watch it.

In this observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/139335118 both chicks have turned to watch an osprey flying overhead. The immature herons are 26 days old at this point. They were becoming very alert to the presence of other creatures including the osprey, gulls, and me.

The two immature birds roosted at the nest area and had always roosted by the time any adults or immature herons from the first nest arrived back to the boat basin to roost. When immature herons from the first nest arrived, if there were adults or even other siblings there, they often engaged in dominance/aggressive behavior. However, this seemed to be kind of "mock" or tentative because it never resulted in any of the herons leaving the boat basin. They would raise their head feathers for a few minutes and then everyone would settle down and move to hidden roosting locations in the shrubbery.

By 36 days, the two immature herons were flying and foraging, although they stayed together. They would often engage in dominance/aggressive behavior: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/139335124
However, this behavior never resulted in one or the other leaving. It was just "mock" dominance. The two birds continued to forage together around the boat basin, dock, and shoreline for several more days before flying to nearby marshes to forage.

It was interesting to note that these two did not follow any adults to feeding grounds. They went together, on their own. However, by the time they were actively leaving to forage, the adults only infrequently appeared at the boat basin so perhaps the lack of attention by the adults (or lack of presence) encouraged these two to leave independently.

The 2 smaller immature herons from the first nest followed an adult to feeding grounds when they first left to forage. The 3 larger siblings from the first nest did not follow adult(s). They went out as a "gang" to forage in nearby marshes and frequently returned in the evening together to roost at the basin. The 2 smaller ones did not appear to return as often to roost or if they did, they did so during late twilight and in a much more secretive manner.

One thing that was interesting to me to see was that none of the immature herons attempted to feed each other or bring food to the nest, although part of their feathers-raised-bill-tapping may have been only part dominance and part wanting food.

I mention this because I noted on one occasion with Yellow-crowned Night-herons, one immature night-heron returned to the nest and disgorged food while another immature night-heron was present at the nest. Both night-herons appeared to be the same age. The night-heron returning with the crayfish behaved aggressively towards the other immature night-heron, forcing it away from the food it had disgorged. The other night-heron did, however, manage to sneak a small bite before the other night-heron gobbled up all the food it had disgorged.

The behavior was interesting to watch (I will try to post some photos from that observation, although the photos are very poor and dark). I did not note any similar behavior with the groups of Green Heron siblings.

Posted on October 19, 2022 04:35 PM by amybirder amybirder | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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