Maplewood: September 12th 2009

I spent about two hours during the evening at Maplewood Conservation Area and it was slow… very slow. I usually check out the mudflat first and today there were quite a few American Widgeon as well as a couple of Mallards and several Northern Pintails.

During this time of year Gulls begin to show non-breeding plumage; such as this Ring-billed Gull foraging in the shallows:

A slow birding day is often a good time to reflect and appreciate some of the more common, ever present, species of birds such as the Black-capped Chickadee. As summer turns to fall chickadees form flocks of six to eight birds; although, in areas with abundant sources of food, such as suburbs with bird feeders, larger groups will develop. Chickadees will cache food so that it can be retrieved at a later date when needed. This mostly occurs during autumn; though, birds may store food at any time of the year. This may play an important role in the survival of the bird during winter; particularly northern populations (Smith and Susan 1993). It has been found that Chickadees can remember a particular cache site up to a month later (Hitchcock and Sherry 1990). During very cold nights Black-capped Chickadees can enter a state of regulated hypothermia in which they slow their metabolism and thus lower their body temperature by ten to twelve degrees centigrade (Chaplin 1976). This allows them to conserve precious energy.

The day wasn’t a complete bust though; near the westernmost pond I located a female Merlin sitting at the top of a tree. As I went to take my camera out of my backpack the bird swooped after a small songbird, likely a sparrow or finch, and proceeded to chase it west across a grassy area. The hunt was unsuccessful and the Merlin continued flying west.

References:

Smith, Susan M. 1993. Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/o39

Hitchcock, C. L. and D. F. Sherry. 1990. Long-term memory for cache sites in the Black-capped Chickadee. Anim. Behav. 40:701-712.

Chaplin, S. B. 1976. The physiology of hypothermia in the Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus. J. Comp. Physiol. B. 112:335-344.

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