Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In the Personal Ads: Handsome, Colorful and Musical Character Seeking a Mate ....

Painted Bunting -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- Sunday, April 27, 2014 -- Photo by Carl Miller

           Last Saturday morning, I returned from walking in James Island County Park and realized that I was still hearing painted buntings as I got out of my car.  And the birdsong was not just in my head!  I walked out of the garage to see if I could locate the bird but the songster was hidden from view.  Then Sunday evening, Carl called to me that we had a Painted Bunting in the tree behind the house.  The bird then proceeded to visit the feeder!  We hoped that this bird would find our yard to be suitable habitat and would claim it as his territory!   And perhaps he has!  We saw him again Monday morning at the feeder.  And then as Carl and I were enjoying our new swing on our back deck yesterday evening, we heard and then saw our bird!  Yea!

        We believe that he is a second year male due to the patch of green-yellow color continuing on the left side of his breast.  Knowing that these buntings exhibit site fidelity, it is possible that we may have this same bird for summers to come if he does indeed claim Parc Perlière as his territory.  What he needs now is a mate!  All our previous painted bunting visitors have been just that -- visitors passing through in the late summer!  So, calling all pretty, female green birds, we have a handsome, colorful character with a beautiful song here.  He needs some company!  Food is abundant here at Parc Perlière!

         We have had another colorful character in our yard in the last few days.  Another pair of wood ducks have been hanging out!  I am not too sure about how high the intelligence index goes on the male!  There is a perfectly good, empty wood duck box available in the creek.  Yet, this fellow led his mate up into the yard and excitedly started gesturing up towards the bluebird box (currently occupied by nesting Carolina Chickadees)!  See the photo below.

Wood Duck looking at a bluebird box -- Sigh!  -- Parc Perlière -- April 27, 2014
He then flew to the top of the box and continued chattering away to his mate very excitedly about this new housing possibility!  I am very sorry that I missed that shot!  Needless to say the Chickadee was unhappy with the intrusion.  The duck's unimpressed mate turned her back and returned to creek.  She is probably having second thoughts about who she has picked as her mate.  Phew!  Poor guy!  He is trying.  Hopefully, these two will figure it out and perhaps we will have a second pair of wood ducks nesting here in short order at Parc Perlière! 

          So dear readers, there are more tales to tell from our backyard habitat.  We hope these colorful characters continue and we will keep you posted on possible future families if they do!


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wood Duck Update! Kudos to Mom!

Mama Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

           I dedicate this post to Mama Wood Duck!  Kudos to you, Mom!  Inspite of the odds against successfully brooding a parasitized nest and despite the naysayers who said you could not do it -- you did  do it little Mama!  You defended your nest from intruders and incubated their eggs as well as your own -- all 15 of them -- for 33 days!  The outcome -- all the chicks hatched and out of the box!  Thank you for this brief glimpse into your life.  We wish you luck with your very large brood!  And, now that you have left, we miss you.  But perhaps you will be back -- next Spring!

         So, my dear readers, here's the story.  Carl and I noticed the pipping on the eggs Monday, April 21.  Before we had left for work, at least one chick had hatched and Mom took off to have some breakfast and we went to work.  The camera inside the box did its job and recorded throughout the day the action in the box!

Hatching chicks -- Wood Duck --Parc Perlière -- April 21, 2014

Hatching chicks -- Wood Duck --Parc Perlière -- April 21, 2014

         That afternoon, Carl and I finalized our plan for how to record the "leaping from the box" event without intruding upon the family.  First we decided that we would be too obtrusive if we were outside.  Thus, the house would serve as our blind.  Carl pre-determined where he could place 2 remote control cameras in the creek in order to capture the action at the desired angle.  I chose a window from which to shoot my camera.  I would use live view and stay ducked down out of sight.  Carl also chose a window via which he could glimpse through foliage to know when she was coming.   We would also use the laptop to watch inside the box.  That evening, it was fun watching the kids bounce around inside the box!  They are so incredibly cute and active  -- as you will see from the video below.  Yet, when Mom gave the signal, all 15 of them would tuck in under her -- to stay warm throughout the night.

         The next morning we prepared the cameras and got into position before daybreak!  By dawn, the kids were becoming restless.  As daylight increased, they were more and more ready to go!  Several of them began climbing the wall and Mom would shoo them back down.  Mom rules the roost after all!  Finally, she determined that it was time to go.  She flew from the box ... and straight down the creek!  Huh?  This little Mom was taking a last flight and solo breakfast in peace before calling her 15 kids out of the box.  Carl and I waited patiently and watched the kids.  No one was bold enough now to try to climb out.

Mom has gone to have breakfast in peace -- Wood Duck --Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014
  After a short time, she returned and again, we waited.  Eventually, she decided to sit in the box doorway and surveyed the surrounding area for quite some time -- making sure that no predators were present.  The cameras in the creek and our open windows probably aroused some suspicion.  But finally, she dropped out of the box and began to call the babes -- who did not hesitate!  Out they popped!  It was amazing to watch!   After it was all over, Carl checked the box for unhatched eggs.  There were none.  Mama Wood Duck did a good job!

         First, the photos below will show you what I was able to capture with my camera.  Then, the video, compiled from 3 sources by the talented Carl, will show the hatching, the activity in the box and the jumping from the box!  Enjoy!

"Ready or not, here I come, world!" -- Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

"My turn!" -- Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

"Ah, water!" -- Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

"Is the gang all here?" -- And to think that most were still in their eggs 24 hours earlier!  Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

"On our way!"  -- Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

"Alright, kids!  Fall in line!" -- Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

Heading out -- Click on the photo for a larger view -- This is the photo via which we finally determined that there were 15 chicks!  -- Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

Is everyone keeping up? -- Click on the photo for a larger view --  Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

One missing -- back up the bank for the missing chick -- Click on the photo for a larger view  -- Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

The missing one is on his back on the right-hand side of the photo.  This was probably also the last one to leave the box.  It frequently fell and had a hard time righting itself when it was leaving the box.  Right after this photo was taken, Mom turned him right-side up and the family continued downstream.  Goodbye Wood Ducks!  -- Click on the photo for a larger view  -- Wood Duck -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2014

Here's Carl's excellent compilation of the video we shot!  Enjoy!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Quick! A Little Birdie Told Me .....!

Prothonotary Warbler -- April 5, 2014

          Quick!  Time is running out!  A little birdie just told me that there are still open slots in the Wine and Warblers Event tomorrow evening, Saturday, April 26 at SC Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest !  This is THE Not-to-Be-Missed Spring Event!  Imagine walking through the Swamp on the newly constructed (Beautiful and sturdy, I might add) boardwalk, sipping on wine, learning about the flora and fauna of the forest from a trained naturalist, when the Golden Boy star of the evening -- the fabulously perky Prothonotary Warbler -- flies in to perch mere feet from you to serenade you!  It happens every time, I promise!  You would think they trained these birds!  But they do not.  You will learn that these birds' hormones are in high gear as they are singing to establish their territories and to attract mates.   And if one male dares to cross the invisible (to us) line into another male's territory, watch out!  Zooming yellow torpedoes will fly right by you as they chase one another!  No worries!  These birds neural reaction times are far faster than ours.  Thus, I can also vouch that no  Wine and Warbler participants have been hit by one of these golden rockets.    

          What a convivial crowd of birders and non-birders, too,  to hang out with!  I highly recommend this event.  Carl and I will be there tomorrow evening.  Yes, I have blogged about Wine and Warblers in the past and if you would need more information to be convinced that this should be your Saturday night activity, you can see my previous posts here and here.   So come join us for food, wine, birdsong, & laughter on this fund-raising event for SC Audubon!  You will not be disappointed.  The first link will take you to the phone number that you need to make your reservation.  And thank goodness you can still get a reservation!  See you there!