Friday, September 27, 2019

When we got back to our house, I immediately checked the bird feeders. One of the feeders is hanging from a thick tree branch by the side of our house. The feeder was on the ground. It had dirt all over it. The rope looked like it had been either ripped by the tornado in Yarmouth or chewed by a squirrel or chipmunk. The second feeder which is a tray feeder was just empty. There was no damage. The next morning, my mom, dad, sister and grandpa went to eat breakfast at this small cafe about 5 minutes away. After that we went to the hardware store and bought a new bird feeder, seeds, screws, pulleys and ropes.  After lunch my grandpa and I went into our garage. We took out the rope and pulleys we had just bought and looped the rope through the bottom pulley with one wheel and the top pulley with two wheels. Then we drilled holes into the roof of the bird feeder and threaded weed wacker twine through it and then drilled the screws in. Then we used a lighter to burn the rope together after it was looped through the pulleys. 

After we hung up the birdfeeder, it didn’t take long for the birds to find the seeds. One day I was playing in the playroom by the birdfeeder when I heard a strange noise like  whiiiip, whiiiip, whiiiip! I looked out the window and saw… two flickers that were bobbing up and down next to the birdbath that looked like they were mating and making the noise. A few minutes later a Blue Jay flew in screeching and flying fast. He spread out his wings to slow himself down. But when he landed, he lost his balance and dangled upside down with only his claws holding onto the feeder. He was a juvenile. He pumped his wings to get a firm hold on the feeder again.  The pictures on the photo gallery section shows just some of the great backyard birding from this summer on Cape Cod.

In mid-July we left Cape Cod for ten days and went to Florida to see my cousins and grandma.  On the photo gallery of the Cape Cod and Florida section of birdsandturtles you will see some of the pictures I took from our three main birding destinations.

Our first day in Florida, we went to the venice jetty with my uncle and one of my grandpas. Near the end of the jetty, There was a snowy egret walking around and searching for some dead bait fish that were dropped but not squished. As we were walking back to our car, we saw a man cast his fishing line and instead of catching a fish he accidently caught a pelican. He felt terrible about catching the pelican and reeled the pelican in close enough so he could cut the line and he did. “Oh, it will just fall off,” he said.

A few days later, before I had summer swim camp with two of my cousins, I went to the venice rookery with my family.  It is a pond with some trees and a nice habitat for birds and fish. There were older people bird watching. We saw a few dead fish, a family of Whistling Ducks, A black Crowned Night Heron, an elusive Blue Jay, and two or three Anhingas. The Black Crowned Night Heron was perched on a log overlooking the shore of the pond. Luckily we didn’t see any alligators.

Our third to last day in Florida, my family plus my cousin Danny, who is 9, drove about 45 minutes away to Lido Key to see the rare Black Skimmers. There is a colony of Skimmers that nest all along the beach. Also while we were at the beach, I captured some great pictures not only of the Skimmers but of Brown Pelicans also. The skimmers are called Skimmers because they skim the water with their lower mandible because it is longer so they fly low and skim the water and catch their tasty little fish and crustaceans. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Birding at Bass rock

After a 45 minute train ride from Edinburgh to North Berwick in scotland, we walked to the Scottish Seabird Center. At the center, we had to get in line fast to get tickets or we would have to wait for the next boat trip to Bass Rock. We did get tickets but after that we had to get good seats on the boat or we would have to stand up to take pictures and not stay in our seats.  Once we got to our first stop, not Bass Rock but a small little island with a lot of puffins. Most of them were in the water but some of them were inside there burrows with the chicks. Puffins do make nests but not on top of the ground.  The puffins were amazing. They dig burrows underground and lay there eggs there instead of above ground. We circled the island once and then we headed to Bass Rock.

Atlantic Puffin just taking off.

On our way to Bass rock,we knew when we were getting close because thousands of Gannets started to fly over our heads.  When we first saw Bass Rock from far away, it looked white because there were so many Gannets close together. When we got closer, Bass rock looked white but now we could see the Gannets up close. We got super close. Now instead of just a few Gannets flying over our heads,  there were thousands. There were so many, the sky was white! Most of the Gannets were on Bass Rock. The Gannets were so loud, it sounded like I was behind a fighter jet about to take off. I was super excited. Sadly, the chicks have only a few days to learn how to swim and dive or they will starve because soon after they hatch, the parents will stop catching fish for the chick. There were some Gannets mating with each other. I did not stop clicking the shutter on my camera until we were
speeding off back to the seabird center. My fingers were so tired, I thought they would fall off!

 Close up of a Northern Gannet's six-foot wing span.
I loved the trip because the Gannets are so big and it seemed as if you could almost touch them. They were so close.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Birding at Ribble Reserve

We just completed our first trip of the summer of 2019.

It turned out it was going to be way more different then we first planned it to be.

We went to the UK and did some great birding. 
Our first reserve was Hesketh Outmarsh at Ribbles Reserve in England and our destination was Bass Rock in Scotland.

 Ribbles Reserve was wet and green with fresh air and birds everywhere, and I immediately knew we were somewhere much more lush than barren Saudi Arabia. On our right side was farmland.  The farmlands were basically fields of soil with rows and rows of green plants and vegetables. On our left side was mud and there were pools of water scattered about. The air was cold, damp and moist. Eurasian Skylarks would fly up out of the grass and hover up to about 60 feet up in the air and stay there for about 4 minutes and then hover down tweeting incessantly.  It was like being in the Amazon Rain Forest because it was moist, misty, and damp. My mom and I walked down to one of the marshes and saw a few birds such as: 4 common Shelducks, 2 Pied Avocets, and 2 Eurasian Oystercatchers. 

Pied Avocet wading and looking for aquatic insects.

After our observations at Hesketh Outmarsh, we took a short drive to the mud flats by the sea and the ecosystem had changed significantly. 

Once again there were skylarks, but this time they sounded like they were coming from every direction. It sounded like a symphony of tweeting occasionally imitating a Barn Swallow or a Green Plover and we estimated there were about 55 Sky Larks. My mom was super excited. She kept saying how many and how loud they were. The scenery had changed a lot. Now it was muddy flats with nothing but mud until the shore. There the mud was almost like quick sand. In Manchester my sister and I got wellies, and I was waiting for an opportunity to wear them. When I was out exploring on the shoreline, it was a good thing I had them because I got stuck in mud and could not get out. My dad did not have any wellies, but he yelled instructions at me like he always does to get out. Finally I did and I carefully walked back to safe ground. On our walk back we saw more Skylarks and my mom was still just as excited as she was at the beginning of the walk!

Eurasian Skylark hovering overhead.

My boots were so caked with mud that I had to stomp like a soldier back to our car.

Please stay tuned for my next post about our visit to Bass Rock in Scotland!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and Birding

Our guide, Hassan, started with a discussion where we learned there are three species of falcons at the hospital. They are Gyrfalcon, (Falco rusticolus,) the Peregrine Falcon,( Falco peregrinus,) and the  Saker Falcon,(Falco cherrug).

In the second room, all the falcons had hoods on because if they did not, they would attack each other and injure and maybe try to or fight each other.

The next thing we did was split up into two groups and the other group went to a different table and my group watched the veterinarian/doctor anesthetize the falcon to clip its' talons. He anesthetized the falcon by putting the falcons' head into a large plastic tube the right size for it is head. Then, after he clipped it is talons, he showed us all of the falcons' feathers, its' ear, its'mouth and a radio transmitter in case falcon escapes.  After he took the falcons' head out of the tube, it started to wake up after about 10-15 minutes.

Another thing we did in that room, was were some of the other people and I got to hold a falcon and my sister got to too. The falcon weighed about 1 kg. We were Wearing gloves just for handling birds of prey. The falcon wasn't interested in looking at the camera  but it did for about 1/2 a second. When my sister was holding the falcon with help from my mom, The falcon suddenly tried to fly away.
For more information about my falcon hospital adventure, visit my bird travels section.

Me holding a Peregrine Falcon 

Another adventure I had in Abu-Dhabi, was in Eastern Mangroves National Park.

During our trip to the incredible Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi, we went on two different boat rides. One was at 7:30 am. And the other one was at 4:30 pm. on two different days.Some of the birds we saw on our first trip at 7:30 am. was a Common Kingfisher, one Gray Heron, and three Red Wattled Lapwings. On our second trip we saw two Purple Sunbirds, three Striated Herons and A pair of Egyptian Geese. The boat was a 75 horsepower outboard pontoon boat and it was quiet boat just right for watching birds.

Flamingos on mud flats eating brine shrimp.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Raptor Counts, Batumi Georgia August 18th and 19th

Batumi Raptor Count

Our day began with a short but steep hike to watch point one.  It was difficult to find the trail and we asked a local lady for help and she pointed in the general direction we needed to go.  When we arrived at the monitoring station I saw several people standing and looking through binoculars, and there were also about five spotting scopes set up.  The hike to the second watch point was about a half an hour longer than day one and it provided great views of the Black Sea and surrounding areas.

We saw a couple of raptors at a distance but we were about ten days early for the major migration.  The main thing I learned was that each person is assigned a different sector, for example, west 1, west 2, west 3 and  east 1,2,3 and so on.  To make sure they identified the sex and species correctly, an observer would call out the region and species for example, "east 1 honey buzzard adult male."  Then the other observers would check and confirm the identification.

We also learned that the raptors migrate from Russia all the way to Africa without eating.  The area we were in is a "bottleneck" between the Black Sea and Caucus Mountains and in the height of the migration they count tens of thousands of raptors per day.  Please look at the Batumi Raptor Count website to learn more about it. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Harbor Patrols July 21st and 23rd

July 21st

We arrived at Monte Mare, the villa where the Wildlife Sense volunteers stay, and climbed into the van with the rest of the team.  After about 15 minutes on a windy, narrow road, we arrived at Argostoli Harbor

Our job was to observe and record various behaviors of turtles while walking along the harbor's edge.  At first, all we saw were females swimming along, including Phoebe, a harbor resident who was waiting for fishing boats to arrive.  We didn't record this because she was just swimming.  After our first break we saw a male and female biting and chasing each other.  Wildlife Sense wants us to record this information because the turtles act aggressively because they feel like they own their own personal fishing boat.  The fishermen often clean their fish in this area and dump the fish heads in the water.  All of the interactions we saw this morning were in this area. 

Maud and I on harbor patrol.

We can tell male turtles because they have very long tails and large curved claws on their front flippers.  The males have large claws so they can grip on to the females carapace during mating.  Sometimes the males tuck their tales under their shells so it can be difficult to clearly identify the sex.  That is why the form we were using has a category for male, female, and "unknown." 

For a close-up of the form see my Kefalonia section on turtle travels.

Harbor Patrol July 23rd

After meeting the team at Monte Mare and riding in the van for the 15 minute drive, we arrived at Argostoli Harbor.  We were walking around the harbor and saw fisherman in their boats throwing fish parts in the water and feeding turtles.  This attracts tourists to their boats where they are selling fish.  We told our shift leader and took a picture of the boat to be recorded.  The fisherman know they are not supposed to do this, but they do it anyway.  It makes me mad.

We saw many more interactions this time.  Most of them involved the "in situ" turtle swimming along and an intruder coming in to the area.  Some times the in situ turtle would bight and chase the intruder away, and other times the intruder chased the in situ turtle away.  "In situ" means "in the original place in Latin.  This is how the turtle that was there first is recorded on the form.

Notice the large claw on right front flipper; this is a male.
In my blog post for the July 20th tagging event I talked about Jane.  She is a female that has a fractured skull.  In my post from that day, I described how I poured water on a bandage on her head to keep her wound cool and to prevent her from getting sunburned.  She has a giant white spot on her head where her scutes were ripped off by a boat propeller.  The last time I saw her she was being taken away in Chanel's car to get x-rays on her skull.  While we were patrolling, I saw a large female swimming up to an in situ turtle and then I noticed the large white spot on her head which told me that it was Jane.  I was very excited because it showed that Jane was back in the water and doing better.

Notice the white spot on her head were her scutes were ripped off.  It's Jane!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Harbor Sea Turtle Tagging and Health Check July 20th

After my early morning survey on Avithos Beach we drove straight to Argostoli Harbor to take part in a tagging and health check of turtles that are currently residing there.  After meeting the team near the harbor we were asked to go to our assigned sector to help spot turtles.  My job was to spot a turtle and once I did, to raise one arm straight up in the air, and the other arm straight at the turtle.  This way Harry, the diver and turtle capturer, would know where the turtle is.  The first turtle we spotted, Harry was standing next to me on the bulkhead and then he dove straight into the harbor and grabbed the turtle from the sides of its carapace, and then he steered it toward the tagging area by using his own flippers and arms.

Harry guiding the turtle in to the tagging area.

Once the turtles were brought to the tagging area, Chanel and Josh heaved them up out of the water and carried them about six feet to the tarp were they were checked.  We were there for about 4 hours and in that time the team checked about seven turtles.  There were many measurements and other checks taken in the time each turtle was out of the water.

Chanel and Josh heaving a turtle out of the water.
 Some of the measurements that were taken were of the length and width of the carapace.  This was done with both a flexible tape measure and metal calipers.  This was done because the shell bends and the tape measure can reach around the bend to also measure the curve in the shell.  Other measurements we recorded were the tail and plastron length and width.  The plastron is the hole where the eggs come out above the tail.  Chanel had me put my finger inside the plastron of one of the turtles so I would know what it felt like.  There was a lot of pressure on my finger and it felt like it was getting pulled.

Besides the measurements, the team recorded the tag numbers of the turtles that had already been tagged, and they stapled tags on the flippers of the turtles that had not been previously tagged.  I was also asked to scan the microchips of the turtles.  The tags and microchips help keep track of the turtles and to help understand which ones are residents, and which ones are from other places.

The team also monitors the health of the turtles and performs checks.  All of the turtles captured had barnacles on them which can make it harder for them to swim.  The volunteers used special scrapers to get under the barnacles and pry them off.  There was one turtle who had a piece broken off of it's carapace and my dad recorded this by illustrating a diagram to show where the missing piece was.

Prying off barnacles from a turtle.

One turtle named Jane had a large wound on her head where several scutes were missing.  This was caused by a boat propeller.  The team placed a gauze pad on the area and I poured water on it several times to keep it cool and wet while the volunteers took measurements.  Chanel was worried about Jane so she decided to take her to a holding area and get her x-rayed.  It turned out she had a fractured skull.  The team to decided to put her back in the water because confining her in a holding tank could cause more harm to her skull because she was banging into the side.  They are going to continue to monitor her and may possible fly her to Athens if she seems to get worse.

Jane with a bandage on her head.  I poured water on it to keep it cool.

This was a great experience and I learned a lot about how Wildlife Sense uses science to better understand sea turtles in Kefalonia.