Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Night Jars and Technology

Tree Swallow
My friend, Birder Barbara, is tops at identifying birds at sight, but also from their calls. She hears a soft chip and immediately knows what it is. I don't know how she ever learned all this, but I'm glad to take advantage of it. She mentioned that she had gone to a place in nearby Oldham County, KY, where she found both Whip-Poor-Wills and Chuck-Will's-Widow. Nightjars are not exactly common birds, so when she called with plans to go there last evening, Dick and I were excited to join. Morgan Conservation Park is billed as an "urban forest," but we first noticed the beautiful meadow of native grasses and purple smooth vetch blooming, while the Tree Swallows took turns guarding the nest box and swooping after insects for their babies inside. The park was acquired in 2003 using Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Funds and contains 4.3 miles of trails.

Henslow's Sparrow
While walking down the road, trying to avoid exposure to ticks as long as possible, we heard an unfamiliar bird calling. Tossing around ideas, we though maybe a Cowbird? Bob O Link??Grasshopper Sparrow? Finally Barbara suggested a Henslow's Sparrow, and just as she said the magic words, this gorgeous little sparrow jumped to the top of the vetch, and posed for pictures in the purple blossoms. I pulled out my brand new iPhone with Audubon's bird app, and we confirmed by picture and voice that is was a Henslow's Sparrow!  A LIFE BIRD for me! Who Hoo! Barbara was excited to see one in this part of the state, since she says she usually drives several hours to Western Kentucky to find them.

Narrow Leaf Verain
The park features an unusual geological outcropping identified in a biological inventory as a glade. The Morgan family referred to the area as a marl bed. Generations ago, farmers valued marl as a fertilizer for lime-deficient soils and as a soil conditioner for sandy soils. The lime in marl cements sand grains together, so the soil can better retain heat and water. When added to clay soils, marl has the opposite effect: soil particles became less cohesive, allowing more air, heat, water and plant roots to penetrate. The feature is noteworthy because glades are known to house rare plant and animal species. The soil is hard, bare and rocky, yet special plants have adapted to the poor conditions. We notice this small narrow leaf verain (no, I didn't know what it was, but found it in the flower field guide this morning). It was no taller than 6 inches anywhere we found it growing. The guide says it is common, but I don't recall seeing it anywhere else.

We saw evidence of animals all along the trail. I have no idea what kind of bug travels around with a hole punch to put round notches in the leaves it samples. Coyote scat was abundant.

I would suspect the deer have been nibbling on the white blades of these daisies, leaving the yellow centers.

Around 9:00, as the sunset blazed in pinks and purples, we heard the first Nightjar - a Chuck-Will's-Widow. It sounds like he's just saying "widow, widow." In a few minutes, Whip-Poor-Will joined the evening chorus. I'm always amazed at the names these birds have. Once again, I pulled out the iPhone and tried the DragonSpeak dictating app to record their songs. Click HERE and listen to the serenade. Blogger isn't good at sound files, so I hope this works, since the song is really neat. On later reflection, it might have been easier to just take a video and post it on YouTube. I had to figure out how to get the sound file off the phone, into iTunes, and then edit it, since I left the recorder on too long and picked up some conversation as well. You learn with experience, and I was just playing with my new toy. So this was a pretty good trip - 2 life birds (the Henslow's Sparrow and Chuck-Will's-Widow) and a chance to use some high tech birding tools! I itched all the way home, just imagining all the ticks climbing under my clothes, but after close examination was tick free, for this trip at least.

1 comment:

Anonymous said... sounds and looks like you had a wonderful time. I hear some of those sounds at home too. Thank you, I always learn something special from your blogs and wisdom.