Sunday, February 16, 2014

Speckled beauties

Hey there! I hope all of you are having good weekends! These past few weeks have been crazy for me. I have early morning classes every day of the week, and let me tell you, it is even harder to get out of bed for class when I can hear birds waking up and calling outside of my window. But today, I finally found time and sampled some of those birdy treats!

My main goal for today was to just unwind and get back into bird-mode, so I didn't want to take too many pictures. But the birds were very excited today! I saw Anna's Hummingbirds, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Dark-eyed Juncos out the wazoo... And the Hermit Thrushes, in particular, were all over the place.

Three Hermits kept spooking each other up and down the hill, across concrete, into trees, up and down fences. I had never seen these thrushes more than 10 feet above ground or plucking berries from the branches of trees before today. Maybe they're getting ready for the spring? Is it already time for birds to start posturing for territory and superiority?

Whatever the reason for their activity, it gave me a lot of chances to see these little thrushes up close. They're absolutely adorable! It was also just fantastic to be outside and experience the birds. Hearing all of those lovely birdcalls every morning but having to walk in the opposite direction towards campus causes me actual pain. It was great to etch out an hour this morning and sit down with my trusty binoculars. Somebody has to check on those birdies and make sure they're doing okay! I'm happy to volunteer for the cause. ;)

Although I haven't had that much time for birding outside, I have been doing bird-related things indoors! Do you remember my gig at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology? I'm back in the MVZ this semester. Last semester, my main job was pest management. This semester, I'm doing both pest management and training in a lab. The lab studies Steller's Jays subspecies, comparing many attributes (morphological, vocal, and genetic) to find out which populations are actually different subspecies. I'm working in the genetics part, and it is so cool! (Although I'm not very good at pipetting. Oops.)

In terms of pest management, my partner and I are going through cabinets of eggs and looking for signs of infestations. It's really fun! We get to handle all kinds of specimens (VERY GENTLY, of course), and the egg cabinets are also situated in a pretty busy part of the museum, so people walk by constantly and chat with us. By "chat," I mean that most people are kind of weirded out that we're touching all of the eggs, and we get a lot of very polite "can I help you"-type questions. But once we explain what we're doing, they're all very friendly. Everyone in the MVZ is great. The MVZ is great. I love it a lot.

Most of the eggs are +100 years old.

This box makes me laugh every time.

Great Blue Heron eggs.

So yeah! Life is busy, but good fun! :) I hope I'll be able to go birding and update this blog more often... Fingers crossed! Until we meet again, happy birding!


  1. The hermit thrushes will definitely eat all sorts of berries, especially this late in winter as other food sources dry up. I had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet beating up its reflection in one of my windows last month (a window right next to a tree full of sap wells), and the Mute Swan pair on the pond outside of work are chasing everything off the water this month. It was suggested to me that this behavior might be resource-driven rather than early signs of breeding territoriality.

    I'm willing to go with territorial defense of food sources as a reason for the increased thrush interactions, because I don't want to get my hopes up that spring is close, especially since we may not even hit freezing today... *LOL*

    Thank you for sharing your bird walks and time in the MVZ. The eggs are very neat!

    1. Oh, it makes a lot more sense that their activity is about food! Thank you! It definitely would have been weird for them to be fighting over territories so early in the season. ;)

      You always leave such supportive comments, I appreciate it! I'm happy to talk to myself about birds and eggs and such, but it's nice knowing that someone else thinks this stuff is cool, too!

  2. I love the "missing eggs" box!! :D Wow, genetic research on Stellar's jay subspecies?? You're moving up in the world, girl!! ;)