Monday, February 27, 2012

A Tale of a Pied-billed Grebe

There I was on my sofa last night about to finish a good book when my dog Lucy started to bark and bark. 

Up the steps came Javier, Andreja and their youngsters Gaia and Lenart.  They were distraught about a bird Javier had found while canoeing in a marshy area along the lake.  Caught in a fishing net, the bird was exhausted.  Javier managed to get it untangled and decided that I was the only person who might be able to care for it.  Yep, evidence that I have the reputation of being the local bird lady.
They thought it a duck.  These photos will show that it was a juvenile Pied-billed grebe. 

After examining the bird for injuries (none noted), the next question was what to do.  I didn't really know, because I've never been that close to a baby PB grebe and it was about 9:00 PM.  Dark was the night with only a sliver of moon.  Even so, I thought about taking it to the lake.  That's when I dialed Dr. Fernando Villasenor Gomez, ornithologist and dean of the biology department at the Universidad de Michoacana in Morelia.  Thankfully he answered the phone and advised me to keep it in the box for the night and release it in the lake in the morning.

The only other rescue I've done was a hummingbird that was banging itself against my window at 10 PM.  I kept it in a covered box with a sugar water feeder, and it flew off in the morning.  In this case, I wasn't too sure how the grebe would fare.
Well, in the morning, Lucy and I found the grebe alive.  It was sitting in a bowl of water I'd put inside the box.  It seemed to me to be seeking its normal habitat.  So off we went to the lake. 

I took it out of the box and tried to delicately place it in the water.  Wowsers, with flapping wings and moving legs, it sunk in a flash and didn't surface, much to my concern.  I know they can dive and swim under water but I expected it to come up somewhere in sight.  The release was a let down.  A big part of me wanted colorful stars and balloons to explode above this marshy spot, an indication that all was well.  Not so. 

I hope it swam to safety while washing off all evidence of humanoid touches. 

This is the spot where I released the grebe.

As the family left my house, Gaia who was celebrating her 8th birthday told me that the grebe was the best gift Mother Nature could have given her.  Feliz cumpleanos Gaia.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Feb 7, 2012 Trip Report - West Side of Lake Patzcuaro

It's been awhile since I've posted a trip report.  It's about time.....

Two birders from the Pacific Northwest (Joe M. and Ann D. of Bellingham, Washington), wanted to see some birds before a meditation retreat at Casa Werma.  They met me at  the bridge to Jaracuaro and afterwards we stopped at my house to see hummers and orioles and then birded La Estacion near Erongaricuaro and Columpio near La Zarzamora.  

Birds seen/heard....if my count is correct, there should be 87 species:

Least grebe (a new species seen from the bridge)
Pied-billed grebe
Tricolored heron
Little blue heron
Snowy egret
Cattle egret
White-faced ibis
Green-winged teal
Mallard ( Mexican duck)
Cinnamon teal
Black vulture
Turkey vulture
Red-tailed hawk (we spotted both dark and light morphs)
American kestrel
Common moorhen
American coot
Black-necked stilt
Long-billed dowitcher
Least sandpiper
Mourning dove (large flocks, more than 100. None of us had seen this many doves at once.)
Inca dove
Barn owl
Broad-billed hummingbird
White-eared hummingbird
Berylline hummingbird
Blue-throated hummingbird
Magnificent hummingbird
Mountain trogon
Acorn woodpecker
Ladder-backed woodpecker
Pileated flycatcher (a new species for La Estacion)
Tufted flycatcher
Pine flycatcher
Black phoebe
Vermilion flycatcher
Cassin's kingbird
Roby-crowned kinglet
Gray silky-flycatcher
Marsh wren
Blue mockingbird (one was mimicking a chestnut-sided shrike-vireo after hearing my recording)
Esatern bluebird
Western bluebird (only the second sighting in this area for me)
Orange-billed nightingale-thrush
American robin
Blue-gray gnatcatcher
Mexican chickadee
Bridled titmouse
Common raven
House sparrow
House finch
Lesser goldfinch
Olive warbler
Orange-crowned warbler
Crescent-chested warbler
Yellow-rumped warbler
Black-throated gray warbler
Townsend's warbler
Hermit warbler
Common yellowthroat
Black-polled yellowthroat
Wilson's warbler
Red-faced warbler
Red warbler
Painted redstart
Slate-throated redstart
Rufous-capped warbler
Hepatic tanager
Cinnamon-bellied flowerpiercer
Hybrid towhee (Spotted x Collared)
Canyon towhee
Rusty sparrow
Chipping sparrow
Song sparrow
Lincoln's sparrow
Yellow-eyed junco
Black-headed grosbeak
Indigo bunting
Red-winged blackbird
Yellow-headed blackbird
Brown-headed cowbird
Hooded oriole
Bullock's oriole
Black-backed oriole
Black-vented oriole (photo below was taken at my feeder)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Barn Owl Nesting Box

You know the joke about how many people it takes to....... well, here's a new twist:  How many people does it take to put up  a barn owl nesting box?  In this case, the answer is five (5) - two women, two men and a dog. 

Thanks to Glen N (Patzcuaro/Austin) we now have a new home for barn owls.  And thanks to Max, Hugo, Francis and Lucky Lucy the dog for helping me with this project.

As of January 23, there are still at least two barn owls living under the bridge to Jaracuaro.  I couldn't determine if the third one is still there. 

When the next brood of owlets are looking for a new home, there's one to be had nearby at Arocutin's commune.  Mil gracias for the commune's residents who readily agreed to let me place the nesting box on their property.  BTW, Max is a resident of the commune, is finishing a PhD, and is a very proud father of a less than month old daughter.   

We'll monitor the nesting box and let you know if/when barn owls use it.

Getting ready to hoist the heavy bugger up this tree.

And here we go, documented by the following photos
Hugo and Max did most of the hoisting.  I took photos and Francis took notes. 

Ms. Lucy supervised the entire process.

Climbing high, I was allowed to remove the ropes.  From this vantage point, I took the next photos .  What a view from the nesting box!  The smile on my face is an indication of how much fun it was, especially since I didn't have to hoist the bugger up the tree.

This photo shows where the box was placed in the tree.