Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How Many Different Species Feeding on One Plant

does it take before the plant is no longer considered an invasive that must be removed from a natural area? I guess the 20 I've tabulated so far is not enough for the Friends of the Wissahickon, an organization to which I belonged for years, and which is supposedly dedicated to preserving it. Instead they proceed with their plans to eradicate Devil's Walkingstick at Carpenter's Woods and elsewhere in the Wissahickon. Birders, no matter how knowledgeable, have not been able to talk any sense into them.

My count of 20 is very conservative, based mainly on my occasional observations over the last few months. If I were to add in birds I've seen in previous years along with anecdotal evidence from other birders the total I'm sure would easily come to 50. If 50 different species feed on one plant should it really be eradicated? Does it really help the environment to remove such a well-used plant? I think you know my answer.

Seeing more species feeding today helped to fuel this tirade of mine. Again a Black-throated Blue, now pictured in header, fed for at least 15 minutes. He was joined on same group of plants by a Yellow-rumped Warbler(seen above), a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet and a Carolina Chickadee.

I'm not really sure what to make of the Friends of the Wissahickon. They've supported mountain bikes there though anyone who uses the area can see the horrible destruction they create. They remove plants that are obviously used by birds and blithely call them invasive. And yet they do accomplish some good. But you have to wonder? Is it now being run by bureaucrats too busy looking for grants to remember their real mission?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October Warblers

It seems like forever since I've posted anything here and it probably has been. Vacation, strong storms, art work have all kept me out of the field. Or when I was out it was in areas without Devil's Walkingstick.

But today we did a brief hike through one corner of the Ravine Loop Trail at Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. For the first 15-20 minutes we saw nothing. But as we got near the Walkingstick, first one, then two, then three Black-throated Blue warblers appeared in it. A Gray Catbird joined them, followed by at least one Tennessee Warbler. We also saw a Blue-Headed Vireo and Northern Parula warlber in adjacent trees. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that they were also feeding on it.

Coincidentally this is the best look we've ever had at a Tennessee Warbler in Philadelphia.

As we walked into SCEE not only did we see no birds but 95% of the berries on the Devil's Walkingstick were gone. Things did not bode well. But it's been my experience that you can find birds on the Walkingstick through October in Philadelphia. I hope I'll have time this year to confirm this.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fruit/Hover-gleaning Vireos

Unfortunately being on vacation last week I missed a big week in birds feeding on Devil's Walkingstick. When I birded Carpenter's Woods today about 90% of the fruit was gone. I'd guess it was more like 60-75% before I left.

Still that didn't stop the feeders. I hadn't yet seen the Red-eyed Vireos that John mentioned. But I saw at least one today, doing what I'd call hover-gleaning. It looks like there is also a type of feeding called fruit/hover-gleaning and that more accurately describes what I saw. The vireo flew up to the fruit, hovered, and quickly grabbed a fruit. I wish I'd seen this well enough or gotten a photo since it would have made for a nice sketch. But no such luck.

Also feeding today was one male Black-throated Blue warbler and at least five American Robins, one of which is pictured at top.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Also in West Virginia

We were in West Virginia last week so I have nothing to add personally about birds feeding on Devil's Walkingstick. We did have a wonderful cabin in the mountains there but we saw 0 birds outside of the cabin, a rude surprise to say the least. There was a Devil's Walkingstick about 100 yards from our cabin but we saw no birds on it. However that means little given that we only say 1 bird within 100 yards of the cabin, a House Wren.

Robin, one of  the neighbors who regularly birds Carpenter's Woods, did report a Wilson's Warbler feeding on DW there while we were gone. One more feeding warbler for the list and an unusual one at that!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

And Some Red-eyed Vireos

I was at Carpentter's Woods for three hours this morning, looking for a predicted fallout that didn't really  seem to happen. There were a few more warblers than usual, especially a Blackburnian, but no fallout. John who birds the woods almost every day and who knows I'm keeping track of Walkingstick feeders mentioned that he found a number of Red-eyed Vireos feeding today.

I also found one Black-throated  Blue and one Veery. So the list is adding up. John mentioned that  he guessed he'd seen all the thrushes feeding and I'd guess the same. The only local thrush  I can't positively remember are Hermit and Gray-cheeked. But Gray-cheeked are fairly rare here. Hermit seems much more likely, unless it doesn't arrive until after all the berries are gone. Something to pay attention to this fall.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

And Some Warblers..............

Well I wish I had a photo of a Black-throated Blue Warbler, or even better a Worm-eating, sitting in the middle of these berries but I don't. As I've mentioned in my other blog warblers don't sit still for long. Photos are difficult and sketches almost impossible.

In any case a 3 hour walk at the Wissahickon yesterday found many Devil's Walkingsticks, all in varying degrees of fruiting. Some were just developing, some ripe as could be, some past their prime and others seemingly dead, the entire fruit head falling completely down. If I have time I may try to more properly document their lifecyle as I view it this year.

Robins were the most plentiful visitor but I also saw my first male Black-throated Blue warbler feeding on them. I believe I also saw a Worm-eating warbler. I only saw this bird for one brief second, then it was gone. I'm pretty sure of my ID but can't be positive. And I can't say for sure he was eating the berries. So this one goes down as a maybe, especially as it's the first Worm-eating I've ever seen in Philadelphia.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Red-bellied Woodpecker Also a Walkingstick Feeder

Jerene and I spent the late morning at Carpenter's Woods in Philadelphia and ran into both warblers and more people who see everyday how Hercules Club is used by both birds and insects. Yet this use seems to fall on deaf ears with those who think it is some sort of incredibly noxious invasive. I've yet to see any evidence of that. And when you see truly noxious weeds like Japanese Knotweed you have to ask yourself it if isn't throughly misguided to be trying to eradicate Hercules Club.

Above you see a quick watercolor based on a photo I took today of another robin feeding. I'm going to try to leave my artwork off of this blog since it's really about the birds that feed on Devil's Walkingstick. But occasionally I'll slip one in.

Today's new bird was another woodpecker: the Red-bellied Woodpecker. The woodpecker feeders are adding up along with the thrushes. Today we found a Wood Thrush feeding along with numerous robins.

Black-throated Blues arrived recently in Carpenter's Woods and at Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Though they've been in the very near vicinity I haven't yet found them on the fruit itself. I'm sure I will soon.

I had thought of setting up an online database for entering information on birds feeding on Devil's Walkingstick. But it's turned out to be easier, at least so far, to set up a publishable Google Docs spreadsheet instead. A link to that is at top. I'll add any sightings left here as comments to it. If there turns out to be large interest(very unlikely) I'll allow some others to edit the spreadsheet.

I'm also thinking of asking that this blog be added to the Nature Blog Network. That should bring more attention to both it and to Hercules Club. So if you're reading this and would like to keep track of what birds feed on this great shrub please let me know by adding your comments here. The more data I have the more impetus I have to manage the spreadsheet and put the blog on NBN.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Could I Forget Catbirds?

I spent a few hours at Carpenter's Woods in Philadelphia this morning, primarly looking for migrating wood warblers, but actually happy with anything I found. And of course what I found most of were catbirds. In this part of the country they may be the most seen and heard bird in the woods. I know that the Red-eyed Vireo was once reported to have that honor but today I think the Catbird might win.

In any case the catbird is one more species that feeds on Devil's Walkingstick. Catbirds and robins both crash landed in the fruits this morning. Since my primary purpose in being outside is to see and draw birds it's enough of a distraction to bring a camera along. A video camera is just not up for consideration. Nonetheless it would be interesting to put a video camera on the fruit of Devil's Walkingstick and see what happens.

Most entries seem like crash landings. This might be partially due to the fact that the fruits, though a huge spray, are actually tiny in themselves. And at this time of the year most of the feeders are big: thrushes, catbirds, woodpeckers. Because they seem to crashland there's a lot of commotion when one of these bigger birds lands and then they get buried in the spray of berries. I have to assume that all of them are eating the fruit and that there is no chance that anything else, like insect-eating, is going on. But I can't positively say that.

Another new bird today was the Northern Cardinal. A Carolina Wren was in the near vicinity but I never actually saw him on the Walkingstick.

One topic for another day: Aralia racemosa. We have some growing in our front yard, a free plant from Morris Arboretum for members. It has a spray of berries, like Aralia Spinosa, but I've yet to see any birds on it. And I don't know it's relationship to Devil's Walkingstick, or Aralia spinosa. As I said, topics for another day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Do Birds Need Devil's Walkingstick?

Every year about this time I start seeing birds feeding on the American native shrub called 'Aralia Spinosa', 'Devils Walkingstick', or 'Hercules Club' among others. And yet at the same time I keep hearing about it being invasive. So recently I posted an entry about it on my blog Arts, Birds, Nature.

After I'd done so I thought it would be nice to keep track of how many birds are seen feeding on it this fall. But that really wasn't going to work on my blog, which is not so specific. However it took less than 15 minutes to create a new blog on blogger.

So here's my idea. If you stumble upon this blog and you see birds feeding on Devil's Walkingstick berries this fall please add a comment to the blog stating the birds you saw and your location.

It could very well be that this will be the only post on this blog, or perhaps that I'll be the only poster. But then again you never know. I've run into many people who agree with me when I talk about how many birds feed on it. Perhaps they'll find their way here.

These are the birds I've seen so far this late summer/early fall:
American Robin
Wood Thrush
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker