For our last full lab of the semester, my ornithology class took canoes down to the Elk River. We put into the water where the Elk runs into Woods Reservoir.
Trip highlights include:
- A great look at a Prothonotary Warbler. This warbler is unusual in that it nests inside old tree holes instead of making a twig or ground nest like most other warblers. It is found along waterways and lake edges.
- Seeing a Great Blue Heron grab a big watersnake. The snake wrapped itself around the heron’s beak and neck like a whip around a post. The heron thrashed and leapt, perhaps feeling the sting of the snake’s bite, then the snake escaped. The heron kept probing in the water, but this snake was not about to come back.
- Three Ospreys wheeling overhead, whistling loudly.
- Two Black-crowned Night-herons, flying right over us, giving a great look at their head plumes and bright legs.
- A mother goose on her eggs, flopped out with a “broken neck” — playing dead as a ploy to remain unmolested by these strange paddling primates.
(note: photo links above are not from this trip (I wish), but from Robert Royse, an outstanding bird photographer)
Trip lowlight: dozens of trotlines tied to branches overhanging the river. These are unattended fishing lines, mostly aimed at turtles, but anything that grabs at the large hooks on the lines gets snagged. Two years ago we found a heron that had died in a tangled trotline. Not so pretty, but 100% legal (as long as you don’t set more than 100 trotlines at a time…). This method of fishing is like deer-hunting by lashing shotguns to trees, then attaching tripwires to the triggers. You’ll get some deer, yes, but at what cost?
Here’s a question unrelated to your trip, but related to bird-watching. We watched over a month this spring as a pair of robins build a nest under the eaves of our garage, laid a clutch of eggs, raised the chicks,and supervised their successful launch from the nest. Now, another robin has moved into the nest and appears to be laying a clutch of eggs. Could this be the same robin–do they typically raise two or more families in a good season? Or is another robin taking advantage of the nest built by the first?
They will definitely raise more than one brood per year. Sometimes they re-use nests, so this could be the same pair. In many songbirds (not sure about robins specifically), the male will look after the newly fledged young while the female devotes energy and time to the next brood. Given the warm spring we’ve been having, it is quite likely that many robins will raise two sets of young this year. Sounds like you’ve had fun watching them! I hope this next nest goes well.
Oh, I wish I had seen that heron and snake!