Kamiak Butte County Park
Introduction to the Project
This report is about a bird watching experience at Kamiak Butte County Park, located between the towns of Pullman of Whitman County, Washington. On the north, the park is covered by dense coniferous forest while grassland and open forest cover it on the South (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015). These features make it a unique island that attracts different bird and animal species. Kamiak Butte County provides a serene view of different bird species, some of which migrate from other areas due to changes in the prevailing climatic conditions (Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, 2015).
The report will also undertake an in-depth literature review on three bird species that were common in Kamiak Butte County Park. Through this report, it will be possible to provide detailed description of these birds in terms of their features, and behavior. Furthermore, this report will also provide a description of two observations made in the month of September and October. The observations were characterized by one hour visit to the park and the experiences were informed by photographs and videos captured throughout the process of undertaking observations. An essential in part of this report will be the differences in the population and the types of birds available in different times. The report will also provide details on the tools that were most essential in the birding experience. This will be accomplished by focusing in the types of tools and their role in the birding experience. Challenges faced and the possible solutions to these challenges will be part of the report as a way of ensuring that the future experiences are informed by information from experiences. Some of the birds that are commonly found in Kamiak Butte County Park include the American Kestrel, dark-eyed junco and the Black-headed Grosbeak (Washington Birder, 2015)
The American kestrel is a bird species that is commonly referred to as the sparrow hawk; it is one of the smallest birds belonging to the group of flacons. The bird has typical falcon shaped wings and both the male and the female species are of the same size, faces with dark eyes as those of the falcon, dark moustaches and white cheeks on the face. The differences between the male and the female species are in the plumage (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a). The former has one black bar on its orange tail feather and blue-hued wings. The wings of the females are orange while their orange tail feathers are marked with many black bars and black stripes. The male species also have whitish under parts with black spots. For the females the under parts are streaked and creamy (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a).
In term of their flight behavior, the birds often migrate alone and occasionally travel in small flocks. When hunting the birds tend to soar while flapping and gliding. An additional attribute of their flight tendencies is in their ability to engage in quick and erratic flights. The American kestrel hunts its prey by watching from a relatively higher position (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a). This allows it to identify its target and swop down to capture it. In situations where the environment does not have a high perch, the bird has the ability to hoover over the fields while watching its target pray before erratically flying to catch it. The bird also has the ability to pursue and capture insects, small birds, and bats in flight. One of the most outstanding features of these birds is that individual specie of the American kestrel specializes in a specific kind of prey (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a).
In courtship, the male brings food to the female and passes the food in flight. The nests are often made in cavities of dead trees in a cliff. When with nestlings, the female remains with them most of the time to offer protection while the male brings food for the family. This is however maintained until the youngness are 2 weeks old before the female joins the ale in hunting to satisfy the increased need for more food. About 12 days after the young ones have begun to fly, they are grouped with other nestlings from other nests, and they begin learning the hunting and flying techniques from the older birds (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a).
One of the common bird species in the camping area west of the Kamiak Butte County Park is the Black-headed Grosbeaks. This is a medium sized bird with the male and female appearing slightly different. The male species of this bird has a black head, a nape, an orange breast back wings whit a white patched tail (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a). The underlings of this bird have a yellow lining and these can be seen as the bird flies. The female species is streaked and drab and has yellow linings in the under wings. Above the eyes and below the cheek the bird has a white line with two wing bars on the wings (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a).
In the first year, the make species are often streaked while the female species but the difference is that the former has more orange on its underpants. Black-headed Grosbeaks mostly feeds on insects and berried buy the former serves as one of the most common food choices for the bird. The insects that it feeds on include butterflies, beetles, snails, and bees among other insects. The bird also feeds on berries and weeds from different plants including the poison oak (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a).
When asses from their feeding behavior, the young ones are fed on insects in the initial stages. However, as they mature they begin feeding on berries and later weeds. The birds are commonly found in shrubs and trees where they seek their food in the foliage. Their swift nature allows them to hoover from the foliage and catch insects in midair. It is the natural responsbility for the male species of this bird to endure that its nesting territory is defended form potential threats. This it does by singing. During courtship, the male performs song flights above the female. These flights are characterized by singing and spreading of wings in an almost continuous manner. Both parents are responsible for deeding the nestlings until they can fly at two weeks old. The nestlings however remain in the nearby trees and are fed by their parents for about one brooding year (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a).
One of the common birds in the month of October at Kamiak Butte County Park is the Dark-eyed Junco. On top of its body, an adult male species of this bird is covered in a dark slate gray and white cover at the bottom part. The tail of this bird is a mixture of white and dark gray. The bird has a pinkish beak and the iris that appears brownish in juvenile birds of this species often turns dark red in an adult species (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a). The difference between the male and female species of these birds is that the females often paler at a juvenile age. In terms of coloration in the female species, there are individual variations in term of their appearances. Like the adult males, their female counterparts have reddish with a brownish wash to the feathers. Generally, the adult males have whiter in their tails compared to the females and the juvenile (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a).
In terms of their behavior, the Dark-eyed Juncos have a tendency of displaying their white outer tail feathers during aggressive displays in situations where these birds take flights as a flock. These birds breed in the forest edges and in the woodlands with the females taking the responsbility of building their cup-shaped nests using small twigs, grass, and fine plant materials (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a). The female incubates a minimum of their white eggs for about 13 days and the nestlings become the responsbility of both parents until they leave the nets after 2 weeks. This bird species feeds mostly on insects and tends to forage on the ground under the feeding tray (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015a).
Methodology and materials used
The location of the birding activity was Kamiak Butte County Park situated in Whitman County, Washington, United states. This park is about 15 miles northwards of Pullman off Highway 27. The park was named after one of the chiefs of the Yakama tribe, Chief Kamiakin (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015b). One of the interesting features of the Kamiak Butte is that it is home to the ancient mountain ranges and has a Pine ridge trail. An outstanding feature that makes this park one of the best birding destinations is that it is surrounded with trees which makes it attractive for different bird species (Palouse Audubon Society, 2015b).
There were two visits, which characterized the birding experience in Kamiak Butte County Park. These visits were conducted in the month of September and October. In these months, there were differences in terms of the population of the available bird species because different species of birds are attracted to the park in different seasons. The research activities were conducted in the morning at midday and in the evening. Morning hours and the afternoon were essential in understanding the behavior of the birds before leaving their nests, the techniques applied in taking care and feeding their young ones. In addition, it was through the research activates that were conducted in midmorning that the hunting techniques applied by different birds could be understood. Other than feeding, courtship behaviors were also possible to understand in the day. The evening hours were also essential because they provided time for understanding the behavior of the male and female birds while in the nests.
A pair of binoculars was one of the essential equipment during the birding experience. The binoculars allowed a better view of the birds to facilitate the identification process. Most of the birds during the experience were relatively far in the trees. An understanding of their behavior was crucial hence the needs for binoculars.
For easy documentation, a camera for taking pictures and recording of videos was considered essential equipment. These pictures were used in the preparation of the report while the videos were important in proving additional information during the reporting process. Other essential equipment was a notebook and a pen for recording for future reference.
A GPS and Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone was important equipment since it helped in the identification of the location and in searching information about different bird species while birding.
Merlin Bird ID was also an essential tool during the birding process. The tool was important in revealing the identification of the birds based on the simple features provided (Merlin Bird ID App, 2015). The free mobile phone application provided a fun and highly interesting way of finding information regarding the birds available at the Kamiak Butte County Park
Report on observation
In my first visit to Kamiak Butte County Park, I met other individuals in the birding expedition who provided essential information regarding the type of birds in the park. One of the most outstanding birds was the American kestrel especially its falcon look. While on one of the bridge, I saw a lizard basking in the sun on one of the rocks. Suddenly an American kestrel came down, caught the lizard, and went back to the sky soaring high above in the air, these individuals told me that just like the bigger falcon, the American kestrel hunts with great precision and speed.
After a relatively late departure for my morning study of the birds at the park, I saw a rough legged hawk feeding its young ones and as I headed down one of the sloppy hills, I encountered plenty of dark-eyed juncos feeding on termites from one of the anthills that had been destroyed. Other bird species that I was able to identify include the Ruby-crowned kinglet and the white –crowned sparrow. Members of my team, spotted a bobcat using the binoculars. This bird was about nineteen feet up in the trees. The bird was bounding off into one of the thick brushes in the northern part of the park. As I was, busy looking the song sparrows using the binoculars, one of the individuals in the team captured an exquisite picture of the Lincoln’s Sparrow, which he says, is one of the endangered bird species.
Other than the Black-headed Grosbeak that was one of the most common birds at the park, the autumn environment in the park was relatively serene considering that it was highly forested. At the lower end of the Pine Ridge Trail, there was a great view of a sharp-shinned hawk and a lone male Canvasback. From a distance, I could hear a Virginia Rail calling from deep in the marsh. At dusk as were preparing to leave the pine ridge trail a Northern Saw-Whet Owl was tooting while producing catlike whine. The owl took off from the cottonwood into the skies.
Discussions of observation with focus on the species seen and changes overtime
Depending on the time of the time of the year, Kamiak offers a variety of birds for those interested in an exquisite birding experience. The park, which is surrounded with different tree species and mountain ranges, the park, is considered as a relatively perfect habitat for birds because it provides them with a breeding ground, especially for the bird species such as the black-headed grosbeak and the dark-eyed Juncos. The former is often present at the park irrespective of the season and this is because it has developed adaptive, mechanisms, which are essential in its survival during different climatic conditions. For the juncos, their presence in the park is defined by the prevailing weather conditions. This means that harsh environmental conditions often require them to move to other areas that are considered relatively safer for their young ones. This means that the birds are migratory in nature. When migrating from one area to another the juncos move as a flock.
The American Kestrels just like the juncos and the Black-headed Grosbeaks use the Pine Ridge Trail as a hunting ground for small birds and lizards. The mountainous nature of the park and the high population of different tree species provide the bid with areas of nesting and breeding. Just like any other species of the falcon family, the American Kestrels hunting grounds with unobstructed entrances near their nest sites. This allows them to easily acquire food and deliver it to their young ones. This bird species is opportunistic in nature due to its watch and wait perch hunting technique. The good visibility that facilitates its hunting process is an important component in every habitat.
In situations where there are no tall trees for perch hunting, the American Kestrels hoover hunt especially when seeking prey that is on the ground. The desire to hunt and maintain food supply for themselves and their young ones makes American Kestrels partial migrants. Their migration tendencies are defined by the migration of their targeted prey. The population of these birds is often high in areas where there are more insects, small birds, and bats. They are differences in the ways the males and female species of the American Kestrels migrate. The juvenile and the female species often migrate earlier than the males when the intention of capitalizing on the favorable soaring conditions.
Effective bird watching requires an in-depth understanding of the prevailing environmental conditions and the adaptive feature of different birds to the conditions. For this to materialize it would be important to organize the bird viewing sessions in the form of camping trips throughout the year. These camping trips should be organized during different seasons to provide the students with better experiences in terms of the differences in the population and types of birds in different seasons. Camping trips would also prove the students with more time to watch the birds especially with regard to their behavior during the day and at night. In terms of the tools that can be used, it will be important to emphasize on mobile technology and binoculars. These are essential since they aid in the process of identifying and describing the birds.
An additional approach that would be equally important in improving the future classes would be to assign students to bird watching sessions in the form of groups. This would make it easier to engage in exhaustive learning, as the tasks will be divided among students hence making it easier for a student to specialize in a particular area and providing room for more exploration. It would also be important for more emphasis to be put on in-depth research initiatives prior to the birding activity. This is because such an initiative will provide the students with more information and insight regarding the subject matter hence enabling a relatively comfortable and informative research process.
Washington Birder. (2015). Whitman County. http://www.wabirder.com/whitman.html
Palouse Audubon Society. (2015a). Bird Identification.
Palouse Audubon Society. (2015b). Places to go Spring- Summer.
Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. (2015). Wildlife Viewing in Bonners Ferry, Idaho.
Merlin Bird ID App. (2015). Merlin Bird ID. http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/
Appendix A: Black-headed Grosbeak
Source: (Pierce, 2006) from http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birding/black-headed-grosbeak?source=A-to-Z