A brood of young mallard ducklings stay close to mom.(Courtesy Photo / Helen Unruh)

A brood of young mallard ducklings stay close to mom.(Courtesy Photo / Helen Unruh)

On the Trails: Having bird fun in mid-June

“As June progressed, there was an assortment of interesting observations in my yard.”

As June progressed, there was an assortment of interesting observations in my yard.

Chickadees and red-breasted nuthatch juveniles, fully volant, pursued their parents energetically. The number of hummingbirds at my feeder increased dramatically, as the juveniles from (probably) two nests figured out there were goodies there. As they became more numerous, so did the conflicts among them; a male appeared more often than before, adding to the fuss. One brood of juncos had big, streak-breasted juveniles, while another one had fluffy new fledglings that didn’t yet have their juvenile stripes.

One brood of just two mallard ducklings had passed through my pond, never to be seen again. There were lots of empty days with no ducklings, and then a surprise! Just after Solstice, a late brood of eight small ducklings came by. But they, too, disappeared. In many other years, there have been several broods that spend lots of time on my pond, but this year is different.

Hummingbird feeders sometimes attract opportunist foragers in addition to their intended guests. A feeder in Wisconsin occasionally draws orioles and house finches. Here, yellow warblers and orange-crowned warblers come occasionally, and one local observer even recorded a downy woodpecker that regularly hung on a feeder while sipping sugar water.

At Kingfisher Pond, the red-winged blackbirds had fledglings of different ages, from different nests.

Red-winged blackbirds had fledglings lurking in the sedges.(Courtesy Photo / Helen Unruh)

Red-winged blackbirds had fledglings lurking in the sedges.(Courtesy Photo / Helen Unruh)

And, to my surprise, I found a male yellowthroat singing and foraging in the brush and sedges on the edge of the pond. This warbler is not common here: very few spring sightings are noted on e-bird for Juneau. I think I recall that my field crew and I found one nesting in a Valley meadow, many years ago.

Common yellowthroats breed all across much of North American, wintering in southern U.S. and Central America. They often nest in wetlands, but sometimes also use various other habitats offering thick vegetation near the ground, such as burned-over oak forest and shrub thickets in pine forest. Male yellowthroats are territorial. Social monogamy is the rule, but both sexes frequently look for extra-pair matings (as is common among songbirds). The female builds the nest and incubates a clutch of about four eggs; the male may bring her occasional snacks. Both parents feed the chicks, which can leave the nest when about eight days old, reaching complete independence in four or five weeks. They typically mature at when they are a year old.

Yellowthroats here seem to be at the very fringe of their geographic range. So I hope the fellow at Kingfisher Pond found a mate and raises some chicks.

A common yellowthroat sings near Kingfisher Pond. (Courtesy Photo / Helen Unruh)

A common yellowthroat sings near Kingfisher Pond. (Courtesy Photo / Helen Unruh)

Along the trails, chunky young varied thrushes, startled by our passing by, thrashed their way up from the bushes into the trees; they already looked a lot like adults but for the short tail. Two fledgling Pacific wrens, more curious than frightened, peered out of the bushes, ignoring the warning chip-notes of a nearby parent. The pair of greater yellowlegs in the lower Spaulding meadows vigorously and unrelentingly protested our presence, so it was clear that they still had chicks running around somewhere, but this time I didn’t see them. A hermit thrush perched next to the trail while giving an odd whining sort of call for several minutes, so I suspect it had young ones nearby.

On the Lake Creek trail, a tall snag showed lots of signs of use by woodpeckers — over a dozen holes along its length. One of them was occupied this year, as evidenced by the scuff marks below the hole and shrill calls emanating from within. The chicks were still too small to stick their heads out, so the attentive adults were not met at the door. That would soon change, as the older nestlings begin to anticipate arrivals of the adults.

Out at Eagle Beach on a sunny day not long after Solstice, a family for four ravens foraged together in a tide pool close to the upper beach. As I settled down on a log to watch them, another bunch of five ravens came out from the forest, making a big racket, and landed on the beach, still yelling. After standing around for a few minutes, one (which turned out to be an adult) ambled down to a patch of low intertidal vegetation to forage, eventually moving back up-beach to pick up and swallow invisibly tiny items from clumps of drying algae. Presently, two of the young, squawking ravens ventured down to a stand of sea milkwort and goose-tongue and desultorily pecked here and there for small things. A third one continued to yell as it followed the adult along the beach; the adult went on, setting a good example for the juvenile. This young one occasionally jabbed its bill at something but was clearly more interested in yelling than in feeding for itself. After a little while, the adult and these three juveniles all took off in a hurry and sailed way down the beach somewhere. That left one juvenile in the original landing spot, where it had hunkered down and apparently gone to sleep. But when the others took off, this one stood up and began to squawk — quite softly. And there it still was, many minutes later, all by itself. I didn’t stay to see if there was a reunion.

Mary F. Willson is a retired professor of ecology. “On the Trails” appears every Wednesday in the Juneau Empire.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Aug. 7

Here’s what to expect this week.

A northern oriole used dietary carotenoids to make its feathers bright orange. (Courtesy Photo / J. S. Willson)
On the Trails: The colorful world of birds

Colors are produced by cell structure, which can scatter light rays, making… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, Aug. 9, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Ice fog, a phrase in Russell Tabbert’s Dictionary of Alaskan English, is not uttered in many other places because to form it takes a sustained temperature of minus 35 F. (Courtesy Photo / Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Alaska lexicon sinks in over the years

When my little Ford pickup chugged into Alaska 36 years ago this… Continue reading

Mimi Israelah, center, cheers for Donald Trump inside the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska, during a rally Saturday July 9, 2022. Two Anchorage police officers violated department policy during a traffic stop last month when Israelah, in town for a rally by former President Donald Trump showed a "white privilege card" instead of a driver's license and was not ticketed. (Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News)
Alaska officers violated policy in ‘white privilege’ stop

It’s unclear what policy was violated or what disciplinary actions the two officers faced.

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Capital City Fire/Rescue vehicles form a line at Juneau International Airport for a drill. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Women arrested after Monday morning structure fire

Arrest does not appear related to two other recent fires, per fire marshal.

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read