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Robert Burton’s book “Bird behaviour” is not only a great book for naturalists and oronthologists but it is also an important book for small game hunters and waterfowler’s.
 
Knowing and understanding the concepts of thermals, air masses and fronts can help you choose the best time of day to hunt larger birds. I really enjoyed the book and I am going to share with you some of the key points that I thought would be quite interesting to fellow waterfowlers and small game hunters and provided you with the page number and text excerpts identified in double quotes.

“As thermals begin to form under the early morning sun, the smallest vultures take off first and only when the thermals become stronger are they followed by the larger species, unless slope soaring can give them enough lift for an early start.” Pg. 23

In the introduction of the book Robert writes the following: “Birds are, perhaps, the most popular group of animals and they give pleasure to thousands of people around the world.” Wild turkeys are the most majestic bird I have seen and when they spread their feathers to impress, I can tell you they do just that; or the sight of a flock of geese flying overhead is so humbling and really stirs up my desire to learn more about the outdoors and spend as much time in the woodlands of this great nation.

Understanding the bird’s actions such as take off and landings can help a waterfowler predict and identify certain birds for example, if an American wigeon is about to touch down it swings its feet forward, this allows the hunter to identify the bird and duck species. Some ducks and geese can leap straight into the air but swans, divers, cormorants, auks and petrels patter over the surface, wings beating rapidly but shallowly, until flying speed is reached. Pg. 18

“Stiff-tailed ducks can adjust their buoyancy further by compressing their feathers and respiratory airsacs to force out air.” Pg. 26 This may also assist you with being able to identify specific duck species during the migratory hunting season.

“Birds are equipped with the same sense organs as other land dwelling vertebrates, but they have been altered and adapted during their evolution to suit the requirements of flying animals. Travelling at speed through the air is only possible if an animal can make and accurate and rapid assessment of its environment. It must also have a very fine appreciation of the forces acting on it body, and have precise muscular control for the complex movements of flight.” Pg. 40

On one of my previous blog entries “Chasse fine” I mentioned the fact that a flock of ducks flew right over me and completed a kind of environment assessment, this is living proof of their evolution and adaptability.

When I am hunting Woodchuck I can sneak up to the animal and get right up close while it is feeding, because even with monocular eyes it lowers its head to eat, allowing me to move closer without being spotted. However sneaking up to a Woodcock while it is feeding is a very difficult skill to master.

“The woodcock, which feeds by thrusting its long bill deep into the soil, has eyes set high on the head, and their fields overlap both fore and aft. As a result, there is binocular vision to the rear as well as to the front, and the woodcock cans spot danger when it is feeding.” Pg. 43

When hunting wild turkey it is one of the few hunts when you do not have to wear orange safety vests and I believe this gives us an advantage. “Birds have well-developed color vision that is broadly similar to our own and plays and equally important role in their lives, but there are some basic differences. Like amphibians and reptiles, but unlike any mammals, birds have coloured droplets of oil in cone cells of the retina. The function of the droplets has long been disputed, but there is now evidence that they significantly affect the bird’s perception of its environment.” Pg. 44

“In the arctic, ptarmigan save themselves the task of digging through snow by feeding where the caribou and hares have already exposed the vegetation.” Pg. 86

This reveals and interesting relationship between birds and other animals as it relates to feeding and can help you find your bird or game that you are pursuing. If you are looking for ptarmigan you might very well find yourself a hare as well.

“The distinction between seabirds and freshwater birds is rather arbitrary since several groups of birds are to be found in both fresh and seawater.” “The ‘dabbling’, or surface-feeding’, ducks are largely omnivorous. Their bills are lined with three sets of horny or rubbery comb-like plates, known as lamellae, one along the inner side of the edge of the upper mandible and one on each side of the edge of the lower mandible. Water is pumped in and out of the mouth, and food is retained by the lamellae.”

“The ‘diving’ duck may feed at the surface, but they more frequently dive to search for food. Many of these species, such as the long-tailed ducks, the scoters and eiders spend most of their lives at sea.” Pg. 92

Knowing their habitat and feeding habits will help in finding the duck you are wishing to harvest and will increase your chances in having a successful hunt. It is a great book!

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