Bird Banding

We had a great, if a bit chilly, day at bird banding.  Here are some of the birds we caught, banded, and released:

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Gray Catbird

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Song Sparrow

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Black-capped Chickadee

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Common Yellowthroat

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Yellow Warbler

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White-throated Sparrow

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Hairy Woodpecker, Female

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Blue Jay

The ever observant Terry LeBaron also noticed a Song Sparrow fly up out of the grass, then went over with his camera:

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He found the nest!

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It’s always fun at bird banding.

Banding a Little Screechie

Screech owl in nest box

Photo by Jeff Tome

There has been a Eastern Screech Owl using the kestrel box in the Audubon parking lot all winter. Sometimes, if the sun shines, we see him poking his head out. Yesterday, as Jeff was leaving work, he noticed the fluffy face and sent a text message to Don Watts, a licensed bird bander, who drove right over.

Being a considerate soul, Don checked the box before coming inside to interrupt our work.  To keep the owl from leaving, he stuffed one of his hundreds of ball caps into the opening.

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A hat in the entrance keeps the owl from exiting.

Sarah, Katie, and I were all too happy to take a break from our duties to meet the little guy face to face!

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Don climbs the ladder to retrieve the owl.

Katie got a new camera recently. She was trying the video function – making Don, Sarah, and the owl into movie stars!

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Until Katie posts the movie somewhere, you’ll have to be content with my stills:

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After returning the little guy back to the box, Sarah and Katie returned to work while Don and I checked two other boxes, hoping to find the owl we banded last fall. Sadly, both of the other boxes were empty. I hope that just means the other guy is resting elsewhere.

Just another day at Audubon. Don’t I have a great job?


ANP Logo

May 31 – June 2, 2013

On another note, I’ve been working on the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage website. I still have a lot to finish up with the program descriptions and leader bios… but it’s getting there! Click on over and consider putting it on your calendar!!

Oh Bird Banding… I missed you…

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Last week I got to visit briefly.  This week, I got to visit from (almost) start to finish.  (Sadly, my “alarm clock” –  a.k.a. cell phone – was left at work and I had to rely on my body to wake me up on time – which it failed to do…  Still, I got there sometime between 6 and 6:30!)

I was especially interested in practicing taking birds out of the net, since Emily will be down one technician next week.  The first two birds were newly fledged wrens hopelessly twisted in the nets.  I tried, but had to give them up to more experienced hands.  The third bird was… a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, which Eric decided was not the best bird for starting out the morning.

As the day went on, though, I did get plenty of practice on a variety of birds big and small.  Emily even let Katie, Maggie, and me take turns banding.  Maggie and Katie really started getting the hang of Pyles… I am still hopeless… but perhaps trainable? We’ll see…

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I banded this juvenile American Robin. Because it was still sporting a dappled belly, Emily called it a “fawn.”

The most exciting catch of the day was big! We have been seeing lots of Green Herons doing the fly-by thing and spoke about how great it would be if one went into a net. So when we saw something big in net 7, we all thought “Green Heron!” It wasn’t, but it was thrilling just the same: a bird Emily had never banded before: Pileated Woodpecker!

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Emily was more than a little excited about the chance to band a Pileated Woodpecker!

Everyone wanted a chance to be photographed with her.

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Terry and Katie braved the strong bill for a photo opp!

We also were blessed by the appearance of a Blue-winged Warbler, which somehow, I didn’t manage to photograph.  Emily says this is the first at this banding station.  The Indigo Bunting was thrilling to see:

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One of the last birds of the day was one I kept hearing all morning and wishing would go into the net: Common Yellowthroat. And here is the handsome gentleman:

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I’m looking forward to next week! Join us!

Bird Banding at Audubon

I finally had a Saturday with enough time in the schedule to at least stop by the banding station at Audubon.  After hitting the snooze button a bunch of times, I arrived “late” at 6:30 or so.  Nets were already up, but they had not done the first net check.

I never ended up going on a net check because I got immediately distracted by the Eastern Bluebird pair working hard to feed the nestlings who are so close to being ready to fledge.

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I waited (im)patiently to try for a shot of a parent removing a fecal sac after feeding. Bluebird parents keep a tidy nest.

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In preparation for nature photography classes I’ll be teaching Tuesday evenings in July, I spent most of the time practicing with my 100-400mm lens. I didn’t have my tripod, but Terry LeBaron loaned me his. Thanks, Terry!

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Eastern Cottontail

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House Wren – sporting some bling!

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Baltimore Checkerspot Caterpillar

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Skipper

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I think it might be a Blue Dasher teneral… Colors will change as it becomes mature.

Then it was back to the banding station and a quick lens change:

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Emily Thomas and a Gray Catbird

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Emily checks the molt limit on a Song Sparrow

That’s all for now. Bye!

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Yellow Warbler Female

Bird Banding at JANY (MAPS)

Acronyms. They can drive you crazy.

MAPS = Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship.
JANY = Jamestown Audubon New York

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Siblings

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Siblings - banded at Tom LeBlanc's SWAT (MAPS) Banding Station in Allegany State Park

Each MAPS station needs a unique four-letter code for the database. Tom’s station at Allegany is SWAT, which is not an acronym, but an activity you engage in while visiting: the bugs can be thick there! You can read about his banding adventures at monarchbfly.com.

There are also four-letter codes for the bird names. These are abbreviations, not acronyms.

Juvenile American Robin
This is an AMRO – American Robin

Someday, he might look like his daddy:
Handsome male American Robin

House Wren
This is a HOWR – House Wren

This particular HOWR had a beak that didn’t line up properly:
House Wren's Crooked Beak
Shall we call her a HOWR with a CRBI (crooked bill)?

Gray Catbird
GRCA = Gray Catbird

Now, you might be thinking, “Oh, I get it! Use the first two letters of the first name and the first two letters of the second name. Easy!”

Not so fast…

Yellow Warbler
This one (from last week) is a YWAR – Yellow Warbler – which I don’t get. There is no other bird called YEWA, so why YWAR?

The hyphenated names, too, get weird, though some are logical – like Tom’s Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers above. They are, of course, YBSA.

This week, we were most delighted to recapture this fellow:

Hooded Warbler
HOWA – Hooded Warbler

He is the one that got away last week before weighing and before pictures, for which we teased poor Eric mercilessly. And we made him hold the bird for pictures:

Eric holds the one who got away
Eric and HOWA

I had to leave at 7:45am to go to work. I’m sure they caught lots more COBI (cool birds) after I left. (I made that last one up myself!)

MAPS at Audubon, Etc.

I’ve been home from my awesome adventure (3 weeks on the road with my family) for about a week now.  I’m back at work and remembering what it was I do there.  I’m getting back into the swing of my Real Life, which today meant volunteering at the new MAPS station at Audubon.

MAPS stands for “Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship” and involves mist-netting birds once in every 10-day period from June through August.  I have long wanted a MAPS station at Audubon and thought we might have to wait until 2012 when Tom LeBlanc might have time to do such a thing.

To my surprise and delight, Emily Thomas, who has been banding birds at Audubon during our springtime demonstrations, called me while I was en route to Memphis, TN to tell me that she had applied and been accepted to start a MAPS station at Audubon.  Today was the third banding session under this protocol – and my first chance to attend.

Terry LeBaron and I were assigned nets 8-10 and I got lots of practice putting nets up, removing birds from nets, scribing, and taking nets down.

Tying with Gray Catbird for most individuals from a single species… American Redstart.  And oddly, all were first year males.

American Redstart First Year Male

It was as if they were having a big bachelor’s party or something.

American Redstart Bachelor Party

We are also starting to see some hatch year birds, such as this baby Song Sparrow:

Baby Song Sparrow

And this baby Grackle:

Baby Grackle

A pretty little Veery hopped into net 1 at some point in the morning.

Veery

A pair of American Goldfinches were the first birds to finally enter net 8.

American Goldfinches - male and female
(Eric forgot to put a band on her leg, though he recorded all relevant banding data… Oh, Eric…)

Gotta love a Yellow Warbler:

Yellow Warbler

And speaking of warblers, and speaking of blunders made by Eric… The last bird of the day was a beautiful male Hooded Warbler. Eric managed to get a band on this one and get a wing measurement… but we never weighed him, nor did we get pictures. Oh, Eric…

After MAPS banding, Terry and I tagged along to watch Emily and Eric band Kestrel babies.

Eric about to check a Kestrel Box

“My” box has 5 eggs!

"My" Kestrel Eggs

The boxes with babies were down just over the PA line.

Baby Kestrel

Here’s a whole family of 4 boys. The other box had 2 boys and 2 girls.

Four Boys!  (Baby Kestrels)

Terry said that holding baby kestrels made last winter’s hard work on all the kestrel boxes totally worth the trouble!

Terry LeBaron and 2 Baby Kestrels

Eric bands the Kestrel Babies:

Eric bands a Kestrel Baby

Thank you Emily, Eric, and Terry for another fabulous day of learning!

Emily Thomas with two of her Kestrel Babies

An Old Bird

This is a very old Swamp Sparrow!

Scott and Emily left for their last net check of the morning, to be combined with taking the nets down. This usually goes quickly, for by 11 or 11:30am, there aren’t as many birds in the nets. From the Pavilion, I could see that the group at net 4 was taking an unusually long time, so I decided to walk over and see what the trouble was.

A poor Swamp Sparrow, already sporting a band, had gotten himself rather twisted and tangled in the net. Scott worked carefully and methodically to free the bird and place him in a bag for transport.

Back at the banding station, Emily removed him from the bag and read the band number to Scott. I wrote the other data, wing length, tail length, etc, while Scott searched previous year’s records for this bird.

He was originally banded here at Audubon on May 17, 2007. At that time, he was judged to be ASY – after second year. Some sources say that Swamp Sparrows live “up to 6 years.”

Carry on, old man!

Banding Demonstrations continue May 14th and 21st.  Come on down!  For more info, click –> here.

May Days!

I always get plenty of fresh air in May. Hundreds of kids on field trips keeps me outside a lot for work. And between the birds and the wildflowers, most of my free time is spent outside, too! My self-appointed title “Reluctant Birder” may have to be retired. Yesterday, I went to shoot wildflowers and found myself wishing I had brought binoculars to see the birds flitting overhead.

The birding class we are offering at Audubon this spring is turning out to be one of my favorite activities during these jam-packed days.

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First of all, our experts, Don Watts and Scott Stoleson, are being so generous with their time and knowledge. Second, the participants are so enthusiastic. And third, the birds are just being so darned cooperative.

Yellow-bellied SapsuckerThe class is being offered as 4 Wednesday evening lectures and 4 Saturday morning walks. The lectures are filled with useful information. But the walks are the most fun (for me!). Last Saturday’s walk as on the grounds at Audubon and started at the bird banding station. We kept hearing a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker’s uneven tapping. Toward the end of the walk, we finally saw one just off of Redwing Trail near the building. When I went back to the banding station after the walk, they had even captured one in the net!

I’m hoping I never forget the song of the Swamp Sparrow. We certainly heard that quite a bit while out on the trails.

Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow

One of our classmates is Terry Lorenc, who gave me permission to use some of his photos on my blog! He’s been toting his camera to class and on the walks to help us remember what we’re seeing.

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Yellow Warbler – by Terry Lorenc

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Red-winged Blackbird – Male – by Terry Lorenc

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Red-winged Blackbird – Female – by Terry Lorenc

Terry got some amazing shots on Saturday, too. Two little Chickadees had us transfixed for quite some time! We watched them excavating a cavity for nesting.

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Black-capped Chickadee – by Terry Lorenc

From the double-decker tower, Terry got an amazing series of a Bald Eagle coming down to get a fish.

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Bald Eagle – by Terry Lorenc

Check out the whole series by clicking –> here.

If you feel like you are missing out on the fun, maybe you should join us. Classes continue through May 21st. Learn more by clicking –> here.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Jackets on. Headlamps on. We trudge up the steep hill behind Tom‘s (new!) house to the nets. From a small speaker comes a sound like a child playing the same high-pitched note over and over on a cheap recorder: Hoot hoot hoot hoot hoot hoot hoot hoot…

No owls at the first net check at 6:30 p.m. We return to the house for chit-chat and a tour. By 7:15 p.m., Patty is home from work with groceries, but not ready to accompany us for the second net check.  Tom teases that this is a good thing, because they never get birds when Patty tags along.

Back up the hill and this time, I notice the brillance of the stars in the black sky. This time – 2 little puffballs are caught in the nets. Tom deftly removes them and places each in his own separate carrying bag and we head back down the hill.

Tom let’s me handle the first bird and I am thrilled. Wing measurements and weight are taken first and compared to a chart. Males are smaller and lighter than females. This one definitely falls in the male range. A leg gauge helps me determine the right size band. Next, a tail measurement, and a check for fat and muscle condition. Finally, we use a blacklight to look at the feathers on the under side of the wing. New feathers appear pink under this special light, older feathers look “normal”. The combination of pink and normal tells us that this is not a hatch year bird; he has more experience than that.

And now it’s picture time!

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Northern Saw-Whet Owl

The second owl is feistier. When I try to handle him, he grabs on tight with sharp talons. He does not break the skin, but I fear he will leave a bruise. He finally releases his tight grip. Tom offers to band him. Thank you, Tom. This one is a hatch year male.

I wonder if he will mellow with age? Or are owls, like people, born with personalities that stay with them for life, merely intensifying with life experiences?

The third net check brought us nothing.  I decide to head home.  The moon is bouncing on the top of the distant hill – a huge orange sliver.

Learn more about the Northern Saw-Whet Owl at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website –>  click here.

Read more about Tom’s owl studies at his blog –> click here.

Opening Day at SWAT

SWAT is the name of Tom LeBlanc‘s MAPS bird banding station in Allegany State Park.  Today was the first day of banding…  And I was glad I awoke early to attend.  We saw some very beautiful birds!

The first bird out of the net was a life bird for me…
Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler – male

Isn’t he pretty? We later got a peak at the female as well, but she managed not to get entangled in the nets… She is similarly colored, but not as vibrant.

According to the Cornell website, these pretty warblers breed in mature coniferous or mixed forests. After raising young, they may join mixed flocks of chickadees and kinglests to forage.

Another great bird for me was the Black-billed Cuckoo… I’ve heard them, and seen pictures and taxidermy mounts… and I think we got a through-the-binoculars view of one at Tom’s other banding site one day last summer… But to see him up close like this was spectacular… What a gorgeous bird… These pictures do not do him justice:

Black-billed Cuckoo

Black-billed Cuckoo Closeup
It was just last summer that I learned that Cuckoos eat a good deal of the spiny caterpillars… so they are my heros…

We had a good number and a good variety of birds… Here are a few others:

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

It was a great day with great friends. Thank you, Tom, for knowing how to show a girl a good time.