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.


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!


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!


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






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!!


It’s Illegal


Bird nests are not homes. Birds use nests to raise babies. They will not use them in winter. Still, it is illegal to collect them. Except photographically!

I think one of the biggest surprises to people who come on a walk with me is when I tell them that it is illegal to collect nests and feathers from migratory birds.  Yep.  Illegal.

“What is the harm?” they want to know.  Especially at this time of year when the birds are obviously done using the nest.

There was a time when bird nests, eggs, and even the birds themselves were collected to the point that populations were put at risk.  People made room decorations and hats from birds and their nests and eggs.  Yikes.

In 1918 the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed to protect birds from this kind of exploitation.

You can’t collect nests.  So, take pictures instead!

Click here to read about Audubon and the use of birds on hats.
Read the Migratory Bird Act by clicking here.

Oh Bird Banding… I missed you…


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…


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!


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

Everyone wanted a chance to be photographed with her.

IMG_9847 IMG_9851
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:


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:


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.


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


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!


Eastern Cottontail


House Wren – sporting some bling!


Baltimore Checkerspot Caterpillar




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:


Emily Thomas and a Gray Catbird


Emily checks the molt limit on a Song Sparrow

That’s all for now. Bye!


Yellow Warbler Female

Nest Box Walk

We had a perfect day for the first in our Summer Learning Series at Audubon. Terry LeBaron led a Nest Box walk to kick off the summer courses and I tagged along adding my two-cents now and again.

Terry, Pam, Amy

Pam Checks Resident of Wren Box
Pam checks residents of a Wren box

The only current residents of the boxes now are House Wrens and mice.

House Wren Eggs

House Wren Babies
House Wren Babies

Amy holds Baby House Wren
Amy discovers that day-old babies are so ugly they’re cute.

Baby House Wren
Baby House Wren

And… the mice:
This photo was taken by Katie Finch, staff naturalist, last week during Day Camp. Her picture turned out so much better than mine!

Earlier in the week a box of Tree Swallows fledged and almost immediately House Wrens began building on top of the abandoned nest. Whether this is a dummy nest or the real thing remains to be seen.

Each Box Has a Story

Participants in the class were especially excited to take a peek in our parking lot Kestrel box.

Pam Peeks into Kestrel Nest Box
Peeking into a Kestrel Box

American Kestrel Eggs
According to Terry’s records, these Kestrel eggs should be very near hatching. The plan is to video record when Emily is banding them… If you happen to be there that day, you can be an “extra” in the film!

Heron Rookery

Heron RookeryI learned recently of a heron rookery not far from my house. On Mothers’ Day, I drove out to see it… wanted to give the 100-400mm lens a little exercise. Turns out, I could have used an even longer lens; the nests are visible from the road, but not close to the road. Still, it was fun to watch the herons in action through binoculars, and I did get a few shots.

I watched the males struggle in nearby trees to select just the right branch with just the right leaves on it, then fly back to the nest to hand it to Mom – her Mothers’ Day gift.

A Mothers' Day Gift

This Mom took the branch and placed it just right in the nest. Her movements seemed awkward and cautious and I wondered if she already had eggs that she was stepping around.

As she fussed, Dad stood on a branch to watch.

Dad standing by

Look at his toes. How does he manage to hang on to that branch? It can’t be nearly as comfortable as walking in squishy mud looking for food.

Herons nest in colonies, so I watched this offering of the branch and careful placement more than once.

A branch for the nest.

This eager mom wasn’t nearly so careful accepting the offering and placing it in her nest.

Gimme that thing!

Dad says, “That’s how it’s done.”

Yes, Dear.

The rookery will be one of the destinations for Audubon’s Saturday (May 14, 2011) bird outing. Meet at Audubon at 7am to carpool. For a map and to learn more, click –> here.