Sunday, May 11, 2014

May 10 & 11, 2014 Special Edition - Red-cockaded Woodpeckers

While not at Possum long, the experience is one to share!

Bill LaFramboise, Nancy Price, and I got the rare opportunity to witness banding of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (RCWs) at DuPuis Wildlife Management area with biologist Valerie Sparling.  Having a federal banding permit allowed me to assist her and get up close views.  Nancy Price graciously took lots of photos.

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are an endangered species that has been relocated to Dupuis from other areas that have good production of young.   This spreads out a population so that any natural disaster will not decimate the entire species.  DuPuis is at the southern edge of the natural range of this species in FL and learning as much as possible about how they adapt, move from birth cluster to elsewhere, and more is assisted by color-banding of individuals.  It is very difficult to capture and band adults so chicks are banded. The optimal age at DuPuis is nine days old.  At this age, feathers are just starting to grow so this prevents damage (bending) to larger feathers of an older chick. The chick is old enough to cope with the process. The leg length is optimum to add the proper number of bands that prevents future problems.

From the great care taken by Valerie, our own observations of the chicks being very active, and from the adults feeding the nestlings immediately after we left, we are assured that this process was well done.

It takes a long time for RCWs to excavate a nest cavity.  Artificial cavities are placed in several appropriately sized trees forming a family cluster.  The cluster provides multiple cavities for roosting and nesting. Young adults were transferred to these cavities in hopes that they would set up nesting.  If cavities were not available, the likelihood of a new pair being transferred and taking several years to excavate a new hole is too low.  They would be more likely to leave and not find an appropriate area to feed and survive.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker - adult feeding at artificial cavity
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

All of the remaining photos are by Nancy Price - many thanks Nancy!  Most were taken May 10 when there was one chick.  The last photo was from May 11.  

If you have been reading the blog and the pages on Painted Bunting color banding the process with these chicks is much the same.  The birds are brought from the cavity and are banded.

Joint effort of applying federal band,

color bands are applied,

wing is measured,

chick is weighed,

data are recorded,

and then the two chicks are ready to return to nest.  

After they were returned we were able to hear the feeding calls from the nest box indicating all was well. Parent birds came to the boxes and fed them (first photo).  After a rest for the next 10 days, Valerie will continue to monitor the nests.  She hopes to be able to determine the sex of the birds and will monitor them until they fledge.

We very much appreciate the opportunity to do this with Valerie.  It was a once in a life time experience!



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May 6, 2014

I don't think any of us expected a good day but today was pretty fantastic when you consider all we did.  We added 2 new birds to the property - Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and flyover Roseate Spoonbills.  After 1 1/2 years each new addition is good.  See below for photos and story.

We had good variety today with 7 species banded and a total of 10 birds.  First off we had a Swainson's Thrush.  The other species included a female Northern Cardinal - loved her crest in the sun.

Northern Cardinal
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

A Great Crested Flycatcher whose feathers were very worn.  Likely it has been brooding in a nest cavity for some time.  

Great Crested Flycatcher
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

We banded 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers both were female.  Crystal managed to get a shot showing the new band after the bird was released.

Black-thoated Blue Warbler
Photo by Crystal Conway

The remaining birds we caught were 1 Common Yellowthroat, 3 American Redstarts, and 1 Blue Jay.  I think the Blue Jay has the story no one will believe.  Like last week, there were newly fledged Blue Jays on the property.  One decided to rest on the edge of the birdbath.  I slowly walked up to it and it was resting with its eyes closed.  I reached out in appropriate bander's grip and just picked it up and could not believe it had not flown away.  I think we were all startled.  After the fact we decided it was much less traumatic for it than being caught in the net.  

Blue Jay
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Its feathers were still in sheath like last week's bird and you can see the fleshy gape at the corner of its mouth typical of a newly fledged bird.  Also in the next photo you can see the wing bones equivalent to our forearm radius and ulna (green arrow).

HY Blue Jay wing
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Then there's the story of the Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (BBWD).  First recorded on the property today, we saw one perched in the pine tree.  Also in this tree was the pair of Wood Ducks that was nesting in a nearby box (arrows).  

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Black-bellied Whistling Duck and Wood Ducks
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Nancy Price said that it could be possible that when the Wood Ducks were done, the BBWDs would use the box.  Well, they didn't wait.  To be determined is whose young will survive.  Did the BBWD add an egg for the Wood Ducks to brood?

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks at Wood Duck nest box
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

I am really thankful for all of the help I have had over the past few months.  Nancy Price and Jane Wiewora are at the majority (if not all) of the banding sessions for both Possum Long and Painted Buntings. This project would not still be going without their dedication.  Continued support by the rest of the team with photography, data collection, net placement, driving, and great company has been fantastic.  I hope I can name everyone:  Bill Eaton, Jim Closs, Crystal Conway, Fran Stewart, Georgia Binderow, Pat Marshall, Linda Wishney, Marko Sillanpaa, and Hart Ruffe.  Many more folks have come for a session or two or just to visit.  I am thankful for everyone and enjoy sharing these banding experiences.  I thank our readers who are soon to put us over 5000 hits on this blog.  THANK YOU EVERYONE!

Unless the weather changes and drops a few late migrants, we are done for the season.  Likely we will be starting again in early August.  Watch this blog for updates or make sure I have your email so you get the starting information.

Friday, May 2, 2014

April 29, 2014

Last session was pretty slow but interesting.  Winds are such that migrants are flying right over which is good news for the birds but this makes it slow for banding.  When birds do need a rest or a place to eat they sometimes choose Possum Long.  Many of the migrants we catch have little or no fat left.  Sometimes we see or recapture a banded bird.  The second time we hope to see more fat in hopes that they can continue to migrate.

We caught and banded two migrants - a Common Yellowthroat and an Ovenbird.

Common Yellowthroat - choosing the band
Photo by Bill Eaton

Ovenbird - applying the band
Photo by Bill Eaton

The third bird is likely a resident bird but a very new one.  The Blue Jay we caught was very recently out of its nest.  The parents were in attendance and actually buzzed Nancy as she removed it from the net.  They also greeted its return when we released it near where it had been caught. 

The birds flight feathers were all growing in so we took great care with them as they are still in sheath, still growing, and still have a blood supply.  When the feathers are fully grown, the sheaths fall off and the feather becomes non-living much like our hair and fingernails.

Other features showed this bird's youth.  The gape on the bill was fleshy and characteristic of a young bird. Its legs are full sized so there is no harm in banding this bird.

Blue Jay
Photo by Bill Eaton

Blue Jay
Photo by Bill Eaton

It has been really great having the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons nesting at Possum Long.  Here's one of the adults tending the very flimsy nest.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Things may be slow but I really hope to run for a few more weeks before shutting down the station for the summer.  There's still the possibility for a few more late migrants.  

Next banding session May 6, 2014.  Nets up at 6:15.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 22, 2014

Finally a pretty good banding day.  It seemed slow and catbird numbers were down but we saw and banded more species than during other recent sessions.

We banded 4 Gray Catbirds, 5 Black-throated Blue Warblers, 1 Downy Woodpecker, and 1 Ovenbird. We also recaptured a Painted Bunting from over a year ago (3/26/13).  This one was banded before we started color banding.  We can now say that this green Painted Bunting is female; a male would have molted to his bright colors in the intervening year.

The Black-throated Blue Warblers were very interesting.  The backs of 3 of them showed the black centers that indicate they are the Appalachian subspecies.  The other two had all blue backs.

Black-throated Blue Warbler - with black back markings
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Black-throated Blue Warbler - without black back markings
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

The Downy Woodpecker was born last year.  It still had juvenal covert feathers - see arrow.  These feathers are browner than the newer adult feathers.

Downy Woodpecker
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Ovenbird
Photo by Crystal Conway

In addition to the species banded, we also saw Cape May Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, and Scarlet and Summer Tanagers.  Nancy Price also heard a Chuck-will's-widow in the early hours.

Scarlet Tanager
Photo by Crystal Conway

Northern Parula
Photo by Crystal Conway

Next banding session:  April 29, 2014.  Nets go up at 6 am.  Each week could get better - what will next week bring?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15, 2014 Kittybirds and Fat

Today was a busy day as we banded a record number of Gray Catbirds - first single day double digits for one species!  Twelve new bands and three recaptures.  We also banded a green Painted Bunting and a Black-throated Blue Warbler.

We noted more migrants today including a very vocal Summer Tanager (frustration plus!!) or two, a Blue-headed Vireo, and a male American Redstart.

The Painted Bunting was a female or young male and was packed with fat for its journey from wherever it was to its breeding grounds.  Maybe someone will find this one at a feeder in North or South Carolina.  Bill Eaton almost levitated when he saw the fat from across the table, obviously not a hollow any longer.  Luckily he got his gear and documented the bulging store of energy.

Painted Bunting (green)
Photo by Bill Eaton

The Black-throated Blue Warbler was an after second year male - always fun to see colorful males in spring.  It had the typical identifying "white handkerchief" field mark which you can see is made up of a series of white marks on individual feathers.  There was some black streaking on its back which may indicate that this is the subspecies which breeds in the Appalachian Mountains.  I will investigate further and update this information.

Black-throated Blue Warbler (male)

both photos by Bill Eaton

Next banding session:  April 22, 2014 nets up at 6:45.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 8, 2014

Today was a good day at the banding station.  Summer humidity has returned.  Spring migrants have too but not in great numbers yet.  I was very glad to have Rich and Doris visit.  They are from my former home and it is great to have their company.  Rich helped at banding stations there so it was nice to share Possum Long with them.

Also good news is that the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons have come back to Possum Long to nest.  If someone on the team got photos I will update this post.

Today we had 7 new Gray Catbirds and a second-year female Prairie Warbler (no chestnut on the back).  We also recaptured a Black-and-white Warbler from October 10, 2013 and 2 Gray Catbirds One catbird was recently banded and the other was from last October.  The Black-and-white Warbler was just getting in the black throat feathers of a male - definitely a second-year bird.

Black-and-white Warbler
Photo by Jane Wiewora

We continue to see Gray Catbirds with mottled undertail coverts and one was almost entirely gray instead of rusty.  No molt was visible.  Very strange.

Gray Catbird
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

We observed 30 species on the property - definitely rising numbers.  Of note last Saturday was a Magnificent Frigatebird flying over.

Next banding session:  Tuesday, April 15.  Nets go up at 6:45.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 1, 2014

It was the first truly busy day we have had for a while and we are also busy banding Painted Buntings before they depart.  Apologies for being late with this post.  We banded 9 new Gray Catbirds, a Common Yellowthroat, and a White-eyed Vireo.  We are starting to hear more noise but still way up in the canopy.  The Strangler Fig (Ficus) is fruiting and the Cedar Waxwings are fattening up before departing.  Lots of waxwing noise.  Could one of them please come down to net level, please??

We also recaptured an Ovenbird that was originally banded in September.  Hard to know if it overwintered undetected on the property or if it returned to Possum Long on its return journey.

Ovenbird
Photo by Bill Eaton

The recaptured Gray Catbird was banded on April 10, 2013 - almost a year later.  We have banded over 80 Gray Catbirds so hopefully more recaptures are in store.

Next banding session:  April 8 with nets going up at 6:45.