Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November 17, 2015

You can tell things are quieting down.  Like last year, birds seem to be gathering in the vegetation around the pond overnight so its THE place to be first thing in the morning.  We banded 9 birds today:  6 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 1 Palm Warbler, 1 Gray Catbird, and 1 Indigo Bunting.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

You can see a few of the classic feathers for which this bird is named but the feathers we look at (upper tail coverts) are the ones right below the yellow.  These feathers frequently tell us age and sex.  This is an adult male.  The black centers of the feathers are broad and the edges are blue.

Indigo Bunting

Though it does not show very well, there is a tinge of blue right above Pete's thumb.  This is a young female bird, born this breeding season.  Not much blue on it at all.

Palm Warbler (eastern/yellow subspecies)

Typically we see "western" Palm Warblers at Possum Long and most of the surrounding area.  Once in a while there's a really yellow one of the "eastern" subspecies.  According to references, the western subspecies occupies much of the entire breeding range (most of Canada and some of the northern states).  The eastern/yellow subspecies occupies the eastern portion of the breeding range. Both subspecies winter in the southeastern US and Caribbean.    

Palm Warblers (both subspecies) taken at a sparrow banding session

Next scheduled banding:  November 24, 2015.  Nets go up at 6 am.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November 10, 2015 - tale of the tails

When we birded Evergreen Cemetery recently our good friend there said that she hoped she wouldn't see a Yellow-rumped Warbler.  To her, that meant the end of migration.  Migration might be over but Robin recently had a Summer Tanager in her yard, the Painted Buntings are still arriving, and Palm Warbler numbers should still increase.

Our first bird of the day was a recapture Gray Catbird and soon after Nancy Price brought a Yellow-rumped Warbler from the nets at the pond.  We ended up with 2 Yellow-rumps, another new catbird as well as a Palm Warbler.  It was fairly quiet on the property.  It is still very hot and humid (sorry folks where it is colder - I guess we shouldn't complain) and it seem like some cooling would keep more birds moving about.

Instead of wing photos today we took two tail photos.  First is the new Gray Catbird which had a lot of lighter gray on the outer margin of the outer tail feathers.  We do not see this on every bird.  Like the photos in the last couple of sessions, this bird had silver edged feathers above the outer wing feathers indicating an adult bird.

Gray Catbird
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

The other is the second Yellow-rumped Warbler.  There are very large dark centers edged in blue on the small feathers below the yellow rump.  It also had no molt limit and retained some blue head feathers from this past summer.  This indicates an adult male bird.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Next regularly scheduled banding:  November 17.  Nets go up at 6 am.

Monday, November 9, 2015

November 8, 2015

My husband Bill and I did an extra session this week in order for him to get some more banding experience.  Attending the Yellow Rail and Rice Festival has given us some added enthusiasm (even though we already had a lot!)

We banded three new birds.  First off was a Gray Catbird.  They are large enough and hearty enough to make great subjects for study.  Once again we saw no molt limit and silver edging on the feathers over the outer flight feathers.  Thus this is an adult bird.

Gray Catbird
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Next we banded a Swainson's Thrush.  This is a late one according to eBird. There are other photos of more typical poses of this species elsewhere in the blog but this one shows the underwing and its stripe.  The white edges are on one half of each flight feather and only show from the bottom side!

Swainson's Thrush
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Last but not least we caught and color banded another Painted Bunting.  The last few birds had a bit of fat so I thought maybe all of them had moved on.  This one had very little fat so maybe it can fatten up in the new feeders.  As we are now doing, here's a wing photo - maybe after a bit more study we may be able to age "green" buntings after all!  If they are hatch-year greens, we still will not know if they are female or male.

Painted Bunting
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

As in the last regular Tuesday post, next banding is November 10.  Nets go up at 6 am.

November 3, 2015

At first blush this day looks a little dismal with only 3 new Gray Catbirds banded.  Most of the story is with the 4 recaptured birds we caught.

Since our road trip to the Yellow Rail and Rice Festival with its banding workshop (see post), we are looking at wings differently.  Young Gray Catbirds do show a molt limit (a way we age birds) and our wing photo shows that this is an adult bird (no molt limit).  There is silver edging to the small feathers just above the outer flight feathers.

Gray Catbird
Photo by Jane Wiewora

We recaptured a Gray Catbird, a Common Yellowthroat, a Northern Cardinal and the Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's Thrush.  We were able to measure one other aspect of this bird and will be submitting it to various people to see if we may still be able to determine which one we had.  Some characteristics are in the overlap zone including the new measurement we made.  However most of the other measurements were only in the Bicknell's range.  Identity still to be determined.

The photos of two of the recaptures:

Common Yellowthroat
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's Thrush
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Next regularly scheduled banding:  November 10.  Nets go up at 6 am.

October 28 to November 2: Road Trip Number Two

Four of the banding team (myself, Nancy Price, Jane Wiewora, and Bill LaFramboise) decided to take a workshop to improve our banding skills.  We attended one at the Yellow Rail and Rice Festival in Jennings, Louisiana.  We drove and birded our way there and attended class on Thursday evening.  A lot of new information is being developed on aging birds and we learned a lot.  We will be looking at wing molt a lot differently now.

Friday morning we banded at a woodlot.  There were new birds both caught and observed there.  It was fun to hear Greater White-fronted Geese fly over.  A sound we do not get in Florida.  I'm not sure of the entire species list banded but some of the birds were: White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (I banded it, new for me!), Northern Cardinal, Swamp Sparrow, and Brown Thrasher.  A Northern Mockingbird from a previous festival was recaptured.

White-throated Sparrows (comparing two birds)
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (#103)
Photos by Jane Wiewora

The bird was female so no "ruby crown" to show.  After I banded the kinglet, our instructor showed us some details in the wing and then set it directly on the scale to be weighed.  Be assured the bird is fine.  Birds don't know what to do when they are on their backs - an unusual position for them.  It flew off just fine and yes, the weight was obtained.  

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Photos by Jane Wiewora

We next went to the rice fields to see rice being harvested.  As the combine works the fields, birds are flushed and nets catch some of the birds.  Migrant rails use these fields to feed.  We did not catch any Yellow Rails as Louisiana had so much recent rain the field we went to was too wet.  They prefer drier fields.  (They were seen by festival participants the day before and 2 were seen in this field.)

Rice combine harvesting

Rice being off loaded to truck

Close up of cut and not cut rows of rice
Photos by Nancy LaFramboise

We did however band 47!! Sora, 2 Virginia Rails, several Savannah and Swamp Sparrows.  The Sora and Virginia Rails were my #104 and #105 birds banded.

Sora (not the one I banded)
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Sora - note holding the legs differently - don't want to get impaled by those toes!
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Virginia Rail  (not the one I banded)
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Unfortunately rain impeded much more banding.  We birded Lacassine NWR and enjoyed a few birds we rarely get to see such as Neotropic Cormorant, Vermilion Flycatcher, and White-faced Ibis.

Homeward bound we had rain from Louisiana to past Pensacola.  Nonetheless it was a great experience.  I would recommend it to anyone!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October 27, 2015 Bunting Busy

This will be short & sweet but I will add more later.

The caged feeders for the Painted Bunitngs appear to be working.  We banded 4 green (can't tell female or first-year male) Painted Buntings today.  Some were still loaded with fat and may move on and others were empty.  It will be interesting to have observations to see how long each individual stays.

We also banded another Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's Thrush.  This one had more data that supports Bicknell's but the wing chord was in the overlap range.  We will have to get more information so for now it is one of the two in the overlap range.

We also banded/recaptured 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers, 2 Ovenbirds, 1 Gray Catbird, and 1 Common Yellowthroat.

Above three photos are of a undetermined Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's Thrush
Photos 1 and 2 by Bob Ellis; Photo 3 by Jane Wiewora

Painted Bunting
Photo by Bob Ellis

Next banding:  Tuesday, November 3.  Nets open at 6 am - remember time change!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October 20, 2015 Indecision

There is the agony of indecision.  Yesterday was very windy and the forecast was for more high winds.  Could we band??  It seemed to calm down overnight but it is not good to band in the wind as nets can be seen, birds can be injured, and tree limbs or debris may fall on the team.  So I sent out texts and emails stating we would likely not band but I would go see what conditions were like at sunrise.  Should I cancel?  Who would show up?  Well, Jane has the longest drive and she showed up and in the cover of the trees it was not too windy.  We waited for sunrise to see if we heard birds.  We did.  We set up 5 nets.  First run:  6 Gray Catbirds!  It did not stop after that.  Didn't have time to even call folks to tell them what we up to!  George arrived and he is as always gracious enough to stand guard over our gear while we check nets. It was very good to see Marko and Roy who came to visit; I thank both of them and Jane for taking photos. (Roy's will be on the Painted Buntings - Season 3 page)

By noon we had banded 15 Gray Catbirds, 1 Swainson's Thrush, 1 American Redstart, 1 Ovenbird and we ended the session with a green Painted Bunting. We also recaptured an Ovenbird that was originally banded this September and a Gray Catbird originally banded as an adult bird in April, 2013.  We had recaptured this bird on December 9, 2014 so it has now been on the property during 3 different years.

Not bad for a day that we were "likely not banding".  Photos follow.........

Gray Catbird - one of 15!
Photo by Jane Wiewora

American Redstart
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Recaptured Gray Catbird 
(looks like the rest of them except its band is no longer shiny)
Photo by Jane Wiewora 

Gray Catbird - with unusually gray undertail coverts
Photo by Marco Sillanpaa

Swainson's Thrush
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Next banding:  Tuesday, October 27.  Nets go up at 7 am.