Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 15 & 16, 2014

Because we had the time and we were hoping for migrants, we did an extra session this week and it turned out to be a good choice.  On the 15th we banded an American Redstart and an Ovenbird and recaptured a Northern Cardinal.  Hard to be as excited when we compare to last week's bonanza.  We wished that the Red-eyed Vireos, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Northern Parula, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Eastern Wood-Pewee, or Worm-eating Warbler that were seen on the property had paid a visit to the nets.

The recapture showed us more of the sequence that Northern Cardinals go through from plumage right out of the nest to the first molt in the fall.  Since 9/2/14 when it was originally banded, this bird has been developing more color by molting in more feathers.

Northern Cardinal
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

During our regular session on the 16th, our only capture was another hatch-year (HY) Northern Cardinal. (Who would have ever dreamed that I was hoping for a Gray Catbird!)  This one showed unusual tail molt as it was only on one side.  Typically the feathers grow in symmetrically.  Maybe it lost its tail and it is just growing it back in.  

Northern Cardinal with asymmetric tail molt
Photo by Jane Wiewora

As is typical with HY birds, the feathers tend to be tapered rather than blunt.  This tail feather is a very good example of that shape.  (Top view of remaining tail feathers)

Northern Cardinal
Photo by Jane Wiewora

As always many thanks to the volunteers who are there despite the humidity, early hour, and quiet.  Next regular session will be September 23.  Sleep in!  Nets go up at 6:45.  May there be migrants!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September 9, 2014 A day of stripes!

The migrants have arrived and they did so in style!  Today was the day of the stripes.  Our first bird in the nets was a Northern Waterthrush, a first for Possum Long, my second ever.  The previous one was at a Painted Bunting location last winter.

Northern Waterthrush
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Our second bird was a record breaker!!  This bird had never been documented in Martin County that we know of.  It is a migrant bird that lurks in thick undergrowth and has probably been through the area before but no one had detected or documented it. It was also a new species for me to band.  

Swainson's Warbler
Photo by Nancy Price

You can see the difference from the above Northern Waterthrush (no streaks) and if you look at Worm-eating Warbler below you can see the rusty cap (Swainson's) instead of the multiple stripes (Worm-eating).  The Swainson's Warbler's bill is also larger.  I love its tiny feet.  

Worm-eating Warbler (from another session)
Photo by Georgia Binderow

Swainson's Warbler
Photo by Nancy Price

The next stripes of the day were those of the Ovenbird, our first and second of the season.  See the stripes?

Both photos by Georgia Binderow

Last but not least, we caught a very young Northern Cardinal.  Its bill is still dark and its crest isn't fully developed.

Northern Cardinal
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

One of the things that a bander can look at to age a new, young bird is evidence that all of the tail feathers grew in at the same time.  An adult molts its feathers in a symmetric sequence, not all at the same time.  When the young bird is being fed, there are different colors deposited in the tail as food type and abundance varies.  Sometimes we can see these bands of color and if they are lined up, it means the feathers grew in together.  This photo was enhanced to show the faint bands on the tail that we can see when we hold the feathers up to the light.  See if you can see bands near the upper center - hopefully the photo isn't too small.

Northern Cardinal
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

We had a wonderful session.  Migration should bring us more delights for the next few weeks.  Hope you can join us at the station or here on the blog.

Next session, September 16.  Nets go up at 6:30 am.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September 2, 2014

Today was better than expected.  No early morning captures but we finally got a few birds.  The only migrant detected on the property today was a Red-eyed Vireo so we were happy to get three for the day. Maybe next week.  We banded 2 young Northern Cardinals.  We DID get photographs but I suspect you will all be happier when Bill Eaton returns.  (Don't cringe too much Bill.)  

Northern Cardinal HY male
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

The dark splotches on his bill and the molt we noted showed this to be born sometime this summer.

Northern Cardinal HY female
Photo by Jane Wiewora

Here's the second young bird.  It was harder to tell that this was truly a HY (hatch year) bird as the bill had lost the dark splotches more typically seen as above.  The crest on this bird and the amount of molt showed us that this bird was also born this summer.  The blue-green tones are photographic lighting effects, not the true color of the bird.

Out third and final bird was great fun - a Great Crested Flycatcher.  We frequently hear these birds but it was nice of this adult bird to visit the net.

Great Crested Flycatcher
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

Next banding session will be September 9, 2014.  Nets go up at 6:30 am.

PS:  I have started a new page for Season Two of Color Banding Painted Buntings.  The early birds are back and numbers should increase all this month and into October.  (see Page list in upper right hand corner.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014

Today was much more exciting than the last session.  We had a total of three captures and some great company.  We noted a Great Crested Flycatcher, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and caught a glimpse of a small, brown bird in the undergrowth - Ovenbird?  Swainson's Warbler?  Worm-eating Warbler?  Any of these would be welcome.

Great Crested Flycatcher
Photo by Marta Isaacson

Early on we caught an American Redstart and just as we were processing it, the rain started.  Luckily it lasted all of a few minutes and it did not downpour.  I blame the rain for us forgetting to photograph our first bird of the fall.  

We had quite a break until the lawn care guy for a neighboring property started the mower.  LOUD!  It sent a Blue Jay into one of our nets.  The bird was born this last nesting season.  Its feathers were all new and were still growing in.  A visiting student got to see the whole banding process.

Blue Jay
Photo by Marta Isaacson

Not long after we caught an adult, female Northern Cardinal.  It was a great aging comparison, juvenile versus adult characteristics, as this bird was very worn.  She was molting body feathers but not flight feathers. It was clearly an adult who had had her feathers for a long time.  The fully orange beak also showed that it was an adult.   

We welcome Marta back after a long break.  She is traveling quite a distance to work with us.  We are hoping that we will see her when she can make the trip and that she will be able to assist on banding the Painted Buntings at locations to the south.  

Next banding session will be Tuesday, September 2.  Nets go up at 6:30 am.  It should keep improving each session as more birds migrate through or return for the winter.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 21. 2014

As with the beginning of any season we know that there might not be many captures.  That was certainly true today.  The good news is that there were birds around but we just did not catch any.

We did remove creatures from the nets - a dragonfly and two cicadas.

Photo by Crystal Conway

Photo by Crystal Conway

Birds noted were two Great Crested Flycatchers that were still on the property after breeding season or were just passing through on their way south.  We heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  This could have been a nearby breeding bird.  We also saw two American Redstarts.  Both were yellow so they were females or young males.  They would definitely be new arrivals.

At least one of the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron adults is still on the property.  We also saw one of the Wild Turkeys.  Neighbors told us they had seen chicks.  Not sure we want a flock of these heading for the nets.

We are beginning to hear of returning Painted Buntings.  Watch for updates on the Color Banding Painted Buntings page.  Look in the upper right corner for the page listings.

Next session will be Tuesday, August 26 with nets going up at 6:30 am.  Please feel free to visit.  Make sure you check at the end of the property on Hibiscus as we frequently park there.

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014 - It's fall !?!

Welcome back to the Possum Long Banding Blog.  It seems such a long time since the last post.

In the interim I visited a few places and attended banding at 2 locations in Washington state.  It was great to reconnect with my mentors and friends.  A shout out to Ed, Heidi, Chad and Rich.  Unfortunately no new species banded.

Yellow Warbler
Photo by Rich Barchet

Nancy Price was able to go to northern Florida to band with Erin from FWC.  FWC is studying our Painted Buntings on their breeding grounds.  It would be so terrific to someday catch one of those (banded with yellow/green split) or for them to catch one of ours.  (See page on Banding Painted Buntings - upper right).

Painted Bunting
Photo by Nancy Price

We will be starting fall banding soon.  By its very nature fall banding starts out very slow and is hampered by wet weather.  So, if you want to participate, be prepared for both.  We do not band in the rain.  We may start and have to close.  Hot weather will make for some short sessions at first.  That all said, it could be very exciting.  Early migrants include Swainson's and Hooded Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrushes.  Southern breeding warlbers like Prairie and Yellow-throated are possible.  Could we be so lucky? Last year we caught Brown Thrashers.  Things will pick up by early September.

We will typically band on Tuesdays but will also throw up nets if we sense a change in weather or bird action.  I will send emails but they may be as late as the morning we band.  To get on the e-mailing list make a comment here and include your email address.  Regular sessions are noted at the end of each post.  So, come to Possum Long anytime from daybreak (6:30 ish) and hope we are there.

Next session will be THURSDAY August 21.  Nets go up at 6:30.  Prolonged rain cancels session.

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!