Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 24, 2015

This session was much busier than the last few weeks but still only a hint of migration.  Florida migration is very weather dependent and we had hoped that west winds would drop birds.  There were a few but first off we were in for a big surprise.

Our first bird in the net even before first light was an Eastern Screech-Owl!

Eastern Screech-Owl
Photo by Pete Grannis

I was thoroughly amazed at how calm the bird was.  I expected to be grabbed or bit.  Neither happened.  The owl was not very tangled so release was fast.  We got a few photos and then released the bird unbanded.  We did not have the proper size band.  The bird sat on my hand for longer than I expected and then quietly took off into the dawn.  Amazing how light this bird was.

After such a beginning we captured two migrants.  It is so rewarding to read that a certain species is on the move and to then capture some.  We banded two Common Yellowthroats.

Common Yellowthroat
Photo by Pete Grannis

Also captured today was the same female American Redstart that was banded in the March 19, 2013 that we also caught on March 3, 2015.  Not sure this is the same female but it is a photo of one we captured on that day.

American Redstart - photo from March 19, 2013

Also captured were 2 Gray Catbirds and a Painted Bunting (green - female or first year male).  All in all a nice day.

Next session:  Tuesday, March 31.  Nets go up at 6:30 am.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 17, 2015

One truth can be stated - migration is underway but we cannot prove it at the station as of this session.  Several notable birds were seen this week at Possum Long but not in the nets.  For several important reasons, we did not set up all of the usual nets.  We also did not have any captures.

Diana found a new bird for the property:  an Orange-crowned Warbler.  Below is a photo of one we banded in January, 2014 at Lakeside Ranch Stormwater Treatment Area.  A Black-and-white Warbler was also around and it would be hard to tell if this one was around all winter or had newly moved onto the property.

Orange-crowned Warbler
Photo by Bill Eaton

The presence of a newly banded Black-throated Blue Warbler is exciting as it supports the theory that birds that are low in fat remain around to fatten up for the rest of their journey.

Chimney Swifts were detected.  They are a summer resident and one of the early signs that migration is underway.  Yellow-throated Vireos are now being seen.  This is a species we detected on the property in early March last year.  Hopefully weather and movement will combine for a busier week next session. 

Next session will be March 24.  Nets will go up at 6:15 am.  All are welcome.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March 10, 2015

10,000 hits!!

First off I would like to thank all of the followers of this blog for their interest.  On March 9, somewhere around 1:30 we passed 10,000 hits to this blog.  We do this study for its primary purpose of determining the status and distribution of birds (what birds, when) but one of my goals is sharing and education.  THANK YOU!  Today also marks our 100th post.

We banded 2 new birds and recaptured 4 at Tuesday's session.  In studying the above mentioned status and distribution, we expected more Gray Catbirds this winter.  Obviously there was something different this year.  There were many fewer catbirds than the past 2 winters.  We did band 1 new one and recaptured one we banded in the fall.

Our other new bird was a Black-throated Blue Warbler.  Yay - migrants are beginning to move.  This was a male born last summer.  The white speckling on its throat indicated this.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Photo by Jane Wiewora

The other recaptures were 2 color banded Painted Buntings one from last December and one from this February.  We also had a male Northern Cardinal that was born last summer and banded in September but now looks like all the other adults.

We also monitor birds on the property.  The nesting Osprey is a big draw for visitors and everyone awaits the appearance of the young.  Though Osprey are common, it is special to see its life played out in front of our eyes.

Photo by Pete Grannis

Next banding session:  Tuesday March 17.  Nets go up at 6:15.  Visitors are welcome at any time but most birds are typically caught in the first few runs.  (Of course if there are many migrants, this could be proven wrong!)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 3, 2015 Recapture Day

Well, it was a recapture day.  We only caught 4 birds today and all were recaptures.  Actually recaptures provide us with a lot of information and show that certain birds do return to the exact same places.

It was also a beautiful day to be outdoors and looking for birds moving in and through the property.

Spider in the web
Photo by Nancy LaFramboise

One of the birds recaptured today was a female American Redstart.  First good news is that we had not seen any redstarts on the property all winter so this one returned from somewhere.  It was actually banded in March of 2013.  (Our first spring)  This bird had no fat at all and appeared wide awake but weak.  We gave it a few good sips of sugar water and it perked up and flew away with a good-bye chip note.

Two other recaptures were Gray Catbirds.  I think both were from last fall but I will check data soon.

The last recapture was an Ovenbird first banded last fall.  When I crop the photo this way it is hard to tell how truly small this species is.

Photo by Jane Wiewora

Once again the chicken was of great entertainment.  We are trying to get it to come close to us so it can be caught and relocated somewhere more appropriate.  

Jane making friends with the chicken...

progressing to eating out of her hand.  Next week, new home.

Next banding:  March 10.  Nets go up at 6:45.  Hope for more migrants.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 24, 2015

I know you are likely anxious to read about the birds but I need to let you know that this effort and blog would not happen without the marvelous crew of volunteers who show up day after day and week after week.  Today we worked extra hard as we hung, cleaned, and inspected a lot of nets in addition to all of the regular tasks. I am indebted to all who make this possible.  THANK YOU!!!!

We will be very busy this week and the next few.  We nearing the end of the Painted Bunting season (with quite a few more places to go) and are getting ready for spring migration.  We are seeing molts and fat and that means birds are moving.

We had birds on the property today that hadn't been around for a while.  Present today were White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, singing Northern Parulas, Yellow-throated Warbler and more.  Our resident Red-shouldered Hawks are feeling the spring too.

We banded 4 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 2 Gray Catbirds, and almost banded a Painted Bunting. We also recaptured a Blue Jay and 2 Northern Cardinals.  

Pete holding a Yellow-rumped Warbler
Photo by Jane Wiewora

We determined that this bird was an after second year (not born last year) male.  We did this by several features but mostly by the uppertail coverts.  There are the obvious yellow feathers of the rump and then some coverts that show a wide black center and blue edging.  

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Photo by Pete Grannis

The Painted Bunting we caught went unbanded.  We determined that its legs were enlarged and unable to wear a band.  This damage we are told is due to mites.  We did see mites in its wing flight feathers.  Likely the legs will continue to swell and the bands would have constricted circulation.  He was a very oddly colored bird; more orange than red, and quite beautiful.  So sad to see what damage mites can cause.

Painted Bunting
Photo by Pat Marshall

Painted Bunting - close-up of the flattened and thickened legs
Photo by Pat Marshall

On a happier note, the Gopher Tortoises are out and visible (at least sometimes).  Perhaps they are happy for the warmer temperatures and sunshine.

Gopher Tortoise
Photo by Pete Grannis

Next banding:  March 3  Nets go up at 6:15.  Last one before daylight savings time!  Enjoy "sleeping in".

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February 17, 2015

It was good to re-open the banding station at Possum Long.  Weather permitting (no high winds or rain) we will be back to our Tuesday morning banding sessions.  Once migration is really moving we may add additional impromptu days.

Yesterday was quite busy in the early morning.  We banded a Northern Cardinal and a Painted Bunting.  We are so happy to now have 2 new caged platform feeders and the buntings are using them.  Two more are on the way!  Three of these new feeders are thanks to the efforts of Bruce and Pat Marshall.  In time, Possum Long will be THE public place in the area to observe Painted Buntings.  We recaptured a green that we originally banded in December. (The feeders are working!)

We also recaptured a Gray Catbird from November.  It is amazing how scarce this species has been this winter.  We did have one big catbird day last fall so maybe some will pass back through in the near future.

The rest of the morning we listed birds on the property.  Pete found a Magnolia Warbler which is likely an early migrant.  They are not a species that typically over-winter here.  A Ruby-crowned Kinglet was a first for the property since we have been doing monitoring.  It is hard to add new ones to the list (which is over 100).

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (not the one at Possum Long though)
Photo by Larry Umthun

Picture taking was at an all time low.  I think we were so fascinated by watching a Red-shouldered Hawk devour some prey.  Looking for birds and trying to photograph an ever moving chicken also kept us busy!  Our resident not-wild Wild Turkey now has a new companion.

Next banding:  Tuesday February 24.  Nets open at 6:15.  Visitors are welcome.  We have some nets to hang and inspect.  If we are not too busy we will be doing this.  This is a great opportunity to learn how to help put up and take down nets!!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

January 31, 2015 Grassland Sparrow Study visit

Though this did not occur at Possum Long, it is worth sharing.  For the past 4 years, I have gone to and assisted at the Weeki Wachee Sparrow Banding at Spring Hill, FL.  Marianne and Clay have been studying grassland sparrows for the past 8 years.  Their study aims to determine what species are present and if birds return to the same location (site fidelity).  Actually some birds have returned to the same field in subsequent years .

Grasslands at the Weeki Wachee Preserve
yes, there are nets up

Grassland birds are hard to detect almost anytime.  On their breeding grounds they may perch higher and sing but most of the time and in winter they are deep in the grasses and if flushed they return to the ground and run away.  Birds are corralled into the nets by a line of people walking toward the nets.  Birds are extracted, banded, and released.

I was fortunate to assist with this effort.  We banded 26 birds.  3 House Wrens and the sparrows:  5 Grasshopper, 8 Savannah, 9 Swamp, and a Henslow's!  The Henslow's was my first observed in Florida and my 97th species banded.  Two Wilson's Snipe (I extracted one) were also caught but they are not on Marianne's permit so they were not banded.

Henslow's Sparrow
photo taken by a participant with my camera

Wilson's Snipe

Being busy I did not take photos of the other species but I do have some photos from other years which are shared below.

Swamp Sparrow
Photo by Bill Eaton

Comparison of Grasshopper (front) and LeConte's Sparrow (back) from 2012
LeConte's not captured this year

Savannah Sparrow