Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29, 2012

Well another day where no captures is still data gathering.  We are doing this project to document the presence (and absence) of birds, their abundance, and their arrival and departure dates.  So, even though we did not have captures we did accumulate data and had some interesting sightings.  It was very heartening to read the Lake Lotus blog to see they are also having a lull.  They have been banding long enough to say that things will be picking up again soon.


As usual, the Osprey was present and we heard it right from the wee hours.  Another Osprey brought a fish to this bird but either this bird wasn't hungry or the offer wasn't good enough.  The snubbed bird flew off with the fish.  This bird eventually went to the nest pole.  We'll report when they are sitting.

Yesterday I heard that the finch irruption had reached Dade county (Miami area) 2 hours south of us but I had not heard of any local reports.  Well, it has also reached Martin county.  The feeders at a private residence on the other side of the pond at Possum Long had at least a dozen American Goldfinches at it today.  American Goldfinches reach northern Florida on a fairly regular basis but they are very unusual here.  Now we are wishing for a Pine Siskin to show up (we saw them in Georgia last week) and Longing for either of them in our nets at Possum Long.

American Goldfinches

In addition to the banding, we are monitoring species on the property and those flying over.  I was really pleased to be able to get the auto focus to catch this Red-tailed Hawk in flight.  Red-shouldered Hawks are much more common and this is only the second Red-tail I have seen at Possum Long.  As of January we will be posting the species totals for Possum Long and connecting to the eBird list for the banding station.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Next banding session will be on December 6.  Nets go up at 6:30 am.  Hope to see you there.  Once again, many thanks to all of the volunteers who set up nets, recorded birds, and keep up morale.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 15, 2012

Well, today provides me with a teaching moment and update time as we did not catch any birds today.  However, we were awesome at net set-up.  Nets were set up in record time and volunteers took the plunge to set some up by themselves.  Many thanks to all volunteers!

If you have never seen a mist net, you can barely see one here (photos by Nancy Price).  The birds cannot usually see it either!  The net is to the right of the pole and you can see the loops used to spread the net between 2 poles.  A tight string runs the length of the net between the loops.   The net in between the strings is taller than the gap.  The net settles in a pocket below the lower string.  If a bird hits the net it is likely to slide down the net and lay in the pocket.  You might just be able to see the pockets (sagging) especially along the lower tier of this next photo.

The bands that are used are provided by the Bird Banding Laboratory and each band has a unique number.  Once we band a bird and let it go, if it is ever recaptured at our site or another one, the Bird Banding Lab can contact us with details of where it was found.  We would then be able to tell the person who found it the data we took on that bird.

We spent a long time mending a net this week.  Last week a dog ran through Possum Long and tore a wide gash in one of our nets.  The net is now repaired and there will soon be signs warning that dogs must be on leash.  Many thanks to Pat Marshall who helped mend.

An update on the cardinal's strange legs (see picture November 8).  It seems that there is a normal shedding of skin off a bird's leg but that did not appear to be what was going on with the cardinal.  An avian veterinarian told us the extra skin might have been caused by bird mites.  The bird's feathers were so crisp and healthy that we are still unsure if this is the cause.

The Bicknell's Thrush is a review species (very rare) in Florida so I submitted a report to the Florida Bird Records Committee.  They will decide if they feel this was a valid identification when they meet next summer.

Not a bird, but a positive sign that the property at Possum Long is becoming a healthy environment, 2 Gopher Tortoises have taken up residence near the pond.  One was out sunning today.  You can envision the burrow behind the tortoise.

We will not be banding next week so we hope to see you back in two weeks.

Friday, November 9, 2012

November 8, 2012

Back in August, we visited another banding station at Lake Lotus near Orlando.  Andrew Boyle keeps a blog of their sessions and inspired and encouraged this blog.

Seeing thrushes on the Lake Lotus Blog and our recent thrush activity made us well prepared for more.  As Nancy Price and I set up nets, I saw a thrush go from the edge of the butterfly garden into cover.  On the 8:30 net run we had a thrush in the net.   This proved to be the "Catch of the Day" - a Bicknell's Thrush!

Bicknell's Thrush photograph by Nancy Price

Bicknell's and Gray-cheeked Thrush can be identified by voice or measurements so documenting a Bicknell's is a significant data point for Possum Long.  Wing measurements showed the smaller size of this bird.

Bicknell's Thrush wing measurement
photograph by Nancy Price

The 9:00 net run produced 2 birds: our first Northern Cardinal and our first female Black-throated Blue Warbler.  The cardinal was feisty as expected.  These birds tend to clamp down on skin so we offered her a stick which she kept clamped in her bill for a long time.  Better the stick than my hand!

female Northern Cardinal
photograph by Nancy Price

The female Black-throated Blue Warbler was easily identified by the white mark on her wing.  Volunteers and observers were happy to see or learn this field mark and to see how it is formed by the individual white patches on the wing feathers.

female Black-throated Blue Warbler
photograph by Nancy Price

Next on the roster was a male Northern Cardinal.  He certainly looked intimidating - Angry Bird??  Photographs by Nancy Price

We ended up not banding this bird due to the leg shape on this bird.  We are exploring to see if this is a variation or a deformity.

The last bird of the day was a Gray Catbird, also a hatch-year bird.  

I am very thankful to all of the volunteers who have been getting this program off the ground with manual labor, photography, support, encouragement, and even refreshments!

October 31, 2012

This banding day turned out to be fairly quiet but looking on the good side of things, it gave us a chance to practice net setting and to become more efficient at all of the tasks.  We are starting to notice the return of some birds to Possum Long.  It was very nice to hear Eastern Phoebes on the property even though we did not capture one.

Eastern Phoebe photograph by Nancy Price

Our one capture was a Hermit Thrush.  Its red tail was very obvious but we were careful to observe the rest of the field marks.

Hermit Thrush  photograph by Nancy Price

The first wing feathers are called primaries and are counted from the outside toward the body.  P10 is small so P9 is the first feather one can really see in the photograph.  Counting inward, one can see that P9 is shorter than P6 (at fingertip).  This confirms Hermit Thrush.  Also the wing feather shape is visible in this photograph.  The bumps on the upper edges of P6, P7, and P8 is called emargination and is used to differentiate some species.

evaluating wing feathers of Hermit Thrush
photograph by Nancy Price

Hermit Thrushes are birds that skulk in the understory and are frequently undetected.  I have not heard call notes the way I have in other locations.  Catching one is a great data point for the information we are gathering for Possum Long.

We are working on finding bird movement patterns on the property and to find more net locations to test.  Progress!

November 2, 2012

Another banding session and another thrush species.  First thing we had a Swainson's Thrush in the net.  The background color of the spotted chest and relatively large eye-ring were apparent.  Wing measurements and the length and shape of the feathers confirmed this species.

Swainson's Thrush

Next we had 2 Gray Catbirds.  Both birds were born in the last nesting season (hatch-year) as told by mouth color.  It looks like we will be catching a fair number of Gray Catbirds but as of yet we have had no recaptures.  Time will tell whether some migrated through or left the property or if we have resident wintering ones.

Gray Catbird

Maybe because the birds were young they called frequently or maybe this species is just vocal.  When they did this we were able to see inside the mouth.  Adult birds have dark mouths and hatch-year birds are pink.  You make the call....

hatch-year Gray Catbird