Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29, 2013

Today could have been a total bust but for one great bird.  It was pretty muggy and the forecast wasn't too great.  The birds took a long time to start singing in the early morning.  We got the nets set up and there were cardinals and catbirds near the woods net.  I was trying to watch those birds when less than a foot from me something jumped up.  It went into the net.  My first thought was squirrel (that being a bad deal if it ripped the net), but squirrels do not have feathers.

Photo by Marko Sillanpaa

We caught a Chuck-will's-widow!!  Wing length confirmed our identification and ruled out Whip-poor-will, the other possibility.

I never dreamed I would band this species.  I can pretty much guess I might get a Palm Warbler, Northern Mockingbird, etc but I would not have predicted it.  No one had ever detected one on the property.

Chuck-will's-widows are named for their vocalization.  They belong to a group of birds called nightjars and they are night hunters, catching flying insects.  They have rictal bristles near their mouths.  When they are flying if a moth or other insect touches the bristles the mouth flies opens in order to catch it.  What a big mouth it has!

Photo by Nancy Price

Photo by Nancy Price

Mouth wide open; good thing it doesn't bite like a cardinal.

Many thanks to all of the volunteers!  I know some were disappointed to get there after the bird-of-the-day and then to be rained out.  You are a great help and I appreciate your efforts.

Next banding February 5, 2013 (weather permitting)

Additional information:  We noted that this bird had white feathers on one side of his tail but not the other.  The Nightjar Survey Group is discussing this and it is possible that our bird lost some feathers and then molted in some replacement ones.

Photo by Marko Sillanpaa

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013

We were fairly consistently busy today and broke some records.  We caught a total of 5 birds and while that doesn't seem to be a big number it is still better than 0.  It is fortunate that with it being slow, we are able to train new assistants to handle the birds.  Ten species were added to the 2013 Bird List page.

Linda Wishney with a Gray Catbird

It paid off having new feeders on the property (Thank you Nancy Price and Marko Sillanpaa).  While the birds are known to be on the property, it brings them lower and closer to the nets.  On the first net run we caught two Blue Jays.  We checked the leg size to make sure the appropriate band size was used.  

Blue Jay
Photo by Marko Sillanpaa

Blue Jay
Nancy Price held the bird and Marko photographed it.

Age was determined by the barring on the coverts (feathers covering the flight feathers near the wrist).  This is an adult bird.

The next bird we caught was a male Mourning Dove.  Many had never seen the blue markings on the head and iridescence on the throat that lets one know the bird is male.  We all enjoyed seeing the blue eye ring.

Mourning Dove
Photo by Marko Sillanpaa

Another new event today was our first recapture.  The Gray Catbird in the photo with Linda was one we banded last week.  It was caught in the same net.

Then the highlight of the day was a male American Redstart.  It takes the smallest band size but was about twice as heavy as last week's Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

American Redstart
Yes, its tiny head is hidden by my fingers

American Redstart
Photo by Nancy Price

Next banding session will be on Tuesday, January 29 at Possum Long.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

1/15/2013 We're back!

Well, it has been quite a break.  First it was very quiet and we were not catching anything.  Then there were the holidays.  Then there was rain, rain, and more rain.  Today the weather was near perfect for banding.  We set up nets and waited.  Then the dry spell was over - we caught a Gray Catbird.

As of January 1, all birds have a birthday.  It is a good time to advance the bird timeline because for some birds it becomes harder to tell if a bird was born in the last nesting season.  After the new year, all birds are at least 2 years old and are designated "after hatch year".  If I can still tell if a bird was born last year, it is recorded as a "second-year bird" and that is still "after hatch year" but a more specific age.  This catbird still had a pink tongue so it was noted as second year.

photo by Nancy Price

We caught a second Gray Catbird.  This one had a black tongue and there is no way to tell if it was born last year or before that, so it was recorded as an after hatch year bird.

We watched the Osprey pair on their nest.  There will be eggs soon.  They both had a nice fish dinner.

We noted quite a few species on the property.  There is now a page on this blog where you can go to see the species totals for the year.  Each one will be dated with the first seen date and whether it has been banded.  Thanks to Nancy Price's efforts the sightings during banding sessions will be tracked on eBird.  There is a Possum Long Banding Station location.  Having the data on eBird will allow us to follow arrivals and departures and to create seasonal graphs as time goes on and we get more data.  Thank you Nancy Price!  We will be posting directions on how to view data on eBird at a later time.

We were encouraged to see a few warblers today including Palm, Yellow-rumped, and Prairie.  There were quite a few Blue-gray Gnatcatchers around and we were able to entice one into the net.

Photo by Pat Marshall

I had never banded a gnatcatcher before.  It was banded with the smallest band and weighed only 4 grams! I knew they were tiny but this is amazing.

Photo by Nancy Price

Also hanging around was an Eastern Phoebe.  It didn't quite get that it had to go into the net in order to be banded.  It chose to perch on the net pole.  Actually, maybe it did know what it was doing!

Almost at the end of our banding day we got a Yellow-rumped Warbler in a net.  It was fun to see a "myrtle" subspecies in hand.  It was a male just getting in some black around the face.  The large black centers in the feathers below the yellow rump indicate that it is an adult male.

I am very pleased to share that the Board of Audubon of Martin County (AOMC) has voted funds such that we will be getting 3 new nets.  We are grateful to Pat & Bruce Marshall who have donated funds to AOMC make this possible.  As more donations arrive, we will be growing a bit more.

Next banding session will be held January 22, 2013.  Many thanks to all volunteers who made this session possible.