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