Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 5, 2017

Possum Long held some excitement for us today but not in the form of a bird we could band.  We did band 1 new Gray Catbird and recaptured a Painted Bunting and another Gray Catbird so you could say it was slow.

The excitement made up for that!

One of the first net runs there was something BIG in the net.  As usual I started to curse the squirrels.  Last time I did that the "squirrel" was a Chuck-will's-widow!  This time it was..............

....... a Cooper's Hawk.  I can reassure you that though the photo is dramatic and may be upsetting, the bird was extracted fairly easily and it flew off just fine (see video to follow).  We used a cloth bag to cover the bird's head while we untangled its claws.  This kept the bird calm and kept us uninjured.  The permit we operate under does not allow for the banding of raptors (hawks, eagles, and falcons).  So we released it unbanded.  Pete took another slo-mo video.

This Cooper's Hawk is a young bird.  It will eventually develop a reddish color on the chest.  Typically this kind of hawk hunts birds but this one dropped a rodent near the net.  

release of Cooper's Hawk
video by Pete Grannis

So, thus ends banding at Possum Long for 2017.  We will recommence at a later date.  Watch this blog for updates.  Painted Bunting banding sessions will continue to be posted here.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

November 28, December 2 & 3, 2017

Our regular Possum Long Banding session was mostly a recapture day with only 2 new birds.  We recaptured a Gray Catbird from November 11, 2014.  It was still in great shape after having made a few trips since it was originally banded.  Pete took a slo-mo movie which I am attempting to add.

releasing a Gray Catbird
Video by Pete Grannis

We also recaptured and banded Painted Buntings.  Our recapture data is looking very good and adding one more at Possum Long has given us 17 there this season.  

The other new bird banded was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - so tiny.  It weighed only 6 grams which is just a tad more than a nickel weighs.  (Painted Buntings average 15 grams)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Sincere thanks go out to Nancy Price and Pat Marshall who hung all of our nets that were not in use and inspected them for holes.  Nets age or get snagged in plants and other things.  Sometimes for a bird's safety we need to cut a strand or two.  Net repair can be tedious but having these marked will make the job much easier.  I appreciate their hard work.

Quite a few years ago, PB 27 hosted Dr. Rotenburg (NC summer Painted Buntings Project leader - PBOT)  when he was in Florida to see a NC bird she had at her feeders.  Then we began our winter study.  Now she has hosted us quite a few times.  This site has a long Painted Bunitng history.  Saturday we returned to PB 27.  We banded 16 birds - 15 were green (10 born this past summer, 5 female) and 1 male.  We noted a few more males and recaptured one but there is an abundance of greens at PB 27 right now.  

Painted Buntings at PB 27 (new green and recaptured male)
Photos by Bill LaFrambosie

The recaptured male bird had a very faded red band.  We replaced it with a new one but you can see how brown the faded one looks.

Sunday we returned to PB 46.  We banded 7 new Painted Buntings and all of them were birds born this past summer.  We did see male birds though.  We also caught a new Blue Jay.  It was also born this past summer.  

Blue Jay

Our last Possum Long session for 2017 will be Tuesday, December 5.  Nets go up at 6:30.  We will announce our return to Possum Long after the holidays.  Until the, keep a watch here for more Painted Buntings Season 5 reports.  

Painted Bunting total so far:  70!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November 21, 2017 Session cancelled due to rain

This session is cancelled due to rain.  See you next week.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

Wild Turkey
not taken at Possum Long

Monday, November 20, 2017

November 14, 17, and 19

Tuesday at Possum Long was better with the arrival of more Yellow-rumped Warblers.  We banded 4 of them in addition to a Black-throated Blue Warbler, 2 Gray Catbirds, and a Northern Cardinal. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Photo by Pete Grannis

Gray Catbird
Photo by Pete Grannis

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Photo by Pete Grannis

Since we have been banding near the pond at Possum Long, several folks wondered if there were more birds back at our "woods" net.  This area is our best area for numbers and diversity.  No coincidence that it is densely vegetated and has pretty good ground cover.

So, we returned to Possum Long on Friday to test the theory.  It did pay off.  We banded 2 Painted Buntings (known for their love of cover), 2 Gray Catbirds, and an American Redstart.  We also recaptured the Carolina Wren that was one of the first birds we banded this fall.  We could not get all of the bird's measurements then as it was molting.  It is now fully feathered and we collected all of the typical data.

Carolina Wren

On Sunday we revisited PB 1.  Though there were quite a few birds attending the feeders, it was a bit windy and we only caught 3 new buntings and recaptured one from last spring.  It had been banded as a young, green bird and it remained green so we now know it is a female.  

Painted Bunting (male)
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Grand total of Painted Buntings to date is 45.

Next scheduled banding at Possum Long is November 21.  Nets go up at 6:30 am.

Monday, November 13, 2017

November 4, 5, and 7, 2017

Things have really slowed down yet we are still catching a few new birds.  We banded at PB 32 on Saturday and at Possum Long on Sunday and Tuesday.

Painted Bunting sessions will become more of our entries over the next few months.  We will continue at Possum Long until early December but will be taking a break over the holidays.

Our return trip to PB 32 was productive.  We banded 2 new buntings and recaptured another.  It is always great visiting with our hosts.

Painted Bunting
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

On Sunday we tried setting up at the pond at Possum Long.  Unfortunately the water is high so we cannot span the water as we have in the past.  We did manage to catch a Painted Bunting, 2 Gray Catbirds, a Common Yellowthroat, and an Eastern Phoebe.  Eastern Phoebes are winter residents and we rarely catch them.

Eastern Phoebe
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Gray Catbird
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Common Yellowthroat
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

At our regular Tuesday session we again caught Painted Buntings, two of them.  The good news is there seem to still be some banded and unbanded ones around.  Maybe they are still arriving??  We also caught a Common Yellowthroat that had been banded last year.  Nice to see some site fidelity in that species.

Painted Bunting - hatch year, sex unknown
Photo by Pete Grannis

Common Yellowthroat
Photo by Pete Grannis

The next regularly scheduled Possum Long banding will be on November 14.  Nets go up at 6:15.  

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October 31, 2017

Tuesday banding at Possum Long was much busier this week but the migrant birds have mostly moved through.  It is really hard to predict which ones will stay and over winter and which ones are still moving through.  We had a lot of Gray Catbirds on the property.  We banded four.  We also banded three Painted Buntings and recaptured another one from last spring.  I believe the population is increasing on the property.

We also banded one new Palm Warbler and a Black-throated Blue Warbler.  There were quite a few recaptures (Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue Warbler, American Redstart, Gray Catbird).  Most had been banded within the past month.  Comparing fat now to when they were banded was concerning.  Most had not gained fat.  Maybe they will just over-winter.

American Redstart - recapture
Photo by Pete Grannis

Since I didn't get any Painted Bunting photos from this session I am posting a photo of a male we banded at PB 61 on Sunday.

male Painted Bunting
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Who is on the Osprey pole?  During the last few sessions at Possum Long I heard that the following happened but I didn't get the photos until yesterday.  

Who is on the Osprey pole?

We have had recent flyovers of Egyptian Geese; a recently established exotic in Florida.  I never expected them actually be on the property.  I have seen Canada Geese on Osprey poles before.  They roost there until the residents return.  Must be safe up there.  I was glad to finally get a photo of this.

Egyptian Geese on the Osprey pole

Megan has been volunteering with us for the past few months.  She has such great enthusiasm and drive to learn and help.  She banded her first bird this session.  

Megan with her first banded bird
Gray Catbird

Next scheduled banding session is Tuesday, November 6.  Keep in mind the time change.  Nets go up at 6:30.

Monday, October 30, 2017

October 21, 28 & 29, 2017

Tuesday was very quiet compared to other migration days.  It turns out that Wednesday would have been ideal but we were unable to band.  Likely from now on things will be quieter but maybe we will still have some surprises in store.  The weekend had a few!

At Possum Long we banded three birds.  A Black-throated Blue Warbler, a Red-eyed and a White-eyed Vireo.  Those birds made it a good day.  We also saw the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher again and were very surprised it was still present.  Happiness all around.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Photo by Pete Grannis (welcome back!)

Red-eyed Vireo
Photo by Pete Grannis

White-eyed Vireo

On Saturday, we returned to PB 46.  We banded a total of 9 Painted Buntings and had a recapture from a previous season.  These recaptures are giving us very good longevity and site fidelity data.  

Painted Bunting
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

For incidental captures there we were surprised to have a Magnolia Warbler.  There have been more of this species captured this season than any other.  We also had a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Blue Jay.

Magnolia Warbler
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

On Sunday we returned to PB 61.  We banded a total of 11 Painted Buntings and recaptured 3.  All three had been banded in March, 2016.  This means that they had flown up to their breeding places and back two times since being banded!  

Painted Bunting
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Incidental captures gave us another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  This is one of the smallest birds we band.  They weigh just over the weight of a nickel.  We also banded a Cape May Warbler.  Third for this season and only the fourth ever!  Note gray cheek with pale area under it.

Cape May Warbler
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Our season total of Painted Buntings now stands at 32.  

Next banding session is Tuesday, October 31.  Nets open at 7:30.

Monday, October 23, 2017

October 21, 2017 hosting Young Audubon

Saturday the banding station hosted a Young Audubon event for Audubon of Martin County.  Eight students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades came to learn about bird banding.  They got to see birds, banding techniques, nets, and most of the aspects of banding smaller perching birds.  We talked about what can be learned from bird banding.  We did two exercises to understand a bit of the science.

A popular exercise was "how many at your feeder"?  Hershey miniatures representing 1 bird species came and went from a "feeder".  There were never more than 4 out at any one time.  When asked how many birds, the students realized that only 4 had appeared at any one time but that no one was sure if they were all the same.  The exercise was repeated with marked "birds".  It was quickly apparent that 8 birds had been seen but never more than 4 at a time.  The chocolates were then devoured.

We also repeated an exercise where a small stick is gathered to represent a bird leg.  They are measured with a leg gauge to determine band size.  Each one was told a bird species that had a leg that size.  They also used cut straws to color mark their bird leg.  We were fortunate to recapture a color banded Painted Bunting which really illustrated this activity.  They learned that the position of the colors determined a unique combination for each bird.

leg gauge

cut straws representing color banding

We banded a total of 14 birds and recaptured a few.  We had 1 American Redstart, 1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 1 Common Yellowthroat, 1 Palm Warbler, 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers, 1 Ovenbird, 2 Red-eyed Vireos, and 5 Gray Catbirds.  Some of the students were able to release birds.  They enjoyed comparing their size band from the measuring exercise to the real ones we used.

It was such a busy event that there wasn't always time for photography but here are a few photos:

Red-eyed Vireo
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Common Yellowthroat
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Black-throated Blue Warbler (female)
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Excitement for the day, besides the birds banded and sharing our project with students, was the presence of a new bird for the Possum Long property.  Robin spotted an amazing treat for all present!  Totally unexpected was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in the top of the large ficus tree.  Typically this species feeds over fields from low trees, power lines, or fences.  The majority of its diet is large insects like dragonflies and grasshoppers.  This bird was actually observed eating the figs from the ficus tree.  I only knew of one other instance of this species in Martin county.  There are sometimes small numbers of them in open areas in western St Lucie county over winter.  This seems like an early arrival.  It is not expected to stay in the area.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Next regualrly scheduled banding is on October 24.  Nets open at 7:15.  If it is raining hard the session will not be held.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

October 17, 2017

The last day of this 4 day marathon was relatively quiet yet exciting.  We recaptured a Northern Mockingbird that we had banded almost exactly one year ago.

Northern Mockingbird

We banded a total of 6 new birds:  1 Black-throated Blue Warbler,  1 Black-and-white Warbler, 1 Red-eyed Vireo, 1 Northern Cardinal and 2 American Redstarts.  It was the redstarts that held the excitement.  

Black-and-white Warbler

Typically a female or young male American Redstart has yellow coloring and a white underside.  The second one we caught was distinctly different.  There are color variations in most species.  Many times it is a lighter color, partially white, or entirely white birds.  There are also differences in many yellows and reds.  In this case the bird was distinctly blacker than normal.  This is called melanistic.  We are waiting to hear more about this particular bird.

American Redstart - melanistic

We are setting up for a banding event on October 21.  Young birders in grades 3-6 can come view our station.  We will post results.

The next scheduled banding session will be held on October 24, 2017.  Nets go up around 7:15 am.

October 16, 2017

On Monday we caught more bigger birds than warblers.  We did catch 1 American Redstart and TWO more Magnolia Warblers but the rest of the captures were big.  It has been hard to believe how many Magnolia Warblers are around and being captured.

We caught a good variety of the bigger birds:  Our second only Scarlet Tanager.  The white underwings are created by the flight feathers being half white and half black.  The black shows on the upper wing and the white shows on the underwing.  This is not the case with the similar Summer Tanagers.  This bird was missing its tail.  There were signs of it already growing back in. 

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

We also caught 3 thrushes:  2 Gray-cheeked and one Swainson's.  This Gray-cheeked does not show the spectacle that the Swainson's does.  It was carefully measured to rule out the smaller Bicknell's Thrush.

Gray-cheeked Thrush

We rarely capture Rose-breasted Grosbeaks but they had been on the property for several days and were feeding on figs, palm berries, and beautyberry fruit.  Last year when we caught another one it was feeding on beautyberry. 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The other birds caught and banded were 1 Brown Thrasher, 2 Gray Catbirds and 1 Northern Cardinal.

Note for next scheduled session is on the next post.

October 15, 2017

Sunday was a gift to birders and banders.  We banded a total of 21 birds of 12 species.  We saw 11 different kinds of warblers as well as many other migrants.  Remember you can see bird lists of this site on eBird.  Explore hotspots, type in Possum Long, view recent lists or all sorts of other data.

Many of the birds we banded were warblers:  1 American Redstart, 1 Magnolia Warbler, 1 Northern Parula, 1 Common Yellowthroat, 3 Black-throated Blue Warblers, 1 Ovenbird, and our best bird of the day.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Northern Parula
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Common Yellowthroat
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Our best bird was a real surprise as they are tree-top lovers so we rarely catch them and also because in the fall they typically migrate more offshore.  Fall Blackpoll Warblers do not look like the "chickadee look-alike of warblers"  they are more streaked and yellowish.  However their feet still have bright soles.  

Blackpoll Warbler
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

The other 12 birds banded were 2 Red-eyed Vireos, 5 Gray Catbirds, 1 Northern Cardinal, 3 Painted Buntings (YAY!) and a Blue Jay.

Red-eyed Vireo
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Gray Catbird
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Continue to view the next 2 days.  Update for next session is on the October 17 post.

October 14, 2017

Because of migration we banded 4 times recently.  I have decided to post each day separately as that way I can tag the species so they can be sorted or searched for at a later date.  On Saturday we dodged rain, rain, and more rain.  We pulled the nets at 10:30 but there were plenty of birds around.

We banded 1 Gray Catbird, 3 Ovenbirds, 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers and our surprise for the day were 2 Indigo Buntings.  Both were young birds (born this past summer) one male, and one female.  On the male you can see a bit of blue on the wrist.

Indigo Bunting
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Once the rain finally stopped and we were able to reload the car, we went birding.  There were birds all over which convinced us to return the next day.

I cannot remember any other fall with so many Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, Red-eyed Vireos, and Magnolia Warblers.

Magnolia Warbler
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Baltimore Oriole
Photo by Bill LaFramboise

Continue to view the next 3 days.  Update for next session is on the October 17 post.