Tuesday, September 4, 2018

September 4, 2018 - WA first!

Ah, what a relief it is to feel caught up for now.  If you've been reading all along, there have been some update posts and some newer posts.  But this is finally in real time as of today.  If you are new to this blog, welcome.  There's a lot to read but we hope it is of interest and value to you.

Today Bill and I went banding with Ed Rykiel on his project in Richland parks.  He has a huge emphasis on education which is really in keeping with what we do and will be doing.  It was great to be working with Rich again too as well as getting to know Lori better.

We set up 5 nets in WE Johnson Park.  This park is special as it has excellent habitat and is known for its great variety of birds.  Lisa Hill helped us scope out our location.  Having Lisa so near the park means she really understands what birds are in the park and where.  I always enjoyed finding migrants here.

We banded a total of 14 birds.  The long desired Black-capped Chickadee was caught and banded - my #116.  We banded a total of 6.  Another surprise was a Lincoln's Sparrow.  They are on the move from their higher elevation breeding grounds.  We had expected Song Sparrows so catching a  Lincoln's Sparrow first was a surprise.  We eventually did get 3 Songs as well as a Bewick's Wren.  During the later morning slump we did catch a White-crowned Sparrow.

Song Sparrow

The next to last net run yielded a Western Tanager.  She had a receding brood patch.  A beautiful bird.

Then the final bird of the morning was a shocker!  (Yes, Nancy Price, I did carry it back to the banding table a little hidden behind my back!)  Imagine catching a bird we had yet to see in Washington state.  Please realize we lived and birded here for 22 years before our move-and-7-year-stay in Florida.  It is really hard for us to add to our Washington list.  The surprise bird was a Magnolia Warbler.  Note its diagnostic under-tail pattern.  Also note that not all warblers with yellow rumps are Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Magnolia Warbler

I can't wait to see what's next.......

August 26, 2018 - west of the Cascade Mountains

Fresh off the plane from Arizona, we went to Edmonds, WA to observe a banding class conducted by the Puget Sound Bird Observatory.  I had taken a course through this organization a year before I moved to Florida (2010).  We banded in the Cascade Mountains and I have fond memories of this experience.  I was very pleased to be able to reach out to Christine Southwick and she graciously let us come to observe and/or help.

The class was specifically run on weekends so working folks could attend.  The small class size was perfect to accommodate us.  Students were Jen, Zack, Mariko, and Karissa.  Instructors Chris, Cynthia, and Elaine were great to work with.  We went on net runs, assisted in data taking, and whatever was needed.  Our first run had three American Robins and more.  It got hard to keep track of birds going in different directions (to different students and instructors).  It was clear that we were also students (does one ever stop learning? - I hope not).  It had been a while since we did evaluations of breeding birds and new hatch year birds as most of our banding was with winter birds.  It had also been a while since we looked at western species.  And thirdly, I had never worked west of the Cascades.

American Robin

Net runs also yielded Spotted Towhee (I banded a HY SPTO), Black-capped and Chestnut-sided Chickadees, Song Sparrows, and more.

Things got quiet for a while and we were just taking down nets when one net had 8 or 9 birds!  Wow - four or five were Bushtits as well as an Orange-crowned Warbler, and a already banded Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  I think there was also a wren or Song Sparrow too.  Oh, how I had wanted to band a chickadee (all were recaptures) but of course I settled for a Bushtit which was a new species for me to band.  (#115).  I must remember, patience is a virtue.

Bushtit (female)

The Bushtit was so incredibly small.  I had banded other small birds (gnatcatcher and kinglet) but this beat all!  5 grams!  I love her glaring eyes!  The male Bushtit has dark eyes.  This bird had a receding brood patch - was the whole family in the net?  As it turns out the answer is no, there was another post-breeding female.

What a tremendous opportunity.  I hope to encourage others to take classes offered by Puget Sound Bird Observatory and/or to support their work.  They are home-based in Puget Sound but work for all we believe in, in Washington, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond.  We hope to participate again.  

August 18, 2018 Visiting Hummingbird banding

Welcome to our new look and new focus.  We have a new location, new projects coming, and a new header!  We will share any and all of our exploits, on our projects or the ones we visit, to learn more through banding and the birds in-hand.

On August 18, while birding in SE Arizona, we headed to Sierra Vista to attend hummingbird banding at the San Pedro House.  My permit does not allow me to band hummingbirds.  This takes special training and permits.  I really wanted to learn holding techniques and just to see another aspect of bird banding.

The banding was sponsored by Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO).  The permitted bander is Tom Wood and banding that day, was Sheri Williamson, author of "Hummingbirds of North America" in the Peterson Field Guides series.  Tom and Sheri are directors of SABO.  Studying and banding hummingbirds for years, they have amassed a wealth of knowledge about these jewels.

They banded over 30 Black-chinned Hummingbirds that evening.  Their local males had left but there were still migrating males, females, and young birds to see.  They take down all of the usual feeders and place a net enclosure around one remaining one.  When a bird is there the outside edge drops to catch the birds.

The birds are transported to the banding table in mesh containers and wait there until the birds can be processed.

Hummingbird bands are made in 5 sizes - extra small to extra large - by hand by the banders.  Sheets of thin metal with imprinted numbers are cut, filed, sized, and shaped.  The tools are much like the ones we have pictured on the blog for our work but smaller.  

Hummingbird banding tools and bands

The whole process is actually much like small bird banding but with adjustments.  Holds are along the body, securing the wings.  Birds are evaluated for fat, parasites, sex, molt, color, weight, and more.  

Applying the band

Checking for fat and overall condition

Of course some methods had to be adjusted.  The hummingbirds were wrapped in a gauze/net material and clipped to a scale to be weighed.  Each bird was no more than the weight of a penny (the old copper kind!).  

Weighing a hummingbird

The whole process is open to the public and there were a lot of folks there.  The first 30 people were asked if they wanted to release birds.  There was much enthusiasm for that.  Birds were offered nectar during the banding process if it appeared they were tired or even if they were over-active and needed calming.  They were also fed prior to release.  The volunteers made all the work look easy and a lot of education was done.  An excellent experience!

My sincere thanks to Sheri for answering all of my questions and for the work she does.  I also thank Tom Wood and all of the volunteers for this opportunity and for the work they do.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Summer 2018 (May 31) - posted 9/2/18

On May 31, Dr Jamie Rotenburg (bander in NC who does the summer version of our banding) received a band report from a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources colleague who is at Botany Bay State Park on Edisto Island.  It is a male.  The colors are CKSW  (lime green over split on the left, silver over white on the right). It is one of our birds!!

CKSW was banded at PB 27 on January 23, 2016 and ironically Jamie was there at the time!!  He had come for a  3 day visit to give some talks on the results of his research and he attended this banding session with us.  The host at PB 27 had one of Jamie's summer banded Painted Buntings and had hosted him one other time way before we ever started banding in FL in winter.

How strange can this all be??

CKSW at time of banding 1/12/16
resighted on its breeding grounds in SC

Summer 2018 (June 16, 2018) - Posted 9/2/18

Let me start off with apologies to Wendy Allen who contacted me on June 22, 2018.  It has taken me this long to catch up and I am truly sorry.  The information is still interesting and worth knowing.  Though we saw so many color variations in Painted Buntings with our FL winter work, this is something we never saw.

One June 16, there was a group of observers at the Baruch Marine Lab in Georgetown, SC that served as a PABU banding site 2007-2012.  They observed this banded Painted Bunting:

"Goldie" a very yellow Painted Bunting
Photo by Wendy Allen

As you might be able to see it is missing a color band above the SC split red/white.  After much searching of records by John Gerwin (NC Museum of Natural Sciences) and Wendy (and/or her folks there) it was determined that the missing band was black and had been applied below the split.  The bird was second-year when it was banded on 6/6/12 and was still green prior to the fall molt when it would acquire its male colors.  It was banded at this site.

Even more interesting was that this bird had been resighted and photographed on July 5, 2014 and was a typically colored male.

We can only wonder why it lost the red coloring in the between time.  Originally I suspected something genetic but that does not seem to be the case.

Wendy and the observers at this site also had another long-term visitor at their feeders.  YESE was banded on 7/15/09 as a second year bird.  It is still being seen, so it has survived 10 years.  It has been observed every year since it was banded.  Keep up the good work.  I can only hope I continue to get reports from FL hosts.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Summer 2018 - posted September 1, 2018

This photograph of a strange looking Painted Bunting showed up on a Painted Bunting Facebook site.  The person who posted referenced the location as near Seminole county, FL.  She and others wondered if the bird was injured by banding.  It had a yellow band on its right leg and a silver (federal) band on its left.  I knew immediately it was not one of our banded birds (or if it was it had lost 2 bands - unlikely).  I contacted other researchers involved with Painted Buntings and was told that the Smithsonian had used silver/yellow on birds that were outfitted with geolocators.

This bird had some strange feather growth over its geolocator but in every way it was feeding well and carrying on like the other birds at this feeder.  A geolocator is read when a bird returns to its banding site and is recaptured.  It has data that indicates where the bird has been.  Everyone was real excited to know one of the birds had been seen at an overwintering location. Hopefully it returned to where it was banded.  The feather "bustle" may indicate which bird this is even if it can't be recaptured. 

At times so little data gets back to a bander. We were very fortunate this year to have captured previously banded birds and to have one of ours seen in South Carolina.  More in another posts (hopefully soon).  It has been amazing how many resightings have been on social media.

Summer 2018 - Posted September 1, 2018

So buntings are back and it might be time to consider a caged feeder.  They are featured in many posts and have so very successful for encouraging Painted Buntings.  So what will you do with one over the next summer? 

Marko was always our innovator.  He adapted his caged feeder into a butterfly rearing cage.  If you choose to do this be aware it is a tad bit of work as they keep eating the host plants and then they make their mess!  Moisture is needed but not too much.

Marko made cover screens to keep the caterpillars in and birds and lizards out.   I'm sure he will remove these now that buntings are back.

Host plant for Black Swallowtails

Black Swallowtail caterpillars

Great idea Marko, hope others try this!