Sunday, May 9, 2010

May Days

I was only able to get out  3 days this week, due to wind and rain. Tuesday proved to be a good day with little to no wind coming from the south. In spring, south winds bring in the migrants and in fall we tend to favor northwest winds. Banding on Wing Island keeps me close to nature. I have to be cognizant of the high tides, the direction of the wind, strength of the wind, and any impending storms that might pass over us. As I’m trudging out on the board walk, I get to experience the day coming alive.

I handled 46 birds of 15 species on Tuesday, a good day. Surprisingly, I captured a Common Yellowthroat that we banded last fall as a young male. In fall, as young birds are molting into what we refer to as their first pre-basic plumage, they replace all their body feathers and start to take on characteristics of the adult. Male Common Yellowthroats will often present with a partial black facial mask such as the one pictured below. You can see the black feathers under the eye and a hint of a black mask.

By spring they should look like this:

Just goes to show, birds can always fool you. The bird pictured in the first photograph turned out to be an older adult female with male characteristics. Her facial pattern was only one-sided and the left side of her face showed no evidence of black feathers at all. Occasionally as females age they take on some male characteristics, maybe due to a drop in hormone levels? (sound familiar ladies???) . So I’ll have to change the banding records for this one.

I was delighted to capture 2 male Tree Swallows out in the meadow. Numerous nest boxes are being maintained by the Cape Cod Bird Club, with all but one occupied by Tree Swallows. Male plumage is a beautiful iridescent blue, although some females can be exceptionally bright. These were males however, ready for breeding.
I had a crazy encounter with a Tree Swallow today. I was in the meadow to check out what we refer to as the “bluff” nets and walking by one of the nest boxes I noticed a bird on the ground. I almost stepped on him! It was a Tree Swallow almost trying to look as flat as can be with wings spread out and hugging the ground. At first I thought it was dead, but as I got a closer look he took off. I can only speculate that another male attacked him and he was recuperating or he was trying to 'hide" and when the male on top of the box flew off he would fly up and reclaim it- who knows. Always something to ponder in the bird world!

I caught a Gray Catbird that we banded 6 years ago as a hatch-year bird and haven’t seen him since. I can’t believe he’s escaped capture all these years.

Wed and Thursday were rather quiet days with few birds captured. The winds were just blowing too hard. The birds tend to see the nets when they blow. On still days they tend to be invisible. For those of you who have never seen a mist net this is what it looks like:
On Wednesday as I made my way through the woods between nets I flushed an American Woodcock apparently sitting on a nest. They are impressive birds with extremely long beaks great for plunging into the soil in search of food. Their large eyes are strategically placed on either side of their head. Although I didn’t capture one today I have done so in the past.

Pretty cool bird!!!
As soon as I flushed the bird today she dropped on the path feigning a broken wing and ran along it quite a distance, I'm sure until she felt I was far enough from her nest before flying off.

Thanks very much to Tom Burgess this week for helping with the birds. The following birds were seen, heard, and/or captured from 4-7 May. Numbers reflect captured birds only:
Total birds: 58    Total species captured: 15     Birds/100 net-hours: 20

Great Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Canada Goose
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
American Woodcock
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker- 1
Yellow-shafted Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Tree Swallow- 2
Barn Swallow
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Black-capped Chickadee- 6
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren- 3
House Wren- 1
American Robin
Gray Catbird- 18
European Starling
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler- 5
Common Yellowthroat- 4
Northern Cardinal- 3
Eastern Towhee- 4
Song Sparrow- 2
Swamp Sparrow- 1
White-throated Sparrow- 1
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch- 1
American Goldfinch- 6
House Sparrow


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