I had a new experience on the bluebird trail in mid-July.  I went to band babies in Box 4 at Kensico Cemetery on July 13. The babies were 6 days old, and I was greeted with all four babies desperately begging for food – beaks wide open.

A similar experience last year told me that something had happened to their parents and these abandoned babies would starve to death if I didn’t do something. I made the quick but scary decision to get them adopted. We fortunately had two other nests at Kensico with nestlings a couple days younger, plus a nest at nearby Landmark commercial property with babies the right age.

I banded 3 of the 4 babies before I put them into the adoptive nests so I could keep track of them.  Unfortunately, the 4th baby was a tiny runt and too little to band (even though it was 6 days old).

The first baby (not the runt) went to box 1 at Kensico, which already had 5 nestlings. I prayed I wasn’t putting all of them at risk by adding a 6th.  The second nest at Kensico had 4 babies. I added a 5th, one of the adoptees, and then because I didn’t know what else to do, I added a 6th – the tiny runt.  I took the last adoptee to Landmark, giving that nest a 5th nestling.

This was all during the extreme heat wave and I knew that it was the second brood for these adults, so I was more than worried about all these babies. I did observe that each of these 3 nests had both male and female adults bringing food to the nests.

I went back the next day.  The nestlings were all alive, but some of the nestlings in the Kensico boxes were begging for food and the runt was begging non-stop. Had I done the right thing???

I went back the day after that.  Again, the nestlings were all still alive . . . and all the birds now seem to be well fed  (they were not begging) except the runt.

It occurred to me I might help a little by providing some mealy worms, and found some at a pet store.  I tacked a cup of meal worms on the top of the boxes in Kensico and the adults immediately took advantage of the free food.

I fed “Tiny” a little extra for 3 days, but could only do this once a day.

I finally felt confident to band the rest of the babies. The adoptees were 10 days old and their nestmates were 8 days , but looked the same age. I banded the original nestlings on the left leg so I could keep track of which were the adopted ones.  Tiny was still too little to band, but he was still alive.

I checked the next day (babies 9 and 11 days old).  All were alive and well, except sadly, Tiny had finally given up the fight.

Cece checked for me two days later and all was well. After that, we couldn’t open the nestbox for fear of premature fledgling.

I went today and with breath held and fingers crossed, and opened all the boxes.  I was greeted with an empty nest in all three!

At Landmark, I spotted both adults in the nearby trees. The male was making alarm calls the whole time I was there, and the female had an insect in her beak. I tried in vain to find the fledglings that I knew were hiding in the trees. The adults’ behavior assured me that the bluebird rescue was a success. We brought 3 extra bluebirds into the world that otherwise wouldn’t have made it.

Whew!!! A happy ending.



Comments Off on HANA MAPS SESSION JULY 13, 2012

Total of 25 birds, of 9 species 9 retraps and 40 observed.  Again, a very hot and humid day as we approached the noon hour.  More birds than last session, but still numbers are down.  Because of the heat and humidity, we kept a close eye on the nets, closing nets 10 and 11 30 minutes early due to sun exposure.

 There was a good number of Song Sparrows, but fewer Yellow Warblers than we’ve been seeing.  There was one particularly beautiful American Redstart female as well.  Numbers overall are down, because birds are either leaving for the season or have grown accustomed to where the nets are located.  It is also important to note that because of this extended dry period, a lot of bird numbers are down in the area.  While we’re still observing a decent number of species (thanks in specific to two of our seven volunteers) in the study area, it is quite obvious that both shorebird and passerine numbers are down.

Because we’re displaying a poster on the bird banding at HANA at both the Mill Seat and High Acres Waste Management Open Houses, on both July 26th and July 31st respectively, I took some processing and extraction photos of our volunteers in action that I later used on the poster.  Samantha Gonzalez

Applying a band. Photo by Samantha Gonzalez

Applying a band.
Photo by Samantha Gonzalez

Removing a Bird From a Mist-net

Removing a bird from a mist-net


Comments Off on HANA MAPS SESSION JULY 6, 2012

Total of 21 birds, of 6 species; 8 retraps and 38 observed.  Very slow day, larger numbers of Yellow Warblers and Song Sparrows. Seven volunteers came out on an increasingly hot and humid day.  Net 12 was closed at 7:10am, after the second net check, because two of the volunteers were stung by angry and beligerent hornets, not typical bees.  We later determined that the nest had fallen and the increased activity had caused them to seek out victims.  I got stung the day before while setting it up, but simply thought I was unlucky; after the other two got stung we took no more chances and closed the net. 

Highlights included a nice hatch year Warbling Vireo and some older American Redstart males that were molting like crazy.  It was a hot day, and take-down time was welcome.  Samantha Gonzales

HY Warbling Vireo Photo by Samantha Gonzalez

HY Warbling Vireo
Photo by Samantha Gonzalez

Molting ASY male American Redstart Photo by Samantha Gonzalez

Molting ASY male American Redstart
Photo by Samantha Gonzalez

Spring 2012 Education Events

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At the 7th ANNUAL COOL KIDS! ECOFEST held Saturday, April 14, 2012 at Genesee Community College representing BBBO, Pat Lovallo operated a display table and interacted with attendees to bring awareness of our organization and the work we do.   The ECOFEST is a very big and well attended nature festival and it is the second time BBBO has participated in it.

On April 21 and 22 of 2012 she also manned and presented our traveling education displays at the Braddock Bay Raptor Research BIRD OF PREY DAYS festival.   Our participation has been a yearly event for at least the past decade.

On May 18, 2012 BBBO was invited to be a guest science presenters at Rochester’s Charles T. Lunsford School 19’s DISCOVERY THROUGH SCIENCE DAY where several classes of 4th and 5th graders were scheduled one at a time for our BBBO presentation.   It was a successful and rewarding experience with the students responding well and asking very thoughtful questions.  This is the third time that BBBO has participated in this annual school event.  Pat Lovallo


Comments Off on HANA MAPS SESSION JULY 29, 2012

We had  33 total birds of 8 species, only 5 recaps and roughly 26 species observed.  Two of the GLISTEN USLs and a Pittsford Sutherland high school intern volunteered again today to help net-pick and they even started some banding.  There were significant numbers of hatch year Gray Catbirds and Baltimore Orioles, despite for the most part the adults having moved on.  This is partly evidenced by the number of retraps per session declining.  While there was considerable rain (to finally end the nationwide drought) the night previous, the weather held up perfectly for the day, albeit the start was a little damp and dark.  Some trail pruning was required due to heavy leaves sagging into net areas.

Some highlights included an older Red-bellied Woodpecker male that was caught in the southern most net 4. The nice uniform shades of the flight feathers provided for easier aging. There was also a pair of hatch year Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, both a male and female caught in the same net at the same time.  Examining the under-wing coverts offered easy sexing with the matching pink and golden feathers, and provided a nice side-by-side comparison.   Samantha Gonzalez

Teen Banding Class Comes to an End

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The first Teen Bander Training Class has come to an end!  Collectively, the girls banded 71 new birds and processed 21 recaptures, including Blue-winged Warblers, American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Traill’s Flycatchers, American Goldfinches, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-eyed Vireos, Warbling Vireos, Swamp Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, Gray Catbirds, and American Robins.  They net-picked around 125 birds, scribed for each other, and learned the basics of aging and sexing birds (including how to use Peter Pyle’s identification guide!).  All eight girls show remarkable promise, and we suspect we’ll see several of them at our station this fall as volunteers.

Emily and I would like to thank Tom, Kathy, Cindy, Chita, Gayle, and Ann for helping us this week.  We could not have done this without you, and we are so grateful you gave up a morning or two (or three!) to nurture the next generation of banders.

Thanks to everyone!

By the way – we believe yesterday’s mystery warbler was a Cape May.  We were able to determine it was a hatch year (juvenile) bird based on a partly pneumatized skull.  While the yellow feet initially had us thinking Blackpoll, we ruled it out based on the weak wing bars and the strong streaking on the breast.  None of the other juvenile warblers looked quite right for this bird, and the hint of yellow going up the neck sold us on Cape May.  Careful reading of both Peter Pyle and the Peterson Warbler guide lent support to our ID.  It’s an unusual sighting in Rochester at this time of year, and it was great for the kids to see that even the grown-ups have to think carefully, consult reference books, and ask each other for help.

Quiz Bird Stumps the Teen Banding Class!

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I’m not quite certain why anyone tries to predict the weather in Rochester.  When I woke up at 4:00 Thursday morning and checked the radar and weather forecast, I was certain the entire day would be a washout.  Nevertheless, we headed up to Braddock Bay because we had told the students class would go on, rain or shine.  BBBO must be located inside some sort of weather bubble, because our entire day was rain-free.  While we didn’t get an overwhelming number of birds, we got enough to keep our young banders busy.  Pictures will best tell the story.

For the first time this week, there were birds for all!

The students continued net-picking, scribing, and banding.

Brenna measures the wing of a Red-eyed Vireo

Anna skulls a Common Yellowthroat

Cici prepares to band a Tufted Titmouse.

Emily quizzes Bethany, who uses the field guide to correctly identify a Warbling Vireo (as did all the students!).

And then . . . we got an unfamiliar bird.

Bella extracts our Quiz Bird

Emily is stumped! (So is everyone else.)

Here are two views of the bird . . .

Quiz bird!

Quiz bird!

I’ll tell you tomorrow what we think it is.  Any guesses?

The Teens Start Banding!

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It was a beautiful day at BBBO – a welcome change from the hot and humid weather of the last few days.  The birds are still not cooperating, but we had just enough to keep our teens busy as they learned to band birds.

We set up a banding table outside in the shade, and each of the students banded several birds.  They learned the entire banding process – from putting on a band, to taking measurements, to aging and sexing the birds.  Skulling the Yellow Warblers proved to be a challenge, but the students quickly learned to spot the obvious differences between juvenile and adult Gray Catbirds and Red-eyed Vireos.  The afternoon was spent discussing bird development and how to age birds by plumage, skull, and several other criteria.

While many of the birds escaped before the entire process was complete, we still managed to band 39 birds of 10 species, plus 4 recaps.  Gray Catbird was bird of the day with 13 new bands, but it was followed closely by Yellow Warbler with 12.  Particularly lovely was a juvenile Wood Thrush, which had light buffy streaks all over the wings and head.  The weather tomorrow looks dicey at best, but we are still optimistic!

Claire bands a Cedar Waxwing, her favorite bird! Photo by Andrea Patterson

Raelena and Cici band Yellow Warblers as Bethany scribes. Photo by Andrea Patterson


Teen Banding Class, Day 2

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Day 2 of the Teen Bander Training class was a complete success, despite another morning with few birds.  The students spent the morning net-picking, scribing and learning bird topography.  I was thoroughly impressed with their ability to remember unfamiliar terms like ‘furculum’ and ‘lores.’  After a break for lunch, we had a great discussion on ethics.  The students drew “what should you do if . . . “ questions out of a hat, and we were delighted with their astute and well thought out answers.   We had a brief discussion about why people band birds, followed by an overview of the scientific method and how banding can contribute to our pool of knowledge.  The next item on our busy agenda was an activity on noticing field marks and using them to identify birds, and we closed the day by practicing with the banding tools.  The students held a rolled-up bird bag in one hand (to simulate an actual bird), and then practiced opening the pliers with the other hand, using and reading the ruler and calipers, massing the bird, and releasing it safely.  Tomorrow will be a big day as most of the class will band their first birds!

Today there were 35 new bands on 10 species, and 15 recaps.  We were not yet overwhelmed with Yellow Warblers, but there are signs that migration is underway.  Yellow Warbler was bird of the day with 10 banded (up from 3 yesterday), and one of them had a fat score of “4” which means it was fueled up and ready to go.  With winds from the north tonight, perhaps tomorrow will be a busy day!

Bella scribes as Gayle bands an American Redstart. Photo by Andrea Patterson



What a difference in the number of birds captured this year during this MAPS period.


Net hours

Total # birds collected

Birds per net hour

















On the session from July 20-July 29 note the number of birds caught per net hour.  Our collection yesterday yielded a five fold decrease in number of birds.  The only major change in the area, was the unauthorized mowing of four new wide paths through the open meadow areas and in the deep woodlot, with one of these mowings going right through a net placement area.  Otherwise the number of nets, their placement and type of net has remained the same.  Many white birch in the area are showing stress and dropping their leaves as if it were fall and we have not hit August yet.  Conditions are very dry with many low shrubs and plants completely dried up.  The temperature at out site was over 90o F by noon.  A second mowing to keep net lanes open was not necessary because no plants under the nets came back.  The green ash trees that have plagued the area are exhibiting dark brown to black mottling of their leaves to the point that some leaves are completely black.  Numbers of insects are down, at least the ones that bother us like deer flies and mosquitoes.  The small streams that develop from the road ditch to the lake have not had water in them for the last two months.

Species variety is maintaining at 36 on my breeding status list.  Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers dominate the statistics.

Joining me Monday, July 23 were Chita McKinney, Tom Klotzbach, Cathy Belair, Jenna Holzschuh, Kevin Eckert, Ann Nash, Kathy Habgood, Pat Lovallo and Peggy Keller.  Our last session will be Thursday, August 2.       Marian Klik

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