Saturday April 18, 2015:  80 birds of 19 species; 7 recaps.  New species:  Eastern Phoebe, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, American Tree Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Slate-colored Junco, Northern Cardinal, and Brown-headed Cowbird.  Bird of the day was Ruby-crowned Kinglet with 27 banded.

Wow!  What a perfect day!  The weather cooperated, the birds cooperated, and our volunteers worked like a well-oiled machine!  Opening day can be sort of “iffy” . . . sometimes we only band 5-10 birds, and sometimes we band 150-250.  Today was a nice compromise with enough birds to keep us occupied but not so many as to prevent us from enjoying them.

We banded five new Northern Cardinals today, which is typical for the start of the season.  Cardinals present an aging challenge for us in the spring.  Most of them undergo a complete (or nearly complete) molt in the fall – regardless of age – which means both younger and older birds have identical-looking feathers.  Occasionally we get a bird that has retained one or two of its brown juvenile feathers, and that allows us to age the bird as younger.  Today, we had an interesting bird that had gone through a complete molt, and then had adventitiously molted several feathers at a later time.  Look at the photo below and notice the contrasts in color:  the lesser coverts are bright red, the median coverts are dull, the greater coverts are bright, and the rest of the wing is dull with the exception of one feather in the middle of the wing.

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Those contrasts don’t help us age this particular bird, but they sure are cool!

We also had 12 visitors stop by the station today, including the amazing Grace – a very smart young lady who already knows quite a lot about birds.  We tried to stump her with hard questions about bird behavior, but she had good answers to every one.  We hope she’ll be back often!