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A Pefectly Miserable Thursday

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Thursday, April 23 2015:  9 birds of 3 species, 6 recaps. No new species.  Bird of the day was Black-capped Chickadee with 7 new bands.  The crew dodged the weather this morning, opening and closing nets between the bands of snow showers that peppered the lakeshore.  There’s nothing like Mother Nature to keep you on your toes!

This was the scene from the banding station on Thursday morning.

This was the scene from the banding station on Thursday morning.  Photo by Jim Saller.

Blue-headed Vireo New Species For Spring 2015!

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Wednesday April 22, 2015. It was damp and chilly, with very few birds banded, but it was good to be back at BBBO, and a slow start was good for the Wednesday crew to get back in the swing of things.  Rain threatened but did not materialize,  so we were able to run the full six hours with all nets opened.  We banded 14 new birds including a Hermit Thrush and a Blue-headed Vireo, the latter being a new species for the season.  Swamp Sparrow and Common Grackle were also new for the season.  We had 13 recaps. Cindy Marino, BIC

The first Blue-headed Vireo of the season.

The first Blue-headed Vireo of the season.

First Warbler!

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Tuesday April 21, 2015:  25 new birds of 13 species; 24 recaps.  New species:  Yellow-shafted Flicker, Blue Jay, Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler.

There were south-ish winds overnight, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the rainy weather as it appeared most birds stayed put.  We didn’t get large numbers of new birds, and nearly half the birds we handled today were originally banded last weekend.  Nevertheless we did get our first warbler of the season.  Myrtle Warblers typically come early among warblers, and we were glad for this small sign that migration is on its way.

We banded two White-throated Sparrows today that were absolutely stunning in their color.  While we band hundreds of them each year, not all of them are as vividly colored as the one pictured below.  White-throated Sparrows come in two different color varieties (white and tan), and because the varieties always cross-mate, they keep the ratio of white to tan birds constant.  The two color varieties exhibit different behaviors (white morphs sing more, are more aggressive, migrate earlier, and refuel faster), which makes them a really great study subject.  Today, we were just happy to be able to study their gorgeous plumage!

White-throated Sparrow.  This white morph is exceptionally vividly colored!

White-throated Sparrow. This white morph is exceptionally vividly colored!

Wind and Rain Play Spoiler

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Monday April 20, 2015:  2 new birds of 2 species, 2 recaps.  Birds of the day were Slate-colored Junco and Northern Cardinal, each with one new band.

We opened a handful of protected nets at dawn, but wind and rain shut us down around hour 2.0.  The forecast seemed to change every 10 minutes, and due to the unpredictability (as well as the steadily increasing wind) we decided to call it a day.  Tomorrow should be better!

Oh oh . . . Chickadees . . .

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Sunday April 19, 2015:  52 new bands of 11 species; 10 recaps.  New species:  Carolina Wren and American Goldfinch.  Bird of the day:  Black-capped Chickadee with 18 new bands.

Today looked just like yesterday – with sunny blue skies to start the morning – but it was COLD and it just never seemed to warm up very much.  Nevertheless, we had a pleasant morning taking turns banding (to warm our hands) and going on net-runs (to warm the rest of us).  Two teenagers joined our crew this morning.  Claire A is a high school student from Webster who took our teen banding camp last year, and Matthew L is a student from Greece Arcadia who is joining us for the first time.

The clear highlight of the day was a Black-capped Chickadee . . . or perhaps I should say a not-quite-Black-capped Chickadee!  While the chickadee pictured below had a normally colored body (including wings and tail), his head was missing black pigment in both the cap and bib.  In addition, his legs and feet were mottled pink and black.  This condition is called leucism, which is an abnormal lack of melanin (and perhaps other pigments) in feathers.  You can read more about it in the Summer 2014 issue of the Marsh Wren.

Partially leucistic Black-capped Chickadee.

Partially leucistic Black-capped Chickadee.

We’re off to a great start!

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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!

All Set Up and Ready to Go!

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On Thursday April 18, fourteen of our favorite volunteers came to help us set up the station for spring banding!  Folks slowly trickled in starting around 8AM, and by noon nearly the entire station was ready to go.  Tom K and Andrea put up the last few nets around 1:00, and now everything looks great!

Special thanks go to:

  • two new volunteers Kim and Nancy – who braved the set-up day craziness and came through with flying colors
  • Tom K who stayed until the bitter end
  • Jeanne V who dusted and even vacuumed the station!

as well as Tom V, Barb F, Marilyn, Cindy, Pat L, Alice, Doug, John, Betsy and Andrea who pitched in and did whatever needed to be done.

New volunteers Kim and Nancy help Betsy put up an aerial net.  They couldn't have a better teacher, and we couldn't have had better help!

New volunteers Kim and Nancy help Betsy put up an aerial net. They couldn’t have a better teacher, and we couldn’t have had better help!

Tomorrow looks perfect for opening day – southwest winds overnight with a beautiful morning on the horizon.  We hope we’ll see many of you out and about this season!

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