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Another day, another snowstorm

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Thursday April 22, 2021: We were closed today due to wind and snow.

BBBO goes global

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Wednesday April 21, 2021: We were technically closed for the day, thanks to several inches of sloshy snow that fell overnight and through the morning. It was a cruel disappointment, because we had been invited to be part of a Livestream event hosted by Swarovski Optik . . . but with the weather unfavorable for normal banding, in true BBBO fashion we made the best of a bad situation.

In 2020, Swarovski decided to start a series of livestream events broadcast on facebook. These events followed birders into the field, and showed the birds they were seeing through digiscoped images or via feeder cams. The series continued in 2021 with five episodes, the fifth of which was to feature North America. Several sites were selected, including:

Ash Canyon Sanctuary (Hereford, AZ)
Black Swamp Bird Observatory (Oak Harbor, OH)
Braddock Bay Bird Observatory (Rochester, NY)
Braddock Bay Raptor Reserach (Rochester, NY)
Central Park (NYC, NY)
Central Valley Refuge Areas (CA)
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory (Duluth, MN)
High Island Sanctuary / Smith Oaks Skywalk (High Island, TX)
San Diego Audubon Society (San Diego, CA)
South Padre Island Nature Center (South Padre Island, TX)

We and Black Swamp Bird Observatory were going to be the first locations in the series to feature banding, and we were beyond excited to be invited! Emily Patterson drove in from New Hampshire to do the actual banding, and we invited young birder Robert Buckert to help with the color commentary.

But when it became clear that the weather would be a complete disaster, we launched plan B. We put up nets in the “backyard” of the banding station, and borrowed 5 potter traps from Chris Normant, a professor at SUNY Brockport. On the morning of the broadcast, we opened the backyard nets and set the traps, and checked them every 3-5 minutes to ensure that no bird would be caught for long in the snowy conditions. We ended up catching one new White-breasted Nuthatch one new Black-capped Chickadee, and 27 recap chickadees. We were able to show off our birds and talk a little about chickadee irruptions, and we were able to chat with the hosts of some of the other sites about the birds they were seeing. It wasn’t our vision, but it was still pretty cool!

You can view a recording of the livestream through the Swarovski Facebook page, or through their YouTube channel.

–Andrea Patterson

A couple of early birds . . .

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Tuesday April 20, 2021. 81 new birds of 7 species; 47 recaps. New species: Slate-colored Junco and Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle form). We have banded a total of 12 species this spring, 2 of which are warblers. Bird of the day was Black-capped Chickadee with 52 new bands, followed by Myrtle Warbler with 11 new bands.

It wasn’t the most beaufiful of days on the lake shore, with broken clouds and chilly temperatures, but it was a good day for people and birds! Emily was back for the day, refreshing her migration skills in preparation for a big event tomorrow, and we were joined by experienced volunteers Gayle, Nancy, and Carolyn, and by new scribe Jennifer. Jennifer is a student at SUNY Brockport, and she is working on two research projects – one on Eastern Bluebirds and one on Peregrine Falcolns. We’re thrilled to welcome her to the crew!

Chickadees dominate AGAIN . . . but we were so excited to see our first Myrtle Warblers of the season. Myrtles have a pre-alternate molt that fancies them up for the breeding season, but interestingly some of the birds we saw today are still in the process of finishing that molt. Most of the warblers we see that have an alternate plumage, have finished their spring primping before they step foot in Monroe County, but Myrtles are early-season warblers and it perhaps isn’t surprising that they finish their molt en route. When you add in the natural variability in the appearance of these birds, aging and sexing them can be a bit of a challenge. Both of the birds above are seccond year (i.e. they hatched in 2020) and both are male, but notice how different they look, with the bird on the left being much paler and browner overall.

Thanks to everyone for their help today!

–Andrea Patterson

White-throat steals the show

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Monday April 19, 2021. 63 birds of 7 species; 17 recaps. New species: White-throated Sparrow. We have banded a total of 10 species this spring. Bird of the day was Black-capped Chickadee with 47 new bands, followed by Ruby-crowned Kinglet with 9 new bands.

The morning started on the chilly side, but warmed up well as we had a good bit of sun and little wind. Nathan continued netpicking . . . unfortunately, with Black-capped Chickadees still dominating the captures, we rather feel that he’s been tossed into the deep end of extraction training. We’d prefer to set him up for success with a series of easy thrushes and sparrows, but you take what you get, and he’s doing well despite the difficulty level. Chita and Marilyn rounded out the netpicking team today, and they are both getting a real workout with the trail conditions as muddy as they are!

White-throated Sparrow

Our species diversity is still low, but we did get our first White-throated Sparrow of the season. We don’t capture nearly as many in the spring as we do in the fall, but they look extra-snappy in the spring as they actually replaced feathers on their head. This bird looked exceptionally smart with his bright yellow lores, dramatic black and white head stripes, and clean white bib.

In addition to Chita, Marilyn and Nathan, we were joined by Janet as our scribe. Thanks to all!

— Andrea Patterson

Our first warbler . . . and he’s GORGEOUS!

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Sunday April 18, 2021. 85 new bids of 7 species; 32 recaps. New species: Blue Jay, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Northern Cardinal, and Yellow Palm Warbler. Bird of the day was Black-capped Chickadee with 77 new bands.

The march of the chickadees continued unabated today, with flock after flock making their way east to west down the hedgerow, from the driveway towards Rose’s Marsh. We cautiously opened only 2/3 of our nets at sunrise, and the first three nets runs were relatively quiet. We were encouraged to be able to open the back net lanes but almost as soon as we did so, the maurading hoardes appeared and we were kept busy for the next several hours. They quieted down again shortly before we were set to close – a bit of consideration we appreciated quite a lot.

Yellow Palm Warbler

Although the dee-dees continue to be the big story, we did have a delightful visit from an early Palm Warbler. Palms breed in the boreal forests of Canada, and spend the off-season in Florida and the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and teh Yucatan Penninsula. There are two subspecies that move through our area. The Western Palm Warbler is the most common, and we’ll see them in good numbers next month. The name “Western” in this case may sound misleading, but they are definitely western in comparison to the other subspecies we sometimes see. The Yellow Palm Warbler usually migrates on a path much closer to the Atlantic coastline, and they tend to migrate earlier than their Western counterparts. When we get really bright yellow Palm in early spring, we know we have something unusual!

Thanks much to today’s awesome crew. Barb W. has been a lynchpin of the Sunday crew for many years, and she is joined by Lydia and Cindy C. as our experienced anchor team. After a pandemic hiatus, Danielle and Robert returned to the station today, and we welcomed new crew member Jules. With three high-school students and three moms now staffing our Sundays, this is a young but incredibly talented crew.

— Andrea Patterson

Chickadee-dee-delightful? More like Chickadee-dee-dee-demon!

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Saturday April 17, 2021. 119 birds of 4 species; 33 recaps. New species: American Robin and Song Sparrow. We have banded a total of 4 species this spring, none of which are warblers. Bird of the day was Black-capped Chickadee with 106 new bands, followed by Ruby-crowned Kinglet with 10.

Like a rubber band that stretches and then snaps back, so to are chickadee movements! Last fall, thousands of these adorable black and white birds irrupted across our area, many of them moving east and west along the south shore of the lake. Now, they are on their way back from whence they came . . . and while we love them, they are a handful! Weighing only 11-12 grams (less than half an ounce), they have big bold personalities full of fiestiness and sass.

Black-capped Chickadees move in small flocks, and they seem to have a fondness for our hedgerow, which parallels the lakeshore. We can see them flitting through the bushes and trees – sometimes just skimming the top of the net, and sometimes dipping just a bit too low. Once one is caught, he chatters to his flock who come to investigate, and almost inevitably some of them will be just a little too brave and will end up joining their buddy in the net. Luckily for us, chickadees are easy to age in the hand, and processing them is very quick. Once released, they continue their march to the west, and are soon out of reach of our net lanes just in time for the next flock to wander by.

This year’s irruption brought a special surprise . . . a chickadee with an unfamiliar band number. We reported it to the Bird Banding Lab, and were instantly gratified to learn that he had been banded on November 11, 2020 near St. Williams, ON.

Thanks much to the Saturday crew. We were missing a few folks today, but usual suspects Chita and Marilyn held down the nets while Maggie did most of the banding. New volunteer Kurt started scribing and did an awesome job on his first day, and returning volunteer Nathan started training as a netpicker. He doesn’t have it easy because he is learning on chickadees, but if you can extract a chickadee you can do almost anything! With a handful of successful extractions under his belt, he’s well on his way.

Nathan extracts a Black-capped Chickadee

— Andrea Patterson

Rain, rain, go away . . .

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Friday April 16, 2021: It rained all morning, and we all stayed home. Fingers crossed the weather is better tomorrow!

–Andrea Patterson

We’re on the board! (Barely)

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Thursday April 15, 2021: 3 birds of 2 species; 0 recaps. New species: Black-capped Chickadee and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. We have banded 2 species this season, none of which are warblers. Bird of the day was Black-capped Chickadee with two new bands.

It’s our spring grand opening!!! At least . . . it was supposed to be. I woke up feeling optimistic that the early morning rain would move out by 8 or 9AM, but by the time I arrived at the station, the forecast had changed and it looked like the drizzle would continue until almost noon. The crew was onsite but we couldn’t open nets, and although we were thrilled to see each other again after a long winter, we didn’t really want to just sit around. So, we did some data entry, sorted through all the bird bags looking for holes and stray threads, inventoried the new band supply, and stretched out a dozen nets inside the building to see if they were in either a useable or at least fixable condition.

I was able to open a small handful of nets for a half-hour at the end of the day after the rain moved out, but there wasn’t much moving and I caught only three birds.

Thanks to Jeanne for entering data; to Megan, Gayle and Jane for helping sort nets, to Sue for bringing in our lab supplies for the spring, and to Tom and Michelle for wrangling the bags . . . and an extra thank you to everyone for being such good sports on a crummy day!

–Andrea Patterson

All Set Up and Ready to Go

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Wednesday April 14, 2021. We had intended to set up the station on Monday, but the weather didn’t cooperate and so we settled for our back-up date. Wednesday was actually quite a nice day, and we managed to get the vegetation trimmed and the nets up. Gayle hauled out a LOT of brush to the curb, and Debi made short work of a couple of invasive saplings.

Thanks to Tom V, Jeanne, Tom N, Sheryl, Gayle, Debi, Barb S, Nathan, and Pat for their help.

— Andrea Patterson