Tuesday, July 29, 2008

wren fest & heavy molting

This past Saturday was a great day for banding. As soon as we started putting up nets, we could tell that we would be catching a lot of wrens, and we did! 11 total House Wrens were banded in 4 hours. They were really active in the area and had taken over all three nest boxes near the banding station.

Here's one of the 11. One of the wrens had even just laid eggs recently, a little late in the season but these guys seem to be busier than ever.

I'm always excited to see Cedar Waxwings near the nets. They are such neat birds! A bit disappointing though because as you can see, this one does not have waxy wings, just like the other two we caught this summer.

Here's a Common Yellowthroat with some missing tail feathers. Many birds molt before after the breeding season, especially before they get ready to migrate across a long distance or if they have different summer/winter plumages. If you look at where the tail feathers once were, you can see two tiny shoots. These are called pinfeathers and will eventually grow into full feathers. Feathers are pretty cool and much more complicated than mammal hairs. People are still trying to figure out how birds evolved feathers. One theory is that they are modified reptile-like scales. Amazing what millions of years can do to a body plan adapted for flight.

Speaking of molts, here is a Black-capped Chickadee who looks terribly disheveled, but is actually going through a heavy molt. He (or she?) had pinfeathers sticking out pretty much all over. Of course it is important that birds shed feathers in a very particular order, so that they are still able to fly.

Another look, Black-capped Chickadee from the back. Chickadees tend to be little fighters and like to bite a lot. This one actually wasn't so bad (to me anyway, Jerry, who took the chickadee out of the net had a different story!)

Here's a young female Yellow Warbler. It's nice to catch up with a warbler in the middle of summer, since most of them only pass through in the spring and fall. Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats are the only warblers that breed right here at Biocore Prairie to my knowledge.

Another view from the back. It was definitely a day for small birds. Apparently this is tricky for some of the banders here but I don't mind. Well, that is, they are definitely a hassle to get out of the nets but I don't mind if I am just banding them!

Here is a really short video of a Cedar Waxwing being released... (listen for House wren song in the background)

and a quick House wren release..

Bird Banded: House Wren (11), Common Yellowthroat (2), American Goldfinch, Grey Catbird, Song Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, Yellow Warbler, Cedar Waxwing

Birdy Art: Northern Cardinal

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"BirdNerd" artist on etsy

"BirdNerd: because birds are cool"
I just wanted to link to this artist's page on Etsy. She has some prints of her artwork, such as the chickadee picture above, and some other products based on her art. And the theme for all of her collection: birds.

All the birds look realistic but have funky colors and stuff. I really want to buy something from her. Maybe a pillow, they are really cute! So here's the link if you want to check it out: http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=34858

Saturday, July 5, 2008

First Hatch-years + downy

This morning just "flew" by, with 15 birds banded in 4 hours. We also caught a few extras though which managed to escape. This included a very nice Brown Thrasher, which I would have loved to band. Too bad! One reason for all the bandings was the nice weather, sunny and no wind. The other reason was all the fledglings! A lot of the birds we caught were newbies, just born this year. They are officially called hatch-years.

This catbird was one of four hatch-year catbirds that we banded today.

If you remember my previous blog entry about catbirds a couple weeks ago, one characteristic we check is the mouth color. This baby bird has a yellow mouth unlike the adult in my other blog who had a black mouth interior. He also has a tremendous gape, which is the soft tissue on the outer corners of the mouth. The gape helps this bird stretch his mouth open while begging from his parents. The mouth color also takes part in stimulating the parents to "put food here!"

We had a lot of female common yellowthroats today. We've had lots of males in the past and I've posted pictures. Here you can see how different the female is. There is no black mask, but she still has that stunning yellow throat.

Here is my favorite bird of the day, a juvenile male Downy Woodpecker. These are the smallest woodpeckers you will find around here. It is so neat to see them up close since we hardly ever get woodpeckers in the nets. This one was a near escapee but I had good timing at the net. One of the neat things about woodpeckers is their tailfeathers, which are very stiff. They use their tails as a prop when they are climbing up trees and excavating the bark. Woodpeckers also have a very unique head bobbing motion which is pretty fun to see up close. Fortunately, this guy didn't peck the skin off my fingers and he was pretty small so I wasn't intimidated by his head bobbing.

Here you can see the red mottling distinct to the juvenile. An adult male will have a bright red patch on the back of the crown. This guy also had some kind of growth on the back of his bill. We weren't sure what it was unfortunately, but he appeared otherwise healthy.

Total bird banded: Downy Woodpecker, Gray Catbird (3), Common Yellowthroat (4), American Goldfinch (2), Baltimore Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow

birdy art: Red-headed Woodpecker