Monday, November 23, 2009
The bird settled on the ground a few feet away from my window. It was a beautiful adult accipiter! I'm guessing the hawk was not the one who flew into the window, but its unfortunate victim. I'm sorry that the Robin tried to seek shelter in our kitchen and was quite unlucky in that regard. But on the other hand, I think it is still pretty cool to see a beautiful predator in action!
When it comes to accipters, I am still learning my fieldmarks. The differences between the Cooper's Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk are not always very clear. They have almost identical colorations and even their sizes can overlap. When it comes to birds of prey, the male is usually smaller, giving it an advantage when doing aerial displays to impress the larger female. Cooper's Hawks are generally larger than Sharp-shinned (Crow sized vs. Jay sized), but the male Cooper's Hawk can sometimes be similar in size to the female Sharp-shinned (or sharpie)! I am starting to get a better "feel" for Sharpie vs. Coop's, so I decided my backyard predator was a Sharpie.
See if you can tell for yourself..
WARNING: Upcoming photo not suited for all animal lovers and/or Robin enthusiasts
See how this hawk is not even that much bigger than its prey? And the head looks small compared to its body. These are important features I used to decide this is indeed a Sharp-shinned Hawk.
The next day I saw more feathers on my porch. Bluish brown. One with black spots. Definitely not Robin.. Signs point to Mourning Dove. It seems like our predator has found a pretty decent meal-zone. Maybe I will see the sharpie again!
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
(Update: he did eventually find a tasty bug to eat and flew away.. but was sitting on the porch for maybe an hour)
Saturday, October 3, 2009
The last few weeks in Madison have been dreary and wet. Not the best weather to go birding. But the migrating birds are definitely flowing through right now.
A few weeks ago I was able to do some banding at Biocore Prairie again. The fall colors were just beautiful because of all the late blooming prairie plants.
We got quite a few migrants and young birds like this juvenile Red-eyed Vireo. It was neat to see the difference in eye color with the young vireos. Their eyes are dark brown and will turn red next year.
We caught this little guy, a Tennessee Warbler which can be very easily confused with another bird that we catch a lot of. Below is a picture of a female Common Yellowthroat. You can see how the Tennessee and the Yellowthroat both have whitish to buffy eyerings and yellow bellies! The biggest difference here though is size. The Tennessee Warbler is a very tiny warbler whereas the Yellowthroat is a bit more robust. It's too bad we didn't catch these two at the same time so I could have gotten a side-by-side comparison. But you'll also notice that the Tennessee has yellow all the way down its breast while the Yellowthroat has more yellow on the throat (surprise!) and is whiteish below.
Oh yes, we got another confusing Empidonax Flycatcher, similar to all the ones we were catching in Texas. Based on our many measurements, this guy ended up being a Traill's Flycatcher. The Traill's Flycatcher does not count as its own species, but it refers to both the Willow and the Alder Flycatcher. Apparently, there is just not enough information out there to completely tell the difference between these two in the hand. It is kind of scary how similar this guy looked to the Least Flycatchers I had banded before. There were differences in size though, with this one being a little bit too big to be a Least. Also this empidonax flycatcher had a less visible eyering, which is something to look for in the Traill's flycatcher.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
It was a 3 and a half day class and it covered everything from trapping & banding raptors to ascending tall trees to performing habitat surveys. Above pictured is our group for the September 2009 session (Me & Red-tail, Tim, Dave, Walt & Cooper's Hawk). I was the youngest there and the only girl. At first I wasn't too surprised about that since raptors are kind of macho birds. But our instructor, Gene Jacobs, actually said it wasn't too typical, and usually they get more women and more college-age participants in the classes. Either way, being the only girl definitely didn't mean I had to be protected from the fierce, taloned birds of prey. I got hands-on experience with two Red-tailed Hawks and an American Kestrel. Oh, and this was my absolute first time working with raptors!
My favorite was the Kestrel (an adult female). I love the falcon "helmet" or "side burns," that they have, very cute.
In order to calm the raptors and keep them from flapping while we band and take measurements, we would use coffee cans to secure them. Just look at those tail feathers. This hawk had two generations of red feathers, meaning it was at least 3 years old.
Overall we caught four birds, 2 Red-tails, a Kestrel, and Cooper's Hawk. After the banding, weighing and measuring, we let them go! It was definitely a fun time, and working with raptors was an awesome experience. Even though they are powerful birds perfectly designed to tear open flesh with razor-sharp talons and bill, they really are not all that scary. I hope I get a chance to work with raptors again, we'll see!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The tarsus (same as tarsometatarsus) is the foot bone, but many people call it the bird's "leg," since it is the most visible part of the bird leg. As you can see though, birds walk on their toes rather than their feet, just like cats and dogs. The femur and often the fibula & tibiotarsus disappear within all those feathers. So if you ever say someone has "chicken legs" you're probably comparing the person's legs to a bird's skinny feet. But if you ever eat a chicken leg, you're most likely eating the meaty area that makes up the thigh of the bird.
That's all for now for the anatomy lesson, I'll be back later so I can post some pictures from my most recent excursion to a Raptor Banding Class.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
(Bewick's on the Left, Carolina on the Right)
5. Learned that Mourning Doves shed a lot of feathers when they EXPLODE! (see image at the top)
6. There's no pain quite like a Cardinal biting your cuticles(Don't ever get too close to that beak!)
7. A lot of people in Texas have never seen a Painted Bunting, or if they have they think it's an escaped pet! They are all over the place, you just have to look!
8. It is OK to only check email 3 times a week
9. Learned how to do the Texan "two-step"
10. Learned so much about extracting and aging techniques for all birds!
Monday, August 3, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
OK, I have words and birds, so next time I update I promise whims aplenty.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
For the most part, these birds are active during the night as you could probably guess. We usually hear them doing their "peent" call right before dawn while we are setting up our mist nets. And they also seem to like to sleep in the road while I'm driving up to our banding sites. (Don't worry they always fly away when they hear the car) Once in awhile we also see and hear them well into the daytime. Then they transform into Common Dayhawks, of course.
If you are enjoying a summer evening, remember to look for the nighthawk's long dark wings with white central spots. Or listen for the nasal "peent peent" call coming from the sky. Or I suppose just look out for any bird shaped tree branches during the day.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I mentioned last week that we got 10 Bewick's Wrens in one day. But I realized that I have never taken a photo of one! I'm sure they are our 2nd most common species that we catch out here in Brownwood, right after Painted Buntings. We get them at all six of our sites and they just love to fly into the nets. They are tiny, but feisty and a whole lot of fun to extract from a mist net. One time, I had one go completely through a hole in the net (the holes are tiny half-inch squares) and was only caught by his little foot. I'm still not really sure how that happened!
And now for the brownest of all little brown birds and the new species of the week...
Huh.. I'm sure I'm not the only one that would look at this bird and think "it looks like a sparrow" and then not really know much more than that! When trying to identify bird species, birders usually look for distinguishing features, like Does it have a colored bill? Does it have markings around the eyes or face? Does it have a reddish cap? Wingbars? Spots or streaking on the breast? In this case, this bird really doesn't have any of those markings, so what am I to do?
So our mystery bird must be... a Cassin's Sparrow! Haha, is that what you guessed too? This is the picture in the Sibley field guide :
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
A funny story is that we caught a few female House Sparrows last summer in Wisconsin, and we sort of guessed that they were Dickcissels at first since we had never caught a House Sparrow before. Sure, there is no question what's a House Sparrow when you see one on a city block, but a bird in the hand can sometimes be deceiving! If you look at the below picture of a female House Sparrow, you can see that they do look a little similar. Oh, the joys of little brown birds..
Female House Sparrow
This week, we got to band our first woodpeckers at Camp Bowie!
Ladder-backed Woodpecker, juvenile
We actually got two Ladder-backed Woodpeckers (mother and juvenile) in the same net at Stonehouse and two again the next day at Mesquite.
This is a juvenile because of the red tipped feathers on the head. The adult male has much more extensive red on the head.
From the back, you can see the woodpecker's pointy tail feathers. These feathers are much stronger and stiffer on woodpeckers than for other birds so they can use them to balance on the side of a tree.
We had another new visitor to the nets this week which was a complete surprise. It was a female black-and-white Warbler! We thought we were completely done banding warblers for the season, but I guess not. For the most part, warblers that we had the chance of seeing only migrate through Texas on their way much further north. But according to the B&W Warbler's range map there is a little spot in central Texas where they breed.
Female Black-and-white Warbler (photo taken during training)
For now, I have a couple days off, but hopefully there will be some more new birds next week!