Friday, May 22, 2009

beginning of phase 3 and mosquito madness

Yesterday we started the 3rd phase of the MAPS banding schedule. In all, there are 10 phases (my training took place during phase 1). Each phase consists of 10 days, 6 days of banding at separate sites and 4 days off. Every phase, we revisit the same sites and set up the same net locations. Each site is a very different habitat, attracting a different variety of birds.

The above pictured location is known as "MESQ" which is an abbreviation for Mesquite. Every site has a four letter code and every bird has a designated code as well. MESQ was formerly a mesquite forest but a fire last year killed a lot of the trees. Now it is pretty much a wetland, with grasses and forbs growing up to three feet high. All the grass and the mud hold water like crazy too. And wouldn't you know it, it's an oasis for mosquitos. Today I wore my knee high boots but my knees still got wet and my legs were attacked by grass seeds with barbs in them. The mosquitos were so incredibly bad and absolutely everywhere. They were even biting the birds in the net and in our hands! I felt pretty bad since some of the mosquitos were about the size of a bird's head.

Anyway, the site isn't too horrible, since we have been getting some neat birds here. There are a lot of Dickcissels and Lark Sparrows and I even caught a new species, a Cassin's Sparrow. I think it was a Cassin's Sparrow anyway.. it actually escaped before I was able to band it. Hopefully that won't happen again. There are also a lot of Vermilion Flycatchers, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Eastern Bluebirds in the area. This time we caught a baby Bluebird.

Since this bird is fledged from the nest, he is fully grown. He (or she) will keep most of his flight feathers (wing and tail feathers) until next year's molt, but he will lose his juvenal body feathers by fall and become a much bluer hue. We've been catching quite a few juvenile birds lately, which is pretty fun to see! The other day we actually caught at least 4 or 5 juvenile Black-crested Titmice at the same time. We got the whole entire family! Wish I had a picture of that, but we kind of had our hands full.

Above is a Lark Sparrow that we actually caught a few days ago. We caught another one today as well.

I think they are one of the neatest birds that we have gotten! I love this sparrow's face. Some have compared it to a face painted like a clown or a mime.

Here is a White-crowned Sparrow, which is a migrant in Texas. I think he might be kind of a late migrant since it is well past peak migration by now. But we have still be getting migratory birds. We had a Swainson's Thrush yesterday and on Tuesday we had two Yellow-bellied Flycatchers.

And now.. some Texas wild flowers and prickly pear cactus...

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