Sunday, May 20, 2018

Another Busy Day At The Banding Table

As hoped for, today turned out to be another great day for banding. Lots of birds around and good weather. Early in the day the wind was a worry but as the morning went on the winds calmed.

Our public program had 29 visitors and they all had a chance to see some fun birds up close.

Today's list:

Trail's Flycatcher (Willow and Alder combined)
American Redstart
Tennessee Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
American Goldfinch
Black-capped Chickadee
Mourning Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Song Sparrow
Downy Woodpecker
Gray Catbird
Brown headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
American Robin

Total individuals = 31

What I think are the 2 best birds of the day are:
  3 Canada Warblers today which, for me, is my best one day total. We had this boldly marked male...
...and this less boldly marked female. Just a real joy to handle.
And we caught this very pretty Veery. This is actually the very first Veery I've had a chance to band. A very exciting weekend overall with over 60 birds banded. I plan to take my Field Ornithology class back to today's banding site to see if I can add to the lucky streak I have going.

Keep looking up!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The 3 C's of Bird Banding

We often tell visitors to our banding programs that some days we catch a lot of birds and other days we sit and drink a lot of coffee waiting for a bird to appear. The conditions that we think are the best for having a good banding day are what we call the 3 C's. That stands for cloudy, cool and calm. This morning we had all of those conditions and lots of migrants in the area. It turned out to be a really busy and fun banding day.

The totals for this morning were 33 birds of 15 species. Some were the local residents such as the 10 Black-capped Chickadees we caught. Others were birds moving through or summer residents just arriving. Below is a list of species we banded today:

Yellow Warbler
Canada Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Mourning Warbler
Clay-colored Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
Warbling Vireo
White breasted Nuthatch
Downy Woodpecker
Gray Catbird
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Black-billed Cuckoo

We had nice looks at a couple of warblers that we don't always get time to study in the hand.
 This female Magnolia Warbler was the only one of the day but we have seen them moving through our area for a while now.
Plumage indicated that this is a second year bird (hatched last summer).
Blue-winged Warblers nest in this part of the state and while we were extracting this bird from the net there were a couple of others sitting high in the trees calling.
The bird of the day had to be this Black-billed Cuckoo. This is only the second cuckoo that we've ever had the chance to put a band on. It was immediately exciting when we walked up to our net and all we could see was a long tail sticking straight up.
The red bare skin around the eye makes this an adult bird and even though this bird had a brood patch, we couldn't sex it because both male and females in this species develop brood patches.
Another thing we had not seen was the coloration of the underside of the wing. Pretty cool bird to have in the hand and worthy of a celebratory beer at lunch after the banding session.

We have another program tomorrow, Sunday, at a different site but if today is any indication of what birds are around I'm hoping that I wake up to cloudy cool and calm conditions once again.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Spring Has Finally Reached Minnesota

I haven't posted anything in a long time. Partly because life gets in the way sometimes and partly because this winter was pretty slow as far as my birding goes.

After a record cold start to April and a ridiculous amount of snow, the temps are rising and the birds are finally showing up though some are a bit behind schedule.

I got out this afternoon to see what water had opened up and to see what was present. I wasn't disappointed.
Waterfowl are moving through in good numbers and don't seem to be spending much time before continuing their trip north. These Northern Shovelers, Anas clypeata, were among the more common species. You gotta love the bill on these birds.
There was also a good number of Bonaparte's Gulls, Chroicocephalus philadelphia, feeding over the marsh while I was there.

Other species included Yellow-headed Blackbird, Sora, Greater White-fronted Geese, Ring-necked Ducks, Pied billed Grebes and American Widgeon and several other  expected species. With the temps still predicted to hit into the 70s this weekend I suspect birds will continue to push north as more water opens up.

All the more reason to go outside and keep looking up.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Just A Quicky

Looks like the Duluth radar is the hot spot this morning. Park Point might be the place to be today!

If anybody goes out, let me know what you find!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fall Migration Banding Starts

       This weekend marked the beginning of my fall banding season. Even though birds have been moving south for a while, it's only now that my field work can start and what a start it was! Banding took place on Saturday at the Lowry Nature Center in Carver Park Reserve near Victoria, MN just west of Minneapolis. What a great day. We had the following species for the morning:

Nashville Warbler
Canada Warbler
Black-capped Chickadee (including a retrap bird that is now 10 years old)
American Goldfinch (most common bird of the day)
Warbling Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Black and White Warbler
Red-eyed Vireo
White Breasted Nuthatch
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Cardinal
Hairy Woodpecker

      Today, Sunday, we held one of our two fall banding sessions at Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, MN which is south of the Twin Cities. Our numbers weren't as high as Saturday but we had some new species including:

Common Yellowthroat
Blue-headed Vireo
Golden winged Warbler

Totals for the weekend were 43 birds of 16 species. Nice way to start the fall. Below are some photos from Sunday.
 This male Golden-winged Warbler was my bird of the day. This is a species of much concern and Minnesota is the home to a large percentage of the entire world's population. It was good to have one in the hand.

    Ovenbirds are on of my favorite warblers to band. We have a healthy breeding population in our region and any walk through the springtime woods will be filled with their emphatic calls.

   This Blue-headed Vireo (formerly Solitary Vireo) was the 4th vireo species we banded this weekend. While Red-eyed Vireos are a mainstay of September banding here the Blue-headed is a much less common treat. There were lots of oohs and aahs when this one came out of the holding bag.

    The weather continues to transition from summer to fall and even though the recent weather has been warmer than normal, it won't be long before the mornings turn frosty. If all goes well I won't pack away my nets until early November. Please check back often to see how the migration is progressing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The View From Central Nebraska

     After driving 1025 miles in 20 hours yesterday, it took me a little while to get going today but I thought I'd share a few photos from yesterdays eclipse. My son Chris and I were very lucky to find a great place to watch the event with a small crowd of others. The experience at totality was indescribable. Really a life enhancing moment.
     The beginning of the event. I was very happy with the solar viewers I constructed.
       Just before totality.
     I'm glad we got pictures because all we could do in the moment was stand in awe.
     This is sometimes called the "Diamond Ring Effect". This occurred as the totality ended.
     The sun returns!
    As the eclipse nears its end, we could see a row of small, dark spots near the center of the sun's disk. These are sun spots!

   All in all it was worth all the effort and then some. Getting to share it with my son made it all the more meaningful.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Popular Couple in the Wetlands

Down here south of the Twin Cities we are lucky enough to have great birding areas close by. A short 10 minute drive from my house is an area of the Minnesota River Valley is the Old Cedar Bridge, a really popular location with birders, bikers and hikers. Recent improvements make the site a real birding destination.

A pair of Sandhill Cranes must have the same opinion because they have chosen a spot just off the end of the wildlife observation deck to set up a nest. These are, I believe, the most photographed Sandhills in the area if not the state. You can see a continual parade of photographers with tripods and cameras sporting long lens going to and from the observation deck.

I am no exception.

It was almost too easy to get some really nice photos and to watch the pair of cranes feed, work a bit on the nest and interact with each other.
The individual not incubating spends most of their time in the tall grasses, out of sight. The only time they are visible is as they walk to or away from the nest.
We got to see the birds switch places later in the evening and as they did one of the birds did a little maintenance by grabbing lengths of cattail stems and placing them around the edge of the nest.
Once the switch was made the bird on the nest settled in and spent most of the time ignoring the dozen or so people on the observation deck.
The second bird made a beeline to the tall grasses to the east of the nest and disappeared. What a wonderful opportunity to get to see these impressive birds so close to home.