Sky Watch Friday Carver Banding
Years ago, the summer before Non Birding Bill and I moved to Minnesota, we were on vacation with his family at Virginia Beach. We were flipping around tv channels one night and found a documentary about Minnesota--we thought this would be good prep work to watch. We had heard that we should be prepared for cold and snow year round, but beyond that, not much else. The documentary had an interview with Garrison Keillor and he said something about there are a few days in October which are perfect days (in every possible way) in Minnesota and people visit during those days and get that impression. For some reason, that was what stuck out in my mind and every October, I try to watch for that. If you are an optimist, October in Minnesota is the THE BEST. Sunny days that might require a fleece, glowing fall leaves, local farm bounties, and cool nights perfect for snuggling with your favorite person. As long as you don't think about the impending snow and cold which could easily last six months is right behind this perfect month.
Last weekend, I was going to go to Duluth to do go to Frank's hawk blind, but the wind prediction wasn't good and the sparrows were everywhere in the Twin Cities. My buddy Amber had heard that Mark was going to do some migrant banding on Saturday, so I snuck out to join them. Mark normally does banding programs every third Saturday at Lowry Nature Center. This was not a formal program, so Amber spread out a blanket near the nets, Mark set out his equipment and we banded birds in the beautiful October sun. Above is one of the many swamp sparrows moving through. It's such a pretty sparrow, it's too bad they don't visit feeders as much as house sparrows do--people would really dig 'em. I'm going to save that photo, that would be a good hair color at some point.
We got in quite a few orange-crowned warblers. This is the "drabbest of the drab" first year female orange-crowned. If you are one of the peeps going to the Rio Grande Valley Bird Fest next month, learn this bird's chip note--you'll be hearing it a lot. I know we have them in Minnesota, but I always associate them with South Texas. Speaking of which, there is still time to sign up for the bird blogger discount for the Rio Grande Fest. It's going to be awesome, some of the bird bloggers I know are coming include WildBird on the Fly, Born Again Bird Watcher, birdspot, and Mike from 10,000 Birds--oh, it's on! Looks like there's going to be a Birds and Beers too!
But I digress, back to the female orange-crowned warbler (and since it's SkyWatch Friday, pay attention to the blue sky in the back). She really doesn't have much orange to speak of, even in hand. She's a pallet of gray, drab olive, and kinda white.
Here's an adult male--a little more flashy--look at that yellow. And, you can distinctly see the orange in the crown, can't ya? Please tell me I'm not hallucinating, you can see the orange too? Okay, I admit, it is hard to see, so we used the toothpick method to get a look at the orange crown:
Now you can see the orange in that crown! It's never easy to see when the bird is not in hand. I just check Birds of North America Online to find out when one can see the orange crown on the bird in the wild and found this: "Male threat or alarm display can involve elevation of head feathers to display (barely) the orange crown (Bent 1953)."
"Don't make me barely show you my orange crown!!" Maybe these small warblers have a color orange phobia, so a little is all that's needed. Although, I'm not sure what a flock of orange-crowned warbler when confronted with a male oriole. Or perhaps, those orange feathers are so powerful that too much could be lethal? So much more study to be done.
It's always so cute when an insect eating bird tries to peck your fingers--those bills are just so soft--look at that orange-crowned warbler go for Mark's thumb. Earlier, his thumb went through much worse:
Before I arrived, he and Amber got a young male cardinal in the nets. After banding it, he opened his hand to let it go. The male decided to get in one good bite before flying off and then got so into it, refused to let go and hung from his thumb for a moment. It flew off and remarkably, Mark did not need a band aid.
Ah, looks like the rain is easing up, I should hit the road.