Friday's Aventures Part 1

Holy Cow! A big thanks to Leanne for nominating me for a Blogger's Choice Award! I'm up for best Animal Blog--I have two votes already--whoot! Although I wonder if I should say Cinnamon is up for best animal--she has a very loyal fan base. We're celebrating with some parsley. If you enjoy the blog, please consider voting. That would be pretty cool to get recognition for birding...and disapproving rabbits.

Friday was an action packed day, I'm to have to divide the entries up. We started at Carpenter, which at first seemed like it was going to be a morning of nothing but juncos but then some excitement came in with a sharp-shinned hawk (above). We were watching a fox sparrow hop and kick around one of the traps and I was trying to use my mind power to get it to go into one of the traps, when all of a sudden all the birds flew towards the window, missing it and ducked for cover. One of the staff announced: "Hawk!"

Hellziggy took the above photo. A junco had already come into a trap further away from us and an adult sharp-shinned hawk was trying to get it in the trap. I wonder if this is the same sharp-shin that nailed a junco in a trap from last December? The hawk spent quite a bit of time flying and clamping down on the trap--it did not seem to understand that it was not going to be able to get the junco out. Jim Fitzpatrick dug around for a balchatri trap (works well for raptors), bated it and set it outside. When he went out, the hawk flew up in the tree, but as soon as the bated trap was out, it went right back down for the balchatri.

After about fifteen minutes, but the hawk finally got caught on the trap and we brought it in for banding. Before it got its toes caught in the nooses on the trap was on the trap, I digiscoped a few photos.

The bird was an adult male. Isn't he beautiful. It's kind of strange, I'm sued to seeing these guys up close when we band them in the fall, not in the spring. He did not have a full crop, but he did have some meat on this chest, he'd been eating well this winter.

Hellziggy made it to banding and we ended up going to lunch and birding in a few other areas. I was glad she made it today, she got to be the one to release the sharp-shinned hawk. New people at banding always seem to bring good luck and cool birds into the traps!

Incidentally, the junco that had been in the trap that brought the sharp-shin in was let go--it had been through enough that morning, it didn't need the added stress of human handling and banding. Although, when he gets to his mating territory, he will pretty fierce thinking, "Yeah, I did a round or two with a sharp-shin, I can take on any male junco in a territory battle." Although, banding must not be too stressful, the above junco we trapped yesterday has been re caught NINE times since it's original trapping in December of 2004. Nine times and it still goes into the the potters traps and hangs out around Carpenter in the winter. It's not like the traps are the only places on the property with food and seed, there are plenty of feeders and spilled seed for juncos to get to without being trapped.

After banding I thought we would check open water for ducks. We stopped at the St Croix and the wind was brutal. It's been below freezing the last for days and today the wind was twenty - thirty miles an hour at least. The river was covered with hundreds of tree swallows (above) trying to glean what little food they can from just above the water. This is the weather that separates the strong from the weak. Usually tree swallows are already nesting, but this cold has put a stop to that. This report came in yesterday from Wisconsin by Patrick Ready:

Today while monitoring my state park trail boxes I opened a box I was concerned had a house sparrow nest in it. Instead of house sparrows about 12 Tree Swallows came bursting out of the nest box.

These birds are under severe stress with this frigid weather and are bunching up in nest boxes to stay warm to survive. The magnitude of this behavior is very unusual due to the fact that so many tree swallows returned very early this year.

Kent Hall in Stevens Point reported finding 17 in one of his boxes this afternoon and promptly quit monitoring. Anyone needing to check nest boxes during this cold spell should stop and look into the entrance hole to see if any tree swallows can be seen before proceeding. Even this is risky as some boxes may only have 3-4 birds and may not be visible until the box is open and the they'd take flight. Better to hold off monitoring until temperatures return to normal. When night time temps drop below freezing avoid checking boxes until later in the morning in case swallows have gathered inside to stay warm.

I don't know if anyone saw Julie's post last month about dead bluebirds in her box, but I think this is a good warning to readers who have bluebird trails. One of the risks that birds take when arriving back in early spring is dealing with low food supplies and harsh temperatures--this helps ensure the strongest survive, but it hard for us to watch. If you would like to help a little, now is an excellent time to stock up on mealworms at your local bird store and attach cups full of worms to your bird houses or just mix some in with your tray feeder. I also scatter suet into my tray feeders to for migrants.

More on Friday's birding adventures later.