Busy Day Of Banding

This is a photo that Larry Sirvio took of Tennessee warbler at Carpenter Nature Center--one of the 47 some odd birds that we banded this morning. Oy.

It was just nuts at banding today--I barely had any time to get photos. I arrived a little late and noticed some of the parking lot was getting ready to be repaved. I thought to myself, "With all this construction activity, I bet it will be slow." As I walked towards the building, I noticed one of the nets hadn't been put up yet. I thought it strange, but figured with the construction, maybe they weren't putting all the nets up.

Larry passed me and said, "They just radioed, there are eight birds in the orchard nets. There's one over there too." I said I would put my stuff down and start helping. Inside, the other volunteers were furiously looking up small flycatcher identifications, and there were already about six bags with birds hanging waiting their turn to be processed (from a quick glance the bags had warblers, vireos, a red-breasted nuthatch, and some sort of small flycatchers). Yikes!

From there it was just a blur. At one point I was at a net with one of the Carpenter naturalists. There were four birds in the net. While we were trying to get them out, four more flew in, and then another two. We decided that it was so backed up in processing that we would close up the nets until we were caught up. By the time we got to the last net, eight birds had flown in. We were running out of bags, but fortunately, they were all mostly goldfinches and we could put more than one in a bag.

This is one of the juvenile chipping sparrows we got in--they don't quite look like the adults, about the only thing that really gives them away is the eye stripe and the chipping noise that the make as you untangle them from the nets. We did get in a rather exciting adult--it had a band and turns out that it was banded for the first time on June 17, 2005 and at the time of banding it was already an after hatch year bird, which means that by now it is well over three years old!

This young catbird looks like it is off to a rough start. First, notice all the pin feathers--it's just growing in its cap. But towards the back of the head, its missing some feather and skin--something poked it, hard. Was it a nest mate? Was it a blue jay trying to attach the young in the nest? Who can say. It reminded me of the red-headed woodpecker we got in last year.

And it's interesting to note how different birds feel in the hand. Above is a male Wilson's warbler that I got out of the net. He felt so tiny, like I would break him. The easiest way to get birds out is to grab the feet and untangle those. Most of the time, if you can get the feet out, you can get the rest of the bird fairly easily. Most of the time.

Volunteer Dennis Donath go this photo of a female Wilson's warbler (note the lack of black cap). Today was good practice for untangling birds from the net, I just kept doing the over and over. The goal is to get birds out quickly. Usually, when a bird is REALLY tangled, I defer to the more experienced banders to get the bird out. However, everyone was so busy today, that a coupe of times I found that I was the only option and just had to muddle through. Sometimes, when I'm trying to get out a really tangled bird, I panic. My hands start to shake uncontrollably and are completely useless. When that happens, I just have to let go, take a step back, take a few deep breaths, understand that my panic is not going to help the situation and then go back to the task at hand.

Above, Jim Fox is handing a Wilson's warbler to a young girl whose family came to visit today. Sometimes, you can place a warbler on its back and it will lay there for a moment before flying away. That gives the kid holding it a chance to marvel at the magic of the the little thing in their hands. I got a five second video. Note the little girl's face.

Tell me that she's not now hooked on birds.

I'm still kind of learning the ropes at banding. I'm now to the point where I can actually band a few birds. I insisted that the first practice birds be ones like cowbirds--let me mess up on a cowbird, not a warbler. But I'm to the point that today, when I got an ovenbird out of the net, I got to band it myself--WHOOT!

First, let me say that after handling other warblers from the nets, the ovenbird is much chunkier. That is one beefy warbler--very chunky. You don't really get a chance to notice that when their flitting about in the wild. I'm happy to report that I banded it, aged it (after hatch year--at least a year old) and sexed it (unknown). We got some photos and let it continue on its southward journey.

Today was the first day of sun after six days of non stop clouds and rain. I finally noticed that migration in Minnesota is sincerely underway. If you have a chance, get out and enjoy it while you can.