Really, it is. I swear. At least for this year.
Banding was slow today at Carpenter Nature Center and I spent the morning talking to the Development Director while she repaired nets. Fortunately, I had a chance to observe some banding while at the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival. Once again, a Sunday morning trip was scheduled to watch bander Mark Conway (that's Mark in the above photo banding a kiskadee) and his assistants band birds at Los Ebanos Preserve.
I took a photo of one earlier in the festival and I had never noticed that before and thought it was a young bird, but all kiskadees of all ages have that yellow outline at the corners of their mouths.
The first bird of the morning wast a gray phase eastern screech owl. The banders weren't targeting owls, but they had the nets up at not long after dawn and this bird was just flying through and flew into the net.
But Mark said that they don't get green jays in the nets very often as they are members of the corvid family and very intelligent. They had not banded at Los Ebanos recently so the birds were just not used to it.
Another exciting bird of the day was an olive sparrow--one of the hardest birds to see, you hear them quite a bit. I was glad to have a chance to get this photo because, frankly, my earlier efforts were just plain sad:
Behind all those tiny branches lurks an olive sparrow at Llano Grande. This was not bad, just finding an olive sparrow sitting on a branch long enough to aim your scope and camera is feat within itself.
Here, Mark is holding an orange-crowned warbler. These guys are all over in the trees in south Texas this time of year. They're not an easy warbler to see, so when a guide finds one, I think people hear warbler and hope for an exciting/colorful bird. As they search and search, they'll say, "I see a small brownish bird..." Yep, that's the orange-crowned. It's not even as orange as a blackburnian warbler. You may be wondering to yourself, why this bird is called an orange-crowned warbler...
Here, Mark demonstrates the name. When you hold and orange-crowned warbler about six inches from your face and blow on its crown, you can see a kind of orangish color on the underside of the crest feathers--see how obvious that is? Another one of those birds that was named when bird watching was done with a gun, not with binoculars.
Here are one of the many great-tailed grackles in the area. When you get them in the sun, they really are a striking bird. You can hear great-taileds singing all over Harlingen, any time of day--even all night long when they are roosting in the trees--how do those guys get any rest?
They do sound incredibly mechanical as opposed to musical. I wonder how that adaptation sounded, and what must have early explorers to North America have thought hearing those things chatter all night in the trees above them?
There was also a very exciting bird into the nets--a common yellowthroat, which to Mark are not common but something to study in depth. He thinks that there is an isolated population of yellowthroats that could be a subspecies that he calls the Brownsville yellowthroat. Will there a split some day separating this species of yellowthroat from the rest of the common yellowthroats seen around the United States? If so, Mark will have been instrumental in that research.
Okay, this doesn't have too much to do with banding, but there were quite a few anoles running around during the banding program and this guy with the wavy tail caught my eye. I wondered what happened to make it look like that? Did appear to slow it down in its daily travels.
And so, I leave you wit one final green jay photo, because they are just so darn cool looking. I'm very excited, it looks like we will be able to go out with Mark one day on the South Texas trip next year, which would be awesome for the group and great for me to learn different banding techniques from different people.