We had a great sampling of birds come into the nets on Friday...and lots of people came to enjoy the beautiful day outdoors and watch what we do at Carpenter Nature Center. I have finished my banding class and am an official apprentice--with a certificate. I'm not sure what I will eventually do with this, my primary goal was just to be a better volunteer for Carpenter and I really do feel so much better taking birds out of nets and processing them now--even birds like Bitey McBitersons in the above photo (Bitey McBitersons is the lesser known folk name of the quick to nip northern cardinal). The little boy in the above photo is Aaron. He and his mother followed us around and Aaron was a big help to me--when we would have several birds in the nets, I would put them in bags and he helped carry the bags back to the processing station. Several bags of chickadees, sparrows, and warblers can be heavy. It's always nice to encounter a helpful gentleman in the field--thanks, Aaron! Check out the awesomeness that is the clay-colored sparrow! Drink in its brown and gray goodness. We had two come into the nets just about a foot from each other. I suspect it was some territorial chasing on their part. Okay, now note the bill of the clay-colored sparrow above. Now, check out the second one below:
It had some kind of nasty gunk on the tip. I wondered if it had foraged and got some mud on the tip or if it had been eating some old berries that crusted up the tips or what was going on. The bird appeared otherwise to be very healthy.
A big highlight of the day was this female Canada warbler. Even though she's not as bright as the male, she is a very striking bird. Another highlight was a chickadee that was already banded. When we looked up its banding number, we discovered that the female chickadee was first trapped and banded in January 2003 and at that time she was in her second year. Think of that--a six year old female chickadee still going strong. Incredible!
Common yellow throats were probably the most common warble we got in the nets. I just love these guys up close. As we were getting birds out of the nets, I didn't have my binoculars or my digiscoping equipment with me, guaranteeing that something super cool would fly by--and it did. A red-tailed hawk with a snake! At first, I thought it was a falconry bird with jesses and a leash hanging down (Jim said some falconers had been by recently tracking a "lost" red-tail, but that bird did not have a leash, just two jesses, or leather anklets attached). Another Carpenter volunteer was smart and had his binoculars handy and could see that it was, in fact a snake. What was strange was that the red-tail disappeared in the trees with the snake and about ten minutes later reappeared and just kind of hung in the air with the snake hanging behind it. The hawk didn't appear to be in any rush to get it to a nest or land and eat it, just kind of slowly grabbed a thermal and glided along. I later asked my buddy Amber if she had any idea why the red-tail would appear to be carrying the snake around, almost as if flying with a type of trophy, showing it off. That's not a smart thing to do, if anything it kind of advertises to other predators to come and steal your food. She wondered if the adult red-tail had young in the nest and it was about time for them to leave and it was advertising the snake to get them to fly out and learn to hunt on their own? That seems very plausible, but once again, birds leave me with more questions than answers.