Spring Bird Banding Around Mr. Neil's

It's been interesting to watch the bird movement at Mr. Neil's. With all the bee installation going on, Non Birding Bill and I spent a few days to make sure the bees were enjoying their new digs and to watch some bird. We put the bees in Thursday and on Sunday, Mark and Roger were coming back to do a bit more bird banding. Friday was rainy and cold, lots of birds were coming to the suet including a few pine warblers, the one above (this bird showed up about the same date last year). Even a black and white warbler showed up--Sunday's banding potential seemed immense. Saturday, the weather was chilly, but the sun was out and I could hear new bird song. One thing I do love about spring is waking up, hearing a bird song and realizing that I had not heard that song the day before. These birds had just arrived overnight. Over a morning cup of coffee saw the first rose-breasted grosbeaks in Mr. Neil's yard.

Not long after that, a pair of orioles showed up and stayed around the feeders all day. Even though it was a male and female, they did not tolerate being on the oriole feeder at the same time--they fought over it quite a bit. I put out both an orange and grape jelly in the recycled oriole feeder, they totally ignored the orange and went straight for the jelly. The brush pile was chock full of sparrows, they looked like mostly white-throated sparrows. Pine warbler, rose-breasted grosbeaks, white-throated sparrow, orioles--this banding session was going to be colorfully unbelievable!

Not so much, as evidenced with Ms. Brown-headed Cowbird. Actually, I shouldn't say that--it was awesome as always--it was banding and I always learn something, we just didn't get the birds that thought we would.


We did get in both red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches. I love in the above photo that the red-breasted puffed up a tad when confronted with a larger white-breasted. The red-breasted did have a brood-patch and I have been seeing a pair sticking around. Between that and some excited yanking calls, I have a suspicion that the red-breasted are nesting nearby.

Here is the titmouse from the earlier contest. That was a treat for Mark and Roger, they don't get too many of those where they normally band birds, so something new pecking at your knuckles is always fun.

A surprise in the nets were a pair of mourning doves. We had been using the back entrance of the house, and while I was in there indulging in a cinnamon roll, I noticed to doves on the ground. I wondered if I went out the front door if they would flush towards the nets. Yep. It was a pair too and we were able to sex them by plumage. Above is the female.

And here is the male. Note that he has some blue on the top and back of his head--the female doesn't have that.


Another fun surprise was a pair of blue jays. We did get in a steady stream of birds Sunday morning, so I was not able to get all the info about the birds, I was busy helping to get them out of the nets. But my friend Amber got some great shots of them flying away.

We did get one warbler. This yellow-rump filled the quota for the day. It was interesting to note that while the nets were up, no pine warblers or Baltimore orioles showed up. Grosbeaks serenaded us from the tops of the trees and when they did fly into the feeders, they had a knack of flying in a line just above the nets--clever birds.

Out of the 40 odd white-throated sparrows in the brush pile, we only got one in the net. This bird is fine. Sometimes, when you finish banding a bird and open up your hands to let it go, they don't quite realize that they're free and just rest for a moment. All it usually takes is for the bander to twitch his fingers or for an observer to cough, sneeze, or move suddenly and the bird takes off like a shot.

banded chickadee

We did get in quite a few chickadees. One was a retrap that Mark and Roger banded last fall. What was interesting was that they were unable to determine the sex of the bird last fall, but this time the bird had a brood patch (a bare patch of skin used to incubate eggs, in some species just the female has it--like chickadees, and in other species both males and females have it--like nuthatches). So, since the chickadee had the brood patch, she was female. The chickadees have taken over a bluebird box in the front yard. I'll have to watch and see if one of them is banded.

At about noon and over thirty banded birds later, the guys took the nets down. And what species was one of the first to show up to the feeders? The pine warbler, of course. The orioles never did show up again all day. Roger suspects that they were just passing through and that the previous nights winds pushed them north. Ah well, more will be coming soon.

I spent the rest of the afternoon practicing my digiscoping for the World Series of Birding this coming weekend (boy, I was just going over the rules for that--that's a blog entry). Amidst all the white-throated sparrows and chipping sparrows in the brush pile, I was surprised to find a field sparrow! Wonder where this bird came from? I don't normally find these guys around the yard, I hope it stays, I love that call.