For Teageeare

Who tells me that I don't put enough Kabuki in the blog:
Here is my cranky little cockatiel, eyeing my inbox, hoping I will not notice if he pulls out and chews some paper. He and Cinnamon are about to go an a small adventure. We're going to dog sit for the next few days and we're bringing the pets with us.

I can't believe blogging escaped from me for a couple of days--it turned much busier here than I had anticipated. Next weekend should be about the same. I took Cinnamon with me to Carpenter Nature Center on Friday. I got an email a few weeks ago from some blog readers who said they might join us for banding. They asked if Cinnamon would be there and originally I had said no, but Thursday night and Friday morning, she was doing all those things that say, "Hey, mom, I need some stimulation." ie - digging in her litter box and sneaking into the kitchen. So, on went her leash and she went with me to Carpenter and found a whole slew of new things to disapprove of.

Even though we can still get her to put on the leash and harness without too much of a fuss doesn't mean she tries to chew and whip it off when she thinks I'm not looking.

We're getting in quite a few of the summer residence. Above is a male robin we have had in the nets twice this summer. You can tell he is male by the dark head and the darker rusty breast. Boy, he really looks unhappy in this photo.

We also got in this hairy woodpecker. Notice anything strange about him? Check out his red patch--it's on the front of his head and not the back--a way you can tell if the bird just hatched this year when it is at your feeder.

Cinnamon was not as impressed with all the banding going on and was way more interested in exploring all the prairie grasses. Just by hopping in a few feet, she would completely disappear.

Apart from the leash, the only other way you could tell she was in there was by watching a tall piece of grass waver for a moment and then fall over as she had chewed its stalk. She was almost on sensory overload with the abundance of chewables at her feet.

To a blade of grass, she's kind of a scary looking monster. Afterwards, she kept me company as i scouted for a field trip that I was leading on Saturday. Which I will blog about later tonight. Right now, I have to go out and check on the bee situation...have I prevented a swarm...will the Olga hive be ready for a queen excluder...what wonderful bee adventures will I encounter this week?

Colonnade Peregrine Banding

Yesterday they banded the peregrine falcon chicks at the Colonnade Building in Minneapolis. This week has been so insane--I just can't seem to keep up with the schedule. I had a business meeting this week and the poor woman and I were trying to get our schedules to sync up, I finally asked, "Dawn, do you want to meet at a peregrine falcon banding event?" Lucky enough, she did! I wasn't sure, she's one of Non Birding Bill's friends.

Here is Bud Tordoff, holding up one of the four chicks that got bands yesterday. There's a video of it here, you can see one of the adults flying around the nest ledge above Bud. You can also hear the adults screeching in the background of all the chick screaming noises.

There were two males and two females (researchers can tell them apart by size--even at 21 days old). Dawn and I watched a couple of the chicks being banded and then went inside to go over our actual meeting. As we were wrapping things up, the banding crew were coming back into the building. The person in charge is Jackie Fallon, who I know through The Raptor Center so I begged, "Hey, Jackie, can I come up to get photos of you putting the birds back from the floor the nest box is on?"

She said yes. Dawn gave an understanding look and I dashed into the elevator with the peregrine banding posse.

There were some maintenance people taking advantage of the absent chicks to do some minor repairs around the nest. Even though the chicks were gone, the female adult peregrine falcon was giving him the hairy eyeball:

Note the woman in the window well with the padded stick--to keep the falcon from nailing the repairman. There were some interesting leftover prey items around the nest:

This is a chord from the repair man, but under it is a rail head. I'm thinking Virginia rail.

There was also this pellet and I'm so bummed that it didn't turn out so well! There's a hummingbird bill at the top of it! Peregrines--eating hummingbirds? How? I know they are fast, but hummingbirds? Why? Wouldn't it be too much work for so little food? It's gotta be like eating a jolly rancher. I begged the banders to bring it in, but their priority is getting the banded chicks back in the nest swiftly and not getting hit by the adult falcons. It was not in an easy to grab area from the window well, and really, I was lucky just to be there watching the nest platform.

Which reminds me, I ran into HellZiggy and Hasty Brook at the banding. I got this photo of them while I was upstairs. Hi guys, sorry I didn't have more of a chance to chat.

While I was getting their photo, the male came up to see what was going on and to look for the chicks. The repairs were finally finished at the nest...

And the chicks were put back on the nest ledge. As soon as they were put down, they scrambled to the back corner of the nest and screamed together. The female falcon swooped back and forth as she could hear her chicks screeching.

As soon as the window well went up, the female flew in. Both the chicks and the female are looking up towards the well like, "What the heck was that all about?" Here's a video of the female looking over the chicks:

You can almost see her trying to work out in her tiny little brain what just happened. You can also see that she has an urge to feed the chicks. That begging cry stimulates the adults to hunt and feed the chicks.

We left the female alone with her chicks to get back to the business of rearing them. Ultimately the birds get a sense of "I won". They kind of are thinking, 'This big scary thing came in, took the chicks away, but all the falcons screaming and swooping frightened the big scary thing so much, the chicks are back."

Okay, now I have to load up the car and hit the road to North Dakota.

Friday Birds

A quiet day of banding at Carpenter Friday morning--I keep hoping for a big warbler wave in the nets but the timing has been off when we are banding. Some birders are mentioning that they aren't seeing warblers like they normally do this spring, but I think they are there. We had one heck of a leaf out in early May and most the warblers have been hidden. Much my warbler enjoyment this spring has been by ear.

We did get a ruby-throated hummingbird stuck in the nets. We don't have any equipment for banding hummers so when they are in the nets, someone takes them out and we let them go. This girl needed a few minutes for recovery and we got to get a good look at her feathers.

As Jim was getting her out of the net, we noticed that her throat was tinged a light golden yellow. I wondered if this was a plumage variation--the older the female she gets some coloration on her throat? We looked it up in the Pyle book and on BNA Online but could find not mention of gold throats on males or females. The only explanation we could think of was pollen dusted onto her throat from foraging on flowers. Has anyone else seen anything like this before?

The peony garden at Carpenter was loaded with pollen. The gardens are gorgeous right now in various reds, whites and pinks. If you are a fan of the Hoosier state flower and live near Carpenter Nature Center, I'd stop by this weekend.

I did get a chuckle when I found one of Carpenter's honeybees gathering pollen in the peonies. Who knew I'd be paying attention to bees in flowers? Am I losing my birding edge?

Since the banding was slow, I thought I would take some time to try and digiscope some kingbirds with Larry around the property. While walking, I noticed some monarch eggs. Above is a monarch egg on the bottom side of the milkweed--that's my big ole honkin' thumb next to the egg for size comparison. Ah, it's getting to be monarch ranching time. If you would like to learn more about raising native monarchs indoors for release, I'll be teaching a Monarch Ranchin' workshop at Staring Lake Outdoor Center July 7, 2007. Contact Staring Lake for details.

We did find some kingbirds on our walk. Not the best photo ever, but you get the idea. It was so cute, while I was away at Detroit Lakes last week, I could tell Non Birding Bill missed me--he was noticing birds. He sent me a text message on my phone that he had seen a kingbird in Loring Park on his way to work--I didn't even know he knew what a kingbird was.

On my way back to my car, I found myself being spied on by a thirteen-lined ground squirrel. Sometimes they snarf up the spilled seed under the bird feeders.

Larry had posted on the listservs this week that he'd seen dickcissels in Dakota County already. I usually don't see those guys until June. So I drove over to my favorite spots for dickcissel in Dakota County at the Empire Substation on 210th St. There's a small tree farm, power station and Buddhist temple surrounded by farm fields which is great for sparrows and meadowlarks. I didn't find the dickcissels but I did find chipping sparrows singing on territory (above) and lots of singing clay-colored sparrows.

As I was driving home, a sparrow popped up on a tree on the side of the road--a grasshopper sparrow. I pulled over and set my scope on my window mount tripod--which isn't easy to use for short people, but fortunately for me, the Swarovski eye piece rotates around so I can kind of use it with the window mount--it still takes some contorting on my part.

The grasshopper sparrow was incredibly accommodating. It stayed perched in the open even though it took me a few minutes to get the scope up and on it. Maybe this sparrow is ignored so much, it was happy that someone wanted to digiscope it?

Boy, you can tell this has been a good birding month, not many entries on the antics of Cinnamon. She disapproves of her lack of exposure in the blog. Okay, now Non Birding Bill and I are off to celebrate the Holiday Weekend, enjoy the outdoors, irritate a disapproving bunny, grill up some meat, bake some rhubarb pies, and I have to finish up a couple of deadlines. The rain is supposed to ease up tomorrow and I'll try to get out to the beehives and take some photos--our first batch of new workers should be hatched--whoot.

Hope you guys have a good time and enjoy birds where ever you are.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Kudos to everyone who made a guess at the photo id contest--it was pure evil on my part. The northern rough-winged swallow is not a bird I normally talk about, it's brown and nondescript and just not a bird people pay a lot of attention to--even though they are there and easy to see if you look. A big pat on the back to Leanne for the correct answer.

Here's the original photo of the bird that was zoomed in for the contest. We had two swallows fly into the nets at the same time at Carpenter--near the bird feeders of all places! Since these aren't birds that will come to bird feeders, our best guess is that they were chasing each other over a territory battle and both landed in the nets at the same time.

At first, there was some talk that it might be a swift, but a check of the tail--and running fingers along the wing confirmed that this was a northern rough-winged swallow. The barbs on in the primary wing feathers on a male rough-wing are distinctly hooked and running your finger over them kind of feels like running your finger over a nail file. Females do not have as distinct barbs. I don't think scientists have figured out the reason for the barbs yet--if anyone knows or has an idea, please let me know in the comments. I would have gotten a photo of the barbs, but the birds were flappy and stressed and we wanted them back out on the wing ASAP.

Again, thanks to everyone who guessed. It's not easy to put your name to an id when you aren't sure.

Common Yellowthroat & Another Contest

Okay, I know I wrote in the comments of the previous entry that I would update after breakfast, but truth be told the gorgeous spring day took hold of me. Once outside, there was not going back indoors. I do have enough material for a whole week's worth of entries and I'm not sure when I'll have time to get them up.

First up, the correct answer for the photo id in the eyeball contest was common yellowthroat, a bird we banded at Carpenter Nature Center on Friday. These are those tiny birds in marshy areas that sing "whichity whichity whichity" from the reeds and are very pishable.

Here is the eyeball...

And here is the whole original photo. Aren't they just gorgeous little guys?

I love the macro feature on my Nikon Coolpix 4500, it really can capture the magic of seeing these birds in hand. The photos though make the common yellowthroat look much bigger than it really is.

The winner of the eyeball contest already has a copy of the book, so the prize is still available. So, here's another eyeball contest--however, this one is much more diabolical than the last! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha:

What bird species belongs to the eyeball? First correct answer in the comments section with a name wins the prize--a paperback Singing Life of Birds with CD (you can use anonymous as a blogger id, but put your name in at the end of the comment if you want the book). The first correct answer with no name wins self satisfaction. Something for everybody!

Banding at North Coast Nature

One of my favorite things to do is banding and they had a great demo at the North Coast Nature Festival.

Here is one of my favorite photos of the weekend. That's master bander Tom Bartlett showing a goldfinch to some awestruck kids. Look at that little boy in sunglasses--that look about says it all!

Kids got the chance to release some of the birds after they were banded. This little girl just opened her hand the finch flung himself from the palm of her hand in a split second.

Here's a handsome little chipping sparrow that came into the nets. I have to say, Tom is one of the fastest banders I have ever seen. Birds were banded, measured, weighed and outta there in less than two minutes.

I also really appreciated how patient and enthusiastic he was around the kids. His missioned appeared to go beyond just banding the birds, but sharing their beauty with them. If kids wanted to, they had a chance to touch the birds. Several years ago, I was against this. I thought it was cruel to the bird and wondered why do kids have to touch everything. One day I realized that touch is how to make something real and understandable to a kid, and when done in a respectful manner, is not that stressful to the bird.

Sometimes, there can be issues. This female brown-headed cowbird gave one little boy a good hard nip on the finger with her bill. It stung, but he survived. He was lucky it wasn't a cardinal.

Tom got several woodpeckers in the net that day, including this male downy woodpecker. You can really see all those downy feathers around his bill...and his tiny spear like tongue.

And off he goes. If you'd like a chance to watch Tom in action, he will be banding at Kelleys Island later this month.

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.

Another Break

You know what's fun? That bee people really aren't that different than bird people. During the bee class there's been a guy behind me answering questions loud enough for all in the immediate area to hear. He hasn't raised any bees but has read so much, he is an expert (his words, not mine).

So, we're at another break in the bee class so I thought I would catch up on the doin's that transpired at Carpenter banding yesterday.

It was a veritable junco 'sploxion. we trapped and banded a ton yesterday. And they were a little chirpy. I wonder if the warmer weather was stimulating them? They will be heading north soon.

We didn't have the mist nets up, only the Potter's traps to get smaller birds. Somehow this female mourning dove lumbered her way in. Interesting: you can sex mourning doves in hand by checking their neck. If there is quite a bit of iridescent rosy pink the bird is male. If there is mostly tan coloration then it is female. She had mostly tan on her neck.

After banding, it was so warm out I couldn't just go home and decided to head down to Red Wing to take a quick look at eagles. I passed a bank sign that said the temperature was 47 degrees. I ditched my coat, gloves, earmuffs and scarf and wandered around the marina.

The warm weather was helping the eagles feel the love and there was some flirting going. Above are two eagles on the same branch. That's the raptor equivalent of second base. There is a nest at the marina and I did see an eagle sitting inside the nest.

Many were across the marina, but a few lurk in the trees right over the walking path at Colville Park, fairly oblivious to humans. That's what I love about this area, these eagles are not delicate flowers to be given distance. They see the humans, they get what we're about and they will hang out fairly close to us. Heck, they nest right off of highways and here at the marina with high boat traffic. These birds made an informed decision and will nest in an open area, easy for humans to watch and enjoy. Raptors nests aren't always as fragile as some would like you to think.

While at the park an eagle picked off a large fish, probably a carp. As soon as it landed in the tree all the other dozens of eagles in the trees were screaming and squeaking. I'm not sure if they are saying, "Way to go, dude, nice catch!" or they are saying, "Aw man, I'm so hungry. It's not fair, I was thinking of going for that fish."

While this guy was eating, another eagle came over to check out the situation (above).

This eagle was really, really interested on watching the other eagle eating its fish.

It kept looking down at its toes. Our eagles at the Raptor Center do that all the time. I wasn't sure if this bird was watching fish bits fall and debating with itself if it would be worthwhile to go get them or if it was hoping that at some point a fish would magically appear in its talons.

Breaks over.


I just bought a used camera from one of the Leica guys, a Nikon Coolpix 4500. I bought it for digiscoping and because it's supposed to have an incredible macro feature. I tried it out banding at Carpenter Nature Center today and was VERY pleased with my close ups.

It was a cardinal bonanza today in all the traps, much to the chagrin of the banders' fingers. Those bills are so perfect for ripping open sunflower husks are quite capable of slicing flesh.

We trapped and banded the above male cardinal on September 15, 2006. Note, he was going through that gawky stage transitioning from brown juvenile plumage into is adult male red plumage. Look at all those pin feathers--aka bird acne. He even has a sad little stubby crest. Hmm, this is taking me back to my seventh grade school photo. Shutter.

Here is the same bird retrapped today! What a difference four months make! He looks like he's thinking, "I can't believe how good I look!"

Just take a moment and soak that bird in. Breathe in. Breathe out. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Good night, how red do you need to be? Interesting to note, this bird had a birthday on January 1, 2007. Even though he was probably about two or three months when we first banded him, according to banding rules all wild birds turn a year older the first of the year. He is now an official second year bird--even though it has been less than a year since he hatched. I don't make the banding lab rules, I just follow them.

I'm really digging the macro feature of this Nikon Camera--it really picks up great feather detail. I could just get lost in this female cardinal's patchwork of reds and tans.

Here she is head on. I'm fascinated by the area where all the feather connect with her bill. Such a combination of heard, bright, and shiny contrasted with soft, gray, brown, red, subtle. I just want to run my finger right along that line...I can't because of the whole biting issue, but still...

Well, can't wait to see further results with this camera and future banding sessions.

Of course the fun part of purchasing used cameras is that sometimes not all the old photos are deleted. I found this photo:

It's Pete Dunne and it looks like he's visiting Panama's Canopy Tower. I wonder if he got in?

Green-tailed Towhee Banding Mystery

Bird-wise we got totally nooged at Carpenter today. The traps were birdless, although there was some excitement over a Townsend's Solitaire that was found on the trail. We went to go look for it, but did not find it. Although, I was rewarded with a view of a gorgeous gully (above) that I've never noticed at Carpenter. I tend to hang at the banding station and today made a mental note to take a walk on the trails more often.

Fortunately, we have a very sweet banding mystery to chew on. We've had a rare bird show up in Mountain Lake in Cottonwood County--a green-tailed towhee (a western species not typically found in Minnesota). The photo above was taken by Dave Cahlander and if you look at the leg, you can see that the towhee is banded. Dave is one heck of a photog, and he even tried to photograph the band! No one in Minnesota is claiming to have banded the towhee, so where did it come from? Dave said, "It looks like the numbers are 8051 ?8299, where I can't read the ? number."

He submitted the digits and photos to the BBL and here is a response from Danny Bystrak,
Wildlife Biologist at BBL:

"... It is one of the more fascinating reports I've ever seen here, but so far, I have not made any progress in finding the bander. The problem is that, assuming the 8051 is correct (which it seems to be) and the ?8299 is correct (which it also seems to be), all the possible numbers for the ? are accounted for except two. One of the two was issued to a bander in S.D. who has never banded a Green-tailed Towhee, and the other was issued to a bander in Canada. If it was banded in Canada, the banding record is as far out of range as the sighting!

I will check with the Canadian Banding Office to see who it was issued to, but it is starting to look like maybe the above numbers may not be correct. "

More pictures would be great, if there's any chance we could get that missing number in the picture. "

Where did this bird come from? Anyone out there reading this in Canada banded a green-tailed towhee? I love a good banding mystery!

**There's been an update to the towhee and we now know where it was banded. Check the blog entry for January 10, 2007.