Thursday, June 25, 2009

First day of banding Songbirds

This morning I arose very early to ride my motorcycle up to the top of Lucky Peak to the Idaho Bird Observatory to help, but mostly learn how to band songbirds. Later in the summer I will be spending a great deal of time up there working with the bird banding team. My research is focused on migratory timing between avian predators and avian prey, using data from the Idaho Bird Observatory. As a result I will participate in song bird banding, hawk watch, hawk banding, and owl banding. The songbird migration banding will be performed daily starting July 15th. Today's banding is part of a reproductive territory banding program coordinated with many banding stations across the country. The team bands one day out of every ten for this program. I volunteered today to help, but also to start my training program for later in the summer.
It was a fantastic experience. The crew of volunteers were very generous in their instruction. I feel overwhelmed by all of the knowledge they attempted to plant in my brain. If half of it sticks I will be doing well! I have visited the Idaho Bird Observatory a number of times in the past, but did not fully appreciate all of the details that are decided upon behind the scenes. Detail like how old a feather was on a given species. The ease of determining this is different from species to species and sometimes requires species specific molt pattern knowledge. It's a good thing they had books nearby. Even the most experienced were looking up species specific details.
My hands on experience today included how to properly hold birds, transferring birds, taking all of the vital measurements (primary length, weight, age of each feather group, age of bird, etc). I only accidently released one bird. Good thing they had already recorded the necessary information! To my knowledge I didn't injure any! I claim that as success. I will need significantly more practice before I am able to fully process my own bird, but I made great progress today.
There were a couple of interesting observations today. We captured a few juvenile (born this year) Song Sparrows. These are not know to nest in the area, so these individuals likely dispersed from this hatch site. One had a "fault bar" on its tail. This indicates that the bird was under nourished during the critical phase of tail feather development. The good news is that he/she appears to be doing well now. I had no idea that this was visible on feathers, but it makes sense.
Juvenile American Robin
We processed this juvenile American Robin then quickly returned it to its mother. She was not happy.
MacGillivray's Warbler.
The MacGillivray's Warbler is distinguished by its bold partial eye-ring. If you look closely in the picture you can see that some of the feathers on the head have a bluish tint (adult) and some look dirtier and brownish (juvenile). This indicates that this bird is a second year bird which is still molting its adult plumage.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
I love Ruby-crowns. Who wouldn't!
Part of the day was spent educating others. This group came up for a couple of hours and learned a lot about birds. They were great kids. Jay and Heidi put a male and female MacGillivray's in front of them and asked if they were the same species or not. The group was split, but a number had it right. They all had good reasons for their answer. It was a great experience for them and it was great to see these kids out learning about nature.
Orange-crowned Warbler
The Orange-crowned Warbler was one of my favorites. The photo doesn't do his orange crown justice. He was clean and beautiful!
I'm excited for my continued work at the IBO. I will be back up there on July 18th. I can't wait.
Other birds banded not mentioned above: Chipping Sparrow, Warbling Vireo, Hammond's Flycatcher, Spotted Towhee, Western Tanager, Ducky Flycatcher, Lazuli Bunting, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's sub-species), Yellow Warbler. Netted, but not banded: Calliope Hummingbird.


Dawn Fine said...

Nice! I have always wanted to do this! I have watched bird banding and held the birds..but someday I hope to get more involved.
Nice post and blog!
Thanks for the Seesmic help on twitter..I am using it and loving wishing for Chirptracker to integrate with it1

Debbie Courson Smith said...

What a life experience! I attended a hummingbird banding last summer with my daughter - we'll always remember it and we learned so much!

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