Saturday, 24 September 2016

Bird Banding Episode No. 6

24 September 2016

     We were treated to a fine session of banding this morning at Sprucehaven, with a nice variety of species, all migrants, without a single resident bird being retrieved from the nets. The following pictures will reveal all of the new species captured this fall, with the exception of one. We recorded a White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis that I forgot to photograph before it was released.
     Here is His Regal Smugness, Kevin Grundy, looking very satisfied with himself as he holds a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys.

         Here are a couple more images of the same bird.

     The juvenile is a very handsome little bird but few would argue that it is outdone by the adult.

      Those of us familiar with bird banding operations take it all for granted, but many people have never had the experience of witnessing it first hand. Here are some of the tools of the trade.

    There are many aspects of a bird that can only be revealed by having the bird in the hand, taking measurements, observing moult and observing other clues related to the bird's age and sex. Obviously all of these details cannot be committed to memory for the eight hundred or so species known to occur in North America and the following reference is the standard guide for bird banders. The two volumes are consulted frequently!

    We were very happy to capture our first Tennessee Warbler Leiothlypis peregrina of the season; it will perhaps be our only one as these birds are at the peak of their migration right now.

      Yesterday I had to visit SpruceHaven to accompany a VIP visitor to the farm and in conducting a walk through the woodlot we observed Brown Creeper Certhia americana, and I predicted that we would be ensnaring them in the nets the following day. The prediction turned out to be true.

     A Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata is a relatively uncommon migrant in this part of the continent so we were delighted to capture this bird.

     It begs the question: How many individuals of this species migrate unnoticed? Perhaps our modest banding operation can contribute to the data base of knowledge about this species.
    As the old expression goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but for my money a male American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla ranks high on the scale.

     Kevin and I had been speculating that "any time now" kinglets would start moving through and on the next round of the nets a Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula was captured. This was the first sighting of the season of this species for all present.

     When we went to close down the nets for the day our final circuit netted us a Black-throated Green Warbler Setophaga virens, bringing our total for warbler species captured this fall to a pleasing thirteen - and we may be able to add to that yet. 

     Neither Kevin nor I know of any other banding operation that is operating now, or has operated in the past in this area, so we are adding greatly to the reservoir of knowledge about the migratory pathways of these neotropical species.
     Over the past week or so a couple of other observations merit attention. In Erbsville I saw a squirrel that had been pretty much squashed on the road and it attracted the attention of Turkey Vultures Cathartes aura. 

     The birds were perched on nearby rooftops and would swoop down to garner a morsel every time there was no traffic. This species could be the poster child for opportunism!
     On a recent visit to Hullett Marsh we saw Eastern Phoebe Sayornis Phoebe and although my pictures were quite poor Miriam didn't do too badly.

     It is an interesting time for birders as the pace of fall migration heats up. Soon we will be looking for the arrival of species from the north. It all goes to prove that every season is a good season for a dedicated birder.

All species banded 24 September 2016: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1), House Wren (2), Brown Creeper (1), Tennessee Warbler (1), Nashville Warbler (4), Common Yellowthroat (1), American Redstart (1), Magnolia Warbler (2), Blackpoll Warbler (1), Black-throated Green Warbler (1), Wilson's Warbler (1), Song Sparrow (6), White-crowned Sparrow (3), White-throated Sparrow (1).
Total individuals: 26


  1. What a pasttime you can have, ha ha. Beautiful images David.

  2. Wonderful series, David, I'm amazed about the amount of different species.
    Gr Jan W

  3. Hello. Very beautiful birds. Greetings.

  4. Interesting post and as always I love the close up of the birds. I worked with a vet who specialised in wild life in Rhodesian days, who was a falconer and he also did a lot of ringing at the local dam. I learnt so much from him, he was an amazing man and exceptional with all animals. A great loss when he passed on a few years back. Diane

  5. The closeups are wonderful. Thanks to both you and Miriam. Have you already talked at length about what you do with the information you collect? I remember reading about the permits for doing banding (I think that was here on this site) but I don't remember reading about how and where you submit the information. (I'm just curious -- not planning to take it up myself.)

  6. That's a very fine haul indeed, David. No wonder Kevin looks pleased with himself! What a wonderful way to see such delightful birds close up, whilst contributing to our knowledge about them too. Some super photos, so that we can all share in your experience - thank you!

  7. Oh I love the male American redstarts - what a gorgeous, and brightly coloured bird! Love the shots you got of the turkey vultures as well, they're such fascinating and important birds. Thank you for the kind comments over on my blog as well! - Tasha

  8. Hi David, another quality post, the White Crowned sparrow is most certainly a very pretty bird but the American Redstart is a real stunner. All the best to you both. Regards John

  9. Just popping back across to say thanks for the comments on my egret drawing post! - Tasha

  10. Wouldn't want one of those Turkey Vultures in the hand...........

  11. Stunning Birds,what privilege to hold a life in your hands.

  12. Your photo's of all the birds are just lovely, and I love the way they sit quietly and have their photo's taken for us all to admire. It never ceases to amaze me the wonderful and different colourings.

    All the best Jan

  13. Wonderful birds David and a wonderful post. Must have missed this post as well.