Sunday, 11 September 2016

Spider Venom and Bird Banding Episode 4

11 September 2016

     Today is the fifteenth anniversary of those terrible events in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, which have come to be universally known as 9/11. I freely confess to having not remembered it at all, and it was only when I had to write the date in the bird banding log that the significance was impressed upon me. All I can say is, thank goodness life has returned to normal, and no doubt legions of bird banders across the United States were also going about their business as usual. The terrorists did not succeed.
     When returning from a circuit of the nets, bags containing birds in hand, the keen eyes of Jim Huffman saw a Cabbage White Pieris rapae fly into a spider's web. Instantly imprisoned it flapped its wings so furiously that the first pictures I took were just a blur. Quick as a flash, a spider in the genus Argiope, (although I am not sure as to species), was on the butterfly and I assume quickly injected venom into it, and its wing beats ceased.

     How many dramas in nature do we miss? How many life and death struggles take place unseen as we strain to see a bird through our binoculars? This one was riveting to watch, albeit deadly for the Cabbage White, and I am truly grateful to Jim for drawing my attention to it.
     We had a very successful day of banding, with several species of warbler, giving us more evidence each week that SpruceHaven is part of a significant migratory pathway for warblers.
     This Nashville Warbler Leiothlypis ruficapilla is resting quietly in John Lichty's hand before flying off to continue its migration, now clearly identified as passing through St. Agatha, ON.

     We were very happy to band our first Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana of the year; note the bright rusty scapulars.

     Other than Song Sparrows Melospiza melodia, sparrows have not yet appeared in our nets, but we expect that shortly other species will start to show up.
     We captured two Wilson's Warblers Cardellina pusilla, handsome birds indeed, and a further indication that SpruceHaven is a pathway for southbound neotropical migrants.

     A friend of mine who is Jewish always refers to this warbler as a Yarmulke Warbler since he says the black patch on the head always reminds him of the skullcap worn by observant Jews.

     Flycatchers in the genus Empidonax are notoriously difficult to identify in the field, and even in the hand, can present the bird bander with some difficulties in nailing down the species. Kevin was uncertain initially about this individual, but carefully consulted the reference "bible" and based on the measurement of the wing chord and the weight of the bird, he narrowed it down to Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus. This was our first trap of this species and represents the third species in this family (that we know of) to journey through SpruceHaven.

     Once again I would be remiss if I concluded this post without a word of thanks to Kevin Grundy, a superb bander who demonstrates time and again a keen bias in favour of the welfare of the birds. We are very fortunate to have Kevin as part of our team. Indeed, without Kevin, this operation would not take place since he is the only one among us with a permit.
     See you next Saturday Kevin!

Total species banded: Traill's Flycatcher (2), Least Flycatcher (1), Red-eyed Vireo (1), House Wren (1), American Goldfinch (4), Nashville Warbler (2), Common Yellowthroat (8), Wilson's Warbler (2)Song Sparrow (6), Swamp Sparrow (1) - Total individuals: 28

One Ruby-throated Hummingbird  Archilochus colubris was captured and released.


  1. Hi. You are presented the magnificent birds. Absolutely stunning.

  2. Hi David.

    Beautiful pictures of the birds.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  3. The Wilsons is a stunner..........

  4. I do love seeing these birds close up, especially as I know they will not be hurt and they return to their nests non the worse for their adventure. Love that first shot, yes how many things like this do we miss close at hand. Have a good week Diane

  5. Me ha gustado mucho la foto de la araña y la mariposa. Buen reportaje mi amigo David, un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  6. Amazing shot of the butterfly in the web with the spider, and while it did not end well for the poor butterfly, you are right, it is amazing to see these things unfold before us. Love the birds too, they're colouring is so pretty. Thank you, as well, for all of the kind comments you always leave! - Tasha

  7. Bonjour cher ami,

    Je suis éblouie par vos photos.
    J'espère que ce papillon n'aura pas trop souffert. Les lois de la natures sont bien là ! Si seulement il n'y avait qu'elles !
    Les oiseaux que vous nous montrez sont magnifiques.

    Très joli reportage.

    Gros bisous 🌸

  8. I like every picture in your blog, David, but the spider picture most!!
    Just because it is an unusual one in this series. Gr Jan W

  9. Hi David, some super close up images of the birds, the Swamp Sparrow is a real stunner as is the Jewish! Wilson's Warbler. The Spider and Butterfly also a great capture. All the best to you both. Regards John

  10. That is the first time I realized that at least one person in the banding party must have a special permit. i hope you will write about how that is obtained or point out a good place to go for the information (Just curious -- not that I want to get one; I suppose I should just ask mr Google or Ms Wikipedia or someone.

    Anyway, the birds you identified are fascinating as always and the spider/butterfly struggle was really something to follow! I've often thought about all the drama -- all the worlds really -- going on around/above/under us at any given moment. It helps to put things in perspective doesn't it?

  11. Hello David, Another buzzi day with ringing those birds. And the change to watch and to take pictures of them up close. Great job.
    Hope all is well.
    Take care,

  12. Kalimera David. Although I am in Greece I do need to check where you are and what you are up to. Keep up the good work. Must dash, need to watch these Red-rumped Swallows. Yammas.

    1. I will be with you in spirit at dinner time - we are planning on Greek salad and lemon/garlic chicken.

  13. Just came back across to say thank you for the kind comments on my posts! - Tasha

  14. Beautiful series of photographs David.
    Great the birds in the hand.
    The spider with butterfly is great.
    Have a nice weekend.
    Best regards, Irma

  15. That spider looks a mean beastie, David! The Wilson's Warbler is delightful - amused by your Jewish friend's skullcap reference!

    Sorry not to have been in touch before now - just got back from an end-to-end on 'Route 66' - will explain later!

    Love to you both - - - Richard

  16. Splendor photos David, nice to see.
    Unfortunately for the butterfly, but so is nature.
    Greetings Tinie

  17. September 11 will never be forgotten. This date is for everyone in the minds of the world!

    You rock the show of beautiful birds and small birds. They are really beautiful birds. Beautiful color and very sharp with great detail.! I love these birds.
    A hug

  18. Gorgeous series of photos and so beautiful birds !!

  19. Fabulous photo's here David.
    The birds are so colourful

    All the best Jan

  20. That Wilson's Warblers is so beautiful! Great bird images :)