Sunday, September 27, 2009

Some Fall Birds Right on Time

Still a week or two from the peak of migration but some birds are showing up right on schedule. However, there are still very few birds around in total despite strong indications that birds are on the move when viewing nightly NEXRAD radar.

When large masses of birds rise in the evening you can see their patterns bloom into bright blue shapes. Sometimes you hear references to 'ground clutter' when weather radar is shown on TV but this is often caused by huge flocks of birds that the radar is bouncing off of. Last Friday the NEXRAD looked like this:


This prompted us to try and band both days of the weekend in hopes of capturing some new migrants. The weather must have been too clear overhead, though, which kept the birds heading south all during the morning. By 7:30 AM on Saturday we only caught local birds.

Our resident Carolina Wrens were still flying into nets.

Carolina Wren

Blue Jays were actually very active Saturday and we did catch one of them.

Blue Jay

Migrants were few but the last bird of the day proved the migration schedule was still on track. Last year on this date we caught our first ever House Wren at Lake Lotus and, right on time, another one joined us.

House Wren

So much for Saturday. Sunday was a little better but not by much. Another 'on time' migrant did show up but as Andrew was removing the first Carolina Wren of the morning he got a call from Maria. Seemed she had a much more interesting catch.


Three people and some heavy gloves later, the bat was freed. More local fare was brought in a bit later in the form of this beautiful White-eyed Vireo. You can tell that it is still a fairly young bird by the not totally white eye.

White-eyed Vireo

Bird of the Day belonged to this female Downy Woodpecker! Not rare by any means but hard to capture as they usually stay so high above the nets. That foot sure gives away the fact that they are one of our remaining links to dinosaurs.

Downy Woodpecker

Maria got the bird from the net. She is called the "Woodpecker Lady" in our group as she was almost always the one who got the woodpeckers when we were at Wekiva Springs.

Downy Woodpecker

Like the Black and White Warbler, Downys prove that simple colors, or lack thereof, can be beautiful.

Downy Woodpecker

Welcome to the catalog, little lady!

Downy Woodpecker

Net number 11 seems to be the hot spot for Common Yellowthroats. Here, Andrew extracts one of many for the day.

Common Yellowthroat

An interesting fact arose when guests began showing up the the banding site years ago with high-end digital cameras. These small birds seem to hear either the focus lock or the shutter trigger and begin flapping like crazy right as pictures are shot with these devices. It makes most shots appear like this, at best.

Common Yellowthroat

Our trusty older Olympus digital had just run out of batteries so the bird had to be restrained for a more calm pose.

Common Yellowthroat

As mentioned earlier, birds are still arriving on time, if not in greater numbers yet. This time last year we also got our first Catbird to band and here was the first of this year.

Gray Catbird

Lack of birds still do not diminish the wonderful views provided by nature.

Here Comes the Sun

Here's hoping the next week brings us some more birds!
Next Banding Day: Sunday, October 4th.

We will open nets by 6:50 A.M.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Flood of Common Yellowthroats

Winds have been blowing to the North for the past week. This was bringing thoughts of very limited catches today as all of the birds which might be migrating South might take an easier trip to the West. NEXRAD radar seemed to agree with this as it appeared to show large numbers of migrants heading down through Texas into Mexico.

But we head out every weekend to gather data even based on this.

We were surprised by a large number of Common Yellowthroats instead. We had just about every range of these tiny warblers today. Mostly adult females. Here, Andrew bands one of the many female visitors.

Common Yellowthroat

A bit later, Maria and Charles band another female.

Common Yellowthroat

This young male joined the flood later on. Again, note the incoming black feathers under the eyes indicating a male transitioning into adulthood.

Common Yellowthroat

To round out the day, we did get an adult male just before we closed down the nets for the morning.

Common Yellowthroat

Bird-of-the-Day did arrive before we wrapped. Last year, to the day, we captured our first Black-throated Blue Warbler of the season. We caught a male in 2008 and a female this year.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

A local resident species, the White-eyed Vireo, joined us which is always a pleasant surprise and can be counted on the deliver a bit of a nip to your fingers.

White-eyed Vireo

These fresh feathers are a wonder to observe as we band.

White-eyed Vireo

Catbirds have been reported just to the North in the state. How many will we see next week? Peak of migration is right around the corner!
Next Banding Day: Sunday, September 27th.

We will open nets by 6:45 A.M.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Storm Front Keeps It Quiet

We had a large storm system that flowed in from the West and continued up the state toward the North. This effectively blocked any new migrants from reaching us by the morning. Things were looking rough for us to even open up today but the skies cleared around 5 AM and allowed us to continue.

Birds were few and far between at the nets but we managed to capture a couple of new migrants. The first was a Black and White Warbler. Here, Lane checks the banding book to verify age and sex of this bird.

Black and White Warbler

"Ready for my close-up!"

Black and White Warbler

A short while later we captured a Common Yellowthroat. This young male, told by the emerging black feathers under the eye area, was waiting in the net down near the pier.

Common Yellowthroat

We also banded a young Brown Thrasher at dawn and there many other birds to watch including a female Summer Tanager near the banding table.

Fingers crossed for next Sunday!
Next Banding Day: Sunday, September 20th.

We will open nets by 6:45 A.M.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fall Must Be Near

Something changes in the mind once certain birds begin their arrival here in Florida. It triggers certain expectations and realizations about the world around us. Especially once one understands different patterns such as bird migration.

One of these triggers is the arrival of migratory thrushes. The first non-resident species to arrive at the end of Summer is the Veery. Today we banded our first of the new season and it definitely now is starting to feel more like Fall is almost in reach.


We also got our first Common Yellowthroat of the season. Both of these new migrants were captured in the same net but at different times. This is a net that seems to catch migrants for the most part so it must be in the seasonal travel lane.

Common Yellowthroat

There was also a big commotion among the feeding Titmice. We were discussing how we hardly catch any as they are so good at spotting the nets and flying over them. Minutes later we caught THREE in the same net!

Tufted Titmouse

We captured our 3rd Louisiana Waterthrush today. At the end of the day we also caught a Northern Waterthrush for a good comparison between the two for all of the volunteers. Check last week's entry for a shot of a Louisiana Waterthrush.

Northern Waterthrush

Last banded bird of the day was another migrant. A Red-Eyed Vireo. This bird had recently finished some breakfast and was busy pooping it out all over the place. Most likely Poke Berry. You can see some purple on the feathers of this bird.

Red-Eyed Vireo

Andrew heads up the trail, pruners in hand, to cut some invasives and haul a tire out of the woods. Folks used to dump all sorts of things out here before the property was fenced off years ago and we often find interesting bits of jetsam as we make our rounds.


This set of plants have been clinging onto the river bank for quite some time. We wondered what they were and finally they bloomed. Swamp Lily!

Swamp Lily

Never noticed any Primrose Willow around here before. Especially unexpected along the dry net lanes.

Primrose Willow

One more bird as we headed home. Up on a dead tree trunk near the front gate, a juvenile Wood Stork posed for a while before headed off toward the lake.

Wood Stork

Definitely a fun day with new species showing up along the way. Time to rest up for next week.

Next Banding Day: Sunday, September 13th.

We will open nets by 6:30 A.M.