Sunday, October 28, 2012

Would the High Winds Vex Us?

Thoughts are with our friends to the North as Hurricane Sandy prepares to lash their coast but we headed out to see what happens farther South as the storm stirs up the winds our way. Will we get anything new? Anything unusual?

Well, nothing too unusual off the bat, but we did have some nice captures. Mainly, we began catching Hermit Thrushes. We did not start getting them until mid-November last year but we caught two today.

Hermit Thrush

Not long afterward, we began catching Swainson's Thrushes. Thought they had drifted South by now.

Swainson's Thrush

As expected due to past experience, Indigo Bunting numbers are dropping off sharply despite all of the grasses still providing food. We only caught two buntings today. A female...

Indigo Bunting

...and a Fall male.

Indigo Bunting

A few House Wrens are still being captured. They should be here through the upcoming Spring.

House Wren

We also recaptured a White-eyed Vireo. Always nice nice behold.

White-eyed Vireo

As the winds picked up, the birds stayed low. Not a lot of activity for a bit. Looking around the lanes we did find some butterflies like this beautiful Viceroy.

Viceroy

There has been a pretty little flower showing up from time to time by one of the nets. We keep meaning to research it so today we got a photo and can say it is a type of Rhexia.

Rhexia

The morning warmed and we were wondering if we were going to start catching Ruby-crowned Kinglets. They have been arriving and today was the day. We caught a female we first banded last January. Nice to see her return for the Winter.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

We saved the Bird-of-the-Day for last. Rounding out our 3 Thrush day we were quite surprised and pleased to get a Gray-cheeked Thrush. It has been a while since we have captured one.

Gray-cheecked Thrush

Not a bad day even with the gusting winds. Next week should see calmer weather and, hopefully, even more exciting discoveries.

NOTE: Daylight Savings Time begins at midnight Saturday. Fall back!
______________________________________
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, November 4th.
All nets will be opened by 6:10 A.M.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Indigos Still in Numbers; House Wrens and Others Add to the Mix

Temperatures are beginning to drop but we still have a lot of dew in the morning. Still a lot of grass seed, too, as evidenced by the good number of Indigo Buntings remaining in the area. They were a good percentage of our captures today.

Indigo Bunting

Running neck and neck for the most captured species of the day were House Wrens. Last week we had none for some reason but a ton of Common Yellowthroats. Today, only one Yellowthroat and a ton of House Wrens, including this young bird.

House Wren

A surprising bird was also captured. An Eastern Phoebe. Not because it is rare, just way early in the morning.

Eastern Phoebe

It was nice to see a White-eyed Vireo again today. However, it was the same bird we banded just one week ago. Still pretty, still feisty.

White-eyed Vireo

Though we missed the big peak due to weather a few weeks ago, we will still be catching Catbirds until Spring. This was another young bird this week.

Gray Catbird

Another early capture was a female Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

It has been awhile, but we finally caught another Brown Thrasher. A family has lived in the area where we caught it but this was a new, unbanded bird. Until now.

Brown Thrasher

Another local, a recaptured Northern Cardinal, was gathered today. Checking the records we found that we first banded this bird as a fledged young bird a year and a half ago. Glad to see it doing so well.

Northern Cardinal

We got a new species for the season today. Palm Warblers have been slow to arrive this year but they are now back all over the place. We would expect Western Palms at this spot so it was nice to have a more yellow Eastern type.

Palm Warbler

The Palm Warblers were caught down near the lake. We set Net 21 late last season in hopes of getting Myrtle Warblers in the Winter. Seeing Palms down there this early might be a good sign.

Palm Warbler

Most of the Indigo Buntings were females of various ages. We were beginning to wonder if we would ever get any of the younger males. Right on cue, we got one as we headed toward the end of our morning. Note the blue feathers throughout the neck and breast feathers.

Indigo Bunting

We had also about given up on Painted Buntings. On the way to close up the nets...

Painted Bunting

Still no male Painteds yet. Perhaps next week. Not going to complain. The females are quite pretty, too.

Painted Bunting

A nice variety for this morning. Reports are trickling in of sparrows on the horizon. However, we still have the threat of Hurricane Sandy brewing. Should put out to sea but you never know.
______________________________________
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, October 28th.
All nets will be opened by 7:00 A.M.

Monday, October 15, 2012

As Predicted, Bunting Are Here in Force

Andrew took a walk through the net lanes on Saturday and was greeted by numerous Indigo Buntings along the river. Indications were that we would have a pretty good bunting catch today. The call was out for all who could attend to be there to enjoy the bounty.

Arriving before dawn, Greg, our newest volunteer, assisted setting nets in the dark. The first birds heard, even in the pre-dawn darkness, were Indigo Buntings calling. If you want a crash course on banding at Lake Lotus, arrive early during peak migration weeks in October.

Greg

As you can see, our first run was excellent with a lot of species waking up as the Sun rose. A lot of buntings right off the bat. Our two female Painted Bunting were part of this run but the photos didn't work out that well. We caught varying ages of Indigos but we focused on the blue today.

Indigo Bunting

A nice surprise was an early morning Eastern Phoebe. Usually, they start flying later in the morning once the light is better and insects are on the move.

Eastern Pheobe

We only captured a couple of Gray Catbirds but one was special. You can't really see it in this shot, but this bird had a very visible gape telling us that this bird was fledged not too long ago and has made it down on its first migration. Confirmed southern records only have Catbirds breeding as far south as Georgia so maybe it was not too far from home.

Gray Catbird

The early tally was heavily in favor of buntings and we only caught one Common Yellowthroat in the early going. That would change as the morning wore on.

Common Yellowthroat

Carolina Wrens were represented, as usual, with some recaptures of our residents.

Carolina Wren

Charles had just passed Net 2 before Andrew checked it again. There, Andrew found a nice, feisty, White-eyed Vireo waiting in the net.

White-eyed Vireo

Common Yellowthroats barely edged our bunting captures by the end of the day. After getting mostly adult birds we managed to get an immature male.

Common Yellowthroat

The recaptured male Northern Cardinal avoided the nets for most of the day. We heard him all morning and he actually flew into the net as we began to take them down.

Northern Cardinal

We ended our day with a few more Indigo Buntings and we probably could have sat around and gathered more all day long. However, our hours are limited so we enjoy each bird we can get in our window each Sunday. We took the opportunity of the brighter sunlight to capture the brilliance of the blues visible on even the Winter plumaged males.

Indigo Bunting

We should have at least one more good weekend of buntings next Sunday. Fronts are forecast to push through again and give us drier, cooler temperatures and the possibility of our first Wintering Sparrows. Can't wait!
______________________________________
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, October 21st.
All nets will be opened by 6:55 A.M.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Indigo Buntings Return

Still a lot of rain in the area over the past few days. The cold air just can't making it through the stalled front. Another day of wet feet. Though it did see the return of one of our favorite species. The radar looked promising for a busy day as large amounts of birds are now moving more freely as the clouds thin.

Radar Map

As proof, we had a couple good runs right off the bat with a nice mix of species.

Bird Bags

Common Yellowthroats ruled the day again and we caught a variety of ages again.

Common Yellowthroat

A Gray Catbirds were around but not like the big numbers we usually see this time of year.

Gray Catbird

Another typical species is still showing up. Ovenbirds are one of our constants from the past couple of months.

Ovenbird

Now arriving are the Eastern Phoebes. We caught one younger bird today.

Eastern Phoebe

Probably the Bird-of-the-Day was what at first glance appeared to be an Orange-crowned Warbler. Turns out it was a Tennessee Warbler.

Tennessee Warbler

This is the first Tennessee Warbler we have banded out here. An excellent capture.

Tennessee Warbler

Vying for BOTD are the returning Indigo Buntings referenced in our opening paragraph. They are now being heard and captured up and down the river. First ones we banded were young females.

Indigo Bunting

Fortunately we also captured a male to give us a bit more color.

Indigo Bunting

Our final Indigo was an adult female. If this year is anything like last year, we should be getting a lot of buntings in the next couple of weeks.

Indigo Bunting

In the middle of our morning we caught a female Painted Bunting. Is this the mother to our earlier captured young birds? Perhaps. We do believe they are breeding on site. Now we just need Dad!

Painted Bunting

To round out our captures, we found a Black-throated Blue Warbler waiting for us in Net 16. A beautiful male.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Another couple of interesting observations were made today. As mentioned, we have still been having rains in the area. In fact, the river was a lot higher than anticipated and setting our last net in the willows was almost not possible. We splashed to it and only had it half-way open.

Next to the trail, a colony of Fire Ants were trying to escape the flood by forming an ant bridge that winded around a several-foot long path.

Fire Ants

One close-up shows how thousands of ants gather together, sacrificing themselves for the greater purpose of evacuating the colony.

Fire Ants

Some ants organized others while some carried out the larvae to safety. A remarkable sight, overall.

Fire Ants

Not too far away, a clump of grasses held up a nest near the mouth of the river. Seems to be rather new as we have never seen it before. Not sure of the species that built it but we are still researching.

Nest

A nice day. Finally getting the expected numbers now that the front is slowly falling apart. Just need it to get out of here completely and return more birds. And drier air!
______________________________________
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, October 14th.
All nets will be opened by 6:55 A.M.