Sunday, January 26, 2014

Birds Finally Come Down

A few sprinkled greeted us as we arrived to set nets but the forecast was for things to clear by mid-morning. However, we had overcast skies for the entire banding period. The morning began with an early House Wren.

House Wren

Next, we recaptured a female Northern Cardinal. Our newest volunteer, Danny, showed no fear in wanting to hold the Cardinal and was promptly initiated with nice strong grosbeak bites. Welcome to the club, Danny!

Northern Cardinal

Most of the Maple leaves now cover the ground beneath them as they push out their first buds and seeds. Large flocks of birds were feeding in the tree tops but the Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers are beginning to feed along the water. This lead to our first Myrtle Warbler capture of the season.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

A recaptured Gray Catbird was brought to the table. This bird was first banded almost a year-and-a-half ago during the Fall migration.

Gray Catbird

As we walked the net lanes at one point there came a strong whooshing sound, nearly like fast approaching rain. Instead, the sound was from the wingbeats made by flocks of low flying Double-crested Cormorants. Around 100 of them all headed to the lake.

Double-crested Cormorant

The morning was slow but the variety was nice. Eventually we captured a bird and offered it to Danny for a try at banding.

Eastern Palm Warbler

It was an Eastern Palm Warbler. Westerns are far more common here so it is always nice to see a brighter yellow version.

Eastern Palm Warbler

Down in the river along the boardwalk, a Limpkin was cruising for breakfast.


Didn't take long to pry some shellfish from the sand as the bird ignored us as we enjoyed the view.


Back near Net 7, Andrew found a Yellow-shafted Flicker feather on the ground. We have never captured one of them but when we hear them it is usually in this area.

Yellow-shafted Flicker

Then things began to pick up as we considered closing up. We were bringing birds back one at a time earlier but suddenly we had four all at once.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

We always hurry to get the Ruby-crowned Kinglets banded and released first as they can suffer from stress more easily.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

The others were all Myrtle Warblers, including transitioning males, and we got a good shot of the 'yellow rump'.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This even older male clearly reveals its yellow crown which is usually difficult to see in wintering Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

More birds were being captured quickly including an adult White-eyed Vireo.

White-eyed Vireo

We had more Myrtles and Kinglets and ended the morning with a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. They are even more difficult to capture as they see the nets better and usually can get themselves free even when they do land in the nets.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

If folks didn't have to leave we could have captured many more birds as the sunshine finally arrived. Maybe next time we can have a bit more warmth and increase our capture rate earlier in the day.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, February 2nd.
All nets will be opened by 6:45 A.M.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Slow But Exciting

Once again, rains moved through the night before and left us with some soggy sneakers. Fortunately, the weather cleared overnight and we only had to deal with a bit of a chill through the morning.

Water Drop

We captured a new Gray Catbird first off but things were really pretty slow. Richard repaired a nest box that was compromised last year. Now, we have it set up with added flashing around the tree trunk in hopes that predators will be kept at bay. Susan, Richard, and Andrew pose after the handy-work. Perhaps the Wood Ducks will use it again.

Nest Box

Richard and Susan began to check the other boxes. Down below the banding table, box 3 only held a single Flying Squirrel.

Flying Squirrel

As Susan and Richard continued to move on to other boxes, Andrew headed up the lanes to check the nets. He noticed a single Mourning Dove feather floating down from above. There was no sign of the bird so he moved along and noticed a bunch of feather around Net 15. A dove had been in the net at least briefly. Then they all began to notice more and more feathers along the net lane.

Mourning Dove

Andrew continued to scan for signs of a predator with prey in the trees. Suddenly, Susan was shouting up ahead, followed by Richard calling out for assistance. Up in Net 1, Susan was holding the net closed to contain a Cooper's Hawk. And the Mourning Dove. Andrew came in to extract the hawk.

Cooper's Hawk

Richard continued down the lanes to get the other volunteers over to witness the catch. Picture time!

Cooper's Hawk

Lynn got a great close-up of the hawk before we headed back to the table to take information and band it.

Cooper's Hawk

Andrew took his own close-up before processing the data on this bird.

Cooper's Hawk

To verify the proper band size needed, we use measuring tools that confirm that the right band size is applied. All the while avoiding those formidable talons!

Cooper's Hawk

We placed a holding bag over the Cooper's Hawk upper body to keep it calm and to avoid any chance of a bite. While Becki held the hawk in place, Andrew secured the lock-on band.

Cooper's Hawk

We decided to bring the now deceased Mourning Dove along with us in hopes that if we placed in near the net lanes the hawk would find it later after release. Nothing else we could do for this bird now.

Mourning Dove

Once banded, the Cooper's Hawk was set free and flew over the river and then back into the woods, no worse for wear.

Cooper's Hawk

Whew! That was a rush for all of us. Cooper's Hawks are not rare in the area and we nearly caught one last year, but Red-shouldered Hawks are more common.

Time to check nets again and Christine noted the recently deposited Bobcat scat near Net 22. The cat is here, but not often seen, and always uses this spot as its bathroom.

Bobcat scat

Nearby, several Eastern Phoebes were haunting the Cypress trees. They were hunting but not calling much. There were three of them in this small area but not coming close enough to the nets.

Eastern Phoebe

Another bird that keeps taunting us are the American Goldfinches. They are close to Net 21. So close...

American Goldfinch

Out along the mouth of the river, Becki scans the flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds cruising from the marsh to over the pier.


Forster's Terns were soaring over Lake Lotus and a pair of male Anhinga were vying for positions in the trees and chasing one another into the sky.


The resident Osprey was hunting overhead and posed in the wind before plunging into the lake in search of food.


Back in the willows, a few Palm Warblers were moving through and they were joined by a lone Orange-crowned Warbler. Only a Western Palm Warbler from this flock was captured today.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Back by the table we recaptured a Hermit Thrush while Ranger Frank stopped by for a visit.

Hermit Thrush

In a quick rush, we caught three Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The Sun was warming the area and birds were finally coming out to feed.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

An odd discovery. While we were busy with the day, some bird seemed to have dropped its breakfast. A Gizzard Shad was resting on a sand spit in the river. Puncture wounds confirm it was held by some bird at some point but no one saw this event happen.

Gizzard Shad

That concluded our day and the air was finally getting warmer. One last view of Net 1 with a Mourning Dove feather still clinging to it reminded us of our earlier capture.

Mourning Dove

You never know what might show up in the nets. Today's Cooper's Hawk was a nice surprise and all of the other captures and observations made for a full morning. Some of us will head to the Gulf to round up sparrows for a friend's project and if the weather is not too cold we will be back at Lake Lotus next Sunday.

NOTE: Wind chills are forecast to be near freezing on the 19th. We are staying home for our comfort and the safety of the birds.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, January 26th.
All nets will be opened by 6:50 A.M.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

First Birds for 2014

We had a much better day today as compared to the last outing for 2013. We had a nice mix of species, an interesting returning bird, and the 'one that got away'. We set nets and gear and the bands were at the ready for a brand new year of banding at Lake Lotus.


One of our first birds of the year was an Ovenbird. What made this capture special was that we first banded this bird exactly a year ago! Ovenbirds show a great site fidelity by showing up at the same time and same place year after year. We weren't set up for photos so early so this shot is from when we first banded it last year.


Other early risers were a pair of Carolina Wrens we have banded in the past. These Wrens are beginning to get active again already.

 Carolina Wren

As usual, Hermit Thrushes were also on the move early in the day.

Hermit Thrush

The Sun came out nicely for the first time in weeks and the pier was lit up as we scanned for birds on the lake.


Deeper in the shadows, a pair of fungus rises into the morning air and even new seedlings are defying Winter by starting new life.


One of our favorite birds was recaptured soon. This adult Brown Thrasher shows its age with those beautiful yellow eyes.

Brown Thrasher

Christine found a small turtle shell along the lanes. Wonder what ate it?

Turtle Shell

Susan extracted a White-eyed Vireo that we first banded last September.

White-eyed Vireo

A new human visitor joined us this morning but so did another creature. An Io Moth Caterpillar decided to fall onto one of our chairs by the banding table. We won't touch them with bare hands as they do deliver quite a sting.

Io Moth Caterpillar

We were watching the warblers flying through the marsh most of the morning and predicted that today would be the day that we would start catching them again for the season. Not long afterwards we began getting Palm Warblers at Net 21 near the lake.

Western Palm Warbler

We were also seeing Palm Warblers that were previously banded feeding out along the lake but we did not catch them today. We did add three new birds into our records, however.

Western Palm Warbler

As for the bird that got away, Lynn was taking shots of this Green Heron by the lake. Suddenly, it flew into the net. She tried to keep it confined until help arrived but it escaped by tearing a hole in our net. While we can't band herons it would have been a nice photo-op for the others.

We have captured a Green Heron before a couple years ago and this particular new family seems to be taking up residence at the mouth of the river and have nearly been captured lately several times. To see the shots from our last time we captured one, head here and scroll to the bottom of the post.

Green Heron

A good start for the year and almost perfectly mirrored the first week of 2013. Time to get geared up for more warblers that winter here before we start including banding demos around the state in the next couple of months.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, January 12th.
All nets will be opened by 6:50 A.M.