Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Slow August Closes

The last day of August proved to be very slow. Three volunteers and two visitors scanned the lanes for four hours but we only captured 3 birds today. There were some migrants in the area but they stayed high in the treetops. We noted a higher number of Northern Parula around and had a pair of Great-crested Flycatchers show up near the lake before they head South. Migrants included a large number of Red-eyed Vireo, Prairie Warbler, Waterthrush (calling), and our first Yellow-throated Warbler of the season.

We will get our star of the month out of the way first before the birds. They are still doing a great job at devouring the Air Potato leaves but we will only share one shot just to round out the month. Truly a nice addition to the area, these excellent little Air Potato Beetles.

Air Potato Beetle

Our first bird was a recaptured Carolina Wren that we first banded over a year ago.

Carolina Wren

Like Northern Cardinals, of which we caught none for once, we thought we had banded all of the Carolina Wrens on the property. Another adult proved us wrong.

Carolina Wren

Behind Net 14, Richard noticed a Cypress Gall. We will have to do more research on its origins.

Cypress Gall

Next to Net 21, we are pretty sure this is a Virginian Tiger Moth caterpillar. They also eat Air Potato leaves but there are none of them present in this location.

Virginian Tiger Moth

Our final bird was captured in Net 21. An American Redstart. At least we got one migrant out of the morning.

American Redstart

September is upon us and we look forward to many more migrants in the next two weeks. Time for Common Yellowthroats and the early thrushes such as Veery.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, September 7th.
All nets will be opened by 6:40 A.M.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Interesting Mix and More Beetle Love

Hot weather persists with little rain in the area for a while. Our birding radar was still tuned up as this is the time we start seeing more migrants arriving and hope to get them starting more and more now. We are also keen on checking out the Air Potato Leaf Beetle population after the past few weeks.

As this photo shows from later in the day, they are doing fine, thank you.

Air Potato

We had a new volunteer joining us today, Joe, and as the nets were being set well before dawn we heard what sounded like a Brown Thrasher. On our first check of the nets right about dawn we had one in the net near the table. A juvenile while the adults were clucking nearby as we extracted it from the nets.

Brown Thrasher

Minutes later, Christine got an Ovenbird in the next net. Right on time.


Down near the lake we caught another Northern Cardinal. This one was a male recapture and we have been catching a lot of Cardinals in this zone this month. All are coming out of molt right now.

Northern Cardinal

Checking the nets in the same area a bit later, Andrew and Joe spotted a bird in the (now dead) tangerine tree and flitting about. It looked like an interesting bird we have not seen in a year and, while they had their thoughts on the ID, the bird flew off before confirmation. Hmmm... A lot of green in there.

The next bird in hand was one of our younger Carolina Wrens that was banded a couple of weeks ago. This juvenile is now molting into its adult plumage.

Carolina Wren

The next round of net checks found a small bird in Net 14. From a distance it appeared to be another Wren. However, it turned out to be a Louisiana Waterthrush! Looking back at last year's captures, this fit perfectly.On the same day last year we captured our first Louisiana Waterthrush and Ovenbird. They are right on time for migration.

Louisiana Waterthrush

Andrew wanted to spend some time documenting the Air Potato Leaf Beetles but as he headed out, he got a call. Becki called from the end of the lanes saying she had a bird in a bag and wondered if she should bring it in. It was a Green Heron. We have netted a few over the past two years but we are not allowed to band wading birds or waterfowl. Instead, we got some shots before returning the bird to its territory.

Green Heron

Joe wanted a shot with the Green Heron, too, and it was quickly taken back to the swampy area where the family resides.

Green Heron

As the cameras were being brought down to the heron for recording, another bird was being brought in for banding. Remember that green bird we mentioned before? We captured a female Painted Bunting we thought we saw earlier. Better news was that this female is a juvenile. Last year at this time, we captured an adult female and a couple of fledglings that made us conclude that there was a nest nearby. This bird has us believing that we are correct about them breeding here.

Painted Bunting

OK. Beetle time! The Air Potato vines are taking a heavy beating by these critters. There is now almost nowhere we look that does not show the impact of the beetles from one end of the river to the lake and they are showing up back on the park side, too.

Air Potato

The most voracious consumers are the larva. They start as almost unseen eggs and then emerge to consume the leaves. Just before they are large enough to become adults, they begin to turn red and eat like crazy.

Air Potato

While the larva remain under the leaves, the adults appear above the leaves to do what adult beetles do. Make even more babies.

Air Potato

Every now and then, we do see some adults still nibbling on the leaves.

Air Potato

Odd that we are so giddy about these insects making great strides while we are trying to do birding studies but it is a very welcome site as the invasives are being brought down all around us and we don't have to pull the vines anymore.

Air Potato

As the day was drawing to a close, we caught another Northern Cardinal. It was kind of unusual in that it was molting and was definitely an adult but had a lot of white feathers all over. Research is on going.

Northern Cardinal

Rounding out the day, we pished in a Carolina Wren at Net 21.

Carolina Wren

Next up should be Common Yellowthroats and other warblers. Thrushes are not far behind. Now if we could just get some cooler temperatures!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, August 31st.
All nets will be opened by 6:30 A.M.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Slow With Early Migrants

Our third week of the new Session was again like being back in a sauna before dawn while setting nets. Bugs are buzzing most of the morning but it is always nice to watch the sunrise out in the woods. The Guinea Grass is making a strong comeback (as expected) even after the city knocked it back last year.


The morning dew clung to everything including our shoes.

Morning Dew

The morning began well with a couple of recaptures including a Northern Cardinal and a Carolina Wren. A bit later we captured a new Wren molting into its new adult plumage.

Carolina Wren

Then the quiet. Nice having Lynn and Ike back to capture some wildlife around the area. As others walked the lanes and did a bit of weeding, Lynn found a bunch of interesting finds. This time of year we find a ton of spiders along the lanes and often walk into the webs while getting set up. One of the species that weaves the biggest webs are the Common Orb Spiders (Neoscona crucifera). Love the way it appears that it is making contrails in the dark.

Common Orb Spider

Nearby, an Ichneumon Wasp hunts in the weeds.

Ichneumon Wasp

Another favorite spider, especially after we learned how to pronounce it, is the Black and Yellow Argiope (Ar-Gee-Oh-Pee) wrapping breakfast for the morning.


A much smaller spider was a Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia). These spiders can range from yellow to white and are found throughout the Eastern United States.

Goldenrod Crab Spider

This caterpillar was new to us. Turns out to be a moth caterpillar known as an Oblique Heterocampa (Heterocampa obliqua). It feeds on the oaks that are prevalent in our area.

Oblique Heterocampa

Mourning Doves are around in greater numbers lately. Seems they have avoided the hawks for a while. We occasionally capture a dove or two during the seasons but they are harder to stay put in the nets we use for smaller birds.

Mourning Dove

Back near Net 2, Lynn found a patch of Sensitive Briar (Mimosa nuttallii). This native plant tends to be a ground cover and is a member of the Mimosa family.

Sensitive Briar

During our first year at this location we noticed a strange pinwheel near the original banding table. We had to track down the ID and finally discovered that they were the seeds of the Leather Flower (Clematis reticulata). They have very interesting, purple down-hanging flowers that transform into these bizarre seed heads.

Leather Flower

We caught our first migrant about midway through the morning. A Northern Waterthrush. Records show that we usually start capturing them by the end of August so it was nice to have one a week early.

Northern Waterthrush

Larger Dragonflies are all over the riverside, including River Cruisers and Saddlesbags.


If you are in the area and spot a small tangle of twigs hanging from a branch or doorway, it is probably a Bagworm Moth (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis). These interesting caterpillars carry their cocoons along with them until they are ready to mate and emerge as moths later on.

Bagworm Moth

Of course, we were all curious to see how the Air Potato Leaf Beetles were doing in the week since we were gone. Seems they are doing quite well! Air Potato vines that were healthy last week are being consumed at a rapid rate more and more. We find the adults and larva in greater numbers up and down the net lanes.

Air Potato Leaf Beetle

Air Potato Leaf Beetle adults are pairing up and Charles even found newly laid eggs on one leaf. Scanning the opposite side of the river, we also see signs that they are spreading back there, too. Go beetles!.

Air Potato Leaf Beetle

As we were getting nets folded up for the day we caught yet another migrant. An immature male Black and White Warbler.

Black and White Warbler

A nice end to the day and things will just get more intense from here. Just wish we could get rid of this humidity...
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, August 24th.
All nets will be opened by 6:30 A.M.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Usual Suspects With a Nice Surprise

Yet another day setting nets in a sauna. Sweat started rolling at 5:50 AM like last week as the Barred Owls called from across the lake. We had the usual suspects in the nets today but we did find a very interesting find by mid-morning. More on that after the birds.

Our most abundant captures were recaptured adult Northern Cardinals including this male in heavy molt.

Northern Cardinal

We also caught a couple of unbanded young Carolina Wrens. Unbanded no more.

Carolina Wren

Out at Net 16 we captured an adult female Northern Cardinal, also in heavy molt. She was first banded 3 1/2 years ago.

Northern Cardinal

Later in the day, we also caught our first baby female Northern Cardinal. We can hear them around but they have not been caught before this year. Cardinals are born with black bills that change to orange as they mature.

Northern Cardinal

During our Summer months we spend a lot of time pulling invasive plants, including Air Potato vine. At one point, Andrew took to pulling a large patch that was climbing a tree and then noticed something new. Some of the leaves were completely skeletonized! One thought quickly came to mind. Beetles.

Air Potato

Further inspection revealed the source. Air Potato Beetle Larva.

Air Potato

Earlier in the year the park rangers received a batch of Air Potato Beetles and released them on the park side of the river. In the past few weeks, Ranger Frank told us he could no longer locate them. Seems they have moved to 'our' side of the river. Frank came over today and he and Andrew headed down to investigate some more.

After looking around for a bit, they started finding more. And more, And more. Besides the larva, many mating pairs were scattered on the vines.

Air Potato

Nearby, a large Lubber Grasshopper watches the pair as they confirm more beetles in the area.

Lubber Grasshopper

Air Potato Beetles only eat the Air Potato leaves and do not forage on any other native plants. Super helpful and they are being distributed around the state to contain the vines that can quickly overtake native flora.

Air Potato

We found the Air Potato Beetles in a stretch from the banding table and all the way down to the far end of the net lanes.

Air Potato

Odd that we were here to get all the birds banded that we could but were more excited by this discovery today.

Air Potato

This will change once the migrants begin to arrive in the next couple of weeks but having something else take the reigns of our invasive plant removal is a welcome reward. Eat up, beetles!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, August 17th.
All nets will be opened by 6:30 A.M.