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.
We also caught a couple of unbanded young Carolina Wrens. Unbanded no more.
Out at Net 16 we captured an adult female Northern Cardinal, also in heavy molt. She was first banded 3 1/2 years ago.
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.
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.
Further inspection revealed the source. Air Potato Beetle Larva.
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.
Nearby, a large Lubber Grasshopper watches the pair as they confirm more beetles in the area.
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.
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.
Odd that we were here to get all the birds banded that we could but were more excited by this discovery today.
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.