Saturday, February 21, 2015

Orlando Wetlands Festival: 82

The Orlando Wetlands has been a windy and quiet event for us the past few years. Seems the weather has just been turning right as the weekend arrives. The forecast for today was suppose to be clear and perfect. When we showed up to begin setting nets we were under cloudy skies with spritzes of moisture. Great. It wasn't windy yet but was now being called for by noon.

We pounded in the last of the rebar and got the nets up around 8AM and hoped for the best. Birds were flying down near the end of the net lanes so maybe we could catch a few. Before we reached the table again birds began to hit the nets. Four and five at a time!

A Gray Catbird was the first bird banded today.

Gray Catbird

Becki took the first round of banding while Andrew figured if anything else to added to the lanes and Susan kept records while Christine continued back down for more birds to extract. The tree limbs and cart were filling with bags.

Banding Table

Most of our birds today were Myrtle Warblers. Most just call them Yellow-rumped Warblers but there are two sub-species that we need to track and most of the Eastern birds are Myrtles.

Myrtle Warbler

Meanwhile, the bags kept coming in as fast as we could process the previous batches.


Our first group of the morning was following our friend Lorne Malo out for some bird watching. They got to release a few Myrtles back into the wild for us.

Photo Op of a Warbler Release

Soon, another couple ventured by and both got a chance to do the same. There was no shortage of birds to be released.

Releasing a Myrtle Warbler

Our next surprise of the morning, besides the large amount of warblers, was a male Painted Bunting. We have not had one here in the many years we have banded at the event.

Painted Bunting

More Catbirds followed and then we began to catch Northern Cardinals who were sporting brood patches. Nests are either nearby or being formed.

Northern Cardinal

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are difficult to catch. They seem to see the nets better than most birds. This male hit the net early and was caught again just near the end of the day.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Our next surprise, Common Ground Doves. The past couple of years found a couple of them crossing the net lane area but they never hit the nets. Today we caught and banded four! A first for all of us to have in hand.

Common Ground Dove

As mentioned above, we allow some of the public to release birds after we band them but we keep them away from Northern Cardinals. They can inflict a nasty pinch with their strong jaws. They are not part of the grosbeak family for nothing. Even at the risk of a bite on the fingers you can tell when a bander is enjoying a morning with full nets.

Northern Cardinal

Flitting around with the Myrtle Warbles was a House Wren.

House Wren

Not long after our male Painted Bunting was banded and released we began to see a female hanging around the feeders near the Education Center across from the banding table.

Painted Bunting

The Myrtle Warblers kept hitting the nets. Interestingly, most were males. This one was ahead of the others in brighter molt and decided to take a thread from the bag before heading back to the marsh.

Myrtle Warbler

More brave youngsters released a couple of warblers for us. It is always satisfying to see the joy on a child's face as they hold and release a bird. The connection is electric and smiles are lasting within and without.

Brave Boys releasing a Warbler

White-eyed Vireos were being heard just after dawn and we caught two today.

White-eyed Vireo

Group after group of eager young folks gathered around as we continued to band. We did not have a break for 3 1/2 hours but were enjoying every bit of it.

Girl Scouts

Eventually, Becki had to lead a hike near one. The wind picked up around noon so that put an end to our bounty but we caught a few more birds for the rest of the day but maybe every 20 minutes instead of every 3.


While on her hike, the group saw some nice Florida specialties like Purple Gallinule. Hopefully, it was keeping a sideways glance on the gator lurking just behind it.

Purple Gallinule

Up on a palm stump, a light-morphed Red-shouldered Hawk kept watch for prey. Florida has a unique light-morph species that live here year-round.

Red-shouldered Hawk

More male Myrtle Warblers? Certainly. The final tally of this species was 52! We had one year of 33 of them so this was a record breaking year in all regards.

Myrtle Warbler

Another new species was in the area today and we caught three of them. Savannah Sparrows were digging for leftover seed under a feeder but ended up with some extra jewelry by day's end.

Savannah Sparrow

A thrilled guest got to release the second Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow

As the day was settling down family members arrived on the scene. Andrew's wife Carolyn stopped by as did friends of Richard's family. Cami, Chloe and Jeremy Sensenig watched a Cardinal being extracted. Somehow we failed to get a shot of Richard at his station but his son, Eric (in green), was there for some of the fun.

Extracting a Cardinal

Phyllis took a break from watching nets to help record numbers as we banded a female Cardinal.

Banding Table

Christine got the final Common Ground Dove out of the net near the table.

Extracting a Common Ground Dove

Our final species of the day was another surprise. A Western Palm Warbler. Yellow-rumps are always around this time of year at the Wetlands but it is more difficult to find the Palm Warblers in this spot.

Palm Warbler

Just before we wound down for the day, Orange Audubon member Varsha Bhadkamkar stopped by to share a photo. She refound our banded male Painted Bunting munching grass seeds, as they are wont to do, just around the corner from where it was first caught. This shows how banding is not a traumatic event and birds are quickly back to their foraging and travels immediately after being released. Maybe we can recapture it next year and add to our data.

Painted Bunting

Speaking of recaptures, we did get an interesting one. A Myrtle Warbler we first banded 4 years ago at this very spot. A sure sign that birds return to the same places year after year. We have many examples of this from previous bandings at Lake Lotus and Wekiva Springs. Studies that we do help determine favorable habitats for wintering birds and add to the list of wandering migrants in general and give us some information about the longevity of some birds, especially if we band them in their first year.

82. Our final total for the day. Those are first of October best-of migrating numbers. Having that in mid-February is spectacular. Here's hoping for another excellent year on 2016 at the Wetlands.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, March 1st.
All nets will be opened by 6:20 A.M.

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