I went back to the Auburn Bird Banding Project this morning, arriving by 7AM this time (so much better). They were just starting to process the birds they had collected. The first birds were two Magnolia Warblers ~~ so gorgeous! We had nice views of a lot of different birds from yesterday. Very enjoyable!
The clouds were moving in, and I had hoped to do some butterflying today, so I went to Sherborn to check the power line trail. I saw two Black Swallowtails on the trail through the woods. Just before I got to the power lines, I saw my first of the year Pink Ladyslippers!
Once out on the power line trail, any idea I had of looking for butterflies flew out the window when I saw my first of the year Indigo Bunting. Sigh. What a gorgeous bird!
Immediately after that, I saw a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, but it was high up in the trees with the sun shining behind it, followed by more Indigo Buntings, three Turkey Vultures circling above, a pair of Brown-Headed Cowbirds, and the singing of several Prairie Warblers that I wouldn't see until later.
The butterflies that started showing up in numbers and cooperating for photos were Juvenal's Duskywings. I did enjoy fly-bys of one Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, several Clouded Sulphurs, two Pearl Crescents, and a few Cabbage Whites.
There were quite a few dragonflies buzzing around, too. I saw one new variety for the year, which was fun!
Dot-Tailed Whiteface (female)
more Birds-Foot Violets!
Eastern Pine Elfin
I like the colors of this flowering bush and the patterns in this butterfly. Very pretty!
Information about the Auburn Bird Banding Project was included in the Forbush Bird Club materials, and I have been interested in going for a while. Today was the day. I didn't get as early a start as I had wanted, but it was a good first visit, and I plan to return tomorrow morning. I missed at least one round of birds, but was able to see two.
There are mist nets set up around the Auburn Sportsman's Club's property. Trained volunteers open the nets at sunrise (today around 5AM), then regularly check them for birds. Small, soft, numbered drawstring bags are used to transport the birds from the nets back to the banding station. A rack is set up at the station where the bags are hung as they deal with the birds one or two at a time. While in the field, the volunteers log the type of bird captured and the bag number so that they know what size bird is in the bag without having to open it up.
"Bags Contain Live Birds"
From what I read on line, volunteers start their training with larger, tougher birds, like catbirds, and as they gain experience, move on to the smaller, more delicate warblers. Also, the size of the bird affects what tools and banding equipment they will use and want to have ready before the bird comes out of the bag.
Baltimore Oriole (male)
Volunteers are taught to hold the birds legs as close to the body as possible, because the legs are fragile and could break if they hold them too close to the "elbow" bend.
Scarlet Tanager (repeat capture - see the tiny tag?)
(photo op before being released)
Scarlet Tanagers (female on right)
They kept them far enough apart in case they were not a couple.
When birds are re-captured, it is a sign that they are staying local and are "breeding" birds.
Scarlet Tanager (female)
Veery (before release)
American Redstart (female)
Measuring the wing
The various tubes were for the various sizes of birds. When a bird was weighed, it was placed head-first into the tube onto the scale.
They invited me to go along when they did the final net check. This is what a mist net looks like. When they close the nets, they roll them up and tie them tightly so that nothing can get caught in them when they are not being checked.
So much of this visit was about education and inspiring awe of these tiny travelers. The range of the bird was called up on an iPad. Many had migrated from South America. The leader, Mark Blazis, was not only training future banders, but also teaching about the birds themselves, from what their range is... to how to tell the age. Mary, another bander, also pointed out a brooding spot on a Song Sparrow that was caught. She taught us that a brooding spot is a bald spot on the bird's belly which goes directly onto the eggs in the nest, creating the most warmth. The feathers then close in around it. I had never heard of that before. I always assumed the feathers kept the eggs warm.
The pond at the Sportman's Club had just been stocked, and there were a lot of guys fly fishing. Those who came over to the lodge to relax at the picnic tables showed an interest in the birds and couldn't believe how far they had come (and multiple times over the years, too).
The volunteers were so respectful and careful with the birds. You could tell they really felt strongly about what they were doing and care deeply about it. I recommend a visit to anyone who lives near by! You'll learn a lot! Make sure you look above the picnic tables. There's a nesting Eastern Phoebe there.
I arrived about a half an hour late to the Bolton Flats portion of the field trip. Even then, I had trouble working my way back to the group because I was being distracted by all kinds of singing birds near the parking lot. The first one was a Warbling Vireo, a plain bird without interesting field markings, but I was happy to get a good view of it. The Yellow Warblers were around, again, and I was able to get one cooperative model.
The fields have dried up, so there were no water birds, just killdeer and lots of swallows (tree and barn). They were just having a look at the Virginia Rail as I joined the group, and I did hear the American Bittern pumping (back near the parking lot). As we were leaving, we saw three White-Crowned Sparrows, a life bird, and I was able to get a photo! We also had a quick look at a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher near the parking lot and some heard a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak and a Scarlet Tanager, but I didn't see either or recognize their calls.
(click to enlarge)
From here, we moved on to Pine Hills where we saw a Vesper Sparrow, a Field Sparrow, an American Woodcock peenting and displaying (repeatedly), a Common Nighthawk (flying overhead) and we enjoyed the calls of several Eastern Whip-Poor-Wills (my first ever even hearing these birds) and an Eastern Towhee. By this time it was almost 9PM and getting dark. The moon was just a sliver and a couple planets were visible. A pretty night!
I've missed almost the entire spring season without getting back to Garden in the Woods, so I decided to take my 2nd walk over there. It was 78 degrees and sunny with a breeze. Beautiful - more like summer! As usual, the flowers are more the stars than the birds, but I did see a few butterflies too!