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May 31, 2008 / stephanie

Banding at Biocore

It was a gusty morning at Biocore Prairie, but fortunately the winds were blowing the birds right into our nets. We had one male Red-winged Blackbird, two Yellow Warblers, a male Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Tennessee Warbler, two Song Sparrows, a Red-eyed Vireo and a Baltimore Oriole. It was great getting a lot of different species that we didn’t have last week.

Here’s the first Song Sparrow I’ve banded this season. I’ve had a few days in the past where Song Sparrows are the only bird we catch. I think it’s more exciting banding sparrows when you get a variety and you get a real close-up look at the differences between the species, but that’s just my opinion!

Here is the Tennesse Warbler we caught. It’s hard to tell from the picture but he was a very olivey green color.

Here’s my Common Yellowthroat. His head is a little damp because we wet the head feathers and check for skull ossification. This is a way of aging the bird, since we can see the color of the skull through the scalp. If there is variance in the skull color, this usually means that the skull has not completely calcified. It’s similar to a new baby having a “soft spot” on its head. This male was an adult which is also evident by its complete dark mask and bright yellow throat.

Here, Marty is measuring the wingchord of a mysterious Empidonax Flycatcher, or so we thought. We’re usually pretty wary when we get birds like this, since there are several flycatcher species that look nearly identical. Empidonax refers to the genus of species such as Willow, Least, and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. After checking several characteristics, it was decided that this was a Least Flycatcher…

…But after releasing the bird, the group changed their minds and decided that it was actually an Eastern Wood-Pewee! It sounded like one when it let a little out a little “weep”-like call and it just seemed a bit larger than a typical Empidonax. It also makes sense, since I had been hearing quite a few Pewees in the area. Well .. I’m not fully convinced even now. I wish I was an expert on flycatchers but they are the most impossible birds I’ve encountered so far… oh well maybe flycatchers and small sandpipers!

This was my favorite bird of the day, the aptly-named Red-eyed Vireo. I thought I’d get a close-up of that red eye.

I was so excited to find this guy in the net, even though he was not nearly as excited to see me. He squawked and bit all over my fingers as I was untangling him. But this was my first time with such a good view of Red-eyed Vireo. Vireos are typically pretty shy and like to sing from deep within the trees. It’s very hard to spot them, but you can always hear them around here. They even are pretty common in the neighborhoods around where I live. I can hear them chirping something that sounds like, “here I am, look at me, in a tree, Vir-e-o.” (Of course I can hardly tell the song apart from the Blue-headed Vireo, but we don’t need to get too technical.)

Here is a young female Oriole that Alex is processing. We use very subtle differences in the wing feathers to tell the age and sex of the bird. I’m still learning what to look for and the differences between the “primary coverts” and the “greater coverts”. Anyway, we could definitely tell this was a younger bird and not an adult male, since it was a lot more yellow-colored without any orange at all.

Pardon my poor video-taking skills, but here is Mara releasing the Eastern Wood-Pewee. Often we have birds that don’t realize right away that they are free and take a little longer to fly away.


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