Saturday, November 04, 2006

Kissimmee Prairie Sparrow Round-up

Ah, November is finally here. Which can only mean one thing. The Sparrow Round-ups can begin! This is the second year for this series of events where volunteers and folks wanting a look at some more rare sparrows get together and try to 'drive' the secretive birds into mist nets which are strung out across several hundred yards across the gorgeous Kissimme Prairie.

Even without the birds we are here to try and band, I could stare at the surrounding vistas for hours.

Kiss. Prairie

I'll share some of the others sights I found in the next post and leave this one for the actual sparrows.

A front moved through overnight. The crew that runs the banding operation here stays and tries to band all the time and the round-ups are special events. They had to set nets in a hard rain to be ready for this day.

The rain cleared a bit before dawn. I drove along the Turnpike before sun-up and could still see patches where the rain had not begun to dry. I hoped it had pushed on to the south so we could actually band.

The rain did clear and the clouds scudded at a hurried clip at behest of a strong northern wind which turned out to be our real enemy for the day. The nets were at what I like to call 'full sail' at ALL times with winds constantly blowing and every few minutes gusting to 35 mph.

Kiss. Prairie

Fortunately, many volunteers showed up despite the daunting conditions to give it a go. Expectations were not high for catching many birds. After a brief course on net procedures for the first-timers we set out to man the ropes.

The 150 ft. rope was stretched out from the beginning of the net line and everyone began to drag, follow behind, an sweep the rope through the knee-high scrub in hopes of stirring up a few sparrows. Shouting and clapping also helps to spook the birds and drive them away from the volunteers and toward the nets.

Kiss. Prairie

As expected, there were few birds popping up from the scrub. Most that did simply bounced against and back out of the nets. By the end a long day of dragging and running through the vegetation we had managed only a small count of birds and didn't find the Florida Grasshopper Sparrows which are the main target for these events.

We did happen to get a more common 'pratensis' variety. This version of Grasshopper Sparrow is a migrant from the north.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Always on the list are a few Bachman's Sparrows. This one was ready to get back in out of the wind.

Bachman's Sparrow

Our final Sparrow species was a Savannah Sparrow. This very common wintering bird can be found all over the state. This is the first any of us had seen with such an interesting bill deformity, however.

Bachman's Sparrow

Throw in a Sedge Wren and a Palm Warbler and that was the haul for the day. There were many other birds around the park, though, and I will go into more detail about them next post.

The next round-up is in January. Hoping it won't be as windy or too cold.

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