Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nice End to the Year: Vermilion Flycatcher

Wanted to make a run at finding Vermi again while I had the chance. If you have been reading along, I got many pictures of him last year and he returned in November but I wasn't able to visit him again until now.

Heavy fog shrouded the Lake Jessup pastures at dawn and didn't burn off until after 8 AM. The morning still provided some diversions as I waited, though.

Still, it took until much later before I found Vermi again.

When I first spotted him, I was on my way out. Nearby, a Red-shouldered Hawk was perched about 20 yards away. Vermi just preened in the cattails and waited.

I didn't see the hawk leave but once he did, the flycatcher resumed feeding and got closer.

I still had to slog through 2 feet of water and mud to get this passable shot.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Now that Winter is settling in, the water should dry up a bit and the going might be better for easier shots.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Say's Phoebe

Actually took all of these shots on the 21st but forgot to get to them. Busy, busy holiday season.

We are lucky enough to have a rare visitor to the nearby area. A Say's Phoebe has taken a wrong turn and ended up on the northern edge of Lake Apopka. Grabbed the boys and made them trek out with me in the misting rain and approaching dark to make sure we found it before it disappeared again.

Followed the directions and didn't see it on a quick glance. Continued on down the road to look for Scrub Jays. Finding none, I slowed my return to the reported spot and stopped and scanned a field. Another car pulled up on the opposite side of the road and out stepped Dave Simpson.

We chatted how this must be the place and as we looked out into the field again he said, "There it is!" He brought out his scope and we got great looks at the bird.

Say's Phoebe

Dave was just there to tick the bird and headed off, satisfied. I stayed on and tried to get some shots while the boys played in and around the van. A couple of other folks looking for the bird stopped by and were thrilled I had it in my sight and hugged in joy having made the spotting.

Say's Phoebe

I am not too thrilled with the shots I got. They are identifiable but not great. I will try again when I am not hampered by very low light.

We headed home by way of the Kingbird roost and I was amazed by how close the birds were to the main road. Construction is ongoing on the back side of the roost as they are planning on making an extension straight through the main roost site.

Where will all of these birds we enjoy settle in the years to come?

The Kingbird roost is an amazing spot. This time of year, thousands of birds, including Western Kingbirds, Robins, and our Fork-tailed Flycatcher from last year, rest for the night in the now disappearing orange groves. Sad to imaging they will all be gone in the future.

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers also hang out here in Winter and tonight they were literally right over the main road passing by the roost.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

I am still trying to figure out the mystery of the flash for this new camera but I did manage a couple of shots without flash before we left. It was almost totally dark so I am a little pleased by these shots.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Will try to spend some time back here before the spot is gone for good.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Redhead: Early Christmas Present

I have been staring at the neighborhood lakes for years in hopes of discovering something in the Winter months that wasn't a Ring-necked Duck. The Northern Shoveler was nice earlier in the month but this is even better.

I swung by Lake Cherokee during some last minute shopping and noticed a few Ring-necked Ducks swimming in my direction. I turned my attention back to a cypress tree to ID the warblers feeding there. Then I looked back at the other ducks.

A Redhead had popped up next to the Ring-neckeds! Better yet, they were all getting closer!!

They were all moving closer but toward a shady spot that the ducks favor near one of the benches. Problem was there would be less light and I was on the wrong side of the trees to see them there. I needed to move to the other side for a shot but I knew this would make them swim back out toward the center of the lake.

Having little choice, or time, I went for it and managed a pretty nice shot.


A bit later, they started feeding near some reeds and drove along the shore to try another angle. Not bad. Even got a fair picture to the Ring-necked Ducks for once.


Time will tell if we have a new Winter resident or if it will just take off soon.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

First Goldfinches Return

Back at our feeders, anyway.

Carolyn noticed one on the sock feeder yesterday and it was seen back at the same feeder this morning. Must be time to start settling in. Numbers will increase from here.

Need to try and get some shots with the new camera this year.

For previous shots, go here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

St. Pete CBC

Kind of quiet around the state lately but there were plenty birds around to make my first Christmas Bird Count (CBC) a fun, but tiring, day. Lee Snyder, leader of our count circle, kept totals of the birds we had seen as the day wore on and we couldn't believe the number of 'easy' birds we were missing.

We started at 4 AM sharp in search of Screech Owls. Walking down the empty roads of Veteran's War Memorial Park in the dark, Lee would occasionally stop and do the most amazing copy of a calling Screech Owl. Every now and then an owl would answer him back. Sometimes they would swoop in for a look-see.

The park and nearby neighborhoods were checked and we ended up a total of 11 Screech Owls to throw into the totals at the end of the count. We called for Rails and Great-horned Owls, using tapes of other birds, but got no returned attention.

Arriving at our main count area, Joe's Creek Preservation Area, before dawn we entered the fenced off confines. Here we did manage to get return calls from Virginia and Black Rails. The Black Rail were mere feet away.

There were not as many species as we would have liked to find but every species counts...during a count. We added Prairie Warblers, Black-crowned Parrots, Goldfinches, all the Wren species, herons, hawks. Nothing unexpected.

Shorebirds were most noticeably absent. No Turnstones. No Plovers. A couple Willets. Few gulls. Weirdest thing along the shore was actually a Gopher Tortoise emerging FROM the waves. They are typically found in dries areas in the state.

A total of 82 species were recorded by our team after 11 hours. Not bad but we were hoping for 100 or more. Birds are just scarce in the region for some reason. Later reports confirmed it was so all through the count zones.

There was a nice surprise an hour later. I headed back to Veteran's War Memorial Park to see if I could see one of the Great-horned Owls that Lee thought he saw a couple hours earlier. I got to the general area that it was suppose to haunt and took the mini-recorder out of my pocket and pressed 'play'.

Within 2-3 seconds after the owl calls spilled out of the tiny speaker, I saw a shadow spreading out from one of the distant pine trees. Then, a Great-horned Owl landed not too far from me.

Great-horned Owl

It stayed in the shadows of one pine before moving up into the tall part of the dead tree and into the sunshine in the shot above. The owl did not seem interested in me at all. It wanted to know where that 'other' owl was. It began to give up and I played the tape again for a couple seconds.

It moved to an even closer branch.

Great-horned Owl

It was beginning to make calls of it's own, still searching from side to side for the owl it had heard.

Great-horned Owl

A few minutes later, this bird moved off to me left. Suddenly, a SECOND owl emerged from my right and settled on a branch not far from where the other was. This one would actually look at me if I clicked my tongue a bit. Quite a stare.

Great-horned Owl

We were told an owl was roosting here. Now we know there are two. A perfect end to a semi-eventful CBC.

Friday, December 14, 2007

All I wanted for Christmas...

...was a new digital SLR.

For the past 3 years.

It arrived today. Still a lot to learn about the workings of it but I decided to take a quick trip across the street to try and get a shot of the Hooded Mergasers that frequent the pond in the parking lot from year to year.

Not the best shot. Yet. This is the best of several of the Hoodies I attempted with the limited time I had.

Hooded Mergaser

Next try will be tried with a bit more experience.

This Tri-colored Heron was too busy fishing to care much about me and provided a nice shot.

Tri-colored Heron

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Urban Northern Shoveler

The Ring-necked Ducks have been increasing in good sized flocks recently but they seem to be sticking mainly to Lake Cherokee instead of their usual hangout of Lake Davis. I suspect it is due to the low water levels Lake Davis has suffered all year long. Lake Cherokee stays more or less at a constant height and is full of fish and leg room.

Therefore, Lake Davis is fairly quiet right now. Only it's regular Mallards, other ducks and geese and Moorhens as there along with some just arriving American Coots. Don't even hear the Kingfisher this year.

Then I get an email from Ellen Rocco saying she has spotted a Northern Shoveler on the south shore of the lake. She had mentioned that she thought that it appeared to be a male in non-breeding plumage. It was nearly dark and I knew I wouldn't be there in time to check it out and mentioned that I hoped it would stick around until the morning.

I dropped the kids off at school the following morning and swung by the lake on the way home. Sure enough, in the same spot described the night before, was a Shoveler feeding with a few Mallards near the shore.

Northern Shoveler

Just over a year ago I found a female Shoveler in a retention pond behind a warehouse but other than that Shovelers tend to stick to the coasts. This is definitely the first one I have seen at Lake Davis.

Wish we could get some other coastal goodies over here!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Red Fox Sparrow

What a way to start December! Finally got photos of a Fox Sparrow after all this time.

Red Fox Sparrow

I found my first Fox Sparrows on our trip to Washington state. Unfortunately, all the best shots I took of them were stuck on the one digital camera card I have ever had go bad. Knock silicon...

On this foggy morning in Wekiva State Park I finally had a chance to make up for that loss. Even better, with a bird secured in my grasp.

Red Fox Sparrow

With the weight of the bird in the bag, I thought we had a Catbird. It was completely shocking to pull this bird out. They are not suppose to be here.

Red Fox Sparrow

Not that I am complaining.

Red Fox Sparrow

Gets me even more geared up for the Christmas Bird Count in less than
2 weeks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cooper's Hawk

I had been wondering why I haven't been seeing the hawks lately. The wait is over.

I was just staring out the backdoor enjoying the site of one of the recently banded Western Palm Warblers and Tutfted Titmice when a small bird joined the preening warbler in the laurel tree. Couldn't quite place it. Not a Palm for sure. Maybe a Kinglet.

Suddenly, all the birds froze. We know what that means. Raptor just flew into the party. A dozen Mourning Doves were not pleased but held their positions perfectly still. And me without a camera...

I went out to the van to grab the camera and binoculars and circled to the side of the yard hoping to find the raptor without causing the doves to try and fly past it. A flock of Goldfinches flew in overhead as I made my way back.

I wasn't fast enough. The doves burst upward in all directions and the streaking missle of a hawk dove downward. The mist net shook hard. It was in there!

With no direct entry into the backyard from where I was, I ran back around into the house and out through the backdoor. Maybe it got out. If not, how was I going to deal with it? I have never held a hawk before.

It was there, alright. The intended target dove was also in the net a foot away. How I managed to get the hawk untangled and then the dove with one free hand I am still not sure of.

The young Cooper's Hawk was nice and confused, occasionally looking at me but never tried to bite or grab me with it's talons. I didn't have the Pyle's reference book so I had no idea what size band to put on this bird. I would have to let it go without one.

It did need to get documented, though. I called for my boys to come see the bird and had a picture taken. I don't end up in many photos but I wanted to pose with my first hawk! I got rid of the bag soon but at the time I wan't taking any chances.

Cooper's Hawk

An hour later, the same bird tried to get the doves again before flying off. I am sure it will be back by many times. Maybe in the net again.

Cooper's Hawk

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Myrtle Warbler

One of the birds I have often wondered about has been a Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler that I noticed in the yard years ago when the American Goldfinches finally found our yard. Myrtle Warblers don't usually hang out in our yard for some reason even though they are all over the place near the lake a couple blocks away all Winter long.

Then, this single male began stopping by one of the feeders where it would eat rather quickly before dropping down to the birdbath for a drink and then would fly off. Next day, same thing. Over and over. One male Myrtle. By the time the Goldfinches moved on so did the warbler.

The following year it returned with the Goldfinch flocks. Then the next. Then again this year. It is a week or so ahead of the Goldfinches being at the feeders now but it sure acts like the same bird from past years. But how to be sure.

The best way would be to band it, of course. Today I did. We will have to be in the same spot next year to be sure but it is now identifiable.

Myrtle Warbler

Pretty, isn't he? I was about to take the nets down when I heard a Cardinal chipping and backed up to see if it would fly into the yard. Instead, the Myrtle flew in behind me and over to the net. With this great plumage he won't be hard to tell apart from most Yellow-rumps.

Myrtle Warbler

Let the tracking begin!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Backyard Birding

Well, the home computer has died. Right when I was about to start a bunch of posts about the banding I am doing of my backyard birds. It seems to be just the power supply so hopefully I should be able to get the files recovered and play catch-up later.

In the meantime, I will start with what I do have. Starting to get exciting. Later we will go backwards and get to the Cardinals and Thrashers and such.

Now able to take some gear home in between our Wekiva banding days, I am able to stretch one net form one side of our backyard to the other and try and get my local birds banded for further study. Too bad the new families of Cardinals and Blue Jays started dispersing before I was able to get this set-up ready.

However, one of the jays did return this weekend and was quietly waiting in the net near the end of the day.

Blue Jay

The families are still around but I hear them farther down the street these days. When it is time to nest and raise the young ones they tend to hang out in our yard. Must be all the seed I put out.

They probably don't need me right now as every oak in the area is producing more acorns than I can remember ever seeing. The acorns carpet the ground everywhere I go.

One species I will not be banding is the Mourning Dove. They are one of the most numerous birds in the yard but I figure I won't waste bands on birds that are easy pickings for the raptors that travel through or live in the neighborhood. If we get them at Wekiva they have a better chance of escape but my birds are fat and happy.

And easy targets.

Fortunately, most of the doves that do end up hitting the net manage to free themselves once they put their minds to it. This is the first dove in a long while that actually couldn't figure it out.

Morning Dove

Another interesting thing I find about the doves is that they tend to drop down and fly out in pretty much a vertical motion as opposed to flying away horizontally. Most days they drop down onto one of the many feeders on one side of the net or the other and never cross the yard.

Fine by me.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Since the Kissimmee Prairie sparrow drive was canceled I had a little time to arrange for another birding fix. Fortunately, fellow birder Danny Bales was available to shepard me toward a long sought after Life Bird.

Danny helps with the monitoring of the various colonies of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (RCWs) out at Hal Scott Preserve located just off of SR 520 from Highway 50 near Christmas, Florida. He was gracious enough to drive me directly to an active colony located in the sprawling nearly 9,000 acres of pine and scrub flatwoods.

I had been considering a bike trip out to some of the sites after missing the bird when I ventured out last year at dawn with my wife, Carolyn. We got there just a little late that morning and all we heard were some knocks as the birds fed out in the pines.

Knowing the habits of some of these birds, Danny brought me straight to a couple of marked trees which identified the active nests of several RCWs and mentioned which spot would be best to try and get a shot of these fast moving woodpeckers. Knowing when they arrive back at their cavities, always made in living pines, helped a lot.

Robins and Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warblers signaled the evening feeding patterns typical of the area and many Bluebirds and Pine Warblers joined the fray of birds either heading toward roosting points or feeding just before dark. Tiger mosquitoes were cloying and quite large.

Before we staked out our spots to get pictures of the RCWs, we walked around the scrub to see if we could scare anything else up into view. We were hoping for sparrows but I suddenly noticed a bird flying out from a tree about 70 yards away. It sure FLEW like a woodpecker.

Closer inspection through the binoculars confirmed that it was a RCW, my first ever! I tried to get closer but it flew off away from where we needed to be in a short while so we did not follow. We decided heading back to the nesting trees would be best, just in case.

Just around 5 PM, the sounds of RCWs were heard and the male made a quick flight toward his home. Many birds followed, including several Bluebirds that seemed intent on chasing the bird after it landed in several spots. Danny was 50 yards from me as it flew in close to him and indicated that this was the bird.

It finally made a return to the nesting tree and began to peck around the entryway, just as Danny said it usually does. I had mere moments to get any shots of of the bird as it kept it's back to me. I did manage one 3/4 profile.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

It flew off again and was still harassed by the Bluebirds. Once it came back to the tree, it dove into the cavity and was done for the day. I almost had a better shot. If only it had stalled for 2 seconds more.

As we headed back to the truck, the female flew in and dove straight into her tree. The day was done for the woodpeckers.

Someday, I will head back out to try again. However, getting the first Life Bird in many, may months was reward enough.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Red-headed Woodpeckers

Banding was slow today so I took one trip past the net lanes to see if anything was happening closer to the pine flatwoods.

Suddenly, I could hear the calls of the resident Red-headed Woodpeckers all around me. They were flying in to gather acorns for the Winter and were right near the trail about 50 yards out from the last net.

And me without a camera...

I hurried back up the long trail to grab my gear and made it back as quickly as possible. The birds were still gathering food.

When the Red-headed Woodpeckers do this, I notice that they pick a certain oak, grab an acorn, fly back to their stoarge places, and then come right back to the same oak again and again. This pattern was holding true today.

I positioned myself with the sunlight to my back and got as close as I dared as to not deter them from their chores and waited. Sure enough, the birds still flew in and continued the gathering. Though getting a picture was harder than I had hoped.

They would fly in directly over my left shoulder into the chosen tree and land with their backs to me. Seemed that the best food was on the side facing me and easiest for them to grab. I missed a couple of flight shots as they left before I got one with the digital. The camera is more of a point-and-shoot so that may give you a sense of the close proximity.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Over and over again, they flew in and I have numerous shots of their backs! Finally, I got one good profile before the gathering was over with the film camera. I am SO old-fashioned!

Red-headed Woodpecker

They are noisy and conspicuous while grabbing these morsels and use several trees to store them in for later. It certainly brightens any morning while watching this event.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Banding Sharpies

I miss out on all the fun!

It sure seems that way sometimes. I can only band on weekends though the banding station often operates during a select number of days during the week. I have missed the Tanagers, Yellow Warblers, and lately, the Sharp-shinned Hawks.

For 2 consecutive weeks on a Friday, Sharpies were captured in nets near the banding table. Maria has been bragging the whole time.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

With good reason.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bald Eagles Return

For many years now, a pair of Bald Eagles have been nesting and successfully raising young in the cemetery just blocks from my house. While other Bald Eagles in the area stay year-round, this pair seems to show up only to breed, nest, rear young and then take off again.

I finally had a few minutes to make a swing through the cemetery a couple weeks ago and was happy to see a bird in the nest already! The tree the nest has always been in is looking worse than ever, however. Not sure if it can make it through another wind storm.

I got there just before night-fall and checked the tree from this point. The bare tree on the right is the pine with the nest. You can see the nest up top.

Eagle's Nest

Before our bad hurricane season of 2004 there were several trees in that spot. The nest tree was filled out with branches and the nest was shaded and the birds were harder to see. There was another pine tree on each side of the nest tree which were knocked over or compromised and later cut down. The bark of the surviving tree is nearly all gone.

However, the birds are back and trying again.

I only saw the one bird from that angle and I made my way around the road so that I was under the tree. Suddenly, the other eagle showed up across the cemetery and I managed to get one shot off as it arrived at the nest.

Eagle's Nest

It dropped the material that was in it's talons and sat for a minute. It then flew to a nearby pine with what appeared to be a snake and began to eat with it's back to me.

I will check back soon. I look forward to seeing if they set up a nest in another tree someday. Because that current tree can't stand for too much longer.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ring-necked Ducks Return

The waiting is over for the return of the "Winter ducks".

I delivered the boys to school and headed back home and noticed more activity on Lake Davis. Once I found a place to pull over I focused in on a likely group of ducks. Sure enough, 1 male and 3 female Ring-necked Ducks were cruising the wind-swept water.

Noel, now officially a hurricane, finally pulled away from the Florida coast and opened up the skies for better flight. Strong winds still presist but that should settle down soon and we will be bathed in cool temperatures. Maybe if Noel was not here the ducks would have made it here the same time as last year: October 31st.

Over the years they have been getting here at least in the first week of Novemeber. Basically right on time.

Now I can relax. For some reason I always get a bit stressed awaiting the arrival of the Winter ducks. I even confused the arrival date with the start of school this year as I always tell the boys to check the lake as we drive past to see when we can first spot the Ring-necked Ducks.

Can't wait to band next Sunday!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Swamp Sparrow Surprise

Sparrows are back!

Birding friend, and excellent photographer, Paul Hueber emailed me about a small flock of Swamp Sparrows and a Song Sparrow he found at Lake Lotus yesterday. The Song Sparrow is an excellent bird for Florida.

This morning, I added myself to the Swamp Sparrow list.

I headed out to fill feeders just as the Sun was trying to fight through the clouds being spun our way by Tropical system Noel. Sometime overnight, the winds felled a frond from the palm in the back so I decided to move it off of the deck and onto the palm frond resting place in teh backyard.

On the way out I noticed a small bird making an escape through the 4 O' Clocks along the back fence. I stopped where I was and figured I would try to pish it up. Once. Twice. Then movement as the bird came back to check out the sound.

I could see the branches of plants shaking, indicating an advancing bird, and waited a few seconds. Out popped the bird. A Swamp Sparrow!

I figured that was all the action I was going to see but it decided to drop down into the yard and began picking at seed heads provided by some new weeds under the sunflower feeder. It made it's way from plant to plant and eventually just about 6 feet in front of where I was standing.

I guess it figured I was just a harmless bit of flora as I was still holding the frond in front of me. I wanted to see how close it would get but had the kids waiting to go off to school. This would have to be my only view. For now.

This is not THE bird, but rather a Swamp Sparrow from earlier in the year.

Swamp Sparrow

Time to hone those Sparrow ID skills again. Finally!

Wekiva banding could prove a little more interesting this weekend now that a front is pushing down and will also provide some cooler temperatures.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Phoebes and Pine Warblers

Some new captures for the Fall season today along with the expected lot. Ruby-crowned Kinglets continue to flow in but we are still waiting for the cooler temperatures. Today was VERY humid.

We actually were able to end the day by observing many butterflies and other insects.

I have been trying to nail down a sighting of a Bay-breasted Warbler this season as they have been reported all over the state this year. Just not having much luck. Most are out near the coasts and some nearby but I just can't get out to see them.

Work, work, work. Scouts, Scouts, Scouts.

When we first opened one particular bag, I thought I might be close to the Bay-breasted I was looking for but it ended up being a the first in a series of Pine Warblers. First of the season for us even though they live in and around the park. Here is the first, a youngster.

Pine warbler

If I would have had information that this bird and 2 others were captured together in the same net, I wouldn't have been so hopeful as they turned out to be a family. Jr. just happened to be first out. Luck of the draw. Here is Momma:

Pine warbler

...and Poppa...

Pine warbler

Still, a nice round of netting.

Just as we were getting ready to leave for the day, 2 more bags were brought in. Both contained our first Eastern Phoebes. They have been heard in the park for a couple of weeks but these were the first we were able to band.

Eastern Phoebe

On the way out, we enjoyed the butterflies including a Queen...

Queen Butterfly

...a Tiger Swallowtail...

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

...and even a Lynx Spider I found before heading home.

Green Lynx Spider

Sunday, October 14, 2007

First Palms banded for Fall 2007

After finding the Palm Warblers at home, we finally banded our first Palms of the Fall 2007 season. We actually had both varieties.

First up was the Western Palm right after dawn.

Palm warbler

Even after some thought it might be a Yellow (Eastern) Palm due to a little yellow on the breast, an actual Yellow Palm dropped in later in the day.

Palm warbler

Note the overall yellow including into the supercilium.

One other notable catch was a beautiful Black and White Warbler.

Black and White warbler

Topped off a nice mix to a good day.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Palms Arrive

Having read reports online about Palm Warblers being seen along both coasts of Florida I was still wondering why we hadn't netted any at Wekiva. I heard one a couple of weeks ago but they were still not showing themselves to me anywhere.

Just before leaving work today a little bird dropped into a pine tree outside my window at work. Finally, a Palm Warbler appeared. It was pumping it's tail in proper Palm fashion as it moved along the pine needles and then dropped down into the low shrubs at ground level.

I noticed I was smiling as I sat at my desk.

Palm warbler

This shot was taken four years ago on the Cady Way trail on a bike ride with my oldest son. One of my favorite Palm shots.

Maybe we can band some next week.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Catbirds Still Rule

Still getting a usual mix of birds but the color of the recent weeks is still dominated by gray.

Gray Catbird

Look familiar? It does to us! Still a limited number of Warbler and Thrush species but it appears many of them are keeping to the West or diving over the Gulf of Mexico after arriving near the Florida Panhandle.

In the past 2 weeks we have banded 157 Gray Catbirds.
Still awaiting Palms and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Catbirds are Here!

Boy, are they! Out of the 89 birds captured today (the highest total this year) 64 of those were Gray Catbirds.

They began to hit the nets even before I got the triple nets set up, flying in on both sides of me as I struggled to set the final pole. Luckily, the figure of Lorne Malow emerged in the pre-dawn dark to assist in removing them with me.

Back at the banding table, Lane arrived just in time to begin banding as I headed over to net 10 to find several more Catbirds waiting for extraction. Shout indicating the other volunteers were running out of bags came from down the net lanes indicating that they, too, were being kept busy with more Catbirds.

The flood gates of migration for these birds were flung wide open.

Gray Catbird

I was able to make a dash to the 'loop' with all of the remaining bags, passing other banders with hands full of birds heading the other way, and found even more hitting every net we had open.

Rounding the inside of the loop at net 15 I saw a different color scheme flapping near the edge of the net pole. Our 1st Wood Thrush of the season! It nearly made its way to an escape as I approached and quickly sealed off the exit.

Wood Thrush

We also managed to capture another new arriving species of Thrush, a Swainson's Thrush. Nice to see they have made it. The Gray-cheeks will not be far behind.

Swainson's Thrush

During my forays back and forth I was sure I was hearing another familiar Fall sound. The scolding of a House Wren. It took a bit longer before my suspicions were confirmed as we were able to band one before the end of the morning.

House Wren

We finally were able to throw some more color into the mix as, near the end of the nearly endless procession of bird bags was reached, Lane removed a beautiful female Hooded Warbler from it's holding place.

Hooded Warbler

There will be little rest for the next few weeks, if the weather holds, for all of us anxious Wekiva banders.

Fine by me.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Swainson's Warbler

It is always nice to have a surprise pop up during a typical banding day. Sure, Cardinals, Towhees, Vireos and such are all nice to see up close but variety is needed to keep you going through a humid bug-filled morning sometimes.

The surprise this morning was a rarely seen visitor to the Wekiva Springs banding station: A Swainson's Warbler.

I was out seeing if we should close down for the day when Maria called out to me and mentioned that they had a 'Swanson's' at teh table for me to get a picture of. For some reason, Maria has always had a hard time saying "Swainson's". It always turns into a TV dinner.

The only Swainson's I was waiting for were the thrushes and figured that was what it was. I continued my walk at a steady pace. Finally arriving at the table, I got a better look. Lane held up the gorgeous, slightly large, warbler.

Swainson's warbler

"What do you think? Swainson's Warbler?", She asked.

Indeed. I forget how much larger they are than other warblers, such as the tiny Prairie Warblers.

Swainson's warbler

I first saw a Swainson's Warbler here at this very spot about 2 years earlier. These birds stay well down in the thickets and are also found in flooded swampland. This is only the 4th such warbler banded at Wekiva in all of its years of operation.

Check out those fresh, crisp feathers!

Swainson's warbler

Can't wait for the next surprise.