MAPS Banding: Day 3

“It was a dark and humid morning; the birds sang in unison – except at occasional intervals, when checked by the sound of our boots as we swept up the forest path (for it is in the heart of Crossways Preserve that our scene lies), snapping little twigs, and speaking in hushed voices as we passed from net to net, alarmed at the unsettling reality of our already-forming 6AM forehead sweat.”

And so began June 11th, our third day of banding.

Beautiful sunrise at Crossways
Sunrise at Crossways

It was a bit of a slow day in terms of captures, with just 11 birds in 5.5 hours of netting. But that’s alright, because we caught a couple of exciting things, including one new species and our first — well, you’ll have to keep reading to find out. 😀

Our totals for the day:

Species New Recaps
Eastern Wood-Peewee 1
Red-winged Blackbird 1
Northern Cardinal 2 1
Gray Catbird 1 3
American Robin 1
Wood Thrush 1
Total 6 5

These numbers were not too surprising, since the temperature approached 80 degrees as early as 11am – like us, birds tend to become less active in such conditions. Actually, their methods of keeping cool in the heat are not very different from our own.

I’ve made a table to illustrate this fact, not only for your reading please, but also because everything is more sciencey in a table.

Bird adaptation Human adaptation
Pant to dissipate heat *Ok, humans don’t exactly pant… but make me run in 80 degree weather and yes, yes I do
Take a dip in the water Jump into your neighbor’s pool without permission; run through a sprinkler
Seek shade and become less active Hammock naps, anyone?!
Flutter wings to circulate more air over skin TURN ALL THE FANS ON HIGH
Spread feathers during breezes to expose more skin to cooling air Break out the tank tops

So you see, we are not much different. If they had electricity and thumbs and an affinity for Mexican food, we’d pretty much be the same.

And now that you understand the complex behavioral processes of temperature regulation in birds and humans, I’ll get back to the banding.

We ended up closing the nets just a little early due to the heat, but we still had a great time, and caught some good birds before we had to close up shop. Here are some photo highlights (and I’ll start with the best because I know you are in extreme suspense and I don’t want to take years off your life).

Eastern Wood-Peewee!!! A new species for us, and really a cool bird to catch. We had been hearing one sing in the woods where two nets are set up, and were hoping for one.
Our new species for the station, an Eastern Wood-Peewee!!! This is a bird often heard before it is seen, its refrain of ‘pee-a-wee? pee-wee’ echoing from the mid-to-upper story of the canopy. Like other birds, they sing most at dawn and dusk, but Peewees often sing later into the evening, after the other voices of the forest have fallen silent. 
They are another one of those have-to-go-AHY birds, since they can replace all their feathers during the preformative molt. They tend to stay a bit little higher in the trees - generally mid- to upper-canopy, and we'd been hearing the characteristic
Peewees are another one of those have-to-go-AHY species, since they can have complete preformative molts. All the feathers of this bird’s wing were uniform in quality, shape, and wear 
Check out those rictal bristles.
Here’s a good shot of rictal bristles. The purpose of these extra-stiff feathers, which grow at the base of many species’ bills, is two-fold. First, they protect the eyes of the bird as they acrobatically catch insects mid-flight (which is why species that have evolved to catch insects in such a way often have more prominent, thicker, and longer rictal bristles). Second, they may also serve the same purpose as whiskers, essentially allowing the bird to sense its environment (the intricacies of how exactly they do so is not *totally* understood).

And the other awesome bird for the day… OUR FIRST FLEDGLING!!! A Northern Cardinal.

Who had quite a lot of swagger for someone so young and inexperienced… I feel like it will probably grow up to be a rapper.

I mean look at this stare.

A fluffy and spirited little Northern Cardinal. Birds hatched in the current calendar year are either aged as Locals (L) or Hatch Years (HY), the difference being that L birds are incapable of sustained flight, while HY birds are. This bird was young enough to be called a Local. HY and L birds are carried back to the net where they were caught and released there, since their parents are generally still in that area, and since they should not be made to fly a great distance.
Birds hatched in the current calendar year are either aged as Local (L) or Hatch Year (HY), the difference being that Locals are incapable of sustained flight, while HYs are (this bird was young enough to be called a Local). Since sex cannot be determined on a bird this young, it was simply recorded as an Unknown (U). HY and L birds are carried back to the net where they were caught to be released. Often to a fanfare of parental relief.

A primary purpose of the MAPS project is to collect data on the survival of both adult and juvenile birds from year to year, which we hope will tell us at which life-cycle stage bird populations are being limited; essentially, which of the primary demographic parameters of productivity, recruitment, or survival, are having the greatest impact on their numbers over time.

Catching our first fledgling at Crossways means we are beginning to capture another aspect of the avian life-cycle on the preserve, and are starting to build a data set that can be used in future years.

Ba
Closing its new band/rapper bling. (photo by Kaite Bartling).
SO. FLUFFY. (photo by Katie Bartling)
So much attitude. (photo by Katie Bartling)
Opening a band for a new female Red-Winged Blackbird.
Opening a band for another new female Red-Winged Blackbird. A cool shot because you can see how small the band is – it’s a size 1A, the most commonly used size for this site so far. (photo by Todd Hansell)
Looking for molt limits in her underwing coverts. For some reason turning my head at awkward angles seems to help. (photo by Todd Hansell).
Looking for molt limits in her underwing coverts. Turning my head at awkward angles seems to help with this. (photo by Todd Hansell).
Good lighting is essential to accurately aging birds. On cloudy days, it’s tricky to see differences in the color, wear, quality, and sheen of feathers; larger-scale banding operations with indoor spaces often use special lights under which they can examine wings. But sunlight on a clear morning is reliable, too. (photo by Katie Bartling)
Good lighting is also essential for accurately aging birds. On cloudy days, it’s tricky to see differences in the color, wear, quality, and sheen of feathers; larger-scale banding operations with indoor spaces often use special lights under which they can examine wings. But sunlight on a clear morning is reliable, too. (photo by Katie Bartling)

In addition to our feathered friends, we also had some other visitors to the station. 

WVWA's Water Quality Outreach Coordinator, Lindsay Blanton (far left) and Dave Froehlich, the Head Miller of WVWA's Evans Mumbower Mill (center), came out to take some videos of banding. (photo by Todd Hansell).
WVWA’s Water Quality Outreach Coordinator, Lindsay Blanton (left) and David Froehlich, the Head Miller of WVWA’s Evans Mumbower Mill (center), came out to take some video footage.  Little did the birds know they should have showered this morning. And little did I know I sometimes have two chins. (photo by Todd Hansell).
Lindsay, holding her first bird, a Wood Thrush. As Outreach Coordinator, Lindsay speaks to local conservation and advocacy groups throughout the municipalities of the watershed about the importance of water quality and what we can do to improve it. She also educates the public on rain barrel use and maintenance and coordinates many, many volunteers who monitor the Wissahickon Creek. And she also always has fabulous earrings.
Lindsay, holding her first bird, a Wood Thrush. As Outreach Coordinator, Lindsay speaks to local conservation and advocacy groups throughout the municipalities of the watershed about the importance of water quality and what we can do to improve it. She also educates the public on rain barrel use and maintenance and coordinates many, many volunteers who monitor the Wissahickon Creek. And she also always has fabulous earrings.
Volunteer Katie Bartling, with another Wood Thrush. Katie is an environmental scientist in the Philly area – we met at Powdermill last fall when I was working there as a Banding Assistant, and she was participating in their banding workshop (it seriously is a small world!). She has a lot of experience handling birds from her time at Tri State Bird Rescue in Newark, DE, is involved with local shorebird monitoring (JEALOUS), and is working toward her Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at Temple University.
Volunteer Katie Bartling, with another Wood Thrush. Katie is an environmental scientist in the Philly area – we met at Powdermill last fall when I was working there as a Banding Assistant, and she was participating in their banding workshop. She has a lot of experience handling birds from her time at Tri State Bird Rescue in Newark, DE, is involved with local shorebird monitoring (JEALOUS), and is working toward her Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at Temple University.
WVWA's Stewardship Intern, Caitlin Morrissey, holding a Catbird. Caitlin is a student at Temple University, working toward a Master's degree in Landscape Architecture! (photo by Katie Bartling)
WVWA’s Stewardship Intern, Caitlin Morrissey, holding a Catbird. Caitlin is also a Master’s student at Temple University in the same Landscape Architecture program (seems like that’s what all the cool people do). She’s been monitoring WVWA’s deer exclosures, caring for our native and rain gardens, doing general habitat management and invasive plant control, and working on management plans for three of our preserves – needless to say, she is a font of botanical and biological knowledge. (photo by Katie Bartling).

Notice how there is a very particular ‘oh-my-goodness-I’m-holding-a-bird’ smile? There’s just nothing like it. 🙂 And possibly the best part of holding birds is releasing them afterward, to watch them fly off into the sunrise.

Knowing they will now go and spread the word about how we are giving away free bracelets.

FREEEEEEDOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!
FREEEEEEDOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!! (photo by Katie Bartling)

In spite of the lower capture rates and the lethargy-inducing temperatures for this third banding session, getting out and catching birds absolutely never disappoints, and it was another fantastic day at Crossways. A huge thanks to everyone who came out to help, and to Katie and Todd for your awesome photos!

We banded again on the 24th, so come back soon to see highlights of all the amazing birds we caught – and I promise, there were some pretty cool ones.

😀

Happy birding!

Magic

View from the banding station, looking North toward the scrub-shrub and riparian habitats. A message to the Towhees that sing there: your days of eluding me are numbered.
View from the banding station, looking North toward the scrub-shrub and riparian habitats. A message to the Towhees that sing there: your days of eluding me are numbered.
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