“All good things must come to an end, even bird banding seasons,”
– Geoffrey Chaucer, 1374
Ok, maybe he didn’t necessarily write that last part. But so it was on August 5th, with the end of 2015 MAPS banding season at Crossways Preserve.
Before you succumb to the eternal sadness of that fact, take heart! Because in just 8 months, 3 weeks, and a few days, it will be time to open the nets again.
The weather was brilliant for the last day, and the sunrise might even have been the season’s most beautiful; a fitting end to the project’s first year.
We caught 24 birds total – not too shabby for banding in early August!
Here’s what we got:
As usual, the busiest rounds of the day were the first few:
By the end of a long summer, some of us humans are a little worse-for-wear; the sun exposure, the barbecues that may or may not have led to flame-engulfed pizza dough, the mentally challenging logistics of packing day trip coolers… Not to mention the high expectations of having an awesome time every second before it gets cold and we all become sad and pale again.
It’s kind of the same for birds – they, too, get a little worn out by the end of the season. Their feathers have been out in the sun every day (which causes them to fade), their tails have been scraping on nest edges and branches as they come and go, incubating eggs and feeding nestlings, and have been devoting all of their energy toward successfully breeding before the fall sets in. So by August, it’s time to molt into some sorely-needed new plumage.
Which is why some birds looks like this:
At first glance, you might wonder if these birds are simply hobos. But rest assured, they are just working on their post-breeding, pre-basic molts.
Since the above Yellowthroat is not taking care of nestlings anymore, she can work toward replacing all of her old, warn feathers – it’s kind of like when new moms finally have time to paint their toes for the first time after having a kid, except not at all like that because this is a bird.
We weren’t catching much by the time the group arrived at 9am (you know… because life) and I have to tell you, there is nothing more painful than having empty nets when people come to see banding!
But it was ok, because my silent prayer of PLEASE GUYS, FLY INTO MY NETS was heard by three birds.
Alas, it was time to close and take down the nets one final time…
I couldn’t take the nets down until the late afternoon, and by the time I got back to Crossways around 5 o’clock, the woods were lit by golden shafts of light, broken up by dark green, leafy shadows; the wind had picked up and rustled through the late-summer grasses, and the cardinals had started their afternoon chorus.
EVERYTHING WAS SO PRETTY.
I almost could not handle life.
It made me think that to hear the birds singing at Crossways, and to see the native plants and butterflies flourishing there is, in a way, to witness a celebration of the fact that it is a landscape kept safe from human development – development both unfamiliar and unkind to the species that belong in such a place.
Crossways is, like all of WVWA’s preserves, a haven in which wildlife can live and thrive in a world that frequently forgets their importance.
And so it was a privilege to spend so much time there. Here’s to a fantastic first season! And to all of the truly awesome people who were so giving of their time and who came out to volunteer and to visit (and whose company I so enjoyed all summer), thank you!!! Already looking forward to next season. 🙂
In the meantime, data must be entered, graphs must be attempted in excel, and final summaries must be created – I will post all of that here in the coming weeks, so keep those eyes peeled.
And hey, keep your eyes peeled for warblers, because GUESS WHAT: fall migration has begun. Now there is something to get excited about.