Beautiful Prose inspired this morning
We received this beautiful passage via email from Cathy Staples, who joined us banding this morning at oh-dawn-thirty.
Birdbanding Field Notes: Rushton Farm, October 20th
The white-throated sparrow of my New England childhood: a sing of yellow on either side of his head, just a lick of brightness that like his song is a heartening, steady thrum in the turning wood. Lisa Kiziuk deftly lifts him from the mist net; he’s hardly tangled, it’s as if he’s been here before. (And he has, “sixty-nine” reads the imprint on his ankle band; last October he was caught and banded in the Rushton woods.) He’s an easy keeper, not to be compared with that fussing welter of feathers above him, small chickadee who has roiled about so that each curled foot is a welter of black mesh. I can’t imagine there’s anything to do but cut the net. But then Lisa strokes his leg lengthwise, the way you might straighten a dog’s foreleg before removing a thorn, and with one steady stroke the claw releases its tenacious grip. Square by square the mist net untwists. Lisa closes the angle of the perfectly hinged wing, slips one loop, then another, past shoulder and wingtip. One quarter turn of the wrist, and he’s unencumbered. The chickadee rests in the cradle of her palm, head caught in the vee of forefinger and ring finger. He peers up from under the loft of his punk black head, undeterred. Given a millimeter of wiggle room, he’ll do it again: pinch a fold Lisa’s forefinger, feisty as a pirate on his way up the rigging—cutlass between his teeth—before he’s eased down into the white fog, slip-purse of a bird bag and carried away to the bird-banding table.
Sept 27, 2010 Banding Update from Doris
After catching 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks and 5 Connecticut warblers along with lots of other migrants last week, we were pleased to get 38 birds on Tuesday, 9/21. We caught our third Sharp-shinned Hawk hunting for a meal among the song birds which feed in our hedge rows. Raptors are challenging for banders because their surgically-sharp talons can inflict wounds if the bander lets her guard up for a moment. Fortunately, none of us lost a drop of blood to these agile raptors. Two more Grey-cheeked Thrush, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, and our first White-throated Sparrow of the season were good birds. Brown Thrasher, not rare, but an elusive bird was the first for Rushton Preserve. Soon White-throated Sparrows will replace our “meat and potatoes” bird, the Gray Catbird. Without so many Catbirds, we’d be bored waiting for the rarer migrants to show up. As the Catbirds go south, White-throated Sparrows will arrive to winter at Rushton and provide the bulk of our catch.
Second to the diversity and quantity of birds were 18 knowledgeable and enthusiastic visitors including ornithology students from Bryn Athyn College led by raptor specialist, Prof. Eugene Potapov. A French post-doc from Penn whose work on Lyme disease vectors has benefited from the ticks we remove from birds came with his research assistant. He analyzes the tick’s blood proteins. Because we know the bird species the tick came from, he can build a catalogue of host blood proteins, a very useful tool in tracking the path of Lyme disease. CSA members and other visitors are really “getting into” the banding program. We learn together and it’s a lot of fun. Friends shared some good snacks too.
We were treated to 100 Broad-winged Hawks lifting off from the trees where they rested overnight. Using the warm air rising off the land around 10:00 AM, these raptors spiral upward to a point where they decide to glide south for miles before finding other warm updrafts, repeating the process for an energy-sparing migration through Mexico to South America. This spectacle left our banding friends in awe. What we didn’t know was that at Fort Washington State Park, at the PA Tpke. to the east of us, more than 10,000 Broadies were spiraling upward in what are called “kettles”, a spectacular display. The previous day I was the hawk counter at the Rose Tree Park Hawkwatch in Media when 1939 Broadies were tallied. (Photo by Kaitlyn Grenier.)
Our next banding day is OCTOBER 12.
See you in the woods,
Sept 12, 2010 Banding Update from Doris
Thus far we’ve netted 98 birds of 20 species with seven additions to our fall list during this week. We also recaptured 17 of our own birds the majority of whom have gained weight since being banded. The “one which got away” was a female Cooper’s Hawk flailing in the net as Lou and I approached. The net’s mesh is too small for most raptors and she was able to back out before I could get close enough to grab her. It’s unusual but not rare to catch raptors in passerine nets during migration.
Two Connecticut Warblers were our best birds. Low fields are their preferred migratory habitat and Rushton has what they need. Northern Waterthrush, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue and Chestnut-sided were the other colorful new warblers. Eastern Towhee, American Goldfinch, and a lone Song Sparrow were also banded. Small flycatchers called empidonax are especially difficult to identify even in the hand. Many measurements are required to make an accurate ID. Hearing flycathchers sing allows a certain ID, but, they don’t sing in Fall. So we were pleased to net two Acadian Flycatchers, a common stream side nester in the Delaware Valley.
A Great Horned Owl and three Screech Owls have been calling as we set our nets. The Screech Owls were so safely hidden in the grape vines behind thebanding table that they continued to call after dawn. Vines are a favorite cover for all birds, but especially young owls, and this was surely a family contacting one another prior to the day’s rest. “First light” is around 6:00. Nets are up and that’s when we turn off our head lamps and use the pre-dawn light to set up the bandingtable and most importantly the guest chairs, sadly empty! until you come to visit. Hint, Hint.
See you in the woods.
Welcome to WCT’s Bird Blog!
Fall is quickly approaching and our bird banding station is up and running! You are invited to join our WCT bird banding team where you can learn all phases of bird banding research which include:
* setting up and taking down mist-nets
* capturing, handling and releasing wild birds
* taking birds from nets
* identifying, aging and sexing each bird
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