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,