April 18th – Logjam!

Male Eastern Towhee. Note the brown primary feathers indicative of a SY ("second year") bird.

Shortly after 6:30 the nets were all open giving us the time to take in a beautiful (but ominous) red sunrise. That was the end of the leisure as I banded/handled birds pretty steadily right up until closing time. My only chance to get outside was to respond to requests for help from one of the helpers having a little difficulty taking a bird out of a net. Fortunately, Peter Thoem and Peter Scholtens were available to do the census – turning up a couple of firsts for the year: Ruddy Duck and Northern Shoveler.

A good look at a male Eastern Towhee.

Male Eastern Towhee picture by Peter Thoem

As noted, we were very busy, handling 120 birds – 59 banded; 61 retraps. The numbers suggest that we had a “logjam”: new birds moved in over the last 24 hours but ‘old’ birds had not moved out. For example, we banded 16 new juncos but we also retrapped 23 of them from previous days that had stayed around – almost all of them were carrying good fat loads suggesting that they were capable of migration with the right weather conditions. Juncos seemed to be everywhere. I estimated that there were at least 60 around but I think this is fairly conservative and the actual number may have been closer to a hundred. We had a variety of sparrows about including a lovely male Eastern Towhee – which we got to band. We don’t see many of these and from all reports I think their numbers are on the decline so it was a nice bird to band and see up close. There were also good numbers of kinglets.

The “red sky in the morning, sailors take warning” idiom has merit. I’ve never seen a lovely red sunrise that wasn’t quickly followed by bad weather. And so it was this morning. Around 10:30 it started to snow! And the white stuff came down for a couple of hours although it was warm enough that it didn’t stay on the ground. When are we going to get a reprieve and get to enjoy some pleasant Spring weather?

Male Golden-crowned Kinglet. Note the falling snow in the background.

New volunteer, Dave van Es, with a Tufted Titmouse

Snow.....on April 18th!?

Banded 59:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Brown Creeper
11 Golden-crowned Kinglets
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets (all males)
1 Eastern Towhee
3 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
3 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
16 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
8 Brown-headed Cowbirds
5 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 61:
4 Downy woodpeckers
1 Eastern Tufted Titmouse
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
12 American Tree Sparrows
5 Chipping Sparrows
3 Field Sparrows
5 Song Sparrows
23 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 49 spp.


2 thoughts on “April 18th – Logjam!

  1. Hello,

    Perhaps the birds logjammed because they knew the snow was coming?

    I really enjoy your blog and I want to thank you for captioning the bird photos: it’s helping me learn a lot more bird names. I find photos like yours much more helpful than bird books so please keep up the good work.

    Here’s my question: do the birds ever peck you when you’re holding them or does that leg hold somehow put them under a spell?

  2. Hi Melissa:
    The way we hold the birds reduces the amount of pecking they can do but….we certainly do get pecked, especially when we’re taking the birds out of the nets. Most of the time it doesn’t hurt but Cardinals and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks really hurt and Northern Shrikes can draw blood.

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