August 12th, 2008

I managed to get about half of the nets open before the mosquitoes noticed me, making those 25 minutes the best of the day. It might sound nice to greet the dawn with the beating of a million gossamer wings, but in reality its just a horde of blood-sucking parasites aiming for your exsanguination.

While extracting birds tangled in mist nets is definitely unpleasant with our new found plethora of carnivorous culicids even doing census is difficult. What’s that calling in the distance? Dunno, there’s a $%#%$% mosquito in my ear (and up my nose, and in between my glasses and my eyes…).

Sadly mosquitoes are not the only bothersome insects about – horseflies (and others of their ilk such as deerflies and brontosaurusflies) abound as well, particularly along the River Trail. It was a cause of great delight when a large dragonfly thwacked into one with a resounding clash of chitin and dismembered the offending fly with loud gusto.

Since we’re on the topic of parasites (well, I’m nattering away at least), many of the birds banded this summer seem to be infested with hippoboscid (or louse) flies. Hippoboscids are ectoparasites, and many of them use birds as hosts. They are flattened in shape so they easily slip in between feather layers. They feed on bird tissues and blood and generally behave in an atrocious manner – especially when I find them disappearing up my sleeves. Anyway, I have never seen quite so many of them before so there seems to be a definite outbreak of them here at Ruthven, cause open to speculation.

There were some birds around too, but nothing extraordinary. A juvenile Bald Eagle was observed stunting over Ruthven very high up.

In more pleasant insects, a Giant Swallowtail was observed, I think the first of the year.

Banded: 26
Eastern Wood Pewee 2
House Wren 2
Song Sparrow 12 (all with hippoboscid flies)
Cedar Waxwing 1
Grey Catbird 5 (most with hippoboscid flies)
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak 1
Blue Jay 2

Retrapped 9
American Goldfinch 1
House Wren 1
Black-Capped Chickadee 2
White-Breasted Nuthatch 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Grey Catbird 2
Blue Jay 1


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