February 25th – Idioms

Just part of the flock of ~75 Horned Larks (and 1 Snow Bunting) that greeted me first thing this morning. -DOL

There is only one thing that is aggravating about banding in the Spring: the sun rises earlier and earlier. But as I’m sure you’re aware there is an old “saw” that dictates what you have to do: the early corn gets the bird. It was cold last night (~-9 C.) and there was a light dusting of new snow so I knew that first thing the birds would be hungry – and that’s the time to get the traps out and baited. When I arrived at 7:00 there was a flock of 75+ birds digging in the snow for any of yesterday’s remnants. They flew off when I got out of the car to lay out the traps but returned as soon as I returned to it….and right into the traps. In a little less than 2 hours, I ended up banding 14 and, very interestingly, had 14 retraps.

The retraps knew, from experience, exactly what they had to do to get the corn and went right to it. Many were birds that I had banded in December, January and February of this season but 3 were oldtimers: one had been banded in January of 2022; one in January of 2021; and one very special bird was banded in December of 2017(!) making it at least five and three quarter years old (if it had been hatched in that year – older if it hadn’t).

If the birds were “new”; i.e., hadn’t been trapped before then they have a tendency to walk round and around the traps trying to work out how to get at the bonanza inside. This can be very frustrating to watch….a bird might venture into the tunnel, grab a piece of corn and then back out rather than make the 90 degree turn into the main part of the trap. Some don’t even get that far. Very frustrating…if…you don’t follow perhaps the most important idiom: a watched trap never fills. Read a book, play with your phone, fiddle with your paperwork…just don’t get hypnotized watching birds trying to figure things out. Then, 10 minutes later, you look up and are pleasantly surprised when you find birds in the traps – and without all the aggravation. It’s easier when you have birds with previous experience showing up to show the others how to go about it. They don’t fool around: the land and are right into them.

An old friend: originally banded in December of 2017. The bright and profuse yellow in the head region indicate that it is the alpestris subspecies. -DOL

And for comparison a praticola example with a white supercilium and washed out yellow around the face. -DOL


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