May 6th – A Couple of Big Firsts

My eyes closed in awed contemplation as I hold a Pileated Woodpecker – the first I have ever caught and banded. -SAW

Thursday the 4th…and finally…a break in the weather. I ventured early to Fern Hill School in Burlington to continue the banding program that Joanne Fleet had established way back in 2012. Now it is under the guidance of Alex Webb who is new to the game so to speak but keen to learn. We finished putting up the 4th of 4 nets and walked away to deal with the birds that were pouring into the nets already in play – and there were a lot of birds to deal with. When we returned to net #4 I was stunned to see this BIG mass of black and white feathers hanging in the 3rd panel and weighing down the whole net. I had never banded a Pileated Woodpecker and, to be frank, I never expected to catch one – especially at this site, in a row of scrub vegetation running the length of the property and separating it from a potential building site. It was a surprisingly easy extraction notwithstanding the vicious attack on my hands by its large, chisel-like bill – this bird was NOT happy with me. It was a handful for sure but we got ‘er done – and I tallied a new banding “tick” for my life list.

I had to tuck it under my arm to band it. -SAW

The bird let me know it wasn’t happy, giving my hands a going over. -SAW

Another important first was Alex banding her first bird. There’s nothing like a bird in the hand to generate enthusiasm for studying them even more. And Alex got to experience this first hand…so to speak. She’s going to be good.

Alex with her first banded bird: House Sparrow. -DOL

One of the reasons for banding at Fern Hill in Burlington is to get a sense of how migrating birds use the site to make their way north. When you look off to the south you take in the skyline of a big city. The birds must traverse this barrier and, wherever possible, find food to replenish the energy it’s taken to get here. These areas are getting fewer and fewer and smaller and smaller. The grounds around the school provide a welcome oasis for these avian travelers. As well, they provide nesting sites for many. We ended up being quite busy:
Banded 40:
1 Pileated Woodpecker
2 Blue Jays
2 Black-capped Chickadees
2 Tree Swallows
1 House Wren
1 European Starling
1 American Robin
1 House Sparrow
2 House finches
1 American Goldfinch
5 Chipping Sparrows
2 Field Sparrows
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Song Sparrows
1 Savannah Sparrow

It took us a long time to catch this teaser – a male Towhee. It sang all around the site but never around the nets. Was finally caught in a ground trap. -SAW

1 Eastern Towhee
7 Red-winged Blackbirds
4 Brown-headed Cowbirds
2 Northern Cardinals

Species Encountered: 34 spp.

Yesterday, the 5th, at the Farm was something of a disappointment. I was expecting some action as conditions were improving quickly since the spate of bad weather we had just gone through. There was VERY little action and I ended up closing early as I had better things to do…like have a nap.
Banded 8:
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Dark-eyed junco
3 White-throated Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Northern Cardinal

Today was more like it. We had a good mix of birds….and people….and baked goods. it doesn’t get much better than that!

Today’s crew (from the left): Renessa, Diane, Maggie, Faye, Micah, Liam. -DOL

Banded 30:
1 Mourning Dove

Renessa with a finger-pecking Red-bellied Woodpecker. -MRM

1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Eastern Phoebes

Blue-headed Vireo – another voracious finger grabber. -RJV

1 Blue-headed Vireo
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets (all females)
1 House Wren
1 American Robin
2 American Goldfinches
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow

Micah with a White-throated Sparrow he banded. -RJV

5 White-throated Sparrows
2 Lincoln’s Sparrows

Lincoln’s Sparrow. -DOL

3 Swamp Sparrows
3 Common Grackles

Lovely male Myrtle Warbler. -LET

2 Northern Cardinals

Species Encountered: 55 spp.

One thought on “May 6th – A Couple of Big Firsts

  1. It’s rather impossible to imagine this! What size band on its leg? How did you grip the bird? Did you have to wrestle it to the ground? Wow!

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