September 13th – Chipping Sparrow See, Chipping Sparrow Do

The Winter Triangle (made up of three bright stars in the constellations Orion, Sirius, and Gemini) was overhead. Doing the net opening round I was walking in moon shadow – magical. (Didn’t Van Morrison do a song about moon shadows?) When the sun made its appearance there was a flurry of activity but by mid-morning the edges were pretty quiet.

We catch a fair number of birds at Ruthven using small walk-in or ground traps. They are small wire cages with tunnel entrances. You bait the inside of the trap with seed, dropping a few kernels in the tunnels to taltalize the birds. Once they get in they can’t find their way out. The trick is to get them in. I noticed that the sizeable roving flock of Chipping Sparrows that had been around for about 2 weeks was going to the NW corner of the upper parking lot to look for small pieces of gravel which they ingest to help them with digestion. So a week ago I put some traps in that corner. No luck, the birds just hunted around the traps. But then a bird noticed the bait and entered (interestingly this was an older bird, banded earlier in the Spring – and had been caught in a trap and, so, ‘knew’ about them). It’s well known that birds watch other birds so that, should one come upon a food source, they can take advantage of each others’ success as it were. Once a bird has successfully navigated the traps it will come back to them. And when others see it busily pecking away they will be quick to come over and investigate and often will make their way into the trap to the food source. So I went from a single bird in the trap on the 8th to 8 birds on the 11th to 18 birds today. The important thing is that the traps have been discovered. So far only Chipping Sparrows have been around them but when the White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows and migrating Song Sparrows make their way here they will see the Chippers feeding and will be quick to have their own turn.

Banded 34:

1 Mourning Dove
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 Downy Woodpeckers
5 Swainson’s Thrushes
4 Gray Catbirds
1 Philadelphia Vireo
2 Red-eyed Vireos
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Blackpoll warbler
1 Black and White Warbler
1 Ovenbird
9 Chipping Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
2 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 14:

1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Gray Catbird
9 Chipping Sparrows
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 44 spp.


Thanks to Lori and Matt Tiegs for sending their photos!

One thought on “September 13th – Chipping Sparrow See, Chipping Sparrow Do

Leave a Reply