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The Main Event--banding birds at Hazel Run, 24 May 2011

May 27th, 2011, 12:21 PM
As mentioned in another thread (, I was the high bidder in a silent auction fund-raiser for a local nature center (Beaver Creek Reserve, just outside of Fall Creek). After the trial run in March, the banders returned in late May for the Main Event.

The crew arrived at 7 and by 7:20, we were already netting birds. Here Augie is removing one of the first birds of the morning.


The mist nets are so lightweight that they're nearly invisible. If you look closely at the image below, you can see some of the netting close to the pole, but the camera was not able to clearly resolve the netting that spreads over the whole right-hand side of this pic:



Although most of the hummingbirds are able to detect and evade, we did have 9 that ended up in the nets. Since the crew is not licensed to band them, they were released. It was interesting watching them approach the nets, hover, back up and fly over the barrier. Occasionally, we'd see one sitting on the top edge of a net!

May 27th, 2011, 12:33 PM
They banded quite a variety of birds. Some were year-round residents, like this white-breasted nuthatch:


Others were migrants, like this handsome Baltimore oriole male:


And some were less welcome migrants, like this very lucky brown-headed cowbird female. Brown-headed cowbirds are nest parasites--they lay their eggs in smaller birds' nests to have the host parents raise their young. Often, the cowbird young will push the other hatchlings or eggs out of the nest. This can really impact the number of small songbirds hatched from an area. For example--last year we had lots of chipping sparrows and a normal amount (for us) of cowbirds. A fair number of chipping sparrows were parasitized last summer and this year we have lots of cowbirds and very few chipping sparrows. :frustrated:


Normally, cowbirds stuck to the plains, but human activities such as road building and farming, have opened up new territory for them. If they have a corridor (a power-line right of way in our case) they can extend far into the forest and parasitize new species that had never been reachable for them before.

Why did I call this one lucky? This is the one species of native bird that the WI DNR allows people to dispatch because they have such a negative impact on other native birds. One female cowbird can parasitize maybe 70 nests in her lifetime. There was some discussion about whether to dispatch this one or release her. hazel was outvoted and the bird was released. :o Very lucky, indeed.

May 27th, 2011, 12:49 PM
Once a bird is captured, the species is determined and certain data on each individual is recorded.


Data collected includes species, date captured, age, measurement of the wing chord, and gender if it can be determined. Age determination can be difficult, as can gender. Age categories include hatch year (HY), after hatch year (AHY), second year (SY) and after second year (ASY). AHY is used for birds that don't have marked plumage changes after they molt into their adult feathers. SY is used in species like American goldfinches, where the feathers at the bend of the wing are paler in the second year than in subsequent years. ASY is used for birds like purple finch males, that don't get their purple coloring until after their second year.

Gender can also be difficult to tell depending on the species so there are three categories: M, F, and U (for undetermined). In spring it's sometimes possible to determine the gender of birds such as chickadees by looking for a brood patch. The female's brood patch is a very extensive bald spot on the breast that can be detected by blowing lightly on the feathers. The male's is less extensive and not as bald. So we were able to determine gender at this banding by brood patch, where the chickadees banded at the end of March were all listed as U.

Band is chosen according to size for each species, and the number is recorded before it's attached to the bird. Sometimes it's hard to make out the numbers:


We have a leucistic purple finch in the area. He's quite distinctive. Leucism is a condition in some birds often referred to erroneously as 'partial albinism'. The birds aren't true albinos, but do have a defective pigment metabolism. 'Mr. Pink' was caught and banded on Tuesday, and our identification as a purple finch was confirmed after some discussion and examination by the banding crew.


May 27th, 2011, 12:54 PM
One of the fundraisers at the Reserve is an 'Adopt a Bird' program. When a bird is banded, a picture is taken and people can 'adopt' that bird with a donation. Here Larry is taking a picture of an indigo bunting for the 'Adopt a Bird' adoption board.


A newly-banded chipping sparrow shortly before release:


And at release...


May 27th, 2011, 01:00 PM
We captured a lot of rose-breasted grosbeaks. The banding crew's record one-day total prior to this was 15 banded. They banded 64 here and didn't recapture any :eek: I saw five at the feeders this morning that had no band at we missed a few.

Have a mentioned that we have a lot of rose-breasted grosbeaks here? :o

Karen retrieves a grosbeak from the net:


See the peachy color under the wing? This one is a female. The males have a rosy-pink patch there instead.


Karen about to release a male rose-breasted grosbeak after banding.


May 27th, 2011, 01:02 PM
Banding yet another grosbeak:


A little disheveled after banding, but none the worse for wear:


And a shot of the rosy underwing of a male:


May 27th, 2011, 01:05 PM
Banding a purple finch:


This one is a second spring (third year) male--it's just starting to get a blush of the raspberry color over the brown...


And yet another grosbeak hanging out at the net...


May 27th, 2011, 01:12 PM
Rose-breasted grosbeaks have two main personality characteristics: they're extremely vocal and squawk non-stop from retrieval to release...unless they're biting (the second characteristic). They bite hard enough to leave blood blisters :eek: so after the first few dozen were banded, the banding crew was drawing straws to see who had to handle the next grosbeak :laughing:

Here, Karen gets nailed at the net one more time:


Larry's knuckle takes a hit:


Not even the tools of the trade are safe. Here a young female takes out her frustration on the device used to measure her wing chord...


May 27th, 2011, 01:14 PM
But finally, the wing chord is measured...


....and the bird is released:



May 27th, 2011, 01:16 PM
Amazing pics and wow....never seen that done before. You have many beautiful birdies around your place. Thanks for sharing.

May 27th, 2011, 01:18 PM
Our one and only blue jay--almost too big for the nets, blue jays usually either just bounce off or can release themselves. Same for the red-bellied woodpecker. She tried very hard to get to the feeders and ended up caught in the net three times, releasing herself each time before the crew could get to her. (And yes, she was able to pig out at the feeder in peace after the nets were down, so her efforts did not go unrewarded. :D)



And, of course, more grosbeaks in the nets:


May 27th, 2011, 01:20 PM
An American goldfinch in the net...


...and being retrieved.


Our last goldfinch (#22) just before release.


May 27th, 2011, 01:30 PM
This last set includes a couple of bunting pics because I find it fascinating how they change color according to the light they're in. Like blue jays, they have no blue pigment. The color comes from the scattering of light from feather structure. So in certain light, they look gray.

In incandescent light (in this case, the flash from the camera) they take on aqua and violet hues:


And in full sun, they look indigo:


Pretty cool! :cloud9:

In all, 115 birds were banded. By species:

64 rose-breasted grosbeaks
22 American goldfinches
8 purple finches
7 black-capped chickadees (plus one recapture from Mar)
4 Baltimore orioles
4 indigo buntings
2 chipping sparrows
1 (very lucky) brown-headed cowbird and 1 escape from the net
1 white-breasted nuthatch
1 blue jay
1 hairy woodpecker

Also, 9 ruby-throated hummingbirds were released from the nets without banding.

At mid-day (about 11:30) the nets came down and the birds of Hazel Run were allowed a little peace and quiet...


May 27th, 2011, 01:33 PM
Amazing pics and wow....never seen that done before. You have many beautiful birdies around your place. Thanks for sharing.
It was quite the experience! And although I knew we had a lot of grosbeaks, I'm a little surprised at the number banded! And in all those captures, not one was a recapture of a grosbeak! All the grosbeaks in the nets were 'new'.

We banded one oriole that immediately went back into the net and was re-released, and caught one chickadee that had been banded in March here, but everything else was a newbie.

May 27th, 2011, 04:09 PM
Hazel,this is amazing to see,thank's..

May 27th, 2011, 07:32 PM
I just came in from sitting in the blind. It appears that after this session, most of the chickadees have now been banded...or at least most of those nesting close enough to the feeders to be visiting frequently. A total of 12 have been banded and in winter we were counting maybe 18 between two winter groups. The majority of chickadees I saw today were banded.

The grosbeaks were a different story. The first one I saw had a band. The rest of them (at least 3 dozen) were not banded! :eek: No wonder we're going through so much seed! We may have 200+ grosbeaks out there!

None of the goldfinches I saw today had a band, which doesn't surprise me. Between the two sessions, we've only banded 29 goldfinches and we've had as many as 300 at the feeders during winter.

The only purple finch I saw today that was banded was Mr Pink, who is looking in fine fettle. :D We've banded 17 purple finches total, but there were at least another 5 hanging out at the feeders today that were unbanded.

And I saw 3 male and 1 female indigo bunting today, all unbanded. So we have at least 8 in the area (we banded 4 on Tuesday).

So now I have to tell Augie that he missed a few... :laughing:

May 27th, 2011, 09:27 PM
Your photos and story just blow my mind, Hazel. Thank you so much for such an educational thread :2huggers:!

Others were migrants, like this handsome Baltimore oriole male:

It would seem he was aiming carefully for a nice fleshy spot :D.

Here Larry is taking a picture of an indigo bunting for the 'Adopt a Bird' adoption board.

What a neat idea!

Karen about to release a male rose-breasted grosbeak after banding.

I hope you sent Karen a copy of this pic. It's beautiful! Love how she and the grosbeck are looking at each other.

Larry's knuckle takes a hit:

There's another frame worthy one :laughing: !

Thanks again, Hazel. What a treat!

May 27th, 2011, 09:48 PM
My pleasure, LP! :D It was just too interesting not to share!

May 28th, 2011, 01:00 AM
Wonderful pictures and beautiful birds Hazel :cloud9:. I am envious, it sounds like a very cool experience :thumbs up.

May 28th, 2011, 04:43 PM
I just got an email from Augie. Sounds like they'd like to come back at the end of June or the beginning of July. :D

May 29th, 2011, 02:17 PM
Wow, Hazel, sounds like your birds have become a big attraction! (Maybe you better not mention how many grosbeaks they missed. THen again, maybe you should so they can wear protective gloves next time.)

May 29th, 2011, 02:26 PM
I already mentioned how many grosbeaks are unbanded...and told Augie that by the beginning of July the first broods should be fledged and joining their parents at the feeders. Haven't heard back, so maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it! :laughing:

Interesting that you mention gloves, obc--I asked them why they didn't wear at least thin cotton gloves to protect from things like grosbeaks and woodpeckers and they said that they have to be able to feel exactly how much pressure they're putting on the bird to prevent injury to it. So they can't wear gloves at all! Not even in winter! brrrrrrr! Which makes a nice warm place to thaw hands a very necessary commodity for winter banding sessions.

May 31st, 2011, 10:48 AM
Well, if grosbeaks migrate, maybe they will end up rescheduling for later in the year. That way they avoid the pinched fingers and can use your house to warm up in. Then you will get a chance at more pictures to share with us.:D

May 31st, 2011, 06:28 PM
Looks like we're set for the 5th Wednesday in June. So there may be lots of grosbeaks and youngsters for them. :laughing: I might have to offer hand soaks and finger massages afterward to make amends... :o

June 1st, 2011, 12:14 PM
It would be really neat if bird banding at Hazel's house became a regular activity. You post pictures of so many different species it sounds like an ideal place for it.

June 1st, 2011, 03:11 PM
I could live with that :D

June 1st, 2011, 03:26 PM
OH Hazel I have a great idea....set up a web cam or a video conference type thing and we can all watch live!! :D oh! how about SKYPE??

June 1st, 2011, 03:54 PM
I think a web cam would be beyond my feeble technical capabilities, Winston! :laughing: And probably be beyond the data transmission capabilities of my connection. :o