Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 20: Foreshadowing

On our way to the ecological station, Bishop thought he spotted a broad-winged hawk, but dismissed it for a crow. Little did he know that he was foreshadowing what would become a day bursting with bird nerd enthusiasm.

On an early net round I glimpsed a hawk flying away from a net that held a very lucky wood thrush. One net round later, Bishop came back with a broad-winged hawk in tow. 

I am amazed I got to hold such a beautiful creature this morning and learn about it. I even got to release it. Here's some high-quality video shot by Mr. Bishop. 

Our capture rates were splendid as well, possibly due to a few days of gusty northern winds. We caught thrushes with missing, molting tails and heaps of warblers.

Tailless wood thrush

Two tail feathered Swainson's thrush

Chestnut sided warbler female

Blue-winged warbler

Common yellow throat female

Finally, Krista found a cute dead mouse this morning and we came back to camp at one point to find Bishop having fun with it. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Day 18: Fly fishing

The day was windy, bird catches were low, but a couple flies flew into our nets.

Unfortunately, only the first fly survived the detangling process. Chippewa has dried up. Queen Anne's Lace and thistles have overrun the trails.

A large group of local elementary schoolers learned about birds today. They liked to talk about bears too and some of them sniffed the birds nest that the nature center staff was handing around. 

Boy sniffing nest

Today we caught a very molty cardinal, a mysterious Swainson's Thrush and a juvenile male rose-breasted grosbeak among other things.

Rose-breasted grosbeak male juvenile

Swainson's Thrush. They don't nest at Chippewa, Bishop thinks that they just visit to molt. 

Female cardinal originally caught as an adult in 2008

Some more beauty on our last day at Chippewa.

Adult bald eagle in the upper left corner

Spotted sandpiper doing its signature butt dance

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Winging it

As our internship is nearing an end, Krista and I have begun analyzing photographs and data to turn our summer's work into lasting research. Short-term we have been refining photography techniques so that our photos of wings, tails and individual feathers are clear and useful down the line.
Long-term we are looking at improving aging techniques in wood thrush. The current guidelines seem inconsistent to Bishop, so we will be looking for patterns in the changes of wing feathers as the birds age.

For most every bird we catch, we take a "mugshot,"

Field sparrow
Brown creeper

Rose-breasted grosbeak male

pictures of both wings,

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Cedar waxwing 
Yellow-bellied sapsucker
Brown creeper
Grackle (in heavy molt)
Indigo bunting male
Red-wing blackbird

a tail shot,

Baltimore oriole juvenile


and if the bird is an unusual catch or has peculiar body feathers we'll take some extra pictures.

Red-wing blackbird juvenile 

Yellow-bellied sapsucker 
Thrush, like the wood thrush and the robin have one more primary covert feather than other song birds. The changing shape and length of this "p10" through the years may help us better age the birds in the future. For now, we are testing tactics to have consistent, high quality shots of the small feather. This means maintaining it's natural shape, displaying the other primary coverts and including a scale in the shot. 

Wood thrush p10
Our first step toward new aging techniques in the wood thrush will be looking at the lighter, buffy tips in the primary and lesser coverts to establish a scale of the color and shape range. If we see consistent patterns in the tips (such as  shrinking in size and fading in color) between hatching year, second year and after second year birds, we could develop a better idea of how to determine the age of wood thrush. 

Wood thrush wing
If we succeed, the data that Bishop collects on the birds will become more accurate and better contribute to future bird research and bird demographics.