Where does the Woolly Bear go in the winter?

Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella, adu...Image via Wikipedia
Isabella Tiger Moth
Does the length of the black and tan predict whether it will be a harsh winter or not?

The length of their black coloration actually depends on the amount of moisture they receive while growing, but no large study has ever been completed to see if they can predict the weather.

The brown and black banded Woolly Bears are the fuzzy and harmless larvae of the Isabella Tiger Moth. No real study has ever been conducted to see if they can predict the weather. But in 1948 Dr. Curran did a loose study where he recorded the stripe length of a small sampling of caterpillars and then the harshness of the following winter. His experiment was publicized and made the Woolly Bear Caterpillar one of the most recognized caterpillars in North America.

Some woolly bears go through metamorphosis in the summer, while others overwinter and pupate in the spring.

Yesterday I watched a Woolly Bear Caterpillar crossing the back porch looking for a safe spot. These fall woolly bears will spend the winter in the crevices of tree bark, under some dead leaves, or under firewood. Hurry little guy I see the cold shadow of winter coming!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Is There a Pileated Woodpecker Nest Box?

I am so excited to have a Pileated Woodpecker in my yard this year. Do you sell a nest box for them or have plans so I can make my own? Right now they are eating from your double suet feeder I put up in the spring. Rob

I’m so happy you have a regular Pileated Woodpecker visiting. They are very impressive birds!

We do have nest boxes for a variety of birds and it just so happens that the Screech-Owl and Pileated Woodpecker can use boxes with the same dimensions. (Beware, this box is also preferred by starlings, squirrels and opossums.)

Wild Birds Unlimited also has a variety of books with designs for building your own nest boxes.

The Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus is Michigan’s largest woodpecker at sixteen and a half inches in length and a wingspan up to 30 inches. Its size, sleek black back and wings, offset by a red crest, are obvious field marks. The males have a characteristic red "mustache", which is actually a stripe near the beak. The female's stripe is black. Another distinct field mark is the large white area under its wing which is viewed when the bird is in flight.

Good luck! If you have any more questions feel free to stop in the stores.

Why is the Dove a Symbol of Peace?

First century BCE Mosaic of Scene
with Egyptian Columbarium for Breeding
Pigeons found in Palestrina beside Rome
That’s a very interesting question. These gentle birds, that mate for life and take care of their young, were used as a peace symbol almost universally from the beginning of recorded history. The birds have always nested in areas close to developments with an unusual trust that they will be unharmed or even protected by humans. Egyptians were the first to record doves used in ceremonies to announce, to the people, the rise of a new pharaoh.

Central Asia also has a legend about two kings heading for war. One king calls for his armor and is told a dove has made a nest in his helmet. The king’s mother pleads with her son to leave the mother dove, a gentle bird associated with love, innocence, tenderness and purity, undisturbed.

The king agrees to leave the dove family and heads out to meet his enemy without protection. The second king sees the king without armor and calls for a parley. Both kings lay down their weapons and talk. When the second king hears about the first king’s compassion for the mother dove he wonders if he has misjudged the man he thought was a tyrant. Both kings come to an agreement to seek peace for the two kingdoms instead of war. And the dove becomes known throughout the land as a bird of peace.

In ancient Greek myth, Aphrodite, was often depicted with doves because She brought love and beauty and peace in which to enjoy the bounties of love. And the dove was the bird of Athena because it represented the renewal of life.

European superstition holds that the devil and witches can turn themselves into any bird shape except the Dove.

In Hinduism the dove is an emblem of the spirit, and the infinite capacity the spirit has for love.

Japan uses the dove with a sword as a symbol to announce the end of war.

Some Native American cultures believe that the spirit of the recently deceased take the form of a dove.

In America, perhaps the most well known depiction of the dove is from the bible. In the Old Testament a dove is released by Noah after the great flood to search for land. It returns with an olive branch to show that the Biblical flood has receded. The dove then symbolized deliverance and God's forgiveness. (Genesis 8:11).

These peaceful birds have woven themselves into histories of cultures all around the world through their gentle presence and fearlessness of humans. Their soulful calls and coos bring many people hope in a chaotic world.


When do Canada Geese Migrate in mid-Michigan?

I’m watching the geese fly overhead each day. Are they different flocks (or wedges) migrating through or just birds flying back and forth. ~ Catherine in East Lansing, MI

Canada GooseImage via Wikipedia
Canada Goose skimming over ice.
I would say a little of both. One of the first signs of fall is the shifting flocks of Canada Geese migrating in a long, honking, irregular “V” across sky. Flying in “V” formations conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. It also allows each bird an unobstructed field of vision, so flock members can see each other and communicate while in flight.

The Canada Goose is a year round resident of mid-Michigan’s riverbanks, ponds, golf courses and farmlands. They eat aquatic vegetation, grasses and grains. If one area freezes or their source of food is depleted, they fly to more hospitable grounds.

Cypress, Moss, Geese, SnowImage by Seuss. via Flickr
Canada Geese on lake after snow
However the Canadian and Upper Peninsula geese do migrate down to the southern U.S. from September to November.

Often called the Canadian Goose, the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is one of the most recognizable birds in Michigan. At 16-25 inches long with a wingspan of 50-68 inches, both the male and female are large long-necked geese with black bills, black heads and necks with white throat patches that extend up the cheek. The body is brown with a brownish-white breast and belly. At least 11 subspecies of Canada Goose have been recognized and as of 2004 some of the smaller subspecies were designated their own species like the Cackling Goose.

Few people realize that, at one time, the very large population of Canada Geese in the Great Lakes region was almost hunted to extinction.
Enhanced by Zemanta

How do you choose the best bird feeder?

I want to buy the best birdfeeder as a gift. What do you suggest?

There are a lot of feeders to choose from. With over 25 years of research and experience, Wild Birds Unlimited® is proud to offer you the highest-quality birdfeeders and birdfeeding equipment on the market today.

  1. Any feeder you choose should be easy to fill and easy to clean.
  2. Look for quality. Most Wild Birds Unlimited feeders come with a Lifetime Warranty.
  3. Determine what birds you want to attract. There are certain feeders that are made for specific birds (i.e. finch feeder, hummingbird feeder).
  4. Decide where you are going to put the feeder. Is it going to hang in a tree, on an Advanced Pole System, on a window, or off a deck? The best place to put a feeder is where you can view it easily.
Some of our most popular, easy to fill and easy to clean, backed with a lifetime guarantee feeders at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI and why:

  1. Squirrel Buster PLUS™: This is our best selling feeder. It has a large capacity and is easy to maintain. Built-to-Last Construction. Most birds are attracted to it including the cardinals. Oh and it’s SQUIRREL PROOF! Oh yes it is!
  2. WBU Recycled Hopper: Made from recycled milk jugs, these feeders are 100 times more popular than the old wooden box feeders. They look good, last forever, and all seed eating birds can use it comfortably. It’s easy to fill, it has a removable seed tray to allow for easy cleaning and dry seed, and it can be hung or pole mounted. Made in the U.S.A.
  3. WBU Dinner Bell: Fill this versatile bird feeder with seed, mealworms, or a seed cylinder and see how many different birds you can attract. The dome provides protection from bad weather. It can also be hung or pole mounted using the WBU pole adaptor. Made in the U.S.A.
  4. WBU Mesh Finch Feeder: The mesh tube not only lets finches land and feed in whatever position they choose, but it also allows air circulation to keep your Nyjer Thistle as dry and fresh as possible, something that's very important to our picky eaters.This feeder may be hung or pole mounted using the WBU pole adaptor. Made in the U.S.A.
  5. WBU Recycled Plastic Tail Prop Suet Feeder: Common birds that eat suet are downy, hairy, red-bellied, chickadees, and nuthatches. The paddle simulates a tree trunk and offers birds a place to prop their tail while they feed. It won't rot, crack, fade, or warp like wood can and are easy to fill and clean. Made in the U.S.A.
  6. WBU Hummingbird Feeder: This specially designed feeder has a red cover that is highly attractive to hummingbirds, a built-in ant moat that keeps bugs out, and feeding ports that prevent rain water from diluting the nectar solution. Bees aren’t attracted to the saucer style feeder. It may be hung or pole mounted using the WBU pole adaptor. Made in the U.S.A. This feeder is only up from April to October in mid-Michigan. Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly south for the winter.
These are just some of the best feeders to start the hobby of backyard bird feeding. I didn’t even get to the Oriole feeders, window feeders, tray feeders, ground feeders, or other specialty feeders. But don’t be overwhelmed. Wild Birds Unlimited doesn’t just sell bird feeders and bird food. We also give you accurate information about our local birds. It is our goal for you to have the best possible experience from your bird feeding hobby. Backyard bird feeding is the most relaxing, fulfilling, educational and exciting hobby that anyone can enjoy.

At Wild Birds Unlimited, we are Your Backyard Bird feeding Specialist®, here to help bring you, and nature together. Come in and we'll help you decorate your yard with birds this winter!

Stir Crazy Cats at the Store!


Even J.B. was demanding.

With the screen door no longer open the cats have been going stir crazy. I captured a little of their antics. JB was tearing around the store so fast I couldn't get him on video.

I hung their stockings and told them they're going to get lumps of coal if they don't behave. Big mistake. Now Dolly and the boys are in a competition to see earns the most lumps.

*no catnip was used in the making of this film.

Fall Trees Reveal Their Secrets

Once the leaves drop, deciduous trees reveal some secrets. I’m looking at the apple tree in the front of the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store and I see a tiny nest. I heard the babies not too long ago and now I know they began their life not far from the front door.

If you are going on a walk look up and see what you can discover. Not all nests are abandoned or built by birds. If you see a big ball of dead leaves and twigs this might be a squirrel nest or "drey". Squirrels also will build nests, or "dens", in hollow tree cavities or in squirrel boxes like we sell at Wild Birds Unlimited.

How would you like to forage for your Thanksgiving meal? Think like a bird and see what seeds, berries, fruits and nuts are available. More importantly, enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of autumn and let nature nurture.

Take a minute to look at the bark of trees too. I saw the lines of tiny, shallow holes the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker made in the spring. You might see a Screech-Owl hiding.

Where do you place finch feeders?

Hi, We recently moved a nyjer feeder that had tons of feeding finches this summer and fall because we realized it was too close to a birdhouse and had discouraged nesters this season. We moved it to a position in our yard, attached to a hangar off a big tree in an open area. Since we moved it, there has been very sporadic feeding. Is there a place where we should NOT have these feeders? Height? Anything? Thanks so much - JE

I’ve found the goldfinches feel more comfortable with the feeder near trees but that isn’t a requirement. I have several feeders hanging from a dogwood and pear tree in the front of the house and a couple on a pole in the open in the back of the house. All the feeders have birds but I fill the front feeders twice as much.

The most important place to hang a feeder is where you can watch it easily.

Goldfinches can be some of the most particular and finicky backyard birds. Their seed has to be fresh, the feeder clean, and they don’t take it well when you move or replace a feeder.

To make sure your Nyjer seed is fresh pinch the seed with your fingernails and see if any oil comes out. The finches use their bills to twist the seed and sip the oil and then drop the shell. On these cold days where every meal counts, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week.)

Second, make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. In Michigan where it can be wet the seed may not get a chance to air out and begin to mold. This can be dangerous to the finches and they will avoid your feeder again. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using a WBU Weather Guard.

Third, finches are notorious for leaving a tube feeder half full. Just as you may have been taught it was polite to leave at least a little food on your plate so as not to appear gluttonous, I think the goldfinches may have the same rule. So what do you do if you have polite birds that eat only to a certain level and then stop even if there is still good, fresh seed in half of the tube? Don't just top off your feeder with fresh seed. Empty the older seed (if it's still good) into a different container, fill the bottom of your feeder with new seed and top it off with the older seed. The birds will probably eat down to that certain level again and you'll have to repeat the process.

My favorite feeder is a Mesh Finch Feeders. Several birds can feed at a time, the seed airs out, it's easy to clean, easy to fill, has a lifetime guarantee, and is made in the USA. They eat from top to bottom. However if you're thinking of switching feeders remember that finches don't like change and it may take several minutes to several months for Goldfinches to accept a new feeder.

Fourth, yellow attracts Goldfinches that are scouting for new feeding sites. Just like you know about the golden arches of McDonald's, the birds know yellow represents food whether it’s a sunflower or a feeder. If your feeder isn't yellow, attach a yellow ribbon to the feeder to catch a scout's eye. Once one Goldfinch finds your feeder, a flock will follow.

If you already have a few finches at the new location then you just have to be patient. They are probably upset that you moved the feeder but will return eventually.

Wild Turkeys came close to extinction in the 1930s

Is a photo of a wild turkeyImage via WikipediaThe Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), the heaviest member of the Galliformes, is fairly common now. However due to habitat loss and over-hunting, turkeys were once on the way to extinction until conservation organizations were established to preserve and expand their populations. Today wild turkeys live across most of the U.S. and their numbers have risen to more than 7 million.

The average life expectancy for wild turkeys is one and a half years in the wild and 13 years in captivity. Besides hunters, the birds are prey to a variety of animals like raccoons, bobcats, foxes, eagles, owls and much more.

The turkey is covered by about 6,000 iridescence feathers of varying colors of red, green, copper, bronze and gold. The gobbler, or male turkey, is more colorful, while the hen is a duller color to camouflage her with her surroundings.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and eight ChicksImage via Wikipedia
Female Wild Turkey with 8 chicks
The birds don’t migrate. They can be seen grazing fields and woodlands during the day and roosting in trees at night.

According to Wikipedia there are six subspecies:
Eastern Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris)- The most common and seen by the fist pilgrims.

Osceola Wild Turkey or Florida Wild Turkey (M. g. osceola) There are about 80,000 birds in Florida named after the Seminole Chief Osceola in 1890. It is smaller and darker than our Eastern Wild Turkey.

Rio Grande Wild Turkey (M. g. intermedia) More of a prairie bird, this sub-species is native to the central plain states. First described in 1879, they have longer legs for running and the back feathers are a buff-very light tan color.

Merriam's Wild Turkey (M. g. merriami) A western bird with purple and bronze reflections that ranges through the Rocky Mountains and the prairies of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota as well as much of the high mesa country of New Mexico. It was named in 1900 in honor of Clinton Hart Merriam, the first chief of the U.S. Biological Survey.

Gould's Wild Turkey (M. g. mexicana) They exist in small numbers in the U.S. but are abundant in Northwestern portions of Mexico. A small population has been established in southern Arizona. Gould's are the largest of the five sub-species. They have longer legs, larger feet, and longer tail feathers. The main colors of the body feathers are copper and greenish-gold. This subspecies is heavily protected owing to its skittish nature and threatened status.

South Mexican Wild Turkey (M. g. gallopavo) The nominate subspecies, and the only one that is not found in the United States or Canada. The Aztecs domesticated the southern Mexican sub-species, M. g. mexicana, giving rise to the domestic turkey. The Spaniards brought this tamed subspecies back to Europe with them in the mid-16th century and from Spain it spread to France and later Britain as a farmyard animal, usually becoming the centerpiece of a feast for the well-to-do. By 1620 it was common enough so that Pilgrim settlers of Massachusetts could bring turkeys with them from England, unknowing it had a larger close relative already occupying the forests of Massachusetts. It is one of the smallest subspecies and is best known in Spanish from its Aztec-derived name, guajolote. Thought to be critically endangered as of 2010.

Related articles:
What do Turkeys Eat?
Why is a Turkey Is Called a Turkey?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Fun Facts About Chickadees

- Chickadees are found across much of North America. The more common species include the Black-capped, Carolina and Mountain Chickadees.

Image via WikipediaBoreal Chickadee
- Chickadees are identified easily by their namesake call “chick-a-dee.”

- Only about 20% of the Black-capped’s daily energy intake comes from feeders, and about half of the overall winter diet is made up of such animal matter as spiders, dormant insects, and even carrion.

- Mountain Chickadees are mainly foliage gleaners, searching for spiders and larvae at the tips of branches.

- The Boreal commonly chooses cache sites on the underside of branches, perhaps because snow covers upper surfaces. They are rarely seen at feeders except in Alaska and Canada.

Black-capped Chickadee
- In early summer, Mountain Chickadees are able to find and use seeds they hid during the previous autumn.

- Chestnut-backed and Black-capped chickadees keep an eye on the food-finding success of other individuals, if one bird is doing especially well; they adapt their behavior, whereas unproductive tactics are not copied.

- The Black-capped generally sings out a “fee-bee” call while the Carolina sings “fee-bee fee-bay;” however, this song is learned and, in overlapping territories, may be learned from the “wrong” bird.

- Chickadee’s wing beats are about 27 times per second. This compares to a hummingbird’s 80 beats per second.
A Carolina Chickadee (Parus carolinensis) perc...Image via Wikipedia
Carolina Chickadee

- They are cavity nesters that usually mate for life. They will excavate their own nest site in a rotten or decaying wood, use an old woodpecker hole or use a nesting box. (Mountain chickadee may not excavate its own hole and will nest under rock in a bank or in a hole in the ground.) They add a cozy nest on a moss base.

- Usually lay 6–8 white eggs with a light reddish-brown speckling. They hatch in about 12 days and fledge about 21 days later.

- When the temperature falls below 10 degrees, research has shown that the survival rate of chickadees almost doubled when they had access to feeders, this resulted in an overall higher winter survival rate of 69% versus a 37% survival rate for populations without access to feeders.
Mountain ChickadeeImage by Len Blumin via Flickr
Mountain Chickadees

- Have you noticed how ravenously the birds eat at your bird feeders, especially first thing in the morning and just before dusk? Chickadees can gain as much as 10 percent of their body weight each day and lose it all again during a cold winter night.

- Chickadees are a tough little bird that does not migrate. During cold weather Chickadees have been found to need twenty times more food than they do in summer.

- Chickadees weigh less than one-half of an ounce.

- The oldest banded Black-capped Chickadee recaptured in the wild had lived 12 years and 5 months.

- The oldest banded Carolina Chickadee recaptured in the wild had lived 10 years and 11 months.

- The oldest banded Mountain Chickadee recaptured in the wild had lived 10 years and 1 month.

For more information on chickadees go to All About Birds 

Why are the Robins Attracted to Water?

Bathing Behavior of the American Robin
Why do the American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds and other birds in the thrush family all seem to frolic in the water more than other backyard birds?

They may bathe more than most birds, about twice daily, to remove excessive oil from their feathers. Fluffy feathers provide proper insulation against bitter winds. Too much oil on the feathers can cause the feathers clump and lower the body temperature to dangerous levels.

Bathing also helps keep ectoparasites off of Robins. Ectoparasites or external hitchhikers include microscopic feather mites, flat hippoboscid flies that bite, or visible ticks.

Water is a powerful attractor and will increase the number and variety of birds coming to your yard. I have a running stream that the birds like to use. However as the winter weather blows through mid-Michigan the birds will start looking for any open water. Having heated birdbaths or adding a heater to the bath you already have set up would be ideal for helping birds during the winter.

Is Frozen Suet OK for Birds?

I don’t know much about birds. Did I read somewhere that birds can’t eat suet if it freezes? ~ Roosevelt

Learning about birds is so much fun. This blog was set up to answer any questions you have on bird feeding and to share stories and photos. Feel free to e-mail me or come in to any Wild Birds Unlimited stores with your questions.

You don't have to worry about frozen suet. In fact we recommend freezing suet to keep it fresh and make it easier to remove from the package.

Woodpeckers are some of the toughest birds in the backyard. As their name suggests, they frequently peck on the wood of trees to look for or hide tasty treats, and to build nests. In addition to drilling holes, woodpeckers will knock their heads on anything that will make a noise to send sound signals. Frozen suet wouldn’t be any challenge at all.

They can strike a tree at speeds up to 15 mph, which is enough force to create brain damage in most other birds, and certainly in our human brain. However, due to a number of adaptations, woodpeckers thrive on this heavy hitting.

First the woodpeckers' skulls are incredibly strong, yet lightweight, due to a reinforcing meshwork of bony support struts. Their brains also sit snugly in the skull with very little cerebrospinal fluid meaning the brain won't bang around as the head moves back and forth.

Second the dense muscles in their neck and mouth contract just before impact, which transmits the impact past the brain and allows its whole body to help absorb the shock.

Clipart courtesy FCIT http://etc.usf.edu/clipart
 Third the tongue starts out on top of the mouth, passes through the right nostril, between the eyes, divides in two, arches over the top of the skull and around the back part of the skull passing on either side of the neck, coming forward through the lower mouth, and uniting into a single tongue with sticky barbs on the end which can extend up to 4" from the beak. The tongue is also thought to act as an additional buffer to the brain.

Fourth there are special cells at the tip of the bill that constantly replace the lost material, keeping the bill strong and sharp.

Fifth they close an inner eyelid a millisecond before a strike comes across the bill to prevent harm from flying debris and hold the eyeball in place.

Sixth is the adaptation in their feet. They have two toes that point forward and two that point backward that allow them to cling to tree trunks. Other backyard birds have three toes forward and one in back.

Seventh the woodpeckers’ pointed tail feathers are also especially strong and rigid, and their tail bones, lower vertebrae and the tail’s supporting muscles are very large in comparison to other birds. These modifications allow a woodpecker's tail to serve as a sturdy prop that supports its weight while clinging to trees. Some Wild Birds Unlimited Suet feeders have tail props to make it more comfortable for the birds to feed.

So go ahead and fill the suet feeder and then watch these adaptations in action. Woodpeckers are attracted to suet as well as nuts. Simply offer these foods and you can get up close and personal to some of the toughest guys in the neighborhood.

Thanks, keep the questions coming.

Started Small and Ended Big

2-15 November

The first week of November was cold and windy preventing me from opening nets until Saturday the 6th. I got a call the previous Saturday about a hummingbird visiting a feeder so on Tuesday the 2nd I traveled to Wareham to check it out. Bonnie Chapin, the homeowner, was very accommodating. I set my trap up near where she had the hummer feeder and placed the feeder inside the trap.

I had to move the Mandevilla Vine so the hummingbird wouldn't choose the flowers over the feeder.

With the rest of the banding equipment set up in the back of my car,  I waited patiently in the front seat for the hummingbird to come in to feed. Invisible fishing line is attached to the door that I close as soon as the bird enters the trap. Fifteen minutes went by and then I heard the sound of its wings. The hummer went right to the spot where the feeder was and then it noticed the feeder in the trap. It hovered on the trap's side and back but didn't get around to the front. Instead it flew up to a nearby burning bush and sat perched on a branch likely pondering what to do next.

The day was very gray so I was unable to get a good picture of him, but I could now see a few gorget feathers. The question was, where they red or purple? When it gets to be late in the season and a hummingbird shows up there is the possibility that it is a vagrant hummingbird, that is a bird from a different area, say the west coast, and not a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Since I saw no rufous (rusty-red) coloration in the tail I determined it was either a Ruby-throated or Black-chinned Hummingbird, the western counterpart of the ruby-throat. I also determined it was most likely a young male due to the few gorget feathers, although occasionally an older adult female could sport a few of those feathers. The head and back of the black-chinned tend to be a bit grayer-green than illustrious green and the outer primary feather is more club-shaped and less pointed than the ruby-throat.

Normally when I go to band a hummingbird I capture the bird within the first five minutes of setting up the trap. This was a tough little guy though and he would visit the trap but not enter it and then sit back up in the bush for 20 minutes or so. This went on for three hours with him leaving all together every now and then. After the 3rd hour he didn't return so I waited another hour and then left. Bonnie called me the next morning to say he was back to feed at dusk and was there again in the morning. I decided to give it another try. One of my assistants, Jo-Anna, joined me.

I went through the same routine as the day before and while we were at the front door talking with Bonnie  he came back, this time taking a drink at the bird bath. It was a nice sunny day and the light reflected off his red gorget feathers- ruby-throat!  He flew up to the burning bush, sat for a few minutes and then went right into the trap. Now why couldn't he do that yesterday?????

I removed him from the trap and banded him. The bands are very tiny. Here is an example of a band on a hummingbird (not the same bird).

Measurements, shape of his 6th primary feather, striations to the bill, and buffy edging to his body feathers proved him to be a hatch year male. I counted 8 red gorget feathers.

When we were done, Bonnie had the privilege of releasing him. He stayed on her hand for quite awhile reluctant to leave her.

All it took was a slight blow to his feathers, as if you were blowing out a candle, and off he went right back  to the burning bush. The feeder was taken out of the trap and put back just as he liked it. According to Bonnie he was right back at the feeder soon after we left. And as far as I know he is still there! She plans to call me when she no longer sees him.

By Saturday the winds had subsided and while it was still on the cool side we were able to get back to our banding site. We ended up with 58 birds, quite a drop from our 100+ days from the previous weeks. Numerous nets had to be closed early due to the astronomical high tide. Yellow-rump numbers had dropped considerably with only 14 handled. We did manage to get a few kinglets of both species, including this male Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

We caught 18 previously banded chickadees and Yellow-breasted Chat and banded two species of woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker (top photo) and a Northern or Yellow-shafted Flicker (bottom photo), both first year females.

On Halloween, thirty Northern Bobwhite raised by fifteen-year-old Nicholas Fiore as a licensed project to help the species populate this habitat on the Cape, were released on the island. They seemed to gravitate to our banding table when we were there. Maybe our voices indicated food! Isn't it amazing how their cryptic coloration just blends in so well with the leaf litter?

We tried banding Sunday the 7th, but it was almost pointless as the wind picked up right after opening and we closed early after capturing only 9 birds.

The second week of November was quite rainy and windy so banding was out until November 12th. While the wind had subsided somewhat Jo-Anna and I still had an unproductive day with only 12 birds handled. Gretchen and I had a better day on Saturday the 13th. We caught an American Tree Sparrow, a first for this fall season. You can see the dark spot often present on the breast.

They have bi-colored bills, dark on the top and yellowish on the bottom. 

Gretchen extracted a first year male Sharp-shinned Hawk making two for this fall season.  

We are now capturing hardly any yellow-rumps and both White-throated and Swamp Sparrows have been scarce for us this year. I fear we will also miss banding Orange-crowned Warbler, Fox Sparrow, and Winter Wren, all species we normally capture later in the fall but have eluded our nets thus far. On Sunday the 14th we did manage a few more hatch year Swamp Sparrows

and we recaptured an adult Swamp Sparrow. The gray vs. yellowish supercilium is clearly visible in the two age groups. 

I looked up the history of this adult bird and as often happens with our recaptured birds it showed up either on or near the same date as previous years in the same net. He was a bit late this year!

October 31, 2007 - Net 17- first banded as a HY (hatch year)
October 21, 2008 - Net 17 - recaptured
October 21, 2009 - Net 17-  recaptured
November 14, 2010 - Net 17 - recaptured

Gretchen and I banded again on Monday the 15th. Another slow day. While I was banding a Song Sparrow, a fly flew out from the feathers and landed on my hand. It was a member of the Hippobosidae family, we call them 'hippos', that feed on the blood of birds and mammals. Their common name is Louse Fly or Flat Fly because they can slip through the feathers unnoticed. I see them occasionally on birds.

The highlight of the day had to be at the end of our banding day. We caught a species we had never banded before. As I rounded the shrubs and entered the net lane I was totally surprised to see a crow in the net! These birds are typically far too smart to be captured in a mist net, let alone one of such small mesh. I had never handled a crow before and this was one big bird. He was quite tangled. I had to cradle the bird against my body carefully removing the netting from the feet so I could untangle the netting from the wing. I caught a great whiff of fish. I though to myself, "Fish Crow"? American Crows will of course eat fish too, so I would have to wait to determine species until measurements could be taken. Luckily I had a large bird bag big enough to fit over the head and body and cradled it as if it were an infant on my way back to the banding table. Gretchen and I worked together to take measurements. It had a molt limit in the wing so we aged it as a hatch year. While I was busy attempting a bill measurement it got a hold of my finger and clamped down so hard I shrieked! Gretchen and I carefully pried the bill open to extricate my finger. At one point it  I noticed evidence of avian pox on his eyelid, feet, and he had a good sized tumor on the edge of his right wing. It felt far stronger than any hawks I had handled. The measurements keyed the bird out as an American Crow. As I was taking a few pictures of him he vocalized and sounded like an AMCR too. His vocalizations brought in a whole host of other crows which brought to mind the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, "The Birds". Because of the sheer size and strength of this bird, the pictures didn't come out that great. The red areas on the eyelid and wing I believe are pox tumors. Imagine your finger inside that bill!

Many thanks to Gretchen Putonen and Jo-Anna Ghadban for helping these past two weeks. Birds seen, heard, or captured are between 2-15 November are shown below. Numbers reflect captured birds only.

Total Birds: 191                      Total Species: 58

Total Banded Species: 23        Birds/100 net-hours: 28

Common Loon

Northern Gannet

Double-crested Cormorant

Great Blue Heron


Canada Goose

American Black Duck


Common Eider

Scoter sp.

Turkey Vulture

Northern Harrier

Sharp-shinned Hawk- 1

Red-tailed Hawk

Ring-necked Pheasant

Northern Bobwhite

Black-bellied Plover

Greater Yellowlegs

Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Mourning Dove

Great Horned Owl

Ruby-throated Hummingbird- 1

Belted Kingfisher

Downy Woodpecker- 3

Hairy Woodpecker- 1

Yellow-shafted Flicker- 2

Blue Jay- 2

American Crow- 1

Fish Crow

Black-capped Chickadee- 50

Tufted Titmouse- 3

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Brown Creeper

Carolina Wren- 9

Golden-crowned Kinglet- 9

Ruby-crowned Kinglet- 1

Eastern Bluebird

Hermit Thrush- 1

American Robin -2

Cedar Waxwing

European Starling

Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler- 23

Yellow-breasted Chat- 4

Northern Cardinal- 9

American Tree Sparrow- 3

Song Sparrow- 38

Swamp Sparrow- 15

White-throated Sparrow- 1

Dark-eyed Junco- 2

American Goldfinch- 10

House Sparrow