May 26th – A Race Against Time

A big surprise: a subadult male Purple Martin caught in Net 7.

Now I don’t want to play up the numbers thing, but when the season is wearing on and you’re getting tired of getting up at 4:15 and slogging through the rice paddies to get the nets open, you can benefit from a “motivator”. And for me, beating a record is a motivator. The most birds we’ve banded in a Spring is 1,888 (that was in 2007). On May 23rd, with just 8 days to go until May 31st and the end of the migration monitoring period, we had banded 1,728. We were 160 off the record and would need to band 20 birds a day to tie it. It seemed pretty doable at the time but then the bottom fell out of the migration and numbers of new birds plummeted. But it’s going to be close. With 23 birds on the 24th, 20 on the 25th and 22 today, we have a total of 1,793 – 95 off with 5 days to go: 19/day. Interestingly, the nets associated with the feeders aren’t catching – only 3 American Goldfinches in the past 3 days. It will be tight – keep your fingers crossed.

Another look at the Purple Martin.

We had a treat this morning: we caught, in Net 7, a young or subadult Purple Martin. This bird is part of the burgeoning colony that has grown to an estimated 36 birds (this is a conservative estimate). That makes it 4 times larger than it was last year! I’m not sure what to attribute this success to. It’s an excellent location for them but, given that their numbers have been going down over the years, why this sudden substantial growth at Ruthven has occurred is a conundrum. Maybe it’s simply the positive vibes that we exude in the course of doing our net rounds although, more likely, it’s due to the closeness of the River and nest boxes that were placed according to the book. Their incessant chatter that starts around sunup and continues throughout the day is a pleasant addition to the site.

A unique band - a vine tendril around the leg of a Cedar Waxwing.

We caught a Cedar Waxwing today that was sporting an interesting band – a vine tendril was wrapped around it’s leg. How it got there is a mystery but it must have been fairly difficult for the bird to break it off and get away; those tendrils are very strong.

Banded 22:
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Purple Martin
1 House Wren
2 Swainson’s Thrushes
1 Wood Thrush
3 Gray Catbirds
4 Cedar Waxwings
1 Yellow Warbler
1 American Redstart
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Canada Warbler
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
3 Indigo Buntings
1 Brown-headed Cowbird

Retrapped 10:
1 Hairy Woodpecker
1 Blue Jay
1 Gray Catbird
2 Yellow Warblers
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 Baltimore Oriole

ET’s: 58 spp.

Photo Gallery (thanks to Peter Thoem):

Turkey Vultures - P. Thoem

Red-tailed Hawk nest across the River. - P. Thoem

Wild Geranium - P. Thoem

Millipede in the leaf litter. - P. Thoem


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