Saturday, May 31, 2008

Oops...

Sorry for the hiatus. A combination of lack of inspiration and sowing my wild oats...



More later...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Blessing of birds

An incredible bird banding weekend has just passed, one that will probably not be encountered again for at least a few years. In two days the crew banded 88 birds of 27 species. Throw in 3 recaptures and we finished with 91 birds of 28 species, 44 of 20 at Carver Park and 47 of 15 at Ritter Farm. Two of those species I had not banded before (the last on the list below). The birds were everywhere, sort of our "manna from heaven." The better sight was most of the birds having very healthy amounts of fat stored for their next leg of migration. Between the bugs and the buds, birds here in eastern Minnesota seem to be doing much better.

Along the way I met my now-retired bird banding mentor (Kathy Heidel), a former soccer player (Stewart Jump), a former co-worker and his wife (Jim and Peg Hassett), and some VIPs of the City of Lakeville (Patty Ruedy, Steve Michaud, Mayor Holly Dahl). I think we made a good impression at Lakeville's bird festival today, but I leave that to others to say for sure.

One last item to note about the birds: many of them today had yellow pollen on their lores, apparently from them taking nectar and bugs from the old Ritter plum orchard. Another good reason to have flowering fruit trees in the yard!

The species list:
American Redstart
Wilson's Warbler
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Tennessee Warbler (18 today, none yesterday!)
Common Yellowthroat
Black-and-White Warbler (1 today, 11 yesterday!)
Least Flycatcher
House Wren
Black-capped Chickadee (1 recapture only)
Yellow Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
(Western) Palm Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
American Goldfinch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Song Sparrow
Swainson's Thrush
White-throated Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird
Cedar Waxwing
Gray Catbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Hairy Woodpecker
American Robin
Orchard Oriole
Black-billed Cuckoo

Orchard Oriole
Black-billed Cuckoo

Many thanks to great volunteers/friends Susie and Jessi Henderson for the photos!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Exciting times?

I checked my schedule today and finally realized that every weekend through July 4 has something planned. YIKES! I usually don't have such a social life; my reputation might be shot.

Actually the bulk of the weekends are involved with bird banding, as this is the prime time of spring for us northerners. This year especially so, but one wonders of the state of the wildlife that makes our extreme fortune in 2008. Avian migrants are everywhere and grounded. Some sad tales have emerged: Tree Swallows jammed and dead of starvation in nest boxes; Yellow-rumped Warbler flocks being struck by vehicles (to the anguish of the drivers in the cases I've read). In phoning my mother tonight, she jokingly (?) said she is tired of trying to keep up with the warblers, grosbeaks and orioles. They are eating suet, oranges, grape jelly, finch food, sunflower remnants, emergent bugs all along the house (as I mentioned previously, almost out of "The Birds"), anything remotely edible and fattening. I hope the food supplies hold out and the bug supplies fill in soon.

The other excitement will be June 14-15 weekend, when I meet some very distant relatives in Mauston, WI. This includes dear friend and relative Jackie from VT. For me this is extraordinary, as usually I find any way possible to get out of meeting new people. But this is the Niles in me speaking, and as this branch of the renegade westerners dwindles, I need to reach back to my roots. Must be one of those middle-age crisis thingies. I'm really looking forward to it.

I heard earlier this week from someone I wasn't sure I'd hear from again (both of us had lost each other's contact info). My last college chum (from 1978) Amy was going to be in town last weekend, but unfortunately I was out. At least we now know again how to reach each other. A trip to Appleton, WI coming up?

Exciting times all around! I think...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Hitchcock of warblers?

This past weekend was truly remarkable both for the numbers and variety of birds seen at the Nisswa townhouse and cabin. It is unfortunate that the birds’ poor fortune in finding food was our good fortune in viewing and banding, but being able to watch some species forage on the ground that are otherwise in treetops is a remarkable experience. It is also unfortunate that my photo skills aren't nearly as good as others I have presented in this blog. Hope you guys can come north sometime!



Blackburnian Warbler foraging in the cabin yard

As a steady rain saturated us Saturday, my mom (yes, it was Mother’s Day weekend, after all) and I watched between 1:30 PM and 2:30PM at least 10 to 20 birds per minute (no exaggeration, folks)pass along the West Twin Lake shoreline; mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers but also Palm Warblers and other species (poor light precluded an ID). Upon our return to the townhouse at 3PM we watched her backyard feeding area for four hours straight. Among the species seen in just one pine tree during that period:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Baltimore Oriole
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch
Yellow-rumped Warbler
(Western) Palm Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Tennessee Warbler

At least for those birds the previous evening’s Cooper’s Hawk was not present.

Today being a colder but nicer day some banding was attempted at the cabin. For those who are struggling as I am with molt limits and the like for in-hand avian age determination, I present these other photos to see what you think (along with my own decisions):

Second-year Western Palm Warbler


Second-year male Yellow-rumped Warbler


After second-year Least Flycatcher


Note that this last could very well be second-year because of that odd covert towards the right in the photo.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Pray for us sinners...

Forgive me for not doing well at all this linking business when it comes to specific Web articles. A single site, sure. But I also find it easier to reproduce an item verbatim, that way folks don't have to do extra digging.

This piece and my comment letter are taken from the War Room column of Salon. This is the sort of thing that, although "small," is so symptomatic of deeper problems that it is truly sad. I don't see circumstances improving soon, either; just the pessimist in me. Those who want to pick me up by the nape of the neck and shake some sense into me are free to do so.

The article (the italics are mine, simply to differentiate, not emphasize, a quote):

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 17:17 EDT
Nunsense


"Via my friend Steve Benen, I see that we're already feeling the effects of a recent Supreme Court decision upholding an Indiana law that requires residents to produce photo identification in order to vote.

"The AP reports:

"About 12 Indiana nuns were turned away Tuesday from a polling place by a fellow bride of Christ because they didn't have state or federal identification bearing a photograph.

"Sister Julie McGuire said she was forced to turn away her fellow sisters at Saint Mary's Convent in South Bend, across the street from the University of Notre Dame, because they had been told earlier that they would need such an ID to vote.

"The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn't get one but came to the precinct anyway.

One came down this morning, and she was 98, and she said, 'I don't want to go do that,' Sister McGuire said. Some showed up with outdated passports. None of them drives.

They weren't given provisional ballots because it would be impossible to get them to a motor vehicle branch and back in the 10-day time frame allotted by the law
, Sister McGuire said. You have to remember that some of these ladies don't walk well. They're in wheelchairs or on walkers or electric carts.

"Way to go, SCOTUS. You've protected us from an epidemic of voter fraud that, um, doesn't actually exist -- and, of course, from those very, very threatening elderly nuns as well. I feel so much more confident in American democracy already."

― Alex Koppelman

-----------------------------------

My comment:

Weapons of Mass destruction


"So glad we are making sure those from "the hood" (or is it a wimple?) have no say in democracy. Mother Angelica is such a terrorist!

"I don't recognize my country anymore..."

-----------------------------------

I really don't. We have nothing to fear but fear itself? Ptooey!

Monday, May 05, 2008

New profile photo?

Ah, Amber, you outdid yourself this time! (No "handling tits" jokes, please...)


Yours truly (l), Baeolophus bicolor (r)

Gotta do something about those crows' feet... And the hair... And...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Flitters and twitters, part 2

Very intense day of banding, and not necessarily for all the fun reasons. The wind was not as bad as yesterday but unavoidable and in one's face no matter what. It was strong enough to blow our chickadee-sized bands off our banding table, leading to a half-hour search and restring mission. And the birds were encountering one single net (31) far more than our other two nets combined (3). In the end, though, an excellent if tiring day at Mr. Neil's (thanks again to Sharon and Lorraine for their hospitality!). Finished the day with 34 birds of these 12 species:

Black-capped Chickadee
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Purple Finch
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Mourning Dove (my first in 25 years!)

Many thanks are again extended to photographer extraordinaire Amber Burnette for providing the samples below of today's birds:





Some people have Dove bars, others have Dove butts...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Flitters and twitters, part 1

Spring might actually be appearing in the hinterlands. Despite the relatively high winds, the bird banding was good at Ritter Farm today. Fifteen birds of ten species, using only one short and two long nets. Most birds (caught and uncaught) were foraging on or near the ground; insect life is at a premium right now.

Fingers are crossed that the wind will abate for tomorrow's session at Mr. Neil's in Menomonie.

Today's ten (sorry, too lazy at the moment for Latin names; maybe tomorrow?):

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Field Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Waterthrush
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Gray Catbird
Northern Cardinal