Archive for Bird Banding

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom with the Connecticut Young Birders Club

Young Birders clowning around at the end of the boardwalk at Moose Bog.  (We all did quite a bit of clowning around on this fun trip.)

Young Birders clowning around at the end of the boardwalk at Moose Bog. (We all did quite a bit of clowning around on this fun trip.)

I accompanied the Young Birders to the very top of Vermont at the end of June and what a great time we had!  We camped out for two nights at friendly, welcoming Pond Island’s Brighton State Park while we explored the region’s birding hot spots, spending most of our time at Moose Bog.  We never saw a moose, but it was a beautiful bog and it was there that we got our birding “Boreal Grand Slam,” the Black-backed Woodpecker (life bird for me), Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay and Boreal Chickadee.  A birder has to travel north to see these birds.

Chris Rimmer and a Bicknell's Thrush.

Chris Rimmer and a Bicknell’s Thrush.

After our stay we moved south to Mount Mansfield, camping an additional night at Smuggler’s Notch State Park.  There we rode the Toll Road (ski trail in winter) to the top of Mount Mansfield where we visited with Chris Rimmer, Executive Director of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) and his research assistant .  This is one of the areas in which he studies the rare Bicknell’s Thrush.  We accompanied them along the mist net routes as they extracted birds for examination and banding and were even allowed to assist by releasing the banded birds.  We helped with recording duties, learned a lot about the importance of preserving the entire migratory route, and about VCE’s work in Hispanola and Puerto Rico where Bicknell’s Thrush winter.

One of the Young Birders helps out with the recording process.

One of the Young Birders helps out with the recording process.

Bicknell’s Thrush nests only at the tree line, thus it is found on the highest mountain tops in New England, Southern Canada and the Northern Appalachians.  As the climate warms, the tree line climbs further up the mountain leaving the tiny Thrush an ever decreasing area in which to nest.  Thanks to the work of VCE, we have much more knowledge about this bird, its habitat requirements and threats to its existence.

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Fox Sparrow: My First Real Sign of Spring

Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) photo by A.J. Hand

Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) photo by A.J. Hand

Late winter doldrums vanished last weekend when I spotted a Fox Sparrow kicking around in the snow under the bird feeder.  These robust sparrows stand out well among their drabber cousins, easily distinguished by their large size and foxy colored plumage.  They are so big that sometimes they are confused with Hermit Thrushes.  Last year I had enjoyed seeing one all winter, rare here in Connecticut, but that winter was a mild one and this winter’s heavy snows must have chased them all further south.  Everyone has a favorite bird sentinel of spring’s arrival.  Some people think “Robin” but Robins are common year round residents here in Connecticut.  My brother looked to the Turkey Vultures but for me it’s the Fox Sparrow, among the first of the songbirds to return.  He is also last to leave, signaling the end of our bird banding season.  When we catch one in November, we know it’s time to pack it in for the year.

Photo by A. J. Hand

Photo by A. J. Hand

There are four different color morphs, our New England “Red”being the brightest.  They don’t nest here, favoring the dense undergrowth of the boreal forest along the southern shore of Hudson Bay on westward through Alaska for their low cup nests.  There are other spring migrants coming through now.  I saw my first female Cowbirds yesterday, but that’s another story…

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Connecticut Audubon’s Birdcraft Museum is 100!

Here I am in front of the cake (it's fake, cleverly frosted with plumbers's compound)

Here I am in front of the cake (it’s fake, cleverly frosted with plumber’s compound)

In 1914 Mable Osgood Wright (a pioneer in the Conservation Movement) and Annie B. Jennings (Standard Oil heiress) founded the Birdcraft Museum where I have served on the board for many years.  It became the headquarters for the Connecticut Audubon Society, which Mrs. Wright founded in 1898.  Birdcraft is the oldest private bird sanctuary in the country.  It’s a tiny (6 acre) “pocket” sanctuary but because of its unique location between the railroad, I-95 and a whole lot of pavement, we have seen over 120 species here and banded over 18,000 birds since the bird banding program began in 1979. We have many other educational activities, partnering with the public schools in their science curriculum.

Last Saturday we held our annual Holiday Tea, a free event to thank the town and our volunteers for their participation over the year.  Because it was Birdcraft’s 100th anniversary year, we had a cake and I greeted visitors at the door dressed in period clothes.  I have now worn this outfit (which I found at the Brimfield Antiques Flea Market) three times for 100th anniversary parties.  It’s down to $10.00 a wearing.

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A Little Subtle Beauty from Last Week’s Bird Banding

Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)

Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)

Brown Creepers are on the move and we banded five of them last week.  They are year round residents in Connecticut so it is likely the increased numbers are from Canada.  These tiny birds weigh in at around 8 grams and it is a joy to hold them and see them close up.  If you are lucky enough to catch sight of one in the wild, you’ll find them almost invisible as they creep their way up a tree trunk, examining each crevice for insects with their decurved bills.  They brace themselves on their stiff pointed tail feathers. I like this quote from the naturalist W.M. Tyler:   “The Brown Creeper, as he hitches along the bole of a tree, looks like a fragment of detached bark that is defying the law of gravitation by moving upward over the trunk, and as he flies off to another tree he resembles a little dry leaf blown about by the wind.”

I never notice this lovely rufous patch when I see them in the wild.

I never notice this lovely rufous rump patch when I see them in the wild.

This white stripe on the wings is visible in flight.

This white stripe on the wings is visible in flight.

Freedom!  Seconds away.

Freedom! Seconds away.

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