Archive for the 'Bird Banding' Category

Canada Warbler

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Today at the Spring bird banding at Wickiup Outdoor Learning Center, the banders and spectators were surprised and delighted by the capture of a handsome male Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis or Wilsonia canadensis depending on which source one uses).

Photographing at a bird banding event is sometimes a hit or miss affair. We do not want to get in the banders and recorders way and the other spectators want to see both the common and uncommon birds. Sometimes birds are held briefly against acceptable backgrounds and we make a few images.

The banders said that they rarely find Canada Warblers in their mist nets. This one may be one of the few that claims a territory here in Iowa or may still be headed to the northwoods of Minnesota and Wisconsin or on to Canada. One of their common names of this boreal bird is the Necklaced Warbler. The band of black splotches against his yellow throat and breast are distinctive as is the black flecks outlined in gray on his head.

The white eye ring around his large eyes and the yellow streak above his beak are also identifiers. In the top image his nostrils are apparent as are his rictal bristles. This warbler often catches insects like flycatchers do. The rictal bristles are thought to help protect his eyes from insect legs and antennas when he is catching them in the air.

The image of the top of his head was made in the tent canopy where the banding, measuring and recording occurred. The image is a good example of why color correction is sometimes needed to represent colors accurately. In the sunlight his back feathers are a blue-gray.

Here the colors were corrected in Lightroom so that the feathers appear more closely to how they would have been in sunlight, though they were photographed in the shade. The light is softer in the shade but the colors are truer. Compare to the color to the image of the bird in bright sunlight.

Under the banders’ tent canopy the light was filtered and had a much warmer cast. Color is so often affected by the colors around it and what the light on the subject is travelling through. Both images were processed the same but with and without color correction of an original raw file.

We were surprised by how warm the photos under the tent were. Human eyes and brains make all sorts of corrections that cameras cannot yet do.

Bird Banding at Wickiup

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

During the course of this morning the temperature fell ten degrees and it continued to drop the rest of the day. It is now 7 degrees farenheit (-13 celcius) with a wind chill below zero farenheit. It will continue to fall overnight. Just a winter day in Iowa.

It was a good day for the licensed bird bander and his assistants to be banding winter resident birds as they were coming in thick and fast to the bird feeders at Wickiup Outdoor Learning Center. Wickiup hosts bird banding several times a year, inviting the community to come observe. We like to photograph the proceedings and sometimes photograph children and adults when they are invited to release a bird. The delight and awe are special to see.

The mistnets are set up on slender posts between the line of feeders and the trees behind the Center. People can view the feeders and nets from windows or can go into the viewing blind along the building. Mostly they like to sit in the room where the banding, measuring and recording of information takes place. The bander provides interesting anecdotes and information.

When we arrived the official bander and one of his assistants were busily removing birds from the mistnets. They already had several carrying boxes full of birds to be processed. After they had all birds in boxes, they closed down the mistnets so other birds would not be caught as they came in to stock up on calories knowing that it would be a cold night. After the boxed birds were processed they opened the nets again.

One of the early birds to be processed was the Red-bellied Woodpecker. It did not like the experience and yelled very loudly throughout. Woodpeckers are very vocal registering their feelings. As you can see it has a firm grip on one of the fingers of the experienced assistant examining its feathers as part of trying to determine its age.

The bander is a wealth of information which he generously shares with the observers, especially the children. When he talks about how woodpeckers feed and extract grubs and insects from under bark, he often has a bird show its tongue, especially if it one of the larger woodpeckers like this Red-bellied. This tongue is only partway extended. He does this quickly so one has to be in the right place to get an image of it.

Here the bander is attaching a tiny band on a tiny bird – a Black-capped Chickadee. Bands come in a variety of sizes meant for specific sized birds. There are 8 or 9 character codes on each which sometimes means a magnifying glass is needed to read them.

He talks about how rarely banded birds are found in other locales and the importance of reporting a band if one finds a dead bird with a band. He keeps a list of birds that he has banded that have been reported to the banding authority at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Though he has banded for 31 years, his list is  short – only a page.

There were lots of chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos and Downy Woodpeckers coming to the feeders and flying into the nets. As well as the Red-bellied Woodpecker, there was a Hairy Woodpecker while we were there.

Both of us think that the Tufted Titmouse is one of the cutest birds there is. Two were caught while we were at the banding.

The Titmouse that sometimes comes to our feeders was busy this afternoon at the safflower feeder, also getting ready for a cold night. Chickadees and Titmice may be small but they are very squirmy and uncooperative when being banded, measured and otherwise examined.

Bird banding is important for learning about migration and other movement, health of the birds and the environment that supports them, climate, habitat, weather effects and much more. There are stringent licensing requirements for banders. Watching one who is skillful and friendly is a great way to learn more about nature. It is also fun to photograph.