Sunday, May 24, 2009

Late May Bird Banding

We started late yesterday. Walt was out of town and forgot to leave the gate key with Jim, who was our leader for the day. We waited a few hours for an NPS Ranger to show up and unlock the gate.

I had two guests this time, Mark and his coworker Kaori. And it was a good thing for me. There were three of us banders, so we ran only 9 nets. That meant I had 3 nets to myself on every run. Mark and Kaoari were great support holding the nets back, handing me sticks I could use as tools, and, most importantly, running the hummers back to the station to be processed ASAP. Hummers tend to be fragile creatures and it was hot in the canyon starting around 10 a.m.. Best to take care of them quickly.

The highlight for me was this Costa's Hummingbird; I had never seen one before. This is me getting him out of the net. Notice how his iridescent feathers look black from this angle.

And here he is on Kaori's hand. They often don't fly away right off, so she is providing a platform for his launch, once he decides to get up and go, which he did a few minutes later. You get the full effect of his iridescence from this angle.
Another treat was this Juvenile Western Scrub Jay. Look at the soft downy feathers on this head and the remnants of his gape (the wide usually yellowish mouth that nestlings have).
Another intersting bird - a Song Sparrow with some kind of problem with its head feathers.
Orange-crowned Warbler. You can only see his orange crown in the hand. This picture doesn't demonstrate it, but he had one!
And, the biggest treat of the day for me was the following bird. I saw the male flying around and hoped he would get in the net. Lo and behold, on the last net run I got my wish. Well close enough - I got the female Phainopepla.
She made lots of very unusual sounds when I was trying to take her out of the net. Kaori said she sounded like a car alarm.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Early May Bird Banding

It was a foggy morning at Zuma Canyon. Start time was 5:57 a.m. and I had brought company with me. Mark decided to check it out, just this once, to see what I do with myself every other Saturday. There were only four of us (not counting Mark), but we ran all nets except for #7, which involves an out-of-the-way walk up a steep hill.

The Pacific-slope Flycatchers were out in full force singing, and we got several in the nets.Look at their lovely almond-shaped eye ring (and please ignore my grip on the bird; it's all wrong).
Mark managed to get a photo of one of the gophers; we see evidence of them all over -their holes - but rarely see them.
We got another Black-chinned Hummingbird and this time I actually got a photo of it. It's gorgeous.

We also got two Warbling Vireos. Another first for me at that station. They are so quietly elegant.

Cool bush. I think it's called Sugar Bush.
And, last but not least, the House Finch. He's a very common bird around our house (he sneaks food from the hummer feeder) and we see him in the canyon all the time. This is the first time I have banded one, though, and I was impressed by his red feathers and his culmen. My neighbor calls them flying lizards.