May 24, 2015

How I Met Your Mother (Presque Isle Style)

As many of you know we don't just catch the migratory birds here at Presque Isle, we also catch a lot of the local breeding population. Some of our recapture data shows the same birds returning to the same banding site around the same time each year. It's pretty amazing that they are that site faithful but it's true, we almost never recapture a bird that was banded at one site at the other site and vice versa. And considering these birds flew all the way from the tropics to nest here, what's a few extra miles, right? Well, apparently it's a lot to them. So, as they are reestablishing territories we often catch two of the same species in the net together. Sometimes it's two males that are still squawking at each other and sometimes it's a male and a female. So I like to think that the latter pair will look back some day and tell their children about that one fateful day that they met in a mist net at Fry's Landing. I'm joking, of course, but it is a lot of fun and very interesting data that we recover from monitoring these local breeders.

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher pair that was caught together in the net. Because this was a known mated pair that I had been watching build a nest for over a week, when we gave them sequential bands, we also pronounced them husband and wife. Clearly, one of them looks more thrilled than the other.
Photo by Gigi Gerben
Male and Female Baltimore Oriole caught together in the same net. This was taken at Niagara Boat Launch but we have a wonderful view of a nesting pair of orioles at Fry's Landing. Orioles build some of the coolest nests and we'd be happy to point it out to you if you stop by and see us this week!
Photo by Gigi Gerben

Male and female Yellow Warblers. The most common pairs found in the nets.

A typical Yellow Warbler nest

A female Yellow Warbler with a brood patch- with that extensive of a brood patch she is almost surely sitting on eggs. The females use their bare skin to help regulate the temperature of the eggs on which they sit. 
Not the best photo but that is actually a photo of a gravid Gray Catbird, ie she is with egg. On average, a catbird will lay four eggs, one on each consecutive day, after which she will sit and incubate them while being fed by the male until the eggs hatch about 12-13 days later.

May 21, 2015

Let's Talk about the Ladies...

We've got some lovely ladies that are passing through Presque Isle State Park right now and I don't just mean our local volunteers! Every spring it seems like most people are very excited to see the male warblers in all their glory and it's true, they do put on their best snazzy outfits for the ladies and hey, who are we kidding, I'm definitely impressed! The males usually move through first so that they can establish territories so that by the time the females migrate to the breeding grounds they basically have their pick of the males. But one thing I have learned from holding a lot of birds in the hand, is that although the females might not always be as flashy and brightly coloured as their male counterparts, they definitely still have a very subtle beauty that I would like to take the time to highlight. 

Adult female Black-throated Blue Warbler. She had some of the most vibrant blue I have yet to see on a female BTBW.
Female Blackburnian Warbler
Female Hooded Warbler
Female Tennessee Warbler
Female Cape May Warbler
Haha you got me- not a warbler! BUT one of my favourite girls out there and I can't get enough of that giant insect vacuum mouth. She's a local nesting Great-crested Flycatcher banded in 2014 and recaptured on 5/21/15.
Female Magnolia Warbler. This pretty lady was actually so petite, that I had to remove the band I originally placed on her because it was too large.
Female Black & White Warbler. One of the best smelling warblers hands down due to the amount of time that they spend in and around tree bark.

Two Highlights of the Week

So I'd like to take the time to highlight these two birds as they are both very special for different reasons. 

First, was a Gray Catbird that was caught on 5/21/15. She was originally banded on 5/7/2010 as an 'AHY' bird. 'AHY' stands for After Hatch Year, which means, at the time of her capture her age was indeterminable but the bander knew they she was at least one year old as all birds celebrate their birthdays on January 1st of each year. That makes this pretty lady AT LEAST six years old! Think of all the obstacles that she probably has overcome just flying from her wintering grounds in Central America to her breeding territory here at Presque Isle State Park for the last six years. That's pretty impressive! She didn't want to pose for a nice photo op, but with her extensive brood patch, I imagine she probably had eggs to get back to so we also didn't want to hold her too long. I think the oldest catbird on record lived to almost 18 years old, so here's wishing this pretty momma many more successful years!

Female Gray Catbird, at least six years old.

The second bird that I'd like to highlight is one that is notable because of how rare it is to even see one in the park, let alone catch one in the nets. And that is the male Cerulean Warbler seen below.  Cerulean Warblers spend most of their time higher up in the canopy than almost all other warblers that we see here so that is why it is both rare to see one and to catch one. This young male was banded on 5/11/15 and as we often see returning migrants year after year, let's hope that this handsome fella decides to grace us again with his presence next year!

Second Year Male Cerulean Warbler
Photo by Gigi Gerben