June 1, 2016

Spring Season 2016 Fourth Week Highlights

The fourth week of spring banding this season was nothing short of crazy yet fantastic! The weather started out cool but sunny and by Friday we were experiencing winds so strong that they created crashing waves in the Bay and by Sunday it was nothing but periods of hail, snow, and rain throughout the day. And YET, we had three days of over a 100 birds banded and our biggest day yet in Audubon PA's history there with 318 birds banded! In total for the week, we banded 823 new birds of 55 species.

The 'fallout': May 11th started out as any other morning, there weren't any crazy weather fronts moving through and although we did have southerly winds overnight that had turned to northerly ones in the morning, that was nothing too out of the ordinary for here. We didn't even get all of the nets open before they started filling up with birds. The vegetation was filled with Blackburnians, Black-throated Blues, Cape Mays, and Yellow Warblers, the sandy pathway was covered with Palm Warblers and Lincoln Sparrows, and the dirt parking area saw its share of White-crowned Sparrows. It was simply magical to say the least! We are eternally grateful to our long-time volunteer, Frank Frisina, who actually left work that morning as soon as he got the call that help was desperately needed. Even with the two of us, it still took a while to get the nets shut as the birds were hitting the nets faster than we could extract and at one point, we were literally trying not to trip over them as they were practically everywhere. But, all the birds were safely extracted and we processed 250 of them, releasing close to 50 of them unprocessed due to various reasons, and then were able to reopen a few nets mid-afternoon for a grand total of 318 new birds banded.

Thursday and Friday, Tracy Graziano from the Pennsylvania Game Commission came out to record our work as well as interview us for a video that she is creating that documents the partnership between Audubon PA and the PA Game Commission. Stay tuned for a link to that video later this month.
 Also on Thursday, we began placing transmitters on birds as part of our project to better understand their movements throughout the area as well as the path that they take as they continue north on their journey. Friday and Sunday we closed early due to strong winds and then Sunday, after sitting at the one site in the intermittent hail, snow, and rain, for several hours we went over to the second site with the goal of specifically trying to catch two more Magnolia Warblers to tag. We had three nets open for less than a half hour and were surprised to discover 20-30 warblers in each net! Talk about an impressive birds per net hour average! Of course, since this was the weekend of crazy weather, the wind kicked up and it started hailing again as we tried to process the birds. Luckily we were able to keep the birds warm and dry in the trusty Subaru and our volunteer, who had already gone home for the day, came back to ferry birds two by two from the car to us to be processed. Haha did I mention yet how awesome our volunteers are?!

All in all, quite an amazing week!

Blue-winged Warbler.
Male Indigo Bunting. 
The only photo that I have from our
biggest day. Each of those bags has
birds waiting to be processed. And
there were even more in paper bags
on the table.
We had so many birds on Sunday that both banders were processing.
Where are the birds you may ask? Sitting in the car out of the cold
and intermittent hail storms.
Something about Palm Warblers this year really
living up to their name.

Cape May Warbler.
Tracy attaching a GoPro. 
Filming the banding process via a GOPro
attached to the head.
Male Black-throated Blue Warbler.
Net full of warblers! And another 20 or so
from another net hanging in bird bags 
on the tree in the background
Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blackburnian Warbler (male)

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