Monday, September 28, 2009

Shins and more shins

The first photos of a merlin are from the week before, but I couldn't upstage that Peregrine with another story to share the space with. This merlin was so unique to me - appeared almost orange on the chest.

This is a good comparison of male and female size difference in Sharp-shinned hawks. The male is the one to the right. "Yes, dear" is heard frequently.

How about this look? This is another Shin who almost looked like a Coopers Hawk. The Coops usually have a darker "cap", and this bird really appeared to have that. You can tell it is a Shin not only from the size and the shape of the head, seen here, but the regal bearing of this individual sure suggested that higher ambitions were present.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Peregrines save the day!

Saturday was about the same as the last few weekends at the blind - warm, with winds from the SSE. That is not great weather for convincing hawks to get moving out of town. Saturday was fairly slow, with only three Sharp-shins. And then Sunday came. And in came the female Peregine here. Folks - three words to describe Peregrines - believe the hype. There is nothing cooler than watching a Peregrine buzz your nets and take a stoop down at them. You can hear the feathers whistle. Seriously, seriously cool.
This passage, or hatch year, female, already had bands. I was thrilled to recognize the federal number sequence - it was from the Midwest Peregrine project, and I most likely had prepared the bands for whomever the bander was! This bird is a female with three siblings (two males, two females) banded at Pink Cove, in Beaver Bay, mid-June. She most likely just followed south along the lakeshore to get to us, about 50+ miles from where she was banded. She also has a black over green color band - b/g N/92. What a fox, huh? She has that distinctive brown plumage that will become a dark grey after her first year. Later that morning, a male passage Peregrine buzzed us, but did not come in.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


In case the theme hasn't come through (!!), bird banding is one of my passions. I am lucky to have the great and patient teachers that I do, and very lucky indeed to have learned under Frank Taylor. Frank took these photos of me from this season.

This first one is me taking the tail measurements of this Red-tailed hawk. I am holding the bird securely, making sure the wings are tucked and the feet are secured, while I have a metal ruler to get the tail measurement.

These photos are of me working with a Merlin. I am putting a band on the leg of the bird with a special pliers, and making sure that when I take it out of nets, I have the feet and wings secured safely.
This male American Kestrel is getting his wing chord measured. The wing is held so the wrist (the bend) is at the starting point, and then we see where the longest wing (primary) feather reaches to.
The final picure is of the kestrel getting his band, as well!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Banding weekend part 2

We now have two weekends - five days total - with no "skunk" days - meaning, we have banded hawks on each day. This weekend we had 16 birds - 2 red-tails, 4 merlins, 1 Coopers hawk, and the rest were Sharp-shinned hawks. The first photo shows a great new addition to the equipment set up at the blind. Reier knew Frank, the master bander, has many friends who come through to show them what we do. It is beneficial to us to have them somewhat hidden as we continue our banding operations. Reier constructed a very portable blind where the folks could be hidden, but still see (the fabric is see-through), and it is adjustable for different heights as people sit! The other person here is Frank's lovely wife, Trudi.

We were lucky enough to have three Sharp-shinned hawks AND a merlin come in fairly short order. Fellow bander Chuck, his lovely wife Nancy, and Reier show off these birds. Also wanted to take the opportunity to show how Shins look after their first year. Now keep in mind they don't get any bigger - at 6 weeks of age, they are as big as they will get. However, after that first year, their plumage goes through a pretty dramatic change, as well as the iris color in the eye. The first photo is of a passage, or hatch year, bird. The next is a bird who has gone through its first winter, and has moulted out most of the juvenile feathers. The next is of Reier releasing a passage Shin.

Now look at these beautiful merlins! The one on the left is a female - note the different band on her leg. We had to go to a size larger and this band is what we call a "lock-on" meaning, there is a little tab that we have to fold over on it, instead of the "butt-end" bands, which just meet flush against each other. The two birds were very different in plumage - I am going to do some looking to see if one might be a Richardsons and one might be a columbarius, two different sub-species. The last is Reier sending one on its way back to the wild, with a band that will tell us some great information if it is found again!

Whew! This is a cool bird! We do see them extremely often in the urban areas. It is a passage bird - can you guess what it is? A Coopers hawk!
We took a quick photo of this bird!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Shins and Merlins

Okay, we'll get to birds in a minute. Couldn't go too much longer without a mention of my Steelers. The pre-season is over - 3 and 1 record. Rookies looked strong, 19 of 22 starters from last year still on the roster. Special teams looked great. My coach - Mike Tomlin, pictured here - has a standard that is truly inspirational, both in work ethic and personal integrity. We play the Titans tomorrow and I really, really, REALLY hope we beat them.

This weekend we did see quite a few Sharp-shinned hawks. One of the things I always find interesting is the difference in plumage within-species. Both of the birds pictured here are juvenile, or hatch year, Shins. But look at the differences in plumage - the first bird is much darker around the face. The second bird has a very light brow, too. Keep in mind that they are both migrating over the same area, so were probably fledged north of where we were.

We banded two Merlins over the weekend, so you can make some comparisons here, too. The second bird is much darker. There is not a difference in plumage here between male and female as far as juvenile plumage, though there will be when they are adults.

Finally, we did band a juvenile Kestrel. Look at how the spots continue so far up the chest. On an adult bird, even though the pattern will be different on each individual, the spots will stop somewhere about mid-chest.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hawk Banding Season Starts

Hawk banding season - my most favorite thing in the world besides my Steelers - got underway this weekend. We had 22 birds total - 2 Merlins, 1 American Kestrel, 1 Red-tail and the rest were Sharp-shinned Hawks. Got some great looks at Harriers, other Merlins and Shins, too, that came over the blind, but turned their beaks up at us. One Merlin even took a bird out of the air right in front of our camp! Got to spend a few days with some of my favorite people, too - friends and fellow banders Frank, Chuck and Rick.
I admit these next few posts are going to be a bit out of order. I resized some release shots, so am going to post these before I can go through the others and show you what we banded and saw at the blind. All of these birds are being released after being banded and the pertinent information taken. Thought you'd enjoy the arty shots I tried to take as the birds were being let go. The first three shots of are Rick releasing Shins. The last three are of Chuck releasing a Merlin, a Red-tail (who is obviously not looking in front of him!), and Kestrel.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Birding about the Metro

Some really great weather lately - cool enough to remind us that fall and migration is underway, but sunny enough to make some photo shooting well worth it! Reier and I went out to see what we could come up with as fall as fall warblers. Did see some, but always too zippy to photo, or high enough that you just get the under carriage. Check out the mallard drake - he has a band! We will try to read it and report it.
This young Northern Cardinal was surreptitiously watching us from a little woody patch - we tried to make him feel better and act like we didn't notice him/her.

American Goldfinches were abundant as they found lots of thistle and other things to eat.
This little female posed nicely.

Coopers Hawks are not known for their agility at running on tree branches, but this adult male was actually quite adept. He did some quick adjustments to get close to some House Sparrows in a bush below his tree.