Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Juvenile Helpers" in Bluebirds of North America Summer Issue!

By September, most of our Eastern Bluebirds in Tennessee are wandering, hanging out in open fields and woodland edges, families of bluebirds traveling together, and some flocking with other families, to teach their juveniles survival skills.  
Watching bluebird families is fascinating and I decided to share some of my observations with the Journal of the North American Bluebirds Society.  To my delight, the publication editor, Scott Gillihan, liked my article and published it in the 2014 Summer issue of Bluebird, Journal of the North American Bluebird Society, with the title, "Eastern Bluebird Juvenile Helpers in Two Successive Seasons."
The article and photos describe my observations in 2011 and again, in 2012, when in the last days before a family's second brood was to fledge, the parent female disappeared. The male solicited help from his three juveniles to care for the young, and I watched the juveniles participate in feeding the nestlings, removing fecal sacs, chasing away intruders, and feeding their siblings after they fledged.
Visit the North America Bluebird Society's website to find a wealth of information about bluebirds. In Tennessee, as well as, many southeastern states, bluebirds remain near their breeding territories during the winter months, visiting nest boxes for potential winter roost sites and in search of possible nesting sites in the spring.
Above, two eastern bluebird juveniles visit the bird bath.

The Journal, Bluebirds, is a publication that is received with membership in the North American Bluebird Society.  Information about membership can be found here.

Visit my videos of juvenile helpers at this link:  Bluebird Family Videos and see more blog posts about bluebird families by clicking the link.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival Features Banding!

One of the central attractions of the Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival each year is the hummingbird banding demonstrations given by Mark Armstrong, Master Bander of hummingbirds and songbirds.  

Small groups make it easier for everyone to hear the bander and see the banding process.  While visitors wait their turn, Oliver Lang, above, talks with visitors about hummers and banding.   In another area, Mike Nelson describes the life of hummingbirds and how they are captured for banding. In the images below, Mike shows a tiny hummingbird nest to visitors from Indiana.
Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Hummingbirds are captured in wire traps that surround the feeder.  The traps have a door that lifts open.  Hummingbirds seeking nectar will go inside the trap to drink and the door, connected to a long fishing line, can be lowered once the hummer is inside.
Hummingbirds are attracted to nectar feeders and flowers.  A large stand of Jewel Weed was present near the hummingbird banding area.
Photo credit:  Jody Stone               Jewel Weed is a favorite nectar blossom for hummingbirds

Hummingbirds that are captured in the traps are removed and carefully placed in a mesh bag to hold them until the bander is ready to process them.  Hummingbirds, like other birds, feed more actively in the early morning hours.
Photo credit:  Jody Stone

Master banders undergo many hours of training and receive a special certification that allows them to capture and band birds.  Data collected is reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory in Bethesda, Maryland, and contributes to scientific knowledge about bird populations and migration patterns.
Before he removes the hummer from the bag. Mark explains what he is going to do and how the band fits on the hummingbird's leg. 

He first checks to see if the hummingbird wears a band. Below, he uses a blunt darning needle as a tool to lift the hummers tiny foot and check its legs.
When no band is present, Mark places a new band on the hummer's leg with a special number series that will identify the bird if re-captured.  
The band is closed around the leg with a special set of banding plyers.
Below, you can see the band and its tiny numbers.  If Mark captures a hummer that is already wearing a band, he records the band number and checks his records to see if the band number is one of his.  This year at the hummingbird festival, he re-captured one of the hummingbirds that he banded at last year's festival, giving him an opportunity to check its health.  Hummingbirds are known to be very loyal to their feeding territories and can often be found in that territory on the same days each year.

Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

Above and below, Mark examines a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird using magnifying glasses. With a digital instrument, he measures the length of the beak.
Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

Males, females and juveniles range in the length of their beaks, with the males generally having shorter beaks.
Above, Mark uses a magnifying loop to examine a juvenile's beak for grooving to help age the bird. Juvenile bills are still growing and have grooves while adults have no grooving
When the examination is complete, Mark shows visitors the banded hummer.  Janie Kading (left) assists him during banding.
Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

When banding is complete, an assistant allows a young visitor to release the bird. The sensation of a hummer's wings fluttering in the hand as it buzzes away is delightful to all ages!
Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

Watch for next years festival date on this blog's side bar.  I will post it where you see the current year's date as soon as the 2015 date is decided!

Visit all the posts on this year's festival by clicking the link:  Wonder of Hummingbirds--2014

Wonder of Hummingbird festival on Facebook
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival Blog
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival_2013
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival 2013 on Tennessee Wildside
KTOS on Facebook
Hummingbird Banding Demonstration 2009
Mark Armstrong, Master Bander
Knoxville Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society
Ijams Nature Center

Friday, August 29, 2014

Festival Exhibits--Arts, Crafts, Plants, Food and Fun!

This is the second in a series of posts on the Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival held in Knoxville, Tennessee at Ijams Nature Center and co-sponsored by the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and Ijams Nature Center on August 23rd. (You will find the first post here).
At the center of the day's activities were hummingbirds, the star and inspiration for the festival.  Hummingbird banding was one of the main attractions and was demonstrated by Mark Armstrong, Master Bander of hummingbirds and song birds.
Photo credit:  Jody Stone

While people waited their turn to view the banding table, there were plenty of other activities to entertain and educate--presentations on wildlife and hummingbird gardening,  naturalist-led bird and nature walks, wildlife demonstrations, and exhibits with arts and crafts, and of course, food and drinks.
Above and below, author, illustrator and naturalist, Stephen Lyn Bales sketches at his exhibit table.  Lyn also gave a presentation on his book, Ghost Birds, Jim Tanner and His Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935-1941.

And here I am, above, exhibiting art and talking with visitors!  It is always a fun surprise to meet some of the people I know from facebook, blogging and through my website! Thank you all for saying, hello!  Photo credit:  Jody Stone--creator of  the facebook community page, "Hummingbird Love"



 Agri-Feed, above and below.

Photo credit:  Jody Stone

A group of friends who traveled from Indiana planned their visit with each other around the Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival!  We also had visitors from New Jersey and Alabama who met up for a visit to the Smoky Mountains and timed their visit so they could attend the festival!     Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson 

Mike Nelson shows our Indiana friends a tiny hummingbird nest on a twig, above.  Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Above, two of our hard-working KTOS volunteers, Linda Denton and Michael Plaster, providing information to visitors and selling festival t-shirts and the Discover Birds Activity Books. Festival proceeds benefit Ijams Nature Center and KTOS.  Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson
 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson
 Tennessee Naturescapes                          Photo Credit:  Karen Wilkinson
Orchids, Cati and Tropical Plants         Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson  

 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

 Did I mention that there was great food?!                       Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson


 KTOS volunteers, David Johnson, Mariam Fitzgerald, Harold Howell and Jeanne Alexander   Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

Next: Hummingbird banding!

Visit all the posts on this year's festival by clicking the link:  Wonder of Hummingbirds--2014

Wonder of Hummingbird festival on Facebook
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival Blog
Stephen Lyn Bales
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival_2013
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival 2013 on Tennessee Wildside
KTOS on Facebook
Hummingbird Banding Demonstration 2009
Mark Armstrong, Master Bander
Knoxville Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society
Ijams Nature Center

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival Celebrates Its Fourth Year!

The Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival celebrated its fourth year on Saturday, August 23rd at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, offering visitors an exciting day of nature-related activities, including hummingbird banding!  
Above, the logo art found on all the signs, t-shirts, schedules and banners at the festival. Everytime I saw a new sign or banner for this year's festival, I couldn't help but smile.  This watercolor image is one of my most spontaneous and playful sketches and I am happy to see it inspiring people to enjoy hummingbirds!
New this year, the festival offered a special area for children's activities.  Children were given opportunity to view a slide show introduction to birds, participate in a bird walk lead by Discover Birds volunteer, Chris Welsh and other KTOS volunteers, create bird feeders from pinecones and bagels, make their own hummingbird paintings, and participate in a migration game, among other available activities.
Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell.    
Above, young  festival visitors make bird feeders with peanut butter and pine cones.

Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

Above and below, an activity table loaded with paints, brushes, markers and paper supplied young artists all the tools they needed to display their talents!
 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

More than 100 visitors, children and adults, enjoyed viewing the Barred Owl, below, while on their nature walks at the festival.  The owl dropped down to the creek behind the brush for a few minutes, out of sight, but delighted when he flew back up to a limb dripping wet from his bath and remained in view for the birding telescope and cameras.  Everyone enjoyed great looks.  
Photo credit:  Jimmy Tucker

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Lynne McCoy, above, wildlife rehabilitator, displayed "Hawkeye", a Broadwinged Hawk, and "Pockets", the ground hog, pictured below, along with other wildlife species, educating both children and adults. Everyone enjoyed petting Pockets and he seemed to enjoy it too.  When he grew tired of all the attention, he rolled over on his back and went to sleep!

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell
Below, face painting, a favorite with the kids and with us!

 "Faces Gone Wild" transformed smiling faces into magical wild creatures!
Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Nature walks, hummingbird banding, face-painting, expert speakers, arts, crafts, food and wildlife demonstrations--all in one spectacular fun-filled day!

Next:  Festival exhibits and hummingbird banding!

Wonder of Hummingbird festival on Facebook
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival Blog
Faces Gone Wild
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival_2013
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival 2013 on Tennessee Wildside
KTOS on Facebook
Hummingbird Banding Demonstration 2009
Mark Armstrong, Master Bander
Knoxville Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society
Ijams Nature Center

For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham