Friday, August 17, 2012

Butterflies, Flowers and Hummingbirds

Butterflies, flowers and hummingbirds--the fun and easy to see colors of late summer. 
Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, above and below on phlox.  Both hummingbirds and butterflies visit phlox.

Swallowtails are our largest butterflies in North America, and one of the most obvious because of their beautiful colors.  The male is always yellow, as shown in the above images.  The female can be either yellow or black.  But their large size and obvious color doesn't mean you can't discover a new species in the swallowtail family.  

Only seven years ago, a brand new eastern swallowtail species was discovered and categorized, the Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail.  Though very similar in appearance, amazingly, this species is even large than the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and has a wider band of blue on its under-wings.  Visit the link to see the size difference and other more subtle differences between the two species:  Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail

The "warbler of butterflies", the skipper is usually a comparatively drab family of butterflies and its often difficult to separate the species.  The male Zebulon Skipper, however, is more brightly colored and it was fun to discover this male visiting my purple lantana, above and below.

This is also the time of years we enjoy an increase in hummingbird activity.  If you aren't seeing many, "put out more feeders" coached Bob Sargent at our recent hummingbird festival in Knoxville.  And it's true.  Add more flowers and more feeders and the hummingbirds will come.  Below, a mature male ruby-throat.  Did you know the ruby-throated male has black chin feathers?  Check the image.  This is not the shifting of light on iridescent feathers.  His red gorget begins right below his black chin.
By this time in August, hummingbirds from the north are already moving southward and local juveniles have fledged and are frequenting feeders.  Even those rare species that we sometimes find here in the winter are already arriving now.  The most common of these is the Rufous hummingbird, but Black-chinned hummingbirds, Allen's, Anna's and others have also been discovered migrating and wintering in the east, and sometimes they arrive as early as August. 
I enjoyed participating in a hummingbird banding session with Mark and Jane Armstrong recently and tried my hand at recording the data.  Jane was busy capturing and retrieving hummingbirds from the traps and Mark, who is a Master Bander in both song birds and hummingbirds, banded and processed the birds.  In a two hour period, 40 ruby-throated hummingbirds were processed with 32 newly banded and 8 recaptured.
Above you see a male ruby-throat in heavy molt.  The white streaks you see are pin feathers where new feathers are growing.  And below a recently fledged juvenile showing his bright yellow mouth as he chirps in protest.  He was skillfully banded, health evaluated, and released.

Upcoming:  Getting ready for Alaska--in seven days!

Links and Resources:

My blog posts on Hummingbird banding.  Visit this post to read the various species that have been documented in the east during fall and winter months.

Hummingbird Study Group

Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bird Banding at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge

What an amazing morning of birds the Knoxville Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS) had yesterday at the final MAPS session of the season at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge.  
The beautiful male Blue Grosbeak above was one of the many gorgeous birds banded during the morning session that lasted from 5:45 a.m., when nets were put up in darkness, until closing at 11:00 a.m.
Mark Armstrong, above, examining plumage for wear and molt.

MAPS stands for the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Program, a program conducted by The Institute for Bird Populations in Point Reyes Station, California.  The MAPS program is conducted from May to August during breeding season and has specific data collection requirements with a goal of analyzing data to understand how bird populations are changing over time.  The information collected and reported by MAPS banding stations helps scientists to determine causes and effects of environmental change.
Above, Billie Cantwell, President of KTOS.  Below, Billie Cantwell, Mark Armstrong, and Janie Kading.
Seven Islands's Wildlife Refuge, in Knoxville, TN, is a unique grassland habitat and conducts one of the few grassland MAPS stations in the country.  Mark Armstrong, a master bander with a specialist banding permit for hummingbirds, operates the MAPS station during breeding season and during other seasons of the year.  Over 3000 birds have been banded at the refuge over the past three years.
August is the time of the year when the area is filled with juveniles from the current nesting season and also birds that are post breeding and wandering in the area to feed before leaving for more southerly destinations in the fall.  Birds like the House Wren shown in the next two images often turn up in August.

And this is also the time of year for surprises, like the Blue-winged Warbler shown below, a first recorded at the refuge.  Mark Armstrong is shown below with the warbler in hand.
Below the Blue-winged Warbler female, showing a very spunky attitude as she alertly responds to the sounds around her, mostly the banding team's excitement.

Below, Janie Kading and Mark Armstrong study plumage details in reference guides as Mark determines the age and sex of the bird.
The juvenile Orchard Oriole shown below was also banded on Sunday.  Banding studies throughout the year help us learn more about the birds that visit the refuge.  For example, a male Orchard Oriole, recaptured in an April 2010 banding session, was known to have hatched in 2004 from previous banding records.  From this record and known migration patterns, Mark could speculate the following:  "Orchard orioles are listed as a canopy species wintering in the mountains of Mexico to Honduras.  By my calculations this bird has likely crossed the Gulf of Mexico 12 times so far."  Amazing to consider!
Two Worm-eating warblers were also banded during the session, along with four Ruby-throated hummingbirds, a Yellow-breasted chat, Common Yellow throats and numerous sparrows, Indigo Buntings, and others.  In all, 80 birds were process through the banding station in a morning's work.

In addition to the scientific information collected at these sessions, banding often offers an opportunity for children to experience the wonder of birds close up.  
Dawn Johnson, one of the banding team members, introduced her two son's to the banding station on Sunday.  In the images above and below you see her showing her young sons a sparrow that Mark is holding in his hand. In the images that follow she receives and releases the bird, delighting them.  

 Birds provide joy to all ages!
Worm-eating warbler.

Getting Ready for Alaska!

Links and Resources:
My previous posts on bird banding.
Knoxville Tennessee Ornithological Society
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge
The Institute for Bird Populations
MAPs Program
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Bird-banding at Seven Islands

Bird-banding at Seven Islands
Photo courtesy of Karen Wilkenson

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Me and Denali--2012

Me and Denali--2012
Photo courtesy of Bob King

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