Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bird Banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park

Seven Islands Willdife Refuge officially became Tennesee's Seven Islands State Birding Park on July 1st. Five days later I drove the thirty-minute drive to my first banding session after the official change and was happy to see the interstate sign with symbols that indicate the park is a good place for birding, wildlife watching, hiking, canoeing and kayacking.
Above, bird-banding team members Eddy Whitson, Patty Ford, Billie Cantwell, Mark Armstrong, Janie Kading and Colin Leonard walk back to the banding station on July 6th after an early morning net-run.   

I couldn't take a picture of the interstate sign without risking my life and those around me, so I satisfied my urge by snapping an image of the sign pointing out the park direction as I turned off the interstate.

Above and below, Master Bander, Mark Armstrong, processes a Yellow-breasted Chat, a warbler common to the park.  Banding sessions this summer will help document how habitat changes have impacted the numbers and species of breeding birds in the area.
Historically, the banding station collected MAPS breeding bird data.   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.
MAPS banding data requires that the net locations and habitat remain the same, however, and recent changes have impacted this continuity.  Mark is using this opportunity to determine how these changes are impacting the breeding birds and to provide a continuous history of species breeding activity for the park. Above, Janie Kading records data while Mark Armstrong and Billie Cantwell examine birds.
Mark examines a male Common Yellow-throat, a warbler that is far from common in appearance, but whose song is frequently heard in the park during summer months.  The Common Yellow-throat was the subject of a painting I created for the announcement of the new state park earlier this year.
Above and below, Billie bands a juvenile Northern Cardinal.
You can see the yellow, stretchy corners of the juveniles beak that are his remaining "gape".  This young bird is still being fed by parents.  Notice that the juvenile's beak is dark or brown and has not yet developed the bright orange that is characteristic of adult cardinal beaks.

Above and below, another view of the dark beak and yellow gape of the juvenile.  It is impossible to tell at this stage of plumage whether the juvenile is male or female.  With young birds like this one, frequently encountered during the breeding season, juveniles are walked back to the area where they were netted to reunite with their parents.

Below, Colin Leonard extracts a bird from one of the nets.
We had the good fortune of processing some vireos along with more common birds found in the nets. Below, a Red-eyed Vireo and a good look at the thick vireo beak.
Very soon after this bird was banded, we also had a White-eyed Vireo giving a good comparison of the two species.
Above, Mark and Bille consult the Pyle reference to determine the age using the vireo's plumage and eye color.
Above, a White-eyed Vireo has its tail measured.
In the above image, you can see the two species side by side.  The Red-eyed Vireo is closer and larger than the White-eyed Vireo.  The White-eyed Vireo is more colorful, with its yellow markings and white wing bars.
Vireos are incredibly curious and spunky birds.  After being banded, this White-eyed Vireo sat on Mark's fingers for a while before flying.  This gave me an opportunity to get some good images of its thick beak and that beautiful white eye.

Above, banding team members return from a net run with birds held in bags.
Black-eyed Susans sprinkle the fields around the park's grassland.

One of the youngest birds netted was a newly fledged Yellow-breasted Chat.  It is hard to even identify the species when the bird is so young with mostly gray plummage.
This youngster was quickly banded and walked back to the net to rejoin its parents and carry on with morning feeding activities.
Above you can see the newly fledged bird's short primary feathers, downy body and newly developing, short tail.
Many feathers are still growing on the throat and face.

Mark, Master Bander of both songbirds and hummingbirds, will be banding hummingbirds at Knoxville's upcoming Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival  held at Ijams Nature Center on Saturday, August 23rd.  Mark your calendars!  Festival visitors will have the opportunity to see hummingbirds upclose, learn more about their nesting and migration habits and enjoy the many expert speakers and vendors that will be present for the event.

Links and Resources:
Hummingbird banding will occur from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the festival, Saturday, August 23rd
For more information visit:  Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival
Hummingbird festival Speaker and Event Schedule
My previous posts on bird banding.
Knoxville Tennessee Ornithological Society
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge, now Seven Islands State Birding Park

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bob Hatcher Honored with AEF Bald Eagle Release

Challenger, the famous free-flying Bald Eagle, cared for by the American Eagle Foundation, who has flown free during the singing of the national anthem at many national sports events, paid a visit to a very special person earlier this week--Bob Hatcher.
The name Robert M. Hatcher is practically synonymous with the phrase "Bald Eagle recovery in Tennessee". In the 1960s and '70s, Bald Eagles were on the brink of extinction, with only about 400 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states and no known eagle nests in Tennessee. Since then, strict protection laws, the banning of DDT, and dedicated restoration and recovery efforts have helped restore this majestic species to America's skies. As of January 2014, there are about 143 successful Bald Eagle nests in Tennessee. From these nests, around 250 eaglets fledged in 2013. As of today, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, American Eagle Foundation and other partners have released 358 captive-hatched or translocated eaglets into the wilds of Tennessee.
Betty Hatcher (Bob's wife), Laura Cecere and Challenger at the Bells Bend release.  Photo credit:  Cyndi Routledge

The American Eagle Foundation (AEF) in cooperation with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) released a Bald Eagle near the Cumberland River in Nashville on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 at the Bell's Bend Park. This release honored Bob Hatcher, who initiated Tennessee's Bald Eagle recovery efforts in the early 1980s.
The AEF and TWRA arranged this special eagle release to honor and thank 76-year-old Bob Hatcher for his dedication to helping bring our nation's living symbol, the Bald Eagle, back from the brink of extinction. He served as the Non-Game and Endangered Species Coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency from 1978 to 2001 and served TWRA for a total of 38 years. 
Above, former TWRA Executive Director, Gary Myers addresses the audience.  Photo credit:  Cyndi Routledge

The AEF invitation to the event included the following:  "Since the mid-80s, Hatcher has been a mentor and close friend of Al Cecere, Founder and President of the American Eagle Foundation (Est. in 1985). Hatcher is one of the main reasons the AEF exists, having generously volunteered thousands of hours of time and expertise to the cause.  TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter, AEF President Al Cecere, and Mr. Hatcher's Wife, Daughter, Son, family, and friends will attend the ceremony to recognize and honor this exemplary individual.... The Bald Eagle to be released on Tuesday will be appropriately named "Hatcher's Legacy"....  
"Mr. Hatcher is dearly loved and respected by friends, colleagues, and conservation representatives all over Tennessee and the country. He is the epitome of selflessness, integrity, patience, passion, and humility. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of Bald Eagle and endangered species conservation. He has always been a big promotor of "symbiotic relationships," focusing on what people could achieve by working cooperatively together and sharing the credit. Thus, he has humbly never taken the full credit that his friends and colleagues all know that he so greatly deserves. He is a legacy....Through this release, we hope that the public will truly understand the impact Mr. Hatcher has made not only on endangered and threatened species conservation, but on the thousands of people he has taken the time and patience to individually speak to, teach, and mentor throughout his life. More importantly, however, we hope Mr. Hatcher will truly understand how grateful we all are for his lifelong selfless dedication."  (American Eagle Foundation press release and invitation).
Al Cecere, President and Founder, American Eagle Foundation, Dollywood, Tennessee.  Photo credit: Cyndi Routledge
TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter (above left) announces the establishment of an annual scholarship fund named in honor of Bob Hatcher, to be awarded to a biology student with an concentration in Ornithology. The first scholarship will be awarded in the fall of 2014.  The scholarship will be administered by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.
James Rogers speaks briefly before singing "Fly Eagle Fly".

Above, Al Cecere and family members listen to "Fly Eagle Fly".
More than 150 people attended the event honoring Hatcher and witnessed the eagle release.
Ron Hoff, President of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS) (above left) with TOS members Susan Hollyday, Ken Dubke (Chattanooga), and Polly Rooker.
Above, Hatcher's Legacy's palagial tag.
Bob was unable to attend the event due to illness but the ceremony and release were video-taped for his viewing afterward.

Appreciation to Cyndi Routledge for all of the above photographs and to the American Eagle Foundation and TWRA for this public tribute to one of Tennessee's greatest and most beloved conservationists.
Bob Hatcher (third from left) pictured with Ken Dubke (Chattanooga TOS), Joan Garland (International Crane Foundation) and Ed Carter, Executive Director, TWRA, at the 2013 Sandhill Crane festival held at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Bob Hatcher

Links and Resources:
American Eagle Foundation facebook --image of Challenger's visit to Bob Hatcher 
Facts about Bald Eagles in Tennessee--Bob Hatcher is the author of this document

Saturday, July 5, 2014

That Baby Bird Stuff Going on Out There!

There is a lot of baby bird activity going on this time of year. Not only are baby hummingbirds out of the nest and visiting feeders, more than doubling the number of nectar visitors, other young birds are foraging around the yard.  It just takes a minute of being still to find them.
I stepped outside because I heard tapping, a sign of a woodpecker near by.  I wondered if a Pileated Woodpecker was around, but found the next best thing--a female Red-bellied Woodpecker foraging in the pines.  I will show you images of her in my next post, but in this one, I wanted to show you some of the baby stuff going on under that same tree!
There were several American Robins running around on the ground and I quickly identified them as juveniles with rusty breasts still speckled with dark spots and white down, and their back and wing feathers also speckled with white.
They already have very robin-like posture and movements.  Alert stance, listening to everything above and below, lightening quick feet.  They learn quickly to watch for food and watch for danger at the same time.
 A good strategy--don't linger in one place for too long!
Right after the young robin scurried away, a Carolina Chickadee landed in front of me. I would not have thought much of it had I not snapped some images just because the camera was in my hand.
Parent and juvenile chickadees look the same. I glanced at these images and concluded, this must be a juvenile! He has picked up a yummy rock for all his foraging efforts!
 He seems to be wondering what to do with his prize.
Thankfully, Carolina Chickadee juveniles follow their parents around for several weeks while they learn to find food and feed themselves!

Next:  Red-bellied Woodpeckers foraging

Carolina Chickadee
American Robin
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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