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

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