We went to the Valley today after work to go swimming in a very cold mountain river, and there was a family of Mallards that I got to swim with. I didn’t have my camera, so I do not have pictures. It was so much fun. They let me get really close as they foraged and fought the current. There were also Common Mergansers (a new species for me in the park), but they weren’t as friendly.
Friday, July 24, 2009
July 17, 2009
We have a four day break, so I am doing some extra banding in
Hummingbirds can be tricky business, but it is so much fun. We don’t band them, but we can record age and sex. Age can be determined by examining the bill for corrugations that disappear as the bird grows older and by plumage. Sex and species can also be determined by a combination of plumage characteristics, usually the tail feathers (R2 and R4).
I really like working with hummingbirds; I might want to continue working with them in a specialized hummingbird banding program or in graduate school. I’ve decided I want to add the Peterson Guide to Hummingbirds to my wish list. I got to peruse it in the bookstore at
I also saw my first Western Rattlesnake today. He was massive (>3 feet), but I think the Timber Rattlesnake I almost stepped on when I was a kid was larger. We found him crossing the path, and he went into a thicket near where we have some of our nets. We were able to get really close to him (not within strike distance), and he didn’t coil-up or exhibit defensive behavior. I was a little paranoid when checking nets for the rest of the day; a snakebite is NOT what I need right now. I wish I knew more about reptiles (I loved them when I was little); maybe I will take herpetology in the spring. I would love to be able to handle snakes safely.
Earlier this season at White Wolf we had an Oregon Junco that had been banded wrong in a previous year because someone did not use the leg gauge to determine the right size. Its right foot had died and we had to amputate so it would not get infected. It was a really sad day, especially because Jeff said he has never recaptured an amputee. We didn’t even have the heart to band the other leg. Today made the situation a little better because we recaptured the amputee junco. His leg was completely healed over with no signs of infection. The bird did not seem to be greatly impacted by missing a foot; he even had a cloacal protuberance (breeding characteristics). It made us so happy that he was alive and doing well. I sent him away with a shiny new band (this time correctly size and attached) on his left leg. He even perched on a nearby tree with ease. Go Juncos!!!
July 10, 2009
We were really bored this afternoon, so we decided to suspend a peanut from a tree branch with dental floss to see if the Steller’s Jays could figure out how to get it. We expected him to figure out how to pull up the string up and hold it with his foot, but in true corvid fashion he did something totally unexpected and decided to wrap the floss around the trunk of the tree. It didn’t take him long to untie the string and get the peanut, but I think the California Ground Squirrels still have them beat. This one was massive. Is it possible for a squirrel to get diabetes from overeating?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
We finally got out of Hodgdon today!!! Jeff, Alan and I decided to go to Tuolumne Meadows to do some birding and alpine hiking. Tuolumne Meadows is amazing. We saw White-crowned Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbird in the meadow. At the visitors center I got a new book, Introduction to the California Condor, by Noel and Helen Snyder. I am really excited to start reading it; I love condors.
We went hiking to a lake at
After our hike we drove just a bit further to
We had a surprise when we were banding at Crane Flat the other day; Sarah, the park bird biologist, told us that Dave DeSante, founder of IBP, and Rodney, who currently heads the institute, would be visiting. Both are amazing banders, and have an amazing enthusiasm for birds. They were in the park working on survey transects that Dave has been doing for thirty-two years (without missing a year). We were a little nervous about them coming, but everything was totally fine. They are both really nice, and they said they were really impressed with our speed in processing birds and excitement about banding in
There was a little conflict between our group here and Dave DeSante. Jeff has always told us that we should close nets if they look windy or hot, but Dave thinks it can leave a great impact on the data. It was a classic conflict between field biologists and data managers. Dave seemed a little callous at first, but when we talked about it, he is just concerned that we are taking good data. There is no reason for being here having a minor impact on birds if our data cannot be used. Rodney suggested that we make shorter net runs (~10 minutes). We are still closing nets when in doubt, but it is nice to have other solutions.