The sun is shining and the weather is sweet, at least for today. The sun gives us energy to run our computer and acoustic devices. Since the acoustics get priority over the computer, we have had to wait a couple weeks for a good sunny day to fully charge our computer, thus post a blog. It keeps us in our toes!
The past few weeks have been spectacular. Only a few days ago, we had some surprise visitors to our banding site: 300 harbor seals! All of which were searching for food, floating around, and calling to each other. We are so lucky to be living on such an amazing island, seeing some beautiful scenery and working with some really cool birds. We have gone on epic adventures exploring the island and we have holed up in our sleeping bags eating PB&Js and reading novels from action adventure, to fantasy, to hiking the Appalachian Trail and more. Of course we are also working, trying to catch as many birds as we can.
To date we have caught over 450 birds in 32 banding days. That’s pretty good considering we are only running 14 nets and many days we have to close early because of wind and or rain. Over the past couple weeks we have been getting some late warbler migrants consisting mostly of Blackpoll Warblers (BLPW). Since we have been seeing so many BLPWs we have noticed some remarkable variations in their condition. To explain, one of the measurements that we record on all birds caught is the amount of fat they carry, fat score. Blowing to separate the feathers we rate the amount of fat filling their furculum, a hollow at the top of the breast. Fat appears yellow to orangish. Most birds we have caught have a fat score from 0-1, meaning they have no fat up to fat lining the furculum’s sides. Recently, the majority of BLPWs we catch score from 2-5. A bird with a fat score of 5 has fat bulging from the furculum and pouring over the sides of the breast all the way down covering the abdomen! These birds are carrying up to 25% of their body weight in fat. The reason for so much fat is that they are gearing up for their nonstop flight to South America for the winter.
Some of the highlights that we have found in our nets are Gray Cheeked Thrush, Bicknell’s Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo, Rusty Blackbird, and Palm Warblers. We have also been spotting Baltimore Orioles around the house. A Brown Thrasher stopped over at our banding site yesterday, pretty cool bird if you ask me! Cross Island is amidst the northern most portion of their range.