Archive for the ‘Cross Island 2012’ Category

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.


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People often ask us, how do you catch birds? Do you chase them with butterfly nets? Do you pounce on them?  No, we catch them with using stationary nets called mist nets.

We keep our nets open 6 hrs, 7 days per week and are checked periodically.  They are spread between three habitat types: forest, coastal scrub, and forest/scrub edge. During this time, we hope birds will fly into our nets which are hard to see when they’re open.  That’s why they’re called mist nets!

Once the birds fly into the nets, we are able to extract them (very carefully) and bring them back to the banding station. Birds are kept in fabric bags until they arrive at the banding station where we identify the species, band and age them, and take several morphological measurements.  Then we say good luck and release them!

Kristina sizing a red-breasted nuthatch’s leg before banding.

Our bird of the week is…the American Redstart!


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Today was a rainy day. A rainy day is a day of rest…well sort of, we still had vegetation surveys to do. For todays post  we just wanted to share some pictures. Enjoy!

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Greetings from Cross Island National Wildlife Refuge!  We are the fall bird banding crew from the University of Maine.  We are here to establish a study site and monitor bird and bat migration.  Data will be used to assess the importance of the relative location and habitat characteristics of migratory species, as well as allow researchers to track any changes in migration due to yearly and future climate change.

But, before we get caught up in all the excitement of banding birds and exploring Cross Island, let us tell you bit about us.

ImageHello! My name is Xeronimo Castañeda.  I am from Menlo Park, California.  This is my first journey out to the east coast and I am stoked to band and see as many birds as I can.  I graduated from CSU Monterey Bay with a B.S. in Marine and Coastal Ecology.  The first time I realized my interest in birds was when I was working as a kayak tour guide naturalist in central coastal California.  Soon after, I worked my first bird job with PRBO Conservation Science, I interned as a nest searcher.  I stayed with them for just over a year and then decided to migrate east to explore and check out all these cool birds I’ve heard so much about.  After this stint I may head back to California or follow the birds south for the winter.   By the way I could eat pizza everyday and currently my favorite bird is the Northern Parula.

ImageHowdy! My name is Mary Beth Benton.  I am from New Richmond, Ohio and a recent graduate of Ohio State University.  My first year bird banding was in South Eastern Arizona with BLM on the San Pedro River National Conservation Area. I then returned to Ohio State to target color band and blood sample Acadian Flycatchers and Northern Cardinals.  I am pumped to be passive banding birds migrating down the east coast!  One of the best parts of the job is seeing life species in the hand.  Currently, my favorite birds are the Spruce Grouse and Yellow-breasted Chat, and I love ice cream!

ImageHey , Kristina Giano here! I’m from Southington, Connecticut. I graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.S. in Natural Resources concentrating in wildlife conservation and from the University of Basel, Switzerland with an M.Sc. in Ecology studying habitat partitioning and activity patterns in viperine and dice snakes. This past summer, I worked for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as a marsh bird surveyor. I’ve also worked with common and roseate terns and black bears. I’ve always been a bird nerd and I’m wicked excited for fall migration this year! My favorite bird is a tie between the marsh wren and the saltmarsh sparrow.  Food wise, my all-time favorite is everything bagels.

Thanks to Captain Andy, we arrived safely to Cross Island on a warm and rainy Thursday morning, August 15th.  We loaded all of our gear and food from a charter boat onto a little dingy and putted our way out to the dock.  The boat house was the first building we approached and we could see that it was well worn and weathered from a life resting on the coast of Maine.  About 40 meters past was our new home!  A two story coast guard rescue house now used to host researchers, us!

We were excited and ready to get to work, but the rain kept us captive, except for Mary Beth, for the remainder of the day.  Fortunately the rain gave way the following day and we were up early to get started preparing the banding site.  The site is along a trail that leaves from behind the house and meanders through the forest out to a rocky beach.   About half way down and at the edge of the forest we set up our banding station.  Throughout the surrounding habitat we set up our array of nets.

The habitat types are scrub, forest and edge.  Currently we are only running eight nets, we ran out of rope to string them up  L.  Capt’ Andy will be resupplying us tomorrow!  Regardless of that, bird activity has been fairly consistent and we have had some good captures.

To date, eight days of banding with eight nets, we have caught 147 birds.  Our most frequently caught bird is the golden-crowned kinglet at 38 captures.  Our species count is at 28!  Not bad for running only eight nets.

Some highlights for us are:

Yellow-breasted Chat, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Mourning Warbler, Red-Eyed Vireo, Brown Creeper, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher…but really they are all cool.

Bird of the week is the GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET!


Peace, until next time!

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