Cool birds and cooler nests

Even on cold mornings that feel slow, we’re still seeing an average of 20 species every day we head out into the field, and we usually get a few new species at last.  Today, we saw 19 total, with a few new species and lots of familiar ones.  It was another chilly morning, so the birds weren’t that active right away at 8 am, but we found some pockets of birds as we meandered around the ponds at Walter B. Williams Park.

Canada geese were everywhere; by far the most abundant species today, and the most we’ve seen in one morning so far this semester.

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We got some great, long looks at a lot of species since the habitat was so open and the birds weren’t too active.   Eatern Bluebirds perched on wires (in good and bad lighting), a Great Blue Heron and a few Double-Crested Cormorants sitting in a tree right when we arrived, and a couple looks at a Belted Kingfisher, in flight and perched.

I also saw, but sadly didn’t get to show the class, the first Hermit Thrush since moving to Georgia!  I just love those little drab boring birds that sing such a pretty song.  Other highlights were Carolina wrens, a Red-tailed Hawk calling and soaring, and surprisingly the first European Starlings we’ve seen.   

Full eBird list here.

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The coolest thing we saw (in my opinion) was this nest from last year with the base made almost entirely out of a plastic grocery bag.  Urban birds, I guess, have to get creative with their nesting material!

I’m not sure what built this, maybe a Cardinal?

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Last Saturday, three students and I made a trip to Panola Mountain State Park (about an hour and a half west) to volunteer at a banding station.   It was COLD COLD COLD.  My Wisconsin blood is already thinned out after only a month.  I am ashamed to admit that I spent easily half the time in my car because I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes and I am not a pleasant or happy person when I am so cold that the neurons in my brain are frozen.

It’s hard to tell just how cold this was, but the net poles were frozen to the ground when we were walking around setting up the nets!

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I only held one bird (because I was in the car for most of the good stuff), but each of the students got to hold and release a few, after the banding station manager processed them.  There is nothing in the world that is like the experience of holding a tiny 10 gram bird in your hand.   If you don’t fall in love with birds at that point, there’s no hope for you.  😉

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The station runs every other Saturday, so I’ll probably be going back in a couple weeks.  Maybe after the mornings start to warm up a bit more.

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