More mist-netting, more birds!

Another day of mist-netting complete!  This time we doubled our catch rate from last week!  

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Two weeks ago, we set out three bird feeders that we have been keeping full of bird seed, so that we could get the birds used to those locations.  We set the bird feeders in locations that I knew would be good for setting up mist-nets.  Luckily, the weather was very overcast, so the concerns I had about the nets getting sunlit throughout the day were not an issue.  It was perfect weather today!

We caught 6 birds, 4 different species, and all new species (in the hand, sadly none were completely new to the class) – a pair of Ruby-crowned kinglets, a Carolina Chickadee, an Eastern Phoebe, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler.  

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We’re not allowed to band the bids unless they are House Sparrows (they aren’t protected by the Migratory bird Treaty Act), but I am letting the students hold the birds and learn how to take some basic measurements.   Today we were learning about wing chord and tail feather measuring.

I also explained things that we look at and for on the birds’ feathers.  We saw some examples of feather wear in the flight feather primaries and we saw what looked like some molted feathers that were nearly grown out.  

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Just getting experience holding birds, and flipping them around in your hands is helpful before you start to take some of the measurements, so any experience doing that is great.  I think most of the class got to hold several birds today.

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This is what happens when you give your phone to students to take pictures.  

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There are always multiple highlights of the day when you are mist-netting (really, the whole day is a highlight), but today we got to see 2 very VERY cool things!

The first thing was that we got a very close look at 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets.   This might not sound that exciting to seasoned birders, but we’ve seen many in the field and that ruby crown is always so elusive.  So, finally, with the birds in our hands, we were able to blow on their heads and actually see the ruby crown for which they are named.   

I think my class was beginning to think I was lying to them about that.

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Yeah sure there’s a Ruby crown on these birds, Dr. Stumpf.

The second highlight, that I may have freaked out about a little bit, was catching an Eastern Phoebe WITH A BROOD PATCH!!   This is incredible to me, being from Wisconsin.  I didn’t know that they would be breeding right now!  In fact, I need to look up the records for this species to see if this has been recorded. 

Not only was there a brood patch, but it was a wrinkly brood patch, which means that she was sitting on late eggs or possibly even nestlings!  Too bad I wasn’t prepared – the mirror poles were in my office.

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I didn’t get a picture of the actual brood patch, unfortunately.  I was too concerned when I saw the brood patch, because we’d had the bird for quite a while at that point and I didn’t want her to be away from her nest for too long.  But this is a picture of a couple students discovering that there was indeed a brood patch.

There’s only one thing I love more than mistnetting birds and that is teaching students how to mist net birds.  

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I could do this all day every day.   I still can’t believe this is my job!

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