Spring Count

I had a great time birding on Saturday morning for the Spring count.  My list for the day, from just before sunrise to about 2 PM.

60 species

Eastern Bluebird

Wild Turkey  4
Turkey Vulture  7
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Chuck-will’s-widow  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Red-headed Woodpecker  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  4
Downy Woodpecker  3
Northern Flicker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  6
Eastern Wood-Pewee  16
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
White-eyed Vireo  5
Red-eyed Vireo  30
Blue Jay  5

Nashville Warbler

American Crow  19
Cliff Swallow  6
Carolina Chickadee  12
Tufted Titmouse  8
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  11
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  13
Eastern Bluebird  3
Swainson’s Thrush  2
Wood Thrush  16
American Robin  7
Gray Catbird  1
Brown Thrasher  4
European Starling  10
Ovenbird  24
Blue-winged Warbler  4
Black-and-white Warbler  5
Nashville Warbler  3
Common Yellowthroat  6
Hooded Warbler  24
American Redstart  5


Northern Parula  2
Magnolia Warbler  1
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  2
Chestnut-sided Warbler  5
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-throated Warbler  1
Prairie Warbler  6
Wilson’s Warbler  1
Yellow-breasted Chat  10
Eastern Towhee  9
Chipping Sparrow  7
Song Sparrow  8
Scarlet Tanager  5
Northern Cardinal  19
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  4
Indigo Bunting  18
Red-winged Blackbird  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
Baltimore Oriole  4
American Goldfinch  2

What I Learned Today

That you don’t watch a documentary on the Kentucky Bigfoot the night before you go banding alone before sunrise in a foggy misty field.  That squirrels cutting walnuts from trees are potentially dangerous monsters.  That howling coyotes and vocalizing barred owls are creepy when it’s dark and foggy.  That you have to have a sense of humor and real dedication to be doing this…or be a little bit nuts.

The day warmed quickly and more birds started moving after the fog lifted.  A new species for me was this lovely yellow-throated vireo.

Also banded a nice hermit thrush, easily separated from other thrushes by the noticeably reddish tail.

The colors are beginning to show and I’m enjoying the changes taking place in the field where I’m banding.  I set up the feeders at home and I’m getting the first regulars – Carolina chickadees, white and red breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, and red-bellied woodpeckers.  Waiting for the goldfinches.  They are in the fields, but haven’t hit the feeders yet.

Life at the Beach

I’m finally settled and back online after a wonderful, leisurely drive from NJ to Florida.   I spent a few days with family while I looked for a place to call home – and then I found it.  A little blue cottage, one short block from the Gulf of Mexico.  Works for me….

black skimmers and assorted terns

black skimmers and assorted terns

I already have a new favorite bird – the black skimmer.  Can’t be helped, after spending an hour a couple of days ago sitting in the sand on the beach, surrounded by about 100 of these weird but amazing birds.  Sorry I don’t have a better photo, but I didn’t have my camera with me on the beach that day.  Above photo is from a birding trip yesterday, in very cold and windy conditions, but a great birding day nevertheless.  BUT, Lynne at Hasty Brook has posted a great photo of a skimmer on her blog, so check it out there. 

Needless to say, given my new surroundings and some other changes taking place, the focus of Natural Notes is going to change.  But first, some explanations are in order.

Raccoon Ridge Bird Observatory will discontinue year-round banding and band only during the spring and fall migrations.  Two major changes have adversely affected our ability to function as a constant-effort banding station.  First, the YMCA camp where we are located has doubled its camp attendance in the last year and a half, resulting in more people and more noise on a more consistent basis.  The increased noise and disturbance is having a detrimental effect on our breeding and migrant species. Most of the juveniles of resident species banded this season showed signs of stress, as evidenced by depigmented feather barring or stress lines.  Numbers of birds caught and observed were significantly reduced from the first year of operation. 

Second, if you’ve been reading this blog at all this spring and fall, you are already aware of our black bear problems.  The bears are becoming increasingly unafraid, and even though they do run away – far too many times it’s been through our nets.  Bear cubs seem to like to play with closed nets, sometimes knocking poles to the ground.  If bears weren’t enough of a problem – add the deer that like to run through nets as well.  Most of the new nets purchased last year have huge holes in them now, and at close to $100 each, it’s no longer amusing.

So, instead of my staying in NJ and enduring yet another cold, dreary winter, I opted to move to Florida.  Cailin, who has been banding with me at RRBO, will continue the banding program there during the seasonal migrations.  I will be working here in a seabird hospital, living on the beach, writing, and banding occasionally with other established stations. 

So, Natural Notes is going tropical, and I’ll be writing more about seabirds and Florida nature.  Trust me, it’s awesome!  And of course, Cailin and I will be in close communication, so come spring, I will share any unusual banding info from RRBO. 

Well, enough for today.  Thanks to all my loyal readers.  Time to hit the beach.  Life is good.

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