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Battle of the Bands

April 17, 2009

Earlier this week I had the opportunity in my to help out at the banding station that the NC Museum of Natural Sciences runs at their Prairie Ridge Ecostation. Now that spring is here for reals, I was looking forward to seeing if any of the new arrivals would get caught up in the nets. Because the museum bands here year round, and has done so for a few years, we can get a pretty good idea of the migratory patterns for some birds that spend any amount of time in the area, which is really cool and always interesting (especially when you re-band a migratory bird who’s returned). But even more important, we’re finding out about the populations of resident birds, especially the Mockingbirds and Bluebirds.

The mission of Prairie Ridge is to provide a place for local school kids to learn about nature. When we capture a Bluebird or Mockingbird we color-band them, placing a second colored band on each of their legs in addition to the normal aluminum band. This way individual birds can be identified through regular optics by their unique combination of bands. The staff at Prairie Ridge will send groups out to a certain area with the mission to find a Bluebird, for instance, with a green band and white band, and eventually learn about that specific bird’s life history at the Ecostation. It’s a cool idea, and we’re eventually working our way through the Mockers and Bluebirds that find their way into the nets. But enough about that, here’s a banding station hard at work.

What did we catch? Well, the rain kept us from getting the nets out during the busiest time of the morning, but we did all right with some good variety. I saw my first Orchard Oriole of the year, though it never got close to our nets even though I was hoping it would. We caught a Mourning Dove which is not a bird we band, as it’s technically a game bird. That didn’t stop us from checking out the soft purple iridescence on it’s neck though.

The most interesting birds we got, at least to me, were the trio of Savannah Sparrows. Two of them were the nominate savanna subspecies, common across the eastern US, but I think this guy is one of the oblitus birds from a bit further west. It’s supercilium is far more extensively yellow, with even a yellow eyering, and it was a little greenish where the others were buffy, and more streaky on the breast. But I don’t know, any sparrow experts out there want to take a crack at it?

Another good morning at Prairie Ridge. We’ll be back out there again before the end of the month. With spring in full swing by then, maybe we’ll get some warblers too.

  1. Kelly permalink
    April 20, 2009 7:07 am

    …love that little Savannah Sparrow. I have been chasing one around a local park for the past 3 weeks, but as yet, he has avoided detection! They are not too common around here…

  2. Nate permalink
    April 21, 2009 4:34 pm

    @Kelly- They’re feisty little buggers. A bit more nippy than the other sparrows we catch.

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