Adult Banding Camp Begins!

The lush meadow at McDaniel Lake

The lush meadow at McDaniel Lake. Photo by Andrea Wuenschel.

We arrived at McDaniel Lake for our annual Adult Banding Camp to find the stream higher, the vegetation greener and the mosquitoes hungrier than last year. We started banding on Monday with results that surprised us at first: last year most of our Empidonax flycatchers were of the Hammond’s persuasion.

Dusky Flycatcher in hand

Dusky Flycatcher in hand. Photo by Andrea Wuenschel.

But today we caught five “empids” and all of them were Dusky Flycatchers (with the long bill and the open-faced expression produced by the extensively white lores)! We realized that the difference is that we’re banding here almost two weeks earlier. Duskies migrate south to molt while Hammond’s stick around to molt here in the wet meadows. Last year we must have arrived after most of the Duskies had already left.

Most of the captures are adults, just at the beginning of molt. So far, the only adult that was about done with the molt was a red-breasted nuthatch (also our first recapture) that had only its sixth secondary left.

We also caught our first Evening Grosbeak ever during any of the banding camps of the last 8 years, a female with a brood patch. That’s the 48th species at McDaniel Lake and the 62nd at Meadows banding events.  Not a bad start.

Golden ground squirrel

Golden ground squirrel tuning into Patsy Cline. Photo by Andrea Wuenschel.

A golden-mantled ground-squirrel paused for a moment while checking out the juice stash, perhaps tuning in to the Patsy Cline playing on the iPod.  The country music must have distracted the squirrel, because a little while later a Western rattler with a suspicious bulge stalled out in the middle of our camp.

Rattle snake with a bulge the size of a golden ground squirrel

When we pulled out the snacks on Sunday afternoon, the campers were happy, and the rattler found a spot under a log to digest its meal where it still gets a little sun to speed along its metabolism.

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