Morse Preserve: July 3rd, 2011
By Emma White
In attendance: Ben Vang-Johnson, Clarice Clark, Mark Colombino, Jerry Broadus, Don Norman, Emma White.
Rufous Hummingbird 1
Chestnut-Backed Chickadee 2
Pacific Wren 5
Swainson’s Thrush 4
Cedar Waxwing 2
Orange-Crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Spotted Towhee 3
Song Sparrow 1
Oregon Junco 3
Purple Finch 3
Another day at the Morse Preserve! Six of PSBO’s fabulous volunteers arrived at 5 am ready to band birds, even with the cloudy skies looming threateningly overhead.
As banding began and the day continued, it became apparent that today would be a slow day of banding. By the end of the day we’d caught 26 birds, which was only half the number of birds we’d caught on June 12th at Morse. It was an extremely slow day.
At Morse this year, there have been an unusually high number of captured Pacific Wrens, and specifically, there have been an unusually high number of hatch year Pacific Wrens. According to Don Norman, who was the original bander at the Morse Preserve when banding started there in the 1990s, there were very few, if any, Pacific Wrens present at Morse when the site first began. This year shows how distinctly the numbers of these birds in this area have changed over time. Even on a slow day when we only catch 26 birds, 5 of the birds we caught were hatch year Pacific Wrens. Since the beginning of our banding this summer, PSBO has banded 9 Pacific Wrens, plus another 3 that were recaptures. This is a very large number of one species of birds considering these birds were absent roughly 15 years earlier. Interestingly, though, out of these 12 birds, 10 were hatch year birds, while only 2 were adult birds. All of the recaptured birds had been originally banded earlier this year. This presents some interesting questions. Is this a fluke year for Pacific Wrens? This year has been a huge breeding year for Pacific Wrens at Morse, but the birds we’ve caught were all banded this year, not in previous years. Are any of the hatch year birds born at Morse this year going to return next year? Or, seemingly like Pacific Wrens banded in the past, will they choose a new habitat to raise young in? It will be very interesting to see next year if this same pattern continues, of many juvenile Pacific Wrens present with no past year recaptured adults, or if we’ll see recaptured birds next year.
Out of the 26 birds we banded today, 10 were recaptures; out of the 10 recaptures, one of the birds had been originally banded in a previous year. This lone bird was a female Swainson’s Thrush. Originally banded on August 1st, 2009 as an after second year female, she has come to Morse all three years with a brood patch present, giving evidence that she is probably returning to Morse every year to breed. This is a very different pattern than the one the Pacific Wrens are exhibiting. Instead of only catching hatch year Swainson’s Thrushes, we’ve caught juvenile and adult birds, and many of the adult birds have been recaptures from previous years.
The Morse Preserve is a gorgeous area of land. When you drive in, you’re surrounded on either side by tall trees with smaller plant-life growing along the side of the road. The forest area continues on to the left, while to your right you’ll see an overgrown field. Throughout all of Morse, but mainly in the field, there are swallow boxes set up to provide possible nest sites for the swallows that come to Morse. Today, with all of the downtime in-between net runs because of the small number of birds caught, Clarice took out her box-opening gear and went to see if she could find any current nests or juvenile birds that she could possibly band. Her efforts were mainly for naught though. Out all of the boxes she checked, of which there were probably around 20, she only found one nest with an egg in it. A couple of boxes had failed nests in them, a couple had been taken over by wrens, and one box had even succumbed to the efforts of wasps. Only one box had baby birds in it, and these birds weren’t swallows: they were Black-Capped Chickadees! Approximately four or five chickadees were in the nest, and Clarice estimated that they were probably around one week old. Being this young, they were too young to band, as their legs were still too soft to support a band. Everyone took a look at them before we closed up the box again and left them to enjoy life in peace. The chickadees basically looked like tiny little puff balls with huge yellow gapes around their mouth. Even at one week old, though, they did have some distinctive chickadee characteristics, which made it very easy to identify their species.
One of the 26 birds that we caught today was a Cedar Waxwing. This Cedar Waxwing had 5 distinct “waxy red appendages,” as Pyle likes to call them. The number of waxy tips that a Cedar Waxwing has can help a bander determine the age and sex of that bird, along with other information based on plumage, the amount of black under the bird’s throat, etc.
Our day drew to a close with the clouds still overhead with our grand total of 26 birds for the day. It had definitely been a slow day, but it allowed the banders to explore the rest of the preserve: Clarice and Mark opened all of the swallow boxes, I took photos of some of the plants, and Don tried to identify one species of purple flower based on the color and length of the flower’s hairs. Even though the day was slow, we all still had a lot of fun spending the day at Morse with all of the surrounding wildlife.