Archive for July, 2008

Questions and Answers about Welder

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Questions from Kay Loughman with answers from Welder’s Selma Glasscock.

1. Who is running the banding operation, and what is it’s goal?

John Rappole is in charge of the banding operation. It’s goal is to band birds of the target species, i.e., those found occurring north of the breeding range as reported by Oberholser (1974) (candidates listed in Table 1 – see attached). Birds will be captured using mist nets placed at intervals near the attraction station. These nets will be 12 m in length x 2.6 m in height, and of variable mesh size according to the species targeted (24 mm for hummingbirds, 30 mm for warblers, buntings, and vireos, 36 mm for orioles, 61 mm for jays, and 121 mm for doves). Each captive will be weighed, sexed, aged, checked for molt and subcutaneous fat, checked for brood patch and cloacal protuberance, banded with a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service aluminum band, and given an individually-unique color-band sequence. This process of capture and banding of extra-limital species will be done throughout the Welder Wildlife Refuge as well as at selected sites beyond the refuge borders.

2. What species are being color-banded, and what do the color bands mean?

Any bird from a target species will be color banded. The color bands simply allow us to tell one individual from another.

3. How old is the Welder species checklist? Will our observations help them to update it?

The Welder checklist is revised as necessary. Yes, birders in the CONE project may help to update the list if they capture a species that has never been recorded on the refuge – or if they are capturing birds in seasons other than those in which it is listed. As far as the abundance indices on the checklist, there is less of a chance that their observations can affect change there because bird populations and abundances may vary dramaticallyfrom year to year.

4. Why is Welder still putting red food coloring in the hummer feeders? That practice went out with hummingbird research people decades ago!

Here is Dr. Rappole’s response to this question:
“The reasons that I have chosen to use red dye in the hummingbird feeders are as follows:
1. There are two species of hummingbirds that may occur at Welder as breeders that were not present as breeders 30 years ago: Black-chinned Hummingbird and Buff-bellied Hummingbird.
2. I wish to document their presence and seasonal persistence at Welder.
3. Red dye is highly attractive to hummingbirds, and I want any new birds to find the feeders as quickly as possible. As you say, once the birds know where the feed is, no dye is necessary. However, we do not know whether members of these species are present for days, weeks, or months at Welder, or if they are, whether or not they represent the same individuals.
4. There are no data to indicate that the red dye that is currently marketed is harmful to birds or any other vertebrate, including humans.”

5. When there’s a “mystery bird” at Welder, is there a local birder we can contact to check it out?

If John Callender wants to send me a photo of the bird directly, then I can take a quick look to see if it is identifiable from the photo. I really do not have time to go to the website and search for the images.

6. And by the same token, are there things the local folks might want us to watch for?

There may be from time to time and I can let John Callender know about these so he can post them.

American Robin!

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

We should arrange for hurricanes more often. User yan snapped the following photo that I’m inclined to call an American Robin, the first for CONE Welder, this afternoon at 2:40:

Here’s a zoomed-in version of the shot:

Looks like a Robin to me. If we get the ID, that will be two new species for the game in one day. Not bad. 🙂

Update: We’ve now got the ID. Yay!

Prothonotary Warbler!

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Look what Hurricane Dolly blew in this morning: CONE Welder’s first warbler, a beautiful Prothonotary photographed twice by idbirds:

Congratulations, idbirds!

Update: I should mention that we previously got a shot of what I think was probably a Louisiana Waterthrush. But it was never ID’d, which makes this the first official warbler in the game.

Our Little Chickadee!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

The latest species in the game is a Carolina Chickadee that showed up this morning on the platform feeder. Honors for the first shot went to birdbrain:

My favorite shot of the bunch was this great close-up by vanilla:

Congratulations to everyone who got a shot of this fun new bird!

Mystery Bunting?

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Check out these two shots that txbird got this afternoon around 3:30:

I’m leaning toward “bunting” on these, based on the general shape and pattern, as well as the fact that it’s perched on the same plant we’ve seen buntings feeding on a bunch over the last month or so. Especially in that second shot, I’m getting a subtle sense of some blue coloration — could it maybe be an immature male Indigo Bunting? We had a single beautiful shot of an adult male Indigo Bunting way back near the start of CONE Welder, on May 3, and then five more shots of a male on June 24. The range maps in Sibley, and the Welder checklist, both seem to suggest that it’s more of a spring and fall migrant than a summer resident, but I can’t think what else that bird might be.

I’m curious what others think.

Recent White-winged Dove Appearances

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

It had been the rarest bird in the game, I believe, in terms of number of successful IDs, with just one image, this one, taken back on May 18 by birderbf:

But then yesterday birdbrain and txbirds got the following two shots on the tray feeder:

And today the following three shots don’t yet have IDs, but I’m pretty sure that’s the same species. These are by leacox, birdbrain, and anneelizabeth:

That last one by anneelizabeth is really interesting; I think it might be a blurry video capture of the bird opening its wings. Cool!

Common Ground Dove!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

New species today, with three shots, all by rafa:

Easy to mistake for an Inca Dove to a casual glance, but check out the dark markings on the wings. Congratulations, rafa!

7/11 Mystery Bird #3

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

I had overlooked this, but rafa alerted me to it in email. Check out this very interesting shot taken by breffni yesterday at 8:48 a.m.:

That’s a male Red-winged Blackbird in the middle of the shot, but what is that bird in the lower left? In the comments on the shot, idbirds asserts that it isn’t a Northern Mockingbird because of the length of the tail, and suggests it could be a juvenile Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Personally, I think either bird is possible. That tail doesn’t necessarily look longer than a mockingbird’s to me. The end of the tail also doesn’t look much like what Sibley shows for the juvenile Scissor-tailed (a bird I don’t know from personal experience, so I’m kind of dependent on field guides). The Sibley illustration seems to show that the tail of the juvenile flycatcher is distinctly notched; this shot seems to be right in the middle between the squared-off tail tip of a mockingbird and the notched tip of the flycatcher.

I’m curious what others think. Is this a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher? Or a Northern Mockingbird? I’m pretty sure it’s one or the other, but I’m really up in the air as to which one.

Thanks to breffni for getting this very interesting shot, and to rafa for calling my attention to it.

7/11 Mystery Bird #2

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Here are some shots from today of what looks like a new bird for the game, at least if we can figure out what it is. These four shots were all by txbird; either no one else was on the system at the time, no one else was paying attention, or no one else had any shots left:

It’s clearly a flycatcher, and the overall color pattern says Myiarchus to me. If I were seeing this bird around my Southern California home, I wouldn’t even wonder; I’d call it an Ash-throated Flycatcher and be done with it (which I realize is a little bit bogus; rarities happen, after all). But in the south-central Texas environs of CONE Welder things are more complicated.

Sibley shows three species of Myiarchus flycatchers near CONE Welder in the summertime: Ash-throated, Brown-crested (which is a species of interest in the shifting-breeding-range study), and (maybe) Great Crested. The Welder checklist gives the following:

  S S F W
Ash-throated Flycatcher R U  
Great Crested Flycatcher O O
Brown-crested Flycatcher R U  

The three species are quite similar-looking, and even though we’ve got a number of excellent shots here, I can’t say that I’m confident based on appearance which one of the three birds to call it. But overall I guess if I had to pick something I’d pick Ash-throated Flycatcher: It looks as much like that to me as it does either of the others, and the Sibley range map and the Welder checklist both agree that it’s unambiguously there in summer. But I really don’t know.

I’d definitely be interested in whether Dr. Glasscock has any opinion about this bird’s ID. And of course, it goes without saying that I’ll be watching closely to see if we can get any more shots of this very interesting bird. Thanks, txbird, for doing such a great job on the camera!

7/11 Mystery Bird #1

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Here are a bunch of shots of a mystery bird from earlier today. I’m assuming these are all of the same bird, but I wasn’t on the camera at the time, and don’t really know that. The shots are by birdbrain, txbird, birdbrain, kryptonkay, birdbrain, and kryptonkay, respectively:

That hint of a light eyestripe running back from the eye in the first shot gives me pause; the first thing I thought when I saw that was, whoa, is that a female House Sparrow? But even with that, I think I’d vote for a female Painted Bunting. It’s the second shot that pushes me that way. The bird appears to be feeding on the same plant’s seeds that we’ve been seeing the Painted Bunting feeding on lately, and it’s going about it in what looks to me like a fairly bunting-like manner.

What do the rest of you think?