Monday, September 7, 2015

American Redstart Among Birds Banded at Seven Islands

A busy morning of banding at Tennessee's Seven Islands State Birding Park resulted in 66 birds banded and 10 recaptures for a total of 76 birds processed by Mark Armstrong and his banding team on September 6th.
Eleven species were captured including a lovely female American Redstart shown below being held in a bander's grip..
The female of the species has a gray head with olive back and wings.  She is beautifully marked with bright yellow areas and has a white underbelly.  The male of the species is black and marked with reddish-orange.

Above, Mark places a band on a female American Redstart, and below, a look at the yellow in her striking tail.
Redstarts, a species member of the wood warbler family, are frequently seen fanning their tails while foraging as illustrated in my sketch below.
The banding station is set up on the front porch of an historic farm house on the Seven Islands park property. Banding team members arrived at 6:30 a.m. to erect the nets before daylight.

The first "net run" occurs at 7:30 a.m. when members of the team check all of the nets to remove birds that have been captured.  Each bird is placed in a cloth bag and held until processed at the banding station.  Nets are checked at regular intervals through out the morning until the nets are taken down, usually at 11:00 a.m.
Above, Billie Cantwell (center) and Mark Armstrong process birds.
Birds are held in soft cloth bags that help to keep them calm while waiting to be processed.
After the band is attached to the bird's leg, the bird is examined for health and age. Measurements of the wing and tail are taken, the skull and belly are examined, and the bird is weighed before release. The information recorded helps to track the health and changes in the bird population at Seven Islands, as well as, contributes to grassland research.  
Above, Mark opens a band before placing it on the leg of a Field Sparrow.  25 field sparrows were banded, along with 3 recaptured for a total of 28 processed.  Field Sparrows are one of our year-around grassland species.  The second most common species was the Indigo Bunting for a total of 15 banded.  

Above and below, Billie Cantwell examines a female Blue Grosbeak.  This bird was recaptured and originally banded in May of this year.  Below, Mark and Billie discuss the molting pattern of the feathers to affirm the bird's age.  Female Blue Grosbeaks are brown with a hint of blue in their shoulder feathers, while the males are bright blue with orange bars.
Below, Gar Secrist brings a bird back from the net, accompanied by park visitors. Visitors are welcome to observe the banding process.

Mark measures the wing of a Brown Thrasher, above, one of the largest birds captured for the day. The size and personality of a thrasher makes it a fun bird for children to experience.
Richard Secrist shows a young visitor the bright yellow eyes of the thrasher.  Brown Thrashers have large curved beaks and beautiful rust plumage with a cream breast and belly with rust spots.  Very striking birds.

Another highlight of the morning was the capture of a young hummingbird.  Billie Cantwell banded the juvenile and recorded the details.
Above and below, she measures its wing and beak.
With a magnifying loop, she checks for grooving in the juvenile's beak.  Grooving helps the bander to age the bird.  The grooving indicates growth in the beak, a characteristic of juveniles.
For release, Billie places the hummingbird in the hand of one of our visitors.

An Eastern Kingbird was the second largest bird captured at the net.  Above, Mark is measuring her tail.  A flycatcher species that is always fun to see at close range, kingbirds breed in eastern North America and overwinter in South America, 
Situated on more than 410 acres along the French Broad River, Seven Islands State Birding Park includes raparian zones (where land and water meet) and open grassland habitat planted with native grasses, wildflowers, shrubby fruit-bearing plants, and trees, providing favored habitat and food sources for many grassland species and migrating warblers.
Mark Armstrong is a Master Bander of hummingbirds and songbirds.  Billie Cantwell is a banding apprentice and past president of the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.

Visit my previous posts on bird banding.
Blue Grosbeak
Bird Banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park
Knoxville Chapter, Tennessee Ornithological Society
Visit the Knoxville Chapter of TOS on Facebook
Seven Islands State Birding Park
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge now Seven Islands State Birding Park

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival Holds Outstanding Event!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration is in full swing in Tennessee making this an exciting time of year for hummingbird lovers!  
The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird shown above is molting feathers, meaning the old worn ones are falling out and being replaced with new ones.  Tiny white tubules, that become the feather's shaft, hold the feathers as they grow.  Molting during migration is a sign of health, according to Master Bander, Mark Armstrong.  It means the hummingbird has enough energy reserves, or fat stored, for both migration and healthy growth.
Photo credit:  Jody Stone

On Saturday, Aug 22nd, the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and Ijams Nature Center hosted their fifth annual Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival in Knoxville and the crowd of people attending were enthusiastic and eager to enjoy the many nature activities offered by the festival.

Photo credit:  Tom Howe

Organized by talented KTOS member, Billie Cantwell, the event attracted more than 1300 visitors who enjoyed hummingbird banding, nature walks, wildlife demonstrations, expert speakers, food and arts and crafts vendors and exciting children's activities!
Photo credit:  Susan Baumgardner

The popular highlight of the event is the hummingbird banding demonstrations offered by Mark Armstrong, Master Bander of hummingbirds and songbirds.
Photo credit:  Jody Stone.   Mark Armstrong examines a hummingbird.

Below, volunteer Andy Troutman removes a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird from one of the bander's traps.  Hummingbirds enter the trap to access the feeder and a door is lowered with an attached line.  

Photo credit:  Susan Baumgardner.  

Once removed from the trap, the hummer is placed in a mesh bag and transported to the bander.
Photo credit:  Jody Stone  

Photo credit:  Susan Baumgardner.

Mark first checks the hummers legs to be sure there is no current band.  He then secures a numbered band around its leg and examines the hummer for age, sex and health.  Measurements are recorded for the tail and beak and the belly is checked for fat to help determine overall health. If the individual is a juvenile male, he also records the number of red feathers on the throat.
Photo credit:  Jody Stone.

Above, Mark Armstrong attaches a numbered band to a hummingbird's leg.  The small stocking covers the hummers head and helps to keep it calm.  Watch the video below to see banding in progress.

Video credit:  Jody Stone

Photo credit:  Susan Baumgarder.

Above, Patty Ford gives visitors a close look at a hummingbird before release and below, she gently places a hummingbird in a child's hand for the release.    
Photo credit:  Jody Stone.

The banding station banded 28 hummingbirds and had one male re-capture that was originally banded at the festival three years ago.  The average life-span of a male hummingbird is 1.4 years and the oldest recorded male hummingbird was five years old.  Our re-captured bird is doing well!
I was introduced to hummingbird banding in 2009 at the first banding demonstration held at Ijams Nature Center, sponsored by KTOS, and it has been exciting to watch this event expand and attract the large crowds attending today.  
Photo credit:  Warren Hamlin.  

Above left, my exhibit table at the festival and (right) Stephen Lyn Bales, author, artist and naturalist discussing his natural history books.
             "Hummingbird and Million Bells" -- watercolor by Vickie Henderson

Links and Resources:

Tennessee Wildside video of 2013 festival

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Tiny Hummingbird and a Great Big Trailer!

It was so much fun to see this brand new shiny Conestoga Trailer with my hummingbird image featured on its tail! 
Photo credit:  Melissa Carter

Conestoga has been putting wildlife images on the tails of its trailers for sometime now, featuring both birds and mammals.  You can see some of these images at their gallery featuring their "trailer tails".

One of my birding friends, Wallace Coffey of Bristol, TN, happened to see a trailer with three juvenile owls on the back.  He was so impressed, he asked the driver how the birds happened to be there.  The driver was very cordial and said he was asked about the wildlife art frequently.  He said the owner of the company was a conscientious conservationist and very environment-minded. Wallace, in turn, sent me an email, "Wouldn't it be fun to see a tiny hummingbird featured on the back of one of those big trailers?"  I thought it was a great idea, too!
This week it happened.  The hummingbird image was added to Conestoga's newest trailer by Creative Edge Graphics.  I went to see it yesterday and was wowed. It is stunning! Shiny and beautiful with red lettering matching the red Cardinal Flower visited by a tiny juvenile hummingbird.  This is what drivers on the road will see when they happen to be behind this trailer--a hummingbird traveling all over the country to remind everyone to take care of our environment!
As if hummingbirds visiting our feeders and flowers isn't enough, the timing of this trailer release just adds more excitement as we look forward to our upcoming hummingbird festival.

The Wonder of Hummingbird Festival takes place in Knoxville, Tennessee, at Ijams Nature Center on Saturday, August 22nd.  If you have not already done so, mark your calendar!  The festival features hummingbird banding, expert speakers, nature walks, wildlife demonstrations, and vendors selling food and drinks, native plants and arts and crafts.
                                                                                   Photo credit:  Jody Stone

I will be there with a table of my art.  Come by and say, hello!  Last year one group of hummingbird enthusiasts from Indiana planned their trip to the Smoky Mountains so they could also take in the festival.  Visit this link to see some of last year's festival fun:  Wonder of Hummingbirds.

To see more images of this hummingbird, visit:  Hummingbirds and Pollen

Also visit Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival at East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism

Monday, May 25, 2015

Woodpeckers in Spring

I often take my seed feeders down during the spring and summer months, primarily because a break disperses finch species and helps prevent the spread of finch disease, but also because I have limited space for both storage and feeding.   My focus generally turns to hummingbirds as they arrive in mid-April.
Hummer and Downy                           Watercolor by Vickie Henderson

This year, I took down the seed feeders but left up suet and nut feeders for woodpeckers and other nut-loving birds, and I have been generously rewarded with many fun observations. I noticed yesterday that my neighborhood downies are still coming to the hummingbird nectar to drink!
Male Downy Woodpecker feeding juvenile             Photo credit:  Vickie Henderson

Downy Woodpeckers are now being followed to the feeder by fluffy young and I am hoping that the Red-bellied pair and the Hairy Woodpecker pair will soon be showing up with their young tagging along, too.  Wouldn't that be a treat--to see a Hairy juvenile!  
Male Downy, above, with juvenile below.          Photo credit: Vickie Henderson

I have had Hairy Woodpeckers come to the winter feeders in the past, but have never spotted them in the breeding season until now. Like our other backyard woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers don't migrate but stay near their territories throughout the year. Until now, it was unknown to me if the male Hairy I was seeing actually had a mate and was nesting in the area. Two days ago, I spotted a female at the feeder!

In the image below, you can see the enormous size of the Hairy's bill, approximately the same length as the width of his head.  He also has the distinctive comma mark that extends to his breast and no lateral stripes on his tail.  To recognize him, you also have to keep in mind his size--closer to the red-belly's size than the size of a downy.
Hairy Woodpecker                                   Photo credit:  Vickie Henderson

Even though the frequency of my blog posts has slowed recently, I will certainly post a picture of a Hairy juvenile if I am fortunate enough to see one!

My time and energy is currently concentrated on my book project which has a nearing deadline.  The book is focused on birds, of course!  My observations of birds, bits of life history for each highlighted species, and stories and history about each bird from the pioneer ornithologists that first discovered and recorded bird species in Tennessee are all included in the book. The Tennessee Ornithological Society, the care-taker and creator of Tennessee's bird history, is celebrating 100 years of bird study and enjoyment this year, making it the oldest conservation organization in Tennessee.

The book will be printed in full-color so I can generously illustrate it with my own watercolors along with many historic illustrations and photographs.
Hairy Woodpecker                                   Photo credit:  Vickie Henderson

If you haven't already subscribed to this blog, you will find the email subscription form at the top of the right-hand sidebar.  Once done, the next blog post will be delivered to you by email.  This is a great way to be alerted to a new blog post and to keep up-to-date on the book's progress!
Detail, Northern Ficker in Snow, watercolor in progress by Vickie Henderson

Links and Resources:

Sketch Book--Red-shouldered Hawk Territory
Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Blog
Watercolors of Birds
Detail of "Hummer and Downy"
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Bird-banding at Seven Islands

Bird-banding at Seven Islands
Photo courtesy of Karen Wilkenson

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Me and Denali--2012

Me and Denali--2012
Photo courtesy of Bob King

For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham