When you’re target netting, as we are, you use just a few nets and play the song of the bird species you want to catch to lure them into the nets. Even so, sometimes you accidentally catch other things.

The bycatch we dreaded was the stinging insects: we caught two bees and three wasps last week. We did get all of them freed, but it was very time-consuming, and was more time spent closer to these stinging guys than I really ever wanted. Lots of disentangling one body part and then flinching back, disentangling another and flinching back…

It’s hard not to like avian bycatch, though. We extract them from nets and simply release them—I don’t have a permit to do anything with any species besides juncos—but still it’s fun to handle other bird species, and to see them up close. Continue reading

We caught juncos

The first field expedition was a success! Almost exclusively thanks to the ingenuity, good mist netting sense, and all around awesomeness of my three field assistants. Over three sites we banded a total of 18 juncos. And there are many, many juncos still to go!

Since I’m on field time – wake up at 5:30, go to bed at 9:00 – I’m ready to crash, so I’ll leave you with some photos for now, with more info to come in the future.

SSOA, the first junco we banded

ELEA, unintentionally recaptured

Extracting ELEA from the net


Ready or not, here we come

Now that I have my permit and (almost) all my gear, it’s time to get out there and start catching juncos! With my three awesome field assistants I hope to find, band, and monitor lots of juncos.

There won’t be any new posts until I get back, since I’ve been so busy preparing that I haven’t had time to write any in advance. Sorry!

Four people need a lot of food to live for a week, and apparently I need a lot of gear to study juncos… This was my living room/staging area last night:

My roommate is being patient with this because in a few weeks she’ll be filling our living room with her own field gear. I love living with a fellow field biologist!

Back with news in a week. In the meantime, wish Q good luck on his quals!

Legal! And scrambling

I got my state permit! I am now legally allowed to catch and band juncos in my low elevation sites. (My high elevation sites have an additional permit I’m still waiting on.) Yay!

I could band him

I could band her

Less awesomely, some equipment that I expected to have by now is backordered, so I’m going to have to improvise a little. But I’m fortunate that it’s nothing I can’t improvise. I’ve spent the last few days scrambling to get things that I really couldn’t do without, and it seems like all of that has been successful, so I’m happy.

Featured paper: nest predation

Corey Tarwater. 2008. Predators at nests of the Western Slaty Antshrike (Thamnophilus atrinucha). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, volume 120(3): pp 620-624.

Nest predation is a major worry for most birds. Chicks in the nest are essentially helpless, and parents usually can’t do much to stop predators, although they will try. Losing broods to predation is common. In this study, 79% of nests were lost to predation. If you’re a Western Slaty Antshrike, you can expect 4 out of every 5 broods of chicks you have to get eaten!

Yet actually seeing these—or any—predation events is extremely rare. Dr. Tarwater describes five nest predation events on Western Slaty Antshrikes (small, cryptic brownish birds) in Panama, one she observed in person and the rest of which she caught on video.

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Baby gecko!

Fair warning: this is not related to bird research at all.

I’ve had pet crested geckos (Rhacodactylus ciliatus) for about four years. They’re great little animals for a busy grad student because they’re low-maintenance, not emotionally needy, and they look like tiny smiling dragons.

Corusc the crested gecko

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