Meet SNAG (his leg bands are Sky blue – browN – Aluminum – Green). He lives at approx. 3100 ft above sea level, in a campground along Highway 120 in Stanislaus National Forest. He seems to be doing well: he has a mate, and when I say he lives in a campground, well… actually his territory appears to encompass the entire campground!
His mass is about normal for what we’ve been seeing – 17.6 grams – and he has no visible subcutaneous fat, like most of the juncos we’ve caught. So he’s probably fine, but he could stand to eat more. And he’s working on it: when we caught him he had prey in his bill! They look like aphids to me, but I haven’t really tried to identify them yet.
In the mid-elevation sites we visited last week, juncos were reliably everywhere. The challenge was luring them into the nets.
Not so in the low-elevation sites we just visited. We spent most of our time looking for juncos; once we found them, we had them in the nets sometimes within thirty seconds of starting playback. This was the land of the few aggressive juncos.
SALO, the first low-elevation junco we caught
At three sites we found just eight juncos, compared to eighteen at the three mid-elevation sites. This is not an elevational difference I anticipated, which is neat!
We band it with the uniquely numbered US Fish & Wildlife band. This is the first priority because once the bird has this on, we can identify it later even if it escapes. Then we add the three colored leg bands so that we can identify it later even from a distance.