Banding a nest

It’s rare that I have photos of the process of banding a nest, since usually everyone is holding a chick and we don’t have any extra hands for photographic documentation. For a few nests, however, I was lucky enough to have my father with us, and boy does he like to photograph things! Thanks to him I can show you what it looks like when we band a nest.

EDIT: If you click on these (or any photos on this blog) you can see them bigger.

The nest. If you click to expand it and look closely you can see the female sitting on it.

The nest, tucked next to the clump of plants in the center. If you look closely you can see Mom sitting on it.

Me taking the chicks from the nest, with Kyle ready to catch any runners.

Me taking the chicks from the nest, with Kyle ready to catch any runners.
Photo by M. LaBarbera

Often when you approach the nest, the female will flare her tail and run around on the ground to try to draw your attention away from the nest. This is a tail-on view of Mom doing that. Photo by M. LaBarbera

Often when you approach the nest, the female will flare her tail and spread her wings and run around on the ground to try to draw your attention away from the nest. This is a tail-on view of Mom doing that.
Photo by M. LaBarbera

Mom, angrily chipping at us. Photo by M. LaBarbera

Mom, angrily chipping at us.
Photo by M. LaBarbera

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Update on The Nest That Came Back

We banded the chicks from The Nest That Came Back From The Dead. They were all a bit small, looking about a day younger than their actual age; that might be because of their pinecone encounter, but it also might simply be that they aren’t getting much food. They hatched pretty late in the season, so there aren’t as many insects out now, and we’ve only ever seen one parent feeding them. Their “single mom” may be having trouble finding enough food for the three of them.

That may not sound great, but the important thing is that they’re alive. If they can make it another two weeks, they’ll be flighted and fattening themselves on fall’s plentiful seeds. The biggest of the chicks, ROAN, clearly can’t wait to be flying:

Big sister ROAN

Big sister ROAN

I can do it!!

I can do it!!

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The fleeting beauty of the fall molt

As fledglings undergo their fall molt (the Prebasic I molt), their appearance changes from obvious-youngster to apparent-adult. In the middle of that transition, they look a little… wild. It’s a strange and fleeting look, here-today-and-gone-in-two-weeks. We’ve caught enough molting fledglings that I’ve been able to put together a series of photos showing the transition.

Fledgling juncos start out a streaky light brown, with dark bills and yellow gapes.

Young fledgling GRAS

Young fledgling GRAS

As they get older, the yellow gape shrinks.

Older fledgling KALI. Note the remnant of yellow gape at the edge of the bill.

Older fledgling KALI. Note the remnant of yellow gape at the edge of the bill.

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The nest that came back from the dead

This summer we have lost nests to logging, cows, and natural junco predators. None of those shocked me. A pinecone as death-dealer, however, was a surprise.

2013_NCB1When I took this picture, I thought that this nest was dead. The chick you see was completely motionless and stone cold. The pinecone—which was not supposed to be in the nest—had (we think) prevented the female from warming her chicks up, and without their mother’s warmth these very young, naked chicks quickly got too cold.

But when I took the pinecone out to count chick bodies, one of the bodies moved. My field assistant and I took the chicks—there were three, all as cold as the morning mountaintop air—in our warm hands. I still thought they were probably dead: recently dead things may twitch when disturbed.

But as the tiny bodies began to feel less chilly, they squirmed more and more.

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AMLE is watching you

Not that I have favorites, but AMLE (Amelie) is my new favorite junco. Most juncos get a bit dejected by the end of the banding process (don’t worry—as soon as they realize we’re letting them go, they perk up), but she was sharp the entire time. When it was time to take pictures, she glared daggers at us.

2013_AMLE5When I lowered her to get a better shot of the top of her head, she held her gaze—and her head—steady. Her body went down but her head stayed up.

2013_AMLE4

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More baby pictures

Recently I found this nest, belonging to female MABY (named in honor of Arrested Development, if you’re wondering) and male ARKM.

2013_morebabiesI couldn’t see clearly how many chicks there were, so I nudged them with my finger to try to get a better look—and they all thought one of their parents was waking them up with food.

2013_morebabies2

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