You may remember that last year we were quite excited to have accidentally caught a female Western Tanager. This year, we caught the male.
It’s fledgling season, and not just for juncos. The other week we ran into this guy:
In fact we nearly stepped on him. We picked him up to put him in a nearby bush, where he might be safer, but he had other plans: he hopped right back to the ground.
He then fluttered and scrambled his way over sticks and even a fallen log to the base of a tree, which he crept up like the Brown Creeper he was—although much more slowly than an adult. Still, it was an impressive thing to watch from such a young bird.
Recently we caught, as bycatch, two birds from two orders that we had never caught before. (Order being a high hierarchical level of organization of species relatedness, as in kingdom-phylum-class-order-family-genus-species.) Both were simultaneously thrilling and terrifying, although for different reasons.
Female Calliope Hummingbird (I think?)
This beautiful bird was terrifying to catch because hummingbirds are very fragile. We don’t expect to catch them in our nets—the mesh size is large enough that in most cases a hummingbird could zoom right through—and in fact we hope not to catch them, since they can be especially stressy little creatures. They are also strange birds to handle, not permitting any of the usual bird grips: bander’s grip, a very secure and safe grip, puts your fingers around a bird’s neck, but hummingbirds have too-tiny necks for it; photographer’s grip relies on grasping the bird’s thighs, and hummingbirds’ thighs are much too short.
Fortunately I was able to quickly extract our hummingbird from the net. She rested on my palm for about thirty seconds, then—just after this next picture was taken—zoomed off high into the canopy.
We only try to catch juncos, but when you have nets up in good habitat, some accidental capture of other species seems to be inevitable. These other species—our “bycatch”—are quickly extracted from the nets and released, although not without a few photos first.
I miss the juncos. I see juncos around campus, but it’s not the same: they have no bands, so I don’t know who they are. (Except for the weird white-splattered junco, who doesn’t need bands to be distinctive. I was delighted to see him last week.)
I miss those warm, fragile bodies in my hand. I miss going back and finding them again and again.
I’m quite behind in my bycatch* posts! All of the birds in this post were caught several trips ago.
*Bycatch: birds that fly into our nets while we are trying to catch juncos. We extract them from the net, take a few photos, and release them.
Female Brewer’s Blackbird:
The most colorful of last trip’s bycatch…
Male Cassin’s Finch:Continue reading