Return of the bycatch

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.

Fox Sparrow

Do you know who I am?

Do you know who I am?

Unhand me at once!

Unhand me at once!

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Junco withdrawal

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.


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Bycatch catch-up

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:

I am too zen to be bothered by you, giant pink monster

Actually, not

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Golden bycatch

There’s one species that we’ve been hoping to accidentally catch since we noticed it in our field sites.

(Well, we hope to accidentally catch pretty much every bird we see in our field sites, because we love having an excuse to handle birds. But this one has been especially fantasized about.)

We didn’t actually expect to catch this bird, though. It stays very high in the trees, much higher than our nets. I still don’t understand how we caught this bird, but we did! This one was not, to be totally honest, our absolute dream bird—that would be the male of this species, since the male is even brighter—but she was still very dreamy.

Click through to see her.

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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