Past Two Weeks at Rushton Have Been Booming with Birds!

Yellow Warbler (First ever for Rushton banding station).  Photo by Brie Brigham
Yellow Warbler (First ever for Rushton banding station). Photo by Brie Brigham

So much to report, and so little time!  The banding highlights from last week include many Northern Waterthrush, Magnolia Warblers,  a Baltimore Oriole (who was the star of the show for 60 Haverford 5th grade boys), a Lincoln’s Sparrow, the first American Redstarts of the year, a couple of Eastern Towhees,  Black-throated Blue Warbler, lots of Gray Catbirds, and some Yellow-rumped Warblers (known to the British as “Butter butts”).

Magnolia Warbler.  Photo by Justin Thompson
Magnolia Warbler. Photo by Justin Thompson
5th grade Haverford students  & Baltimore Oriole.  Photo by Ben Reynard.
5th grade Haverford students & Baltimore Oriole. Photo by Ben Reynard.
American Redstart.  Photo by Blake Goll
American Redstart. Photo by Blake Goll
Yellow-rumped warbler (or "Butter Butt").  Photo by Blake Goll
Yellow-rumped Warbler (or “Butter Butt”). Photo by Blake Goll

However, perhaps the biggest news of all last week came from Justin Thompson, who casually snapped a picture of 2 Sandhill Cranes on a pond in Willistown on his way to the banding station, the morning of May 11.  Before he showed us the picture, we couldn’t believe our ears!  When he claimed he saw a big strange looking bird with red on its head, we scorned him and pictured this:

Big Red Bird by Justin Thompson.
Big Red Bird by Justin Thompson.

But it turns out, he was not “crying wolf”( or “Big Bird”)!  There were, indeed, 2 spectacular Sandhill Cranes in Willistown on May 11th, a very rare occurence.  Thanks for getting the great picture, Justin, and sorry we ever doubted you!

Sandhill Cranes in Willistown May 11 2012 Photo by Justin Thompson
Sandhill Cranes in Willistown PA! May 11, 2012.   Photo by Justin Thompson

The Sandhill Crane sighting was an unbelievable precedent to our Pretty Big Bird Day, held on May 12.  Half a dozen teams jovially competed against each other birding like mad from dawn until dusk in an attempt to record the highest number of bird species in the Trust’s program area.  There could only be one winning team, The Do-Dos (90 species seen), but all participants felt like winners at the end of the day.  It was a beautiful day, and what better way to spend a beautiful day than watching beautiful birds with wonderful friends.

Blake Goll with PA Young Birders (Team WildWings!) after The Pretty Big Bird Day May 12, 2012
Blake Goll with PA Young Birders (Team WildWings!) after “The Pretty Big Bird Day”  May 12, 2012.

This week, banding was busy again with an average of around 40 birds per day.  We banded the first Yellow Warbler ever to be banded at Rushton and our second ever Savannah Sparrow!  Other highlights included more Indigo Buntings, more Northern Waterthrush, first of the year Swainson’s Thrush, first of the year Scarlet Tanager, and first of the year Canada Warblers.

Northern Waterthrush.  Photo by Blake Goll
Northern Waterthrush. Photo by Blake Goll
Young Indigo Bunting (Second year).  Notice the brown primary coverts.  Photo by Blake Goll
Young Indigo Bunting (Second year). Notice the brown primary coverts. Photo by Blake Goll
Canada Warbler by Brie Brigham
Canada Warbler by Brie Brigham
Savannah Sparrow by Brie Brigham
Savannah Sparrow by Brie Brigham

We had a slight catastrophe this week when our resident Mama fox, who has a den in the hedgerow  near the compost pile, decided to get curious about the seemingly free “chicken wings” hanging in the nets.  Luckily, our farm dog, Max, was happy to be employed for the policing job!  Volunteers must now regularly leash-walk our new canine supervisor along the net lanes, until Mama fox learns that our banding station is no Chick-fil-a!  It seems this method is working so far to deter her and has not noticeably diminished our bird catch.

The Rushton banding station will be open tomorrow morning for an “Open House” and the PA Young Birders spring migration program from 9-11am.  Any children or adults are welcome to observe banding anytime from 6am until 11am, but 9-11am will be focused for the young birders (ages 8-12).  Avid bird banding enthusiasts of any age should come earlier (between 6 and 9am) for the biggest catch.

There’s a lot going on in the woods,

~Blake

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