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Fall Banding Concludes for 2012

Date: November 28, 2012
Another fall at Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory has come to and end. This year was an banner year for finches and owls and we had plenty of exciting avian visitors who make all the work worthwhile!

After four long months of banding Jim Gruber (master bander), Maren Gimpel (field ecologist), and Dan Small (field ecologist) are more than ready for a little break from the November cold. We’ve taken most of the nets down for winter and are settling FBBO into “hibernation mode” until spring migration begins. It will take a full three months to process all the data collected this fall. All the banding data needs to be proofed and submitted to the Bird Banding Laboratory, which maintains a database for all of the banding stations in the United States and Canada (through the Canadian Wildlife Service).

As field research turns into data analysis for the winter Jim, Dan, and Maren will be entering data and perhaps reminiscing about some of our more exciting captures… 

This year was a big year for all finch species, but for Pine Siskins in particular. We broke our record of 55 Pine Siskins that was set in 2009 easily with a whopping new record of 572 Siskins banded as of November 24th.


This owl was one of several spotted on a November evening.

Northern Saw-whet Owls moved south in unprecedented numbers this fall, resulting in more captures in 2012 than all other years combined. Maren and Dan who ran the month-long owl banding operation knew that this year had the potential to be a big year for owls, but even they were amazed with the high numbers of Saw-whet owls turning up in the nets. This year we banded an astounding 283 Saw-whets, completely obliterating 2010’s record high of 94.   

There were some exciting warblers captured this year including Cape May, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, and Hooded. These are some of the rarest warblers to migrate through Foreman’s Branch. Next year we’re holding out for a Cerulean!

We’re still not sure who’s more surprised about this one…the Turkey Vulture or Dan! Dan turned the corner and was surprised to find a Turkey Vulture in a mist net. When asked about the experience Maren said, “You can not even begin to imagine the smell of vulture vomit.” And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more disgusting…We are not able to band Turkey Vultures, because they have a very unique way of keeping cool. They defecate on their legs. Their scat is so caustic that it would ruin a band, so scientists interested in studying Vultures typically use wing tags to identify their birds.  

Turkey Vulture

There were many more exciting moments at the station this fall, but these captures really stood out for us. We are pleased to announce the grand total of birds banded for Fall 2012: 12,577. If you would like to get a daily peek into life at Foreman’s Branch follow our facebook page: facebook.com/CRFRC and get weekly totals from the banding station here. Who knows what spring migration will bring?



Last modified on Dec. 10th, 2012 at 12:59pm by Marcia Landskroener.