Spring 2013 is finally here!

 By MRBO Bander Brittney Cross
Brittney and a male Ruby-crowned Kinglet showing
his often-hidden red crown. 

Lincoln’s Sparrow
Spring 2013 is finally here on the Missouri River with the kick off of MRBO’s Grand Pass Migration Banding Station, opened for the first time on April 15, 2013.  The MRBO staff had a little bit of a damp start Monday morning – we had to pull back every net due to heavy rains during Sunday night and were unable to open our nets until around 9:00am!  But, the day ended on a good note with the capture of 18 new birds and 3 recaptures from previous years.  Some of the species that were caught were White-throated Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Orange Crown Warbler, Blue Jay (recapure), Black-capped Chickadee (2 recaptures), Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, and the Ruby-crowned Kinglets (RCKI).

                  The most interesting bird that we caught that day I would say was the RCKI! We caught eight of these guys that are so little and extremely cute.  

A female Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Getting a grip on these small ones was tough to begin with but after the first few, handling them became easier.  But what was really intriguing was listening to Ethan Duke, assistant director of MRBO, tell the story of this tiny bird’s migration journey.  This little bird flies from the southern United States and Mexico and is just stopping by here in Missouri before heading further north – as far as the boreal region of Canada and Alaska!  They will stopover to refuel on food and to store up fat before moving on again to complete their long journey to their nesting grounds.  Attracting these little guys to your backyard during their migration path is quite simple.  Providing bushes with small fruits and avoiding insecticide sprays will make a yard more attractive to Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  Avoiding insecticide sprays is the most important thing – note that the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is mostly insectivorous, having a diet that consists primarily of small bugs.  So killing your your backyard insects will almost guarantee they skip right past you to find more suitable habitat!
RCKI range map, by Terry Sohl (www.sdakotabirds.com)

 On April 16th, our second morning, we had a spotty chance to get rain according to weather radar, so we drove out to the site at 5:30am to check out the scene.  It was not raining until we got to the main gate at Grand Pass Conservation Area – just our luck!  We drove to the site and decided once the rain stopped we would open just 10 of our 21 nets in case we had to quickly close them due to rain.  On our first net run we captured two White-throated Sparrows (WTSP) and a Brown Thrasher.  Upon arriving back at the banding station and only banding one of the WTSPs, it started to not only down poor but also hail!  We released the other two birds before being able to band them, then ran as fast as we could to close all our nets making sure no bird got wet and cold.  We didn’t reopen our nets but called it a day.  As a researcher it’s sometimes frustrating to not be able to work during the busiest part of the day but safety of the birds is the utmost important in these situations.  I cannot say that enough, and even though the weather has been a bit soggy I think the Grand Pass Crew has had not only a blast but a great start to the Spring Migration Season of 2013!

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