Neighborhood Nestwatch

Over the last two years, our family has had the great privilege of participating in Neighborhood Nestwatch. This citizen science program involves us in monitoring the nesting activity and site fidelity of eight target bird species, which include Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird,  Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, House Wren, Carolina Wren, and Song Sparrow. Each year,  Nestwatch team members come spend a morning in our yard. During their visit, they set up 3-5 mist nets, and survey the yard for nests and other bird activity.  When a target bird is captured, it is sexed, measured, weighed, aged, banded and released.

An American robin getting its leg bands.

An American robin getting its leg bands. June 2012.

Since 2012, the first year of the program, we have captured and banded 12 target birds, including one chickadee, two robins, six catbirds, two mockingbirds and one cardinal.  We have caught and released  several non-target species as well, including several chipping and house sparrows, a house finch, a downy woodpecker, an oven bird, and a cedar waxwing!

In addition, we have monitored six nests for the program over the last three years. We are currently monitoring the nest of the male Northern Mockingbird we banded in 2013, and successfully banded his mate today during our annual visit. We look forward to seeing which birds return in the days, months and years to come, and to banding and observing more birds and nests to better understand the lives of backyard birds.

This male returned to the yard the following spring.

This male American robin, banded in 2012, returned to the yard the following spring.

 

 

My son, Aidan with the banded mockingbird, 2013

My son Aidan with a male mockingbird, July 2013. This bird returned to the yard in April 2014.


 

Getting ready to release the male Northern cardinal, 2013

Getting ready to release a male Northern cardinal. July 2013.

Sara measures a gray catbird, July 2013

Sara measures a gray catbird. This was one of three catbirds we banded in July 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A cedar waxwing from Nestwatch 2014.

A cedar waxwing from today’s visit 6/25/14.

Aidan records measurements of a gray catbird for  Evangeline. June 2014

Aidan records measurements of a gray catbird for Evangeline. This was one of three catbirds banded today 6/25/14.

This male mockingbird was recaptured today, 6/25/14. He is successfully nesting in the yard this season.

This male mockingbird was recaptured today, 6/25/14. He is successfully nesting in the yard this season.

Wonders of Winter

It comes as no surprise that watching birds is a regular activity in my family. My mother-in-law holds a Ph.D in Ornithology, and her passion for our feathered friends has seriously rubbed off on my son, who has become quite an accomplished birder over the last few years. Our love of birds has taken us to Costa Rica, Ecuador, and many spots in the US (posts on these amazing trips to come!). We maintain bird feeders and bird-friendly habitat in our yard, and participate in several citizen science projects involving birds.

A white-breasted nuthatch on the suet feeder

A white-breasted nuthatch on the suet feeder

House finches and a field sparrow on the tube feeder

House finches and a field sparrow on the tube feeder

One of these is Project FeederWatch coordinated by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. FeederWatch runs from mid-November through early April, and engages us in identifying and counting the different species of birds that visit our yard in a 48-hour period, along with recording some basic weather data.  In addition, we provide a profile of our yard including number and types of feeders we put up, the size and vegetative composition, and the presence of important resources like water and cover.  The data we and other FeederWatchers collect help scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in the distribution and abundance of birds.

Today, we are in the middle of our second watch period of this 2013-2014 season, the 27th season in FeederWatch history.  We look forward to many more days of observing the types and numbers of birds that visit our yard in the coming months.

A fox sparrow in the forsythia bush

A fox sparrow in the forsythia bush

A beautiful Carolina wren

A beautiful Carolina wren

The highlights for today were one brown creeper (a first for our yard in the 11+ years we’ve lived here), three fox sparrows (we’ve only ever observed one before), 43 dark-eyed juncos and a favorite of mine, a Carolina wren!