Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sometimes Shorebirds Sleep at Night

We spent the entire afternoon and evening at the Heislerville shorebird impoundment mist-netting again today, and had a fairly big day catching about 115 birds in all.  We started around 1:30 and before all of our nets were set up, even, the first birds were hitting the nets.  A steady stream kept coming all day, mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers (SESA), but also a few each of Least Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Semipalmated Plovers.  We also caught a Great-crested Flycatcher, a Barn Swallow, and a Red-winged Blackbird.

We flagged every SESA, and took blood from almost every one as well.  We kept catching birds all the way up until dark, and then had to catch up on banding the last birds.  Although SESAs often get "sleepy" in the hand (not a sign of stress as in songbirds), at night every SESA I flagged basically went right to sleep.  God they're adorable.  This one was sleeping long enough for me to whip out the iPhone for a quick picture.
The overcast conditions today, probably contributed to our large catch, although with 20,000 birds at the impoundment, it was bound to happen.  In the next week or so, we may get as many as 50,000 birds roosting and feeding on the impoundment at high tide, so our catches will get bigger and bigger.
 The sun did come out for a little while though.  Here's a view of our nets from the dike where we band, flag, and take blood from the birds.

 I'm looking pretty cool in my bug shirt and headlamp.  Gotta keep out the mosquitoes and no-see-ums, while flagging in the dark.  By the time we got back it was already past 11:00 pm, then we spun and processed our dozens of blood samples until 1:00am.  What a night.

1 comment:

  1. Dude, this all sounds like such a great experience. The sleepy SESA is pretty precious. Crazy about the bugs and your work hours; sounds like your going to bed when I'm getting up which is way before dawn in order to beat the wind and the heat. And I'm curious about how you guys are taking the blood samples? What are you looking for?