• The Masked Banders of Mansfield

    VCE volunteer and ace data recorder Avery Fish photographing a banded Bicknell’s Thrush on Mt. Mansfield, 9 July 2020. © Michael Sargent

    Neither a fashion statement or attempt to remain incognito, VCE banders and visitors on Mt. Mansfield are sporting facial masks this season. From newcomers to veterans, we are taking seriously the need to remain safe in the COVID-19 era, as we carry out year #29 of studying the ridgeline’s breeding birds. Our July 8-9 field session featured the season’s first thunderstorms (in the middle of our early evening net-setting—thankfully, we now have vehicles up there), the first appearance of fledglings, and our leanest banding totals so far.

    Members of the extended Fish family from Waterbury and Chicago document the release of a banded Red-eyed Vireo on Mt. Mansfield, 9 July 2020. © Micheal Sargent

    As is typical in early July, the ridgeline’s avian chorus is subsiding. Local breeders are either attending active nests or recent fledglings, reducing their imperative to sing and call. Dusk and dawn vocalizations were relatively few, and mist net captures were also lower than they have been so far this season, perhaps resulting in part from the wet weather and soaked vegetation. Netting was slow but steady, with our first fledgling capture being a surprisingly early stub-tailed Bicknell’s Thrush. That was followed by a recently-fledged Myrtle Warbler, then a more expected flurry of fully fledged (and probably independent) Slate-colored Juncos. We finally banded a Winter Wren and had the season’s first Red-eyed Vireo and Hermit Thrush.

    Two look-alike and closely-related adult Catharus thrushes on Mt. Mansfield: Bicknell’s (left) and Hermit (right), 9 July 2020. © Michael Sargent

    Our 45 captures over both days included:

    Red-eyed Vireo
     — 1 adult of unknown sex (no CP or BP)
    Winter Wren — 1 adult of unknown sex (no CP or BP); first of year
    Bicknell’s Thrush — 10 (3 new [1 stub-tailed fledgling, 1 yearling male, 1 female], 1 return male from 2018, 6 within-season recaptures)
    Swainson’s Thrush — 1 new yearling male, only the season’s third
    Hermit Thrush — 1 new yearling male
    Purple Finch — 2 new females with regressing brood patches
    Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) — 5 new juveniles, flight feathers full-grown
    White-throated Sparrow — 10 (4 new, 3 returns from 2019, 3 within-season recaptures)
    Blackpoll Warbler — 8 (3 new, 5 within-season recaptures)
    Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) — 6 (1 stub-tailed fledgling, 2 new yearling males, 1 within-season recap, return males from 2016 and 2018)

    Purple Fiches remain more common on the ridgeline than in any other year in memory, and our running total of banded birds is now at 25. A conspicuously calling Red Crossbill was the first of 2020 for us on Mansfield. With weather that has so far been benign overall (i.e., no heavy storms, damaging winds, or excessively cold temperatures) and a complete absence of red squirrels on the ridgeline (and a non-existent cone crop to draw them upslope for next year), there is every reason to expect a productive nesting season. We anticipate that our final four visits will feature healthy numbers of fledglings.

    Izzy Fish releases a banded Bicknell’s Thrush on Mansfield, 9 July 2020. © Michael Sargent

    Finally, with the toll road now open to public use, we encourage small numbers of visitors, with a clear proviso that masks and physical distancing are the order of the day. Please let us know if you wish to come up and visit our banding operation, so that we can coordinate timing and logistics.

    A masked  Mansfield long-timer faces off with the 2020 season’s first fledgling Bicknell’s Thrush. © Michael Sargent


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    Comments (2)

    1. Daniel Crook says:

      Love the photos, Chris!

    2. Robert P. Yunick says:

      Chris – I greatly applaud and admire your work atop the ridgeline, wish I could join you at nearly Heaven. May I suggest that the REVI and WIWR adults with no BP/CP be sexed as males? Reason being a female brood patch lasts through the breeding season until the next molt yet to come, hence these birds are not females. The male CP is a fleeting thing, no longer functional at this time. Hence its absence on an adult bird at this time makes it a male. Bob

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