MAPS Period 7: Juvenile Clay-colored Sparrow


Period 7 Old Baldy: Juvenile Clay-colored Sparrow

Summer has arrived in Cypress Hills; we had a whole week of 30 degree weather. The mosquitoes and deer flies are also out in full force, which means lots of food for our insectivores like the flycatchers and vireos.

At the Rodeo Grounds MAPS station the cow parsnip and grasses are over a meter tall and the site is drying up. The net lanes that were above small streams are now above a foot of thick mud, a few standing pools still linger nearby, perfect for mosquitoes. We caught our first Juvenile of the season at Rodeo, a Black Capped Chickadee. Juveniles’ feathers are so fresh and it’s amazing to handle them after getting used to worn, older birds. It makes sense that our first juvenile was of a species that sticks around all year. Black Capped Chickadees store food in their territories during the summer and recover their scattered food caches during the winter when food in scarce. It’s a life strategy that works as long as the bird can cope with the colder Canadian months. Because they don’t waste all that energy and time flying back north, they can get right to breeding as soon as it’s warm enough. We also caught an adult Black Capped Chickadee that was molting her flight feathers and brood patch, perhaps they’re finished breeding already.

At Old Baldy we caught a few more juveniles: another Black Capped Chickadee and two Clay-colored Sparrows. Clay-colored Sparrows generally nest on the ground or in low shrubs, so Old Baldy is a perfect habitat for them. The Juvenile Chickadees that we’ve caught were no longer in pin, whereas the Clay-colored Sparrows bodies’ were still covered in pin feathers; perhaps the sparrows were a little younger. The Sparrows were fully capable of flight, though still a little clumsy. We also had a MacGillivray’s Warbler with molting flight feathers and molting brood patch, she must be done breeding already! The vegetation around the nets is getting high, especially the cow parsnip. In addition, the Cedar Waxwings’ excrement has changed to berry waste, whatever they’re eating must finally be in season. AND (non bird related) we had a fawn who couldn’t have been more than a week or two old, approach the banding station within 10 meters without his mum. I guess last minute he decided he didn’t want to sit with us and veered right after running directly towards us for 100m… So cute and uncoordinated

In Spruce Coulee the roses and geraniums are blooming and the grasses remain relatively shorter. The mosquitos came in swarms in the morning and the horse flies were everywhere in the afternoon, lots of food for the flycatchers; we caught 7 Empidonax that day and the Leasts, Pewees and Duskys were everywhere. We also caught another juvenile Black Capped Chickadee and two juvenile Dark Eyed Juncos!  These were firsts for CHIP 2012 – we hear them all over the place, especially in the higher altitude areas like Spruce Coulee, but hadn’t caught any until now. Pink Sided Juncos are most common at CHIP, though Oregon Juncos and Slate colored Juncos are also possible. The juveniles of the different morphs are difficult to distinguish so they were banded as simply Dark Eyed Juncos.

So the 3rd of 6 MAPS periods has come to an end at Cypress Hills!


About chipmigration

The Calgary Bird Banding Society is a non-profit research organization conducting the third year of a landbird monitoring project at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Alberta. Bird banding is an integral aid to the study and protection of wild birds. It is typically facilitated by using a mist net. Birds fly into the mist net, are gently removed and a permanent aluminum light-weight band is placed around the lower leg. Often the birds are measured, weighed, sexed and aged before release back into the wild. When a banded bird is recovered, the number and information on the band is used to trace migratory patterns and other vital data. This information made available to the banding and scientific communities. The data is invaluable to many scientific studies, including Global Warming and Pollution research.
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