Wednesday, May 19, 2010

VA Update: May 19

After days of not getting whimbrel in front of our traps, we finally figured out where they prefer to land for roosting during the current heights and times of high tide. Today we set up one trap at a close location to Box Tree Dock where we had seen a few whimbrel land; one trap in a high marsh area where we had seen tons of whimbrel land; and a third trap in another high marsh area where they love to land during really high tides. Throughout the morning we didnt have much action, but a pair of gull-billed terns provided entertainment.

gull-billed terns
Around 3:30pm, we had about 35 whimbrel land near one of the high marsh trap sites, but they landed out of reach of our nets and never walked in close enough for a shot before they flew. Around 4:30pm we saw birds headed for our second high marsh trap site and Fletcher, Anna, and I tookt he boat in for a closer look. It looked like some birds had landed in our trap zone, so Fletcher and Anna dropped me off at the end of the blasting wire while they took the boat around for a better angle to see the trap zone from. A few minutes later, Fletcher called me on the radio to say that it looked like 5 birds would be caught by the trap, so I charged and fired the net and we raced over in the boat, ran the 100 meters to the net, and found 3 whimbrel safely trapped uner it. We had the birds extracted within minutes and headed back to the dock. We could tell as soon as we saw the trapped birds, that we had three fat female whimbrel. This is exactly what we wanted so we could start putting satellite transmitters on them, which will track their migration northward. If they prove to be the western subspecies (Numenius phaeopus rufiventris), it will migrate from here to Alaska to breed, having already come from Brazil or another Northeastern South American country. The three birds we caught today weighed 630 grams, 555 grams, and 620 grams. The two larger birds are most likely the 3rd and 4th largest whimbrels ever banded, respectfully. The two birds over 600 grams are most likely of the western subspecies.
The first whimbrel we banded today; a large 630 gram potential female, with an unusually short bill for its size.Close-up of the 630 gram whimbrel.
Close-up of the radio transmitter we attached. These transmitters are solar powered.Whimbrel before released; note satellite transmitter.

Anna with one of the three whimbrel before releasing.

Close-up of another of the three whimbrel.
The three whimbrel being released with green Alpha-numeric tag, yellow Virginia band, USGS metal band, and satellite transmitters on all of them!
Hopefully tomorow will be just as productive and we can get some more birds banded and given radio or satellite transmitters!

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