Right now I’m hustling with the analyses so I’ll have a cohesive presentation ready for Giant Bird Conference in three weeks. I can’t wait to find out their mating patterns—we know so little about the genetics of these guys that any new info will be interesting.
Two major reasons the season was so much more stress-free: no nest-searching (all I had to do was peek into the PVC pipes), and both parents fed the chicks. That means both the male and female reliably visited the nest, unlike in the redwings, where only the females fed and I scrambled around trying to catch the males.
I started off with my trusty mist nets. They worked great, but whenever the wind picked up, they ballooned outward and let the birds escape. My coworker suggested something more targeted (and stationary) that could catch the parents as they entered the nest to feed.
Meet La Trampita. She’s made from a foot of PVC pipe ($1.25), a bendy straw ($1 for 100), and some cardboard from a box that once contained delicious pizza ($5 for two slices). And she caught fifty birds for me.
Then I stuck my entire arm in and fished around until I caught the parent. The trick was to lift my forearm and create a little light at the entrance, so that the bird would rush toward the opening. Once it was trapped at the mouth, I shimmied my hand back and wrapped it around the bird’s body. Into the bag it went.
Begin the usual processing: banding and bleeding.
My coworker Edwin took this photo. He was working on a separate study using radio telemetry to track the movements of fledglings wearing little backpack transmitters. We were two lost souls, wandering the mangroves and occasionally bumping into each other.
Also unlike the redwings, males and female yellow-shoulders look alike. Once they’re in hand, you can feel the difference in their size, but just to make sure, I measured the lengths of their tarsus and wing. The females were consistently a centimeter smaller for both.
We’re going to analyze 169 of you!
A sad-clown-faced bananaquit that flew into a mist net. Bananaquits are the Caribbean equivalents of chickadees, hopping everywhere and buzzing nonstop. This one almost escaped, but the force of my arm closing against it caused it to eject berry poop all over my sleeve.
I kind of feel like the “Spanish” is superfluous.
These two photos were from my mile-long walk into the mangrove. My dinky rental car couldn’t handle the unpaved road, so I parked on a beach and marched in with my gear. Here you can see an enormous gumbo-limbo tree, nicknamed the tourist tree for its red and peeling bark.
The nipple part is called a cephalium, and the bristles are flowers, which give way to hot pink fruit that dangles seductively off the top.
Did I mention near the end I had time for partial weekends? My friend from the Department of Natural Resources took me snorkeling, and we stuffed ourselves with deep-fried food afterward. Clockwise from left: chapín (trunkfish) empanada; corn fritters; yucca sticks; fried plantains; squid and conch salad; cheese balls; and fried yam slices. And a piña colada! So worth it.
I showed this photo to my mom and she couldn’t speak, she was so proud.