This is part 2 of a two-part series documenting a USGS Alaska Science Center landbird project looking into blood parasite loads in subarctic songbirds. Part 1 detailed our efforts in the Boreal Forest.
Moving away from the close-confines of the Boreal Forest and into the wide open expanses of the treeless-Tundra, we all wondered how our songbird capture totals would fare and if the weather would hold. We would spend a total of 4-days at two different sites capturing, banding, and taking blood samples from songbirds. Our rough total for those 4-days: 275 individual songbird blood samples.
Most of the mistnets were set up in areas where head-high willow-shrubs met tundra and we captured a majority of the most common songbirds species on the Seward Peninsula including Yellow Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Lapland Longspur, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, and Common and Hoary Redpolls.
However the highlight of these four days would come in the form of two birds found nowhere else in North American but Alaska. The first was an adult female Eastern Yellow Wagtail. A small but feisty passerine that migrates to southeast Asia and Australia.
The second was far and away the neatest songbird I’ve ever had in the hand. As I walked up to net number 2 on our third day of banding, I saw a flash of orange in the tail of a bird in the net. I knew immediately what it was: a Bluethroat!
Adult male Bluethroats sport a bright blue chin and have highly varied and complex songs, mimicking the songs and calls of other birds they’ve encountered throughout their life. The Bluethroat I had the privilege of extracting from the mistnet was a recently fledged juvenile bird.
All-in-all it was a great week+ of songbird netting and banding. I will never forget some of those little guys I got to see in the hand. Also a big thanks goes out to the USGS field crew for letting me accompany them during their netting efforts.
Tags: alaska, Alaska Science Center, bluethroat, eastern yellow wagtail, lapland longspur, seward peninsula, shrubs, tundra, yellow warbler