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1-14 April 2013

Installment #568---Visitor #Free Web Counters

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In my continuing effort to catch up on posting "This Week at Hilton Pond" AND to maintain continuity in reporting phenological happenings at Hilton Pond Center, I offer the following installment covering the first half of April 2013. Some entries appeared in some form on the Center's Facebook page while others--and several images--are new.

Happy Nature Watching!


All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

1 April

Before departing mid-afternoon for a road trip to West Virginia I took a few hours today to run traps at Hilton Pond Center. As anticipated, the only captures were three of the four "winter finch" species. (Only House Finches were missing.)

3 Pine Siskins
3 Purple Finches
6 American Goldfinches

There are still a few unbanded Purple Finches around--including brown birds (above) of unknown sex. (Brown PUFI in the Carolina Piedmont can be either females or immature males; the latter take two full years to get their adult raspberry-hued plumage.) That said, Purple Finch numbers have dropped dramatically from two weeks ago. Some individuals may linger a while longer; our latest ever date for PUFI at Hilton Pond is 24 April.

2 April

I've been out of town in the Mountain State on a consulting gig, so it figures wife Susan called today to say she spotted Hilton Pond Center's first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of 2013--an adult male (above) at a feeder. He was almost a week later than my earliest RTHU sightings on 27 March in two different years. Let the hummer games begin!

4 April

I returned early evening from West Virginia in time to catch only two birds at Hilton Pond Center before dark:

1 American Goldfinch
1 Chipping Sparrow

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

5 April

This winter and spring I think I've seen more Mourning Doves (female above) at Hilton Pond Center than I can remember. I'm also on track to band a record number of them this calendar year. (The Center's high is 44 MODO captured in 2009; counting today's five doves I've already handled 23 in 2013.)

I banded 29 birds today at the Center:

1 Northern Cardinal
1 Eastern Tufted Titmouse
1 Purple Finch
1 House Finch
2 Song Sparrows
3 Brown-headed Cowbirds
5 Mourning Doves
7 Pine Siskins
8 Chipping Sparrows

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

6 April

You know spring is already in the air when male Northern Cardinals no longer tolerate rivals at the bird feeder. The result is a never-ending series of chases as one crimson-colored bird goes after another when each tries to get a quick snack of sunflower seed. Females are getting into the act, too, with wing-fluttering and begging behaviors that attract the male and help cement pair bonding during the upcoming breeding season. I suspect some of Hilton Pond Center's females are already incubating--as indicated by brood patches on the bellies of the two I caught today.

Birds banded today at the Center included:

1 American Goldfinch
2 Song Sparrows
2 Northern Cardinals
6 Chipping Sparrows

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

7 April

American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, and Purple Finches seem to have departed Hilton Pond Center big-time--perhaps because of two days of 70-degree temperatures; only one or two of each species visited feeders today. However, Chipping Sparrows are coming through in big numbers, with 27 banded the past four days. Some have already acquired adult breeding plumage, but others look immature with incomplete rusty caps and heavily worn tail feathers (see photo above).

Of 17 birds banded today at the Center, most were chippies:

1 Eastern Tufted Titmouse
4 Brown-headed Cowbirds
12 Chipping Sparrows

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

8 April

I got a modest but pleasant surprise in the mail today: A royalty check from Amazon.com indicating since Thanksgiving 16 people had bought Kindle copies of my "Piedmont Naturalist--Vol. 1" e-book. It's the revised electronic version of my now-out-of-print collection of essays from The Herald newspaper in Rock Hill SC. All e-book sale proceeds go to support the work of Hilton Pond Center, including Operation RubyThroat. To download your own copy to read at leisure on tablet or smartphone (or even on your desktop computer), please see: The Piedmont Naturalist.

NOT a surprise at 7:05 this evening was the trapping of my FIRST Hilton Pond Ruby-throated Hummingbird of 2013--an adult male with pristine breeding plumage. I've been waiting for this event since the last RTHU left in mid-October 2012. This new bird's "twin" was in an adjoining trap and became RTHU #2 for this year.

Birds banded today at the Center:

1 White-throated Sparrow
2 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
3 Brown-headed Cowbirds
9 Chipping Sparrows

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

9 April

Good news, bad news at Hilton Pond. I caught my third adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the 2013 season this morning. When I banded the bird he voided a large drop of urine that was bright crimson, a sure sign someone nearby (not me!) is using hummingbird juice doctored with red food coloring. (Can you tell which is the good news, and which is the bad?)

I banded the following nine birds today at Hilton Pond Center

1 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 White-throated Sparrow
2 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
5 Chipping Sparrows

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

10 April

Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens (above), is showing its two-inch-long red flowers today at Hilton Pond Center--just in time for the arrival of spring hummingbirds. This is one of my favorite hummer-attracting vines, and it's a native. If it follows its usual phenology it'll bloom for a month, take the summer off, and then blossom again this fall. If hummers succeed as pollinators, Trumpet Honeysuckle this fall will make red berries attractive to songbirds.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

14 April

I returned this afternoon after five days of consulting work in West Virginia to find several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at Hilton Pond feeders--all males. I also ran a few traps and caught three Chipping Sparrows. I'm pleased to announce that the second of these became the 59,000th bird banded locally since 1982. Another milestone!

All told, I banded six new ruby-throats today at the Center, including my first female (above) of 2013. It's mating time! (I also had three RTHU returns--two of which were males banded as recent fledglings back in 2010. That makes them four years old and seasoned veterans of the migration between here and the Neotropics--and back!)

1 House Finch
3 Chipping Sparrows
6 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written and photographed by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History

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1-14 April 2013

Pine Siskin--10
American Goldfinch--8
Chipping Sparrow--44
Song Sparrow--4
Northern Cardinal--3
Brown-headed Cowbird--11
Purple Finch--4
Eastern Tufted Titmouse--2
White-throated Sparrow--2
House Finch--2
Mourning Dove--5

* = New species for 2013

11 species
95 individuals

18 species

673 individuals

(since 28 June 1982, during which time 171 species have been observed on or over the property)
126 species
58,824 individuals

(with original banding date, sex, and current age):
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (3)
07/18/10--4th year male
09/17/10--4th year male
07/07/12--after 2nd year male

Chipping Sparrow (2)
01/12/11--4th year unknown
05/28/12--after 2nd year male

Carolina Chickadee (1)
08/02/12--after 2nd year male

Northern Cardinal (3)
09/27/11--3rd year female
09/09/12--2nd year male (two birds)
09/09/12--2nd year male (two birds)

House Finch (2)
06/07/12--2nd year male
06/28/12--2nd year female

Downy Woodpecker (1)
08/02/12--4th year male

Mourning Dove (1)
07/02/11--after 3rd year male

--Chipping Sparrows followed their usual pattern by arriving in big numbers during early April at Hilton Pond Center. Nearly half the birds banded during the period were "chippies." Some of these undoubtedly will stay nearby to breed, but--oddly enough--a CHSP banded locally on 4 Apr 1994 showed up the following January 370 miles to the south in Gainesville FL. Brown-headed Cowbirds also made their annual spring appearance. (See list above left for current bandings.)

--The Center's Yearly Yard List 2013 of birds seen on or over the property stands at 37 species as of 14 Apr.

--Last week's photo essay was about local nature happenings during the last half of March 2013. It's archived and always available on the Hilton Pond Center Web site as Installment #567.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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(spring female at right)

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research, conservation & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka "The Piedmont Naturalist," it is parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Web site contents--including text and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To request permission for use or for further assistance, please contact Webmaster.

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