Don't know if I've posted a close-up of one of these before, so here is one. This is a dark-eyed junco, which in West Virginia is typically the slate-colored variety. Nice little birds that tend to fly near roadsides in the evening so I catch them in the bat nets fairly often.
I often am asked about getting bitten by wildlife. Generally the answer is the same, that other than mosquitoes and the like, I don't get bitten by stuff unless I have to handle it. And then, well, things bite, so just don't handle wildlife, okay?
But it's my job to grab things and do stuff, like measure ear length or weigh them. Lots of things depending on the project I am on. So yes, I get bitten. And this has become a point of question again since I posted in a side note that scarlet tanagers bite, but that it doesn't hurt much.
Different species tend to either bite a lot, or not. Some birds never seem to realize that might even be a thing, while others, most notably the chickadee, do nothing but try and bite. Some can give a pretty good pinch, especially the ones with a strong bill like a grosbeak, but mostly it really isn't hard enough to do much.
And, one of the times I am most likely to get bitten is when taking the photos to document the species capture. See, when taking animal measurements I can control the whole animal including the mouth, but for the photos the head needs to be fully in the clear. Which of course allows it more freedom to take a nip. So while I normally just ignore the photos that don't well-document the species for our records, I do have other ones that show what the animal was doing while I was trying to get a good pic.
And to satisfy curiosity, here is what a bite from a scarlet tanager looks like. See, not much, but if it gets you in the soft spot between your fingers you'll know about it.
We saw a lot of scarlet tanagers flying around during the day, but one evening just after opening the bat nets at dark I caught a female in the net. They tend to bite, but it doesn't much hurt. And obviously the female is not exactly scarlet, but a fine shade of greenish yellow. This bird was quickly photographed and released so it could get to its night roost without much delay.
Took a walk and had a picnic lunch at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens today. This site is run by the National Park Service and is located in the top corner of Washington, DC pretty much right on the Maryland line (walked into Maryland during the hike).
It's a darn nifty green space right by the Anacostia River and has about 1 billion small ponds full of lilies and lotus and similar aquatic plants. Quite pretty place and a bit unique.
Along the trail spur that goes from the Park to the River we saw this yellow-billed cuckoo and got a pretty nice look at it as it was feeding in the trees by the trail. I like cuckoos, and the fun fact of the day is that they are in the same family as the roadrunner! Oh yeah, can you guess the name of the family? How about Cuculidae...a rare case of the Latin being pretty easy to remember.
The slaty-tailed trogon is just one of the most beautiful birds. We were over at the neighboring Hacienda Baru to get permission to catch some of their mosquitoes (how hard was that!) and I got a chance to take a short walk to the beach. Along the trail was this trogon just sitting and hunting as they tend to do.
But while taking a couple photos it made a quick attack flight and landed nearby with a large caterpillar in it's mouth. Even though I wasn't all that far away, there was no way to see what kind of caterpillar it was. But when I looked at the photos it is clearly one of the snake-headed caterpillars. I am not really sure of the ID even from the photo, but probably Hemeroplanes ornatus which is one of the sphinx moths.
Very cool, so take a close look at the caterpillar and you will see two "eyes" and a very triangular snake-shaped "head". So totally cool that the bird wasn't fooled by this obvious defense strategy, probably plucking it off so fast it didn't have time to do the "look like a snake" thing. These caterpillars are even known to make a striking motion and really have the whole snake thing down.
And as an end note. Most animals seem to prefer to eat prey head first. So, the bird gave the caterpillar a quick flip toss spinning it around so the head was at the beak. And down the hatch it went.
Today we went over to the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary. They are amazing with rehab animals. They get in hurt animals or confiscated pet trade animals or well anything that isn't suitable for just tossing back in the forest. We got to see the veterinary clinic there and it is top notch, with capabilities to do everything from disease testing to literally putting in metal pins to set broken bones. Every animal they get goes through a very rigorous process to fix it up and get it back to rights and then release it back into the wild in an appropriate area and in an appropriate way. And this process is way too complicated to cover here, but they currently have some pretty neat animals so wanted to put up some photos.
Monkeys are notoriously hard to release, as they are tribal and a new arrival may not be accepted. This spider monkey is probably at the sanctuary for the rest of its life.
This female white-faced capuchin has a chance at a wild release, which would be fantastic.
One amazing couple the sanctuary is this brocket deer and an agouti. There is a story behind that includes the poaching of the deer's mom and then the baby deer being confiscated by the authorities and taken to the sanctuary. The agouti was a young one as well and bonded on the deer. Now they are inseparable. When we walked by the agouti was sleeping on the back of the deer but they woke up. Totally cute couple in a very odd relationship.
Another ball of cuteness they had was a collared peccary only about a month old.
There is a really nice resort situated at Alturas, and got a chance to check out the view from the tourist area and pool. Would certainly not be a bad place to take some vacation time.
While we were at the beach, a flock of scarlet macaws came in and were hammering what appeared to be almond trees but I am unsure. Trees aren't my specialty. Spectacular birds.
Surprising number of green-backed herons on a nearby beach when we stopped by. This one was pretty friendly and landed close to where I was standing.
Both male and female crowned woodnymphs were around this afternoon. I like this photo of the male but would like to get an image from straight on showing the bright green bib. Gorgeous birds.
The female is strikingly different looking. This is called sexual dimorphism and is really common with birds.
This is a super pretty hummingbird and can be seen every day by the feeders at the Program House. But the "white-necked" part is not always obvious. Don McFarlane asked me yesterday what kind of hummingbird is that, and I told him. His comment was that the bird appears to have white in many places but the neck is decidedly not one of them.
But once you get a couple looks at it the white is visible on the nape of the neck.
Keith Christenson - Wildlife Biologist