It’s Bat Week! The story of a Tree Bat on Dewees

Posted on Posted in CoastalMasterNaturalistsFeed, Featured Creature, Mammals

I’ve seen bats on Dewees fairly often in early spring, and occasionally in summer. Since it’s National Bat Week (who knew?!) I thought I would share a story of a lovely encounter with a tree bat in June. I was headed to the beach for a turtle walk slightly before sunrise through the maritime forest, and I was following what I thought was a pale winged warbler/wren through the rather dark forest, when suddenly it seemed like a pine cone fell in front of me, and a small chip broke off and fell slightly further away.

Tree Bat, Seminole
What I thought was a pinecone and a chip

Something seemed weird, so I parked the golf cart and walked up to find a small bat with dark reddish brown wings spread out along the sandy path. The tiny chip turned out to be a baby bat about a foot away, and the mother flew off when I got close, so I retreated about 50 feet to see what would happen. I got back in the golf cart because for some reason the birds are happier when I am not on foot, so I figured that might apply to bats.

Lasiurus seminolus
Baby bat waiting for the mother to return

It was hard to see in the pre-dawn gloom, but eventually the mother returned and covered the baby and froze on the ground.

Tree Bat, Seminole Bat
Mother bat covering baby

I went closer to look and could see the small arm of the baby reaching around the mother’s neck, like a hug, and as I went for the camera she seemed to tuck it underneath and flew off with the baby.
tree bat

You can just barely see the baby on the right side of the photo above.

tree bat
Seminole Bat before flying off

I was left with a bunch of questions: What species are possible? Where do they nest/roost? What would make a bat drop a baby? Is that some ecosystem thing to worry about? I assumed that intervention would make things worse– but should I have done anything differently?

I emailed my South Carolina Master Naturalist Instructor and guru, Keith McCullough, and he said he’d research it and get back to me. He reached out to a grad student at Auburn who had been doing bat research at Caw Caw County Park, and this is what she said:

The bat in the pictures is either an Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) or a Seminole bat (Lasiurus seminolus). It’s kind of difficult to tell from the colors in the picture, but it looks more like a Seminole based on the mahogany colored fur.

Baby bats can be born at up to 40% of the female’s body weight (!) and only increase in weight as they grow. Most tree bats (what reds and Seminoles are called) forage with their babies clinging on to them. It is not uncommon for the baby to fall off the mother while she is flying and sometimes people assume they’re rabid and kill them. Finding a bat like this is nothing to worry about. It is possible that the baby was falling off the mom and the mom was trying to catch it. It is also possible that something entirely different was happening. I’ve heard of bats occasionally falling out of trees but I’ve never seen one do it.

Lasiurine bats are some of my favorites and are absolutely gorgeous! These bats tend to roost in foliage or under exfoliating tree bark. Females can have 1-4 pups, but having only one or two is more common.

I was relieved that there was nothing ecologically wrong going on, and also that I had been right to back off and not intervene. I also agree with her that tree bats are certainly are beautiful bats, and I hope to find them again in the maritime forest. I drove that road most of the summer before dawn, but didn’t find them again. I did do a little research on Seminole Bats, part of the family of tree bats, and this is what I found:

I came away from the experience with a little awe– these amazing animals are right outside our door, feeding little ones and roosting in the trees, and we are mostly unaware of them. I felt fortunate for the magic of the encounter that let me glimpse a little of that hidden life.

The US Department of the Interior put out this interesting bat video in honor of bat week:

Bobcat Photos taken 2 ways by Conservancy Interns

Posted on Posted in Featured Creature, Mammals

On July 1, Nicole (one of the Dewees Island Conservancy’s summer interns) was scanning the photos taken by the wildlife trail camera out on the North End of the Island when she came across these three photos, showing a bobcat out at that end of the island:

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We have seen tracks and scat out on the beach, and we know they swim between Dewees and Capers Island, and between Capers and Bull. On Dewees, we’ve found the tracks going in and out of the water, and photographer Ben Sumrell captured this incredible shot in 2012 while watching one swim from Capers to Bull Island.

Then, Monday morning, our other Conservancy Intern Allie was on Capers Island with turtle team head Gary McGraw, and they landed downwind of a Bobcat near a turtle nest. They were able to get close before startling the cat, and Allie snapped these photos:
bobcat1
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Allie says,

When I first saw it I was just looking for turtle crawls near the dunes. Then spotted it walking along in the tall grass about 15 Yards from me. We were down wind though so were able to watch it for a couple minutes before noticing we were there. Once it saw us, it froze and just stared at us for a minute, which was when I was able to snap a few shots before it wandered off.

The north end of Dewees is entirely within a conservation easement, which means that there are no houses out there, and relatively large tracts of undisturbed maritime forest and marsh. Click here for vacationer John Stoffel’s account of watching one on the road out there on his first visit to Dewees. We enjoyed seeing the Stoffel’s back on the island last week– it’s kind of cool that they seem to be able to time their vacations with bobcat activity.

One year, Gary McGraw saw a bobcat stalking a deer on the island: by the size of the tracks, we almost convinced ourselves that it was a cougar, but after consulting with DNR and taking plaster casts, it was determined that it was just a large bobcat. Here is a link to that story and photos of the plaster casts we took of the tracks.

bobcat kill
the south end of a fawn on the north end of the island, photo (and caption) Peter Cotton

And Peter Cotton discovered a half eaten fawn on his way up to Capers Walk on a turtle patrol. Here’s his evidence of a (then)recent bobcat kill:
When Peter returned to fetch his cart, the fawn was gone. Bobcats can cache their prey to return to it later. Click here for a post about bobcat caches.

On Kiawah Island, there are far more bobcats; they have learned to adapt quite well to living in close proximity to humans. I have been there to band birds and for various meetings, and on every single visit I saw either a bobcat or field signs of one. They have a tagging/gps tracking program to learn more about their bobcats, and they have learned a few things about their bobcats: They hunt nocturnally around scrub-shrub, forest, and developed areas, and they prefer scrub-shrub habitat along marsh edges and secondary dunes for daytime resting cover. The biologists on Kiawah even know where the dens with kittens are– I’d love to see that someday! For now, I love knowing they are out there, elusive and beautiful, and it makes me appreciate our wild habitat even more!

For an article in SC Wildlife magazine about bobcats, click here.
National Geographic produced a video about the Kiawah bobcats:

Pelicans

Posted on Posted in Birds and Birding, CoastalMasterNaturalistsFeed, Featured Creature

pelicansSometimes I think Pelicans are the clowns of the bird world, and sometimes I am awed by their grace. The bird featured below caught a huge red drum, and I wasn’t at all confident he was going to be able to eat it!

The pelican we are most likely to see on Dewees is the Eastern Brown Pelican. (Although we have seen White Pelicans on nearby Capers Island). It is the only pelican that feeds by plunge diving, and they can drop from great heights. According to Birdscope at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Pelicans have several adaptations to diving, including air sacs beneath the skin on their breast that serve as cushions and floats. While diving, they also rotate their body to the left, probably to avoid injury to their trachea and esophagus, which are on the right side of neck.

The eastern brown pelican was listed as an endangered species in 1970, when their population plummeted to less than 100. Widespread use of pesticides such as DDT caused thinning of eggshells, which subsequently broke during incubation. The United States ban on DDT in 1972 and similar pesticides spurred the pelican’s recovery to much of its former range. The implementation of the Brown Pelican Recovery Plan of 1979 also contributed to the restoration of brown pelican populations. (SCDNR) Now they’ve had such a spectacular comeback that they’ve become a symbol of wildlife conservation, and they’ve been delisted from the endangered species list.

The pelicans we see on the island probably nested at nearby Crab Bankpelicans, with large colonies of other pelicans and other colonial nesters, like terns and black skimmers.

They are strong swimmers, with webbing between all four toes. Their colors are brighter in breeding season, when they have one monogamous partner for the whole of the breeding season. Juveniles are brown with a white belly, and it takes three years for them to change to adult plumage.

In addition to plunging, they can also seize food from the surface of the water. Pelicans have a gular pouch that helps them catch food, and a hook on the upper mandible to help hold slippery fish. I came across this explanation for how it works at a website called How Stuff Works:

Another unique feature is the hook at the tip of the pelican’s upper mandible (the top half of its bill), which helps grab onto particularly slippery or wiggly fish. After locating and scooping up its prey, the pelican opens its bill and slowly contracts its pouch to empty out the water and keep the fish inside. Then, with a jerk of the bird’s head, the fish slides down the ­hatch. If a fish is particularly large, the pelican might manipulate it so that the fish goes down head first, which helps keep it from getting stuck. A pelican can’t eat or fly away if its pouch is still full of water, so the draining process is very important. By bending its neck, it can even turn its pouch inside out.

They can also soar right above the surface of the water, using the slight updrafts from the wave troughs in a process called dynamic soaring. This allows them to save energy as they fly.

This juvenile clown was fishing from slightly above the surface in Chapel Pond.
pelican
when he caught a fish that must have been bigger than he expected:pelican
and even though he tried to keep it to himself,
pelican
his friends swooped in and clamped down on his beakpelican
After shaking them off, he retreated to a spot where he could regroup

pelican
and try to wash the fish down with water.
pelican
pelican
pelican
pelican
and he finally moves on after somehow washing the fish down.
pelican

Here is a related post about releasing a Pelican after rehabilitation.

At a workshop at the South Carolina Aquarium, I told the story of watching this pelican, and wondering if the pouch could withstand all that action. The bird rehabilitation specialists told me that the bird was lucky– if he (or one of his exuberant friends) had punctured the gular pouch, there is almost nothing that can be done for them– sutures won’t hold, and trying to repair a tear actually makes the situation worse. Most birds with gular pouch punctures have to be euthanized. So I was glad to see this guy finally move along!

Winter Bird Notes: Northern Gannet

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Birds and Birding, Featured Creature, Winter

I had heard of people watching Northern Gannets diving right near the shore in the winter, but so far, every time I have been watching the beach in the winter, I haven’t been able to catch this in action. Yesterday, I was actually grumbling about that to a friend on the beach when we looked up and saw a Gannet emerging from the waves. After awkwardly running off the water and into the air, the bird rose to a height above the blustery waves, and then plunged headlong into another wave. We watched a few of them for a while, and it really was thrilling. I read something in the paper one winter about people watching them from the Ravenel Bridge.

The Northern Gannet, Morus bassanus, is one of the largest seabirds in our area. They have large webbed feet, and a wingspan of 72 inches. They feed by plunge diving, and can dive from heights of 10 to 40 meters to a depth of 22 meters. According to Cornell University’s All About Birds site,

Most plunge-dives are relatively shallow, but the Northern Gannet can dive as deep as 22 meters (72 feet). It uses its wings and feet to swim deeper in pursuit of fish.

There are only six breeding colonies on our side of the Atlantic, three of them in Newfoundland off the Labrador coast, and three in Quebec in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Adults greet each other by clacking bills together, seen here in this video. Before chicks can fly, they plunge from the cliff nest into the water and begin swimming as part of migration. While there are many predators of Gannet eggs and chicks, the only specific predator of adults is the Bald Eagle. They winter at sea, with many traveling to the waters off Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. In February, migration north begins. They feed on fish schooling near the surface of the water, and they can fly in storms and high wind. Here is a video clip showing them diving from above and below the water. It has a sad ending, but the video footage is great!

Gannets are so striking that they did not escape the attention of early Naturalists to our area. Mark Catesby, an English naturalist who lived in Charleston, wrote of colleague John Lawson, who described the Gannet’s commercial value:

His fat or grease is as yellow as saffron, and the best thing known to preserve firearms, from rust.

Catesby in Natural History of Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, published between 1731 and 1743.

This was a new bird for me… if you are not participating in the Dewees Island Big Year contest, you can join us at any time!

Eagles Are Nesting on the Island

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Birds and Birding, Featured Creature, Winter

The buzz circulated yesterday afternoon as Ginny and I discovered the nest within a few hours of each other. We have been watching this pair of eagles since December, when we noticed that they were spending a lot of time over the impoundment. In the mornings, the pair would be atop an old osprey platform, and as the sun warmed the water, they would fly off. We assumed they were just roosting, because the platform is much smaller than we expected eagles could nest on. But we did see them gathering sticks, and adding them to the platform.
On December 30, the pair spent a long time in the impoundment, looking at the ducks and fish, but not hunting. Perhaps they had other things on their minds, because they waited until dusk, and chose a small hummock in the impoundment for mating. As the pile of sticks on the platform grew, we could see the eagles on the platform in the early morning and at night, and then this weekend it looked like there was only one. “What had happened to the other?”, we wondered. Our telescope is not powerful enough to see that what looked like a bump on a stick was actually the head of one eagle, who appears to be sitting on eggs. As I drove by yesterday, I noticed that she was still there, hunkered down in the nest.
I immediately called Lori, who checked with her contacts at DNR about the likelihood of eagles raising a successful brood atop an osprey platform. We had lots of questions… will cart traffic disturb the nest? Would the pair return year after year and grow the nest to those two-ton massive structures you read about? What if the ospreys come back?

They thought that the pair is either an experienced pair whose nest was somehow destroyed, and she needs a place to lay eggs right now, OR that this is a starter home for a new set of parents, and this represents their first nest attempt. (Because of the fact that this pair seems to have been investigating this site since just after Thanksgiving, I am inclined to think this is the starter home situation.) In either case, it is not particularly likely that they will nest here for years, because the platform probably won’t support that sort of enormous nest. If ospreys return to that platform, they may throw eaglets out of the nest. (Does anyone remember if a pair nested there last summer?)

According to Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds, the eagles will continue to add leafy twigs throughout the nesting period, and the outside diameter of the nest may get to be six feet across- or larger. They usually lay two eggs over several days, and the older sibling may starve or kill the second, depending on available resources.  The eggs hatch 35 to 46 days after being laid, and the babies are born covered in downy gray feathers.

The Norfolk Botanical garden has a webcam on an eagle’s nest: you can see it here. In Oklahoma, here is a nest with babies that have hatched already.  We can’t wait for this to unfold and watch what happens.  Try not to disturb the eagles if you spot them from the road.

Portuguese Men o’ war on the Front Beach

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Featured Creature, Uncategorized, Winter

Dewees Environmentalist Lori Sheridan Wilson sent out a warning to Dewees beachgoers yesterday to look out for Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish on the beach. This is about a week after this Post and Courier article about them washing up on Folly Beach.

According to the SCDNR taxonomic page,

the man-of-war is not a singleanimal. It is actually a colony of numerous organisms called polyps (or zooids) that are sospecialized that they cannot live without each other.
Four main types of polyps make up the man-of-war. One individual polyp becomes thelarge gas filled float (pneumatophore) that sits horizontally on the surface of the ocean.
The float can be up to 15 cm above the water and is generally translucent, tinged withpink, purple or blue. The other polyps become the feeding tentacles (gastrozooids), thedefensive/prey capturing tentacles (dactylozooids) and the reproductive polyps(gonozooids). The tentacles of the man-of-war can hang down in the water 165 feet (or
50 meters).

According to Lori, she counted over 75 Portuguese Man-of-War on the beach between Osprey Walk and the Osprey platform. Jill Cochran walked the beach this morning and also reported seeing a lot of them! The Post and Courier article reports that water is warmer than usual this year, which might have something to do with it:

The winds lately have been southeast. One telltale hint that they are around is sargassum along the beaches. It too blows or floats in from the Gulf Stream.

Man-of-wars might be more common in the summer, but the waters offshore are several degrees warmer than usual for this time of year.

At the Folly Pier the temperature is in the low 60s, said Charlie Vance, assistant pier manager. At the Edisto Buoy some 40 miles offshore and closer to the Gulf Stream, the temperature is about 10 degrees warmer.

Click here for a graphic on how they sting.

Butterfly Tagging

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Fall, Featured Creature, Island Living, Uncategorized
Monarch feeding on groundsel

On Friday, the Dewees Island Conservancy sponsored a butterfly tagging program on Dewees Island with long-time island friend and fantastic Naturalist Billy McCord. Everyone I told about this responded with a befuddled, “how can you tag a butterfly?” I couldn’t wait to find out.

It turns out that we are only actually tagging monarchs, because they are the only ones that migrate. According to Kansas University’s Monarch Watch program:

In all the world, no butterflies migrate like the Monarchs of North America. They travel much farther than all other tropical butterflies, up to three thousand miles. They are the only butterflies to make such a long, two way migration every year. Amazingly, they fly in masses to the same winter roosts, often to the exact same trees. Their migration is more the type we expect from birds or whales. However, unlike birds and whales, individuals only make the round-trip once. It is their children’s grandchildren that return south the following fall.

Since butterflies are cold-blooded, they only fly when the sun can warm them. Monarchs have a genetic mutation that allows them to store fat; it also gives them the ability to shiver; to mechanically warm their muscles.  The last generation to hatch in the fall stores fat in their abdomen, in order to travel long distances and live through the winter.

This fat not only fuels their flight of one to three thousand miles, but must last until the next spring when they begin the flight back north. As they migrate southwards, Monarchs stop to nectar, and they actually gain weight during the trip! Some researchers think that Monarchs conserve their “fuel” in flight by gliding on air currents as they travel south. This is an area of great interest for researchers; there are many unanswered questions about how these small organisms are able to travel so far.

To tag them, you first catch them with a butterfly net.  Watch out for bees and wasps, who may be nectaring on the same plants.  Billy usually catches a large number before tagging them, usually out of the wind. The best place to hold a monarch is along the forewing, which has the hardiest structure. Butterflies are covered with tiny scales, and we need to be careful not to strip the scales.   Billy can actually hold butterflies between his lips; if he is going to be a while before tagging them, he places them in glassine envelopes in a cooler with an ice pack and a damp paper towel to provide humidity. Astonishingly, this calms the butterflies by metabolically slowing them down a bit. When it is time to tag them, he records their size and gender (male monarchs have a black mark which may be a scent gland of sorts on their lower wings, and the females have thicker black bars) the date, the nectar source, and the condition of the butterfly. He assigns them a condition number from 1 to 5 based on the level of degradation of the wings.  To keep track of host plants and locations, he uses sequential envelopes and if he captures a monarch on a different plant, he includes a specimen of the new plant with the butterfly in the envelope.

Occasionally, like today, he catches a mating pair. Over the years he has observed that the males in late season couplings tend to be rather tattered– as if they realize that this may be their last chance to pass on their genetic material.

To tag the butterflies, he gently slides the butterfly into a cardboard splint so that the wings are separated and held in place by a rubber band. A tiny tag, made of lightweight polypropylene with special 3M ¨ adhesive, is placed gently on the back.

When I tried this myself, I eventually learned to have the tag only touch the edges of my fingernails to avoid getting stuck to it! Kansas University, which oversees the tagging project, only requires the date, location, gender of the butterfly, and full tag number, so that’s what Lori and I enter on the data. Tags are purchased in lots of 25, and the Dewees Island Environmental program has 50 to do this season. The price funds some of the research in processing, so people who volunteer with monarchwatch actually purchase the tags they use.

When a butterfly with a tag is recaptured, the tag number is sent to Kansas University and data is collected (and published) about when and how far the butterfly has flown. The most recent assumptions have been that migrating butterflies east of the Rockies have all wintered in Mexico, but because so few of the locally tagged butterflies (3 of 18,000 have been recaptured in Mexico), Billy McCord surmises that our coastal butterflies head somewhere else… the mountains of Caribbean nations in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, or Cuba… but more science is needed to prove the theory. In addition, some of ours may actually overwinter right here. He has recaptured tagged butterflies on Folly Beach, even after a very hard freeze.

Why tag them?
The whole project seems to serve a variety of purposes. Once you have gingerly held this tiny bit of beauty, felt the incredible ability in its wings and grasping feet, and wished it well along its journey, you are more likely to care about protection. And it is apparently clear that protection is increasingly important, as threats from deforestation, pesticides, habitat loss, and even climate change may be taking their toll. The 2011 Monarch pre-migration newsletter says:

The great migrations of the 90s are a thing of the past. In the future, we can expect overwintering populations in Mexico of 2-6 hectares. The main reason for the decline is loss of habitat.
Monarch habitat has been reduced by at least 140 million acres in the last 10 years – about a fifth of the total breeding area available to monarchs has been lost. At least 100 million acres of habitat has been lost due to the adoption of herbicide resistant corn and soybeans.

What else might help?
It looks like there are a lot of ways that ordinary citizens can make a difference, even in their own yards. Dewees Island is already ahead of the game in terms of not using pesticides and using native plants for gardening. Although milkweed is the most familiar of the host plants, there is only one variety of milkweed native to the South Carolina Coastal plain, and therefore eligible for cultivating on the island. Not to worry, however, there is a vine near the dunes called swallowwort, which is the most commonly used host plant for Monarch butterflies on the island.

swallow-wort vine

In your yard off the island, think about using fewer pesticides and herbicides and about planting milkweed from seed for egg-laying and caterpillars to grow on.  Allow some groundsel, aka salt myrtle to flourish in your yard, despite its scruffy appearance.  You can actually get seeds and start an official “monarch waystation” at your home, office, or school.

 

Click here for information about the monarch lifecyle.

Butterflies are spectacular in October

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Fall, Featured Creature

Ahhh… October.  The marsh is golden, the sweetgrass is blooming, the warblers are careening through.  Along with sweetgrass, the camphorweed and mistflower and seaside goldenrod are all blooming along the edges, and the butterflies are truly amazing. There are gulf fritillaries everywhere, as well as a wide variety of skippers and sulphurs. A single patch of mistflower along Old House Lane boasts at least 5 kinds of butterflies.    Sunday’s Post and Courier had a great article about monarch migration:

Lowcountry beaches are the heart of one of the Eastern flyways, and at the peak of the migration, thousands of the butterflies at a time might be sipping nectar across a single barrier island.

“They roost communally and the roosts can be spectacular. I’ve seen hundreds of them assembled in a single roosting colony,” ecologist Billy McCord said.

 
These pics were all shot over the last few days… take a slow cart ride around the island to appreciate the fall.
http://bluepixy.smugmug.com/Other/Dewees-Fall-Butterflies-and/19379144_ZSzfFZ

Mary Alice Monroe, local bestselling author and mentor to the Dewees Turtle team, has a relatively new book out, called The Butterfly’s Daughter. She intersperses great natural history information with a good story, and writes that,

Monarch butterflies that emerge in the fall are unique. Butterflies that emerge in the spring and summer live two to four weeks. But the fourth=generation monarchs that emerge in the fall do not mate. They follow their instincts and migrate south. Called the Methuselah generation, they live for six or seven months.

In the book, you’ll find an interesting character named Billy McCall, who tags butterflies. You can learn more from our Butterfly man himself with the Dewees Island Conservancy’s butterfly/migrating bird event at the end of the month. It should be a great experience in the field! If, as the P&C reports, the monarch’s preferred food is the groundsel tree, they should be ready to bloom right about then and we should be treated to a sight!

This is a great time to see migrating birds: especially Redstarts

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Birds and Birding, Featured Creature

It is spectacular on the island at this time of year!  The wax myrtles along the roads are covered with tiny, flitting warblers on their way south, and it’s well worth the time to just park your cart and get out the binoculars:  you never know what you are going to find.  Yesterday’s bird count yielded yellow warblers, returning pied billed grebes, migrating cliff swallows, and a brief glimpse of a Merlin.

I noticed a female redstart feeding through the window last week, and was surprised to see a flock of 5 or so of them out near six pipes.  I checked and double checked, because I only saw females and juveniles… no males!  (and I wanted to be sure I had the id correct!)  It turns out that males have also been seen all over the island.  The talk at coffee this week was of how many redstarts people have been seeing. This is a quick moving bird, and I wasn’t lucky enough to get a shot of them, so I asked our friends Carl and Cathy Miller (Technical advisors, bloggers of Pluff Mud Perspectives, and photograpers) if they had gotten any pics lately.  They sent me these, and you can clearly see the differences between males and females.  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

  • A young male American Redstart resembles a female in plumage until its second fall. Males in the gray and yellow yearling plumage will try to hold territories and attract mates, singing vigorously. Some succeed in breeding in this plumage, but most do not breed successfully until they are two years old.
  • The male American Redstart occasionally is polygynous, having two mates at the same time. Unlike many other polygynous species of birds that have two females nesting in the same territory, the redstart holds two separate territories up to 500 m (1,640 ft) apart. The male starts to attract a second female after the first has completed her clutch and is incubating the eggs.

They are on their way to winter in the tropics, foraging for small insects and fruits on their way.  Cathy saw a female fly off a nest in the mountains and took a photo of it:  nests are a tight cup, about 5-10 feet up, in the fork of a sapling. Grasses and twigs are tightly bound with spider silk and decorated with lichens.  They don’t nest here, but I loved the photo.

They flash wings and tails to show the yellow plumage, presumably to attract insects.  This week, they have been seen on every road on the island, foraging at the edges.

 

If you’d like to read more about this bird, there is an interesting article from the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center.  In the tropics it is known as “The Christmas Bird” because that’s when it arrives for the winter, OR as “the latrine bird,” for its tendency to hang around latrines and garbage dumps in search of flies. The article also has details of how males (who help with feeding young) manage to maintain two separate mates, nests, and territories.

 

All photos courtesy of Cathy and Carl Miller.