Things have a way of working out, though, and Mother Nature obliged for about six hours that day, giving us enough time to try to catch Longshot. If you haven't heard about the Prothonotary Warbler that retired Audubon South Carolina State Director Norm Brunswig affectionately named "Longshot," see our previous post here. Amazingly enough, this tiny bird (weighing about 14 grams) wore a small device called a geolocator (weighting about 0.4 grams) for the last 10 months, flying to somewhere in Central or South America during that time. It is our hope that the device itself will answer that precise question - where did he go? Geolocators take light level readings to infer a relative position, thus enabling researchers for the first time to track the long-term movements of a small bird.
|Staff and volunteers transport banding equipment on the boardwalk. Photo courtesy of Mac Stone.|
Sure enough, we arrived at his "spot" on the boardwalk around 9:00 a.m. and tried unsuccessfully to catch him once again. After about 30 minutes of trying, we admitted defeat and left to try to catch a few other Prothonotary Warblers that were unbanded.
We had much more success doing that! The pictures below are a few taken by our talented volunteers of the banding process.
|The bands don't hurt the birds and are extremely small/lightweight (see picture above for scale). This bird's new name will be A1500, based on the colors used and their arrangement on the bird.|
|Once the birds are processed, we try to take a few documentary pictures and then release them as quickly as possible. Here, a volunteer releases a newly banded bird. Photo courtesy of Mac Stone.|
We banded three new birds for the day, taking us through lunchtime. Near the end of our field day, we decided to take one more chance at catching the Prothonotary with the geolocator. We set the net up in PRECISELY the same spot that we banded him in July 2014, and.....bingo!!
|"Longshot," the Prothonotary Warbler that's been carrying a geolocator since July 2014, is finally captured! Photo courtesy of Mac Stone.|
|A914, aka Longshot, before his release last Wednesday. A truly remarkable story! Photo courtesy of Marcie Daniels.|
Once we captured and removed the geolocator, we released Longshot and packed up our gear. About 20 minutes after arriving back at the center, the rain set in again. We had a fortunate day of weather that allowed us to catch a very lucky bird!
Now that the geolocator is back in our possession, we're going to send it off to our Audubon colleagues in Louisiana who can hopefully use software to analysis the data. If it all works out, are fingers are crossed that his "backpack" will tell us not only where he spent his winter, but how he got there too.
Stay tuned to this blog for more updates on Longshot and our other banded birds!