Greetings from Cat Island!
After striking out time and time again on Abaco, we’ve had some major successes on Cat Island. Within just a few minutes of starting our very first transect, we found a Kirtland’s Warbler!
As we walked down the road broadcasting a variety of song and call notes of the Kirtland’s, we heard some loud call notes coming from the vegetation on the east side of the road and out pops a nice bright adult male! Little did we know that this was the first of many more to come.
We’ve now completed 7 days of transects and found a total of 47 Kirtland’s Warblers on the island. Joe and Dave have never found so many before on one island in such a short time. Given the vast amounts of habitat that we couldn’t access it’s quite likely that Cat Island alone holds more than 10 or 20% of the wintering Kirtland’s population.
While we enjoyed seeing all of the birds, one was more special than the rest. Ashley and Dave were walking along one of their surveys and attracted a young male with color bands. They noted the color combination and after exchanging a few emails later in the day, it turned out that this particular male was banded in Wisconsin as a nestling last summer. The odds of finding this bird were incredible! Talk about a needle in a haystack.
Along our transect routes we saw lots of other interesting things, including a large tarantula (pictured below). These spiders are among the ones hunted by Tarantula Hawks, a type of wasp. These wasps sting and paralyze the tarantula, transport it to a burrow, and lay eggs on the spider. Then the larvae develop and feast on the living, but paralyzed, tarantula! The tarantula pictured below was not moving and may have been recently stung by one of the many tarantula hawks we saw in the area. We also saw quite a few Golden Silk Orb weavers (pictured below), a Brown Racer, thousands of land crabs, and at least 46 species of birds.
Now we are all headed back to our various homes with lots of data in hand. Over the coming months, we’ll work on analyzing these data and determining what conclusions we can draw.
In early May I head back to northern Michigan to start the first year of a two-year cowbird trapping experiment. Stay tuned over the next month to learn more about this exciting project. For now I'll leave you with a lovely sunset from Cat Island...