Sunday, August 30, 2009

Metro Beach Banding Report - August 23 & 27, 2009


Every year, right around August 25, southeastern Michigan experiences the first significant push of migrant warblers, usually consisting of the more southerly breeding species of mixed deciduous-coniferous woodland, including Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, Mourning, and Canada Warblers and American Redstarts. More northerly, true "boreal" breeders were represented by Wilson's and Blackburnian Warblers. A total of 67 individual warblers of 14 species was banded on the two days, of which 52 of 14 species were banded on Thursday, August 27. Empidonax flycatchers and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds had their first good influx as well and for the first time since before 2004 we're banding good numbers of Warbling Vireos. Hopefully numbers of the other vireo species will increase as well as they've been significantly depressed for several years. We also continue to catch good numbers of Cedar Waxwings and we may be heading for a record on those.

I have also decided to reconfigure the Field Nets to avoid the Bald-faced Hornet nest that is only 8-feet away from where we originally had one of the nets. A special thanks to Aaron Potts for bringing his gas-powered weed whacker on Thursday which made clearing one more net lane so much easier. And hazardous duty was performed on Sunday by Dave Lancaster, Jerry McHale, and Dave Furi as they helped take down the nets after we'd closed them early due to a rain shower. The mosquitos were awesome, and not in a good way! I was reminded of my trips to the Arctic tundra in Alaska and Churchill, Manitoba. Perhaps volunteers should register their blood types from now on!

Banding highlights on Sunday, August 23 included 11 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, TWO Eastern Wood-Pewees (few are captured here) including an adult female showing a brood patch indicating local breeding.

After hatch-year female Eastern Wood-Pewee
(Photo by Jerry McHale)

A brightly-plumaged male Black-throated Blue Warbler was a welcome sight in the Upland Nets.

Hatch-year male Black-throated Blue Warbler

And an adult male Canada Warbler was also quite nice as typically we capture duller hatch-year birds.

After hatch-year male Canada Warbler

Ten more Cedar Waxwings and four more Baltimore Orioles put us near records for both species. Interesting birds observed but not banded included a Cooper's Hawk briefly in the tree at the center of the Field Nets, several Empidonax flycatchers (some identified by calls, some not), a Great Crested Flycatcher, and single Magnolia and Blackburnian Warblers and one Northern Waterthrush.

Banding highlights on Thursday, August 27 included 9 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a total of 17 Empidonax flycatchers with 3 Yellow-bellied, 2 Alder, 2 Willow, 5 Least, and 5 "Traill's" Flycatchers. A Veery was the first for the season. A good number of Cedar Waxwings was captured again, this time all juveniles, including more individuals with orange tail tips. One was a leucistic individual with a mostly white crest and patchy whitish feathers mainly on the head and back.

Leucistic hatch-year Cedar Waxwing

Fourteen warbler species made it an excellent day. Two Black-and-white Warblers were the first of the fall season, as was the case with several other warbler species. Both Black-and-whites were caught together in the same net, one a hatch-year male and one a hatch-year female.

Hatch-year male Black-and-white Warbler

An early species, the Blackburnian Warbler sometimes eludes capture in the fall at Metro Beach, but not today as this adult female attests.

After hatch-year female Blackburnian Warbler

Three Mourning Warblers and three Canada Warblers were good numbers for both of these early migrants. The three Yellow Warblers caught today may be the last of this very early migrant. The warbler species with the greatest numbers captured, however, was Wilson's Warbler, many of which were captured in the Field Nets.

Hatch-year female Wilson's Warbler

Interesting birds observed, but not captured included two Least Sandpipers flushing off the pile of dredge at the start of the maintenance road, several Chimney Swifts among the six species of swallows flying overhead, and a single Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that teased, but would not be caught.

Banding on these two days simply could not have been done without the help of dedicated volunteers, including David Furi, Dave Lancaster, Jerry McHale, Aaron Potts, Tom Schlack, and Joan Tisdale.

Banding Data
SUNDAY, August 23, 2009
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:47
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 11:15 (rain forced early closure)
Hours Open: 5.50
No. of Nets: 4.50-12.75
Net Hours: 62.625
Temperature (F): 61-66
Cloud Cover: 50-100%
Wind: NW @ 1-3-10 mph
Barometer: 30.05-30.12
Precipitation: Rain at close
No. Banded: 70 (plus 11 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 19
Capture Rate: 135.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers: Dave Furi, Dave Lancaster, Jerry McHale

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 11 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Eastern Wood-Pewee - 2
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 1 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Willow Flycatcher - 1
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 1
Least Flycatcher - 2
Warbling Vireo - 2 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Black-capped Chickadee - 3
House Wren - 1
American Robin - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Gray Catbird - 2
Cedar Waxwing - 10
Yellow Warbler - 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 12 (plus 1 recaptured)
Canada Warbler - 1
Song Sparrow - 5 (plus 7 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Swamp Sparrow - 6 (plus 1 recaptured)
Baltimore Oriole - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 1

THURSDAY, August 27, 2009
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:52
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.50
No. of Nets: 4.50-12.75
Net Hours: 89.250
Temperature (F): 57-64
Cloud Cover: 95-100%
Wind: Calm-ESE @ 0-3-10 mph
Barometer: 30.21-30.20
Precipitation: Trace in P.M.
No. Banded: 115 (plus 15 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 30
Capture Rate: 150.1 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers: Dave Lancaster, Aaron Potts, Tom Schlack, Joan Tisdale

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 9 (plus 1 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 3
Alder Flycatcher - 2
Willow Flycatcher - 2
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 5
Least Flycatcher - 5
Warbling Vireo - 2
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
House Wren - 1
Veery - 1
American Robin - 4
Cedar Waxwing - 8
Nashville Warbler - 2
Yellow Warbler - 3
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 5
Magnolia Warbler - 7
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 2
Blackburnian Warbler - 1
Black-and-white Warbler - 2
American Redstart - 2
Ovenbird - 5
Northern Waterthrush - 2
Mourning Warbler - 3
Common Yellowthroat - 3 (plus 2 recaptured)
Wilson's Warbler - 11
Canada Warbler - 4
Song Sparrow - 5 (plus 11 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
Swamp Sparrow - 7
Red-winged Blackbird - 1
Baltimore Oriole - 1
American Goldfinch - 7

Monday, August 24, 2009

Metro Beach banding report - August 20, 2009

A lack of volunteers this week allowed for only one day of banding, and nearly a weathered-out day at that! The nets were opened slightly ahead of schedule but had to be closed early as the windy conditions became worse, followed by threatening thunderstorms. One of the Field Nets became infested with Bald-faced Hornets for the second time this fall, but this time the cautious operation of cutting them out resulted in my getting stung on the arm, so this was abandoned and the net, now ruined from all the cuts, was rolled up into the bag with the hornets still stuck. Few birds were captured today, but the subtle beauty of a young Mourning Warbler was definitely a highlight.

Hatch-year female Mourning Warbler

We continue to catch Cedar Waxwings, mostly out in the field nets, and individuals with orange tail tips are still being noted, as there is quite a bit of Autumn Olive in that area. Interesting birds observed but not banded included two Least Sandpipers and two Ruddy Turnstones, but along the beach well away from the banding area.

This summer has been rather poor throughout Michigan, and Ohio too, for dragonflies. Thus it has been of interest that a large species seems to have emerged recently at Metro Beach. I believe that they are Shadow Darners (Aeschna umbrosa), but it is possible they could also be Black-tipped Darners (Aeschna tuberculifera). Photos of a male and female, both removed alive from the mist nets, are below.

Probable male Shadow Darner

Probable female Shadow Darner

Thanks very much to the volunteers who made banding possible: Dave Lancaster and Joan Tisdale.

Banding Data
THURSDAY, August 20, 2009
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:44
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 10:45
Hours Open: 5.00
No. of Nets: 5.50-13.75
Net Hours: 62.375
Temperature (F): 72-77
Cloud Cover: 70-100%
Wind: S-SW @ 7-10-20 mph
Barometer: 29.84-29.77
Precipitation: None, thunderstorms threatening at close
No. Banded: 17 (plus 4 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 12
Capture Rate: 96.5 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers: Dave Lancaster, Joan Tisdale

Downy Woodpecker - 1
Alder Flycatcher - 1
[House Wren - 1 released unbanded]
Gray Catbird - 1
Cedar Waxwing - 5
Yellow Warbler - 1
Northern Waterthrush - 1
Mourning Warbler - 1
[Common Yellowthroat - 1 recaptured, 1 released unbanded]
Song Sparrow - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 1

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Metro Beach banding report - August 13 & 15, 2009

Mid-August is a time of transition at Metro Beach, where many juvenile birds are still in the area and a few early fall migrants are beginning to move through. Both of these scenarios played out on the two days of banding this past week. A total of 124 birds was banded, plus 12 more recaptured and 4 released unbanded.
Juvenile sparrows can be a challenge. Both Song and Swamp Sparrows are common here, and both species were captured in good numbers on both days. The central breast spot so characteristic of adult Song Sparrows is absent in juveniles, while the streaks on the breast of juvenile Swamp Sparrows is quite different from the unstreaked breasts of adults. At times, wing formulas had to be determined to figure out which species was in-hand at the moment. Another useful characteristic is the bold, triangular whisker mark below a white malar of the Song Sparrow versus the narrow whisker mark below a buffy malar of the Swamp Sparrow. Photos of juveniles of both species are shown below.

Hatch-year Song Sparrow

Hatch-year Swamp Sparrow

This juvenile Common Grackle was molting into its first basic plumage which is represented by the patches of iridescent feathers among the juvenile grayish feathers, and of course this bird, a female determined by wing length, had not attained the bright yellow eye of an older bird. Also, you can see in the photo below the sharp protrusion from the roof of the mouth that may be used to crack nuts and acorns, and which is very painful if they manage to grab your finger with this!

Hatch-year female Common Grackle

It is shaping up to be a good fall season for banding Cedar Waxwings. A group of 10-30 is always present in the trees above the Field Nets and multiples were captured on both days this past week including both adults and juveniles. One of the adults had orange-tipped tail feathers instead of the typical yellow, which has been attributed to dietary causes, including their consumption of Autumn Olive berries during the growth of those feathers. There are quite a few Autumn Olive trees inside the Field Net setup.

After hatch-year female Cedar Waxwing with orange tail tips.

On Thursday, August 13, banding highlights included two Baltimore Orioles, several Empidonax flycatchers (3 Willows, 2 Leasts, and 2 "Traill's"), and the migrants of the day, 2 Northern Waterthrushes.

Hatch-year Northern Waterthrush

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (nested nearby?), an American Redstart, and a Canada Warbler.

On Saturday, August 15, the banding highlights included the first Yellow-bellied Flycatcher of the season.

After hatch-year Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

But the most interesting bird of the week, perhaps of the month, was only the third Olive-sided Flycatcher ever banded at Metro Beach. The first was in spring 1992 and the second was in spring 1996, so this is also the first ever banded in fall, and a personal first as well. It was an adult bird based on the duller edgings on the wing coverts (hatch-year would be buffy) and also based on the streaking below shown well in the second photo (though the lens of the camera exaggerates the size of the bill). The wing length measurement determined the bird to be female.

After hatch-year female Olive-sided Flycatcher

After hatch-year female Olive-sided Flycatcher

Interesting birds observed but not banded included an Eastern Screech-Owl calling at about 11:00 a.m., and a Northern Waterthrush calling back in the swamp.

Thanks very much to the volunteer banding assistants who made banding on these two days possible: Dave Lancaster, Tracy McMullen, Joan Tisdale, and Roy and Myrna Weichner.

Banding Data
THURSDAY, August 13, 2009
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:37
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 5.50-13.75
Net Hours: 92.188
Temperature (F): 63-82
Cloud Cover: 0%
Wind: WNW @ 1-3-10 mph
Barometer: 30.19-30.22
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 81 (plus 4 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 16
Capture Rate: 96.5 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers: Dave Lancaster, Joan Tisdale

Downy Woodpecker - 1
Willow Flycatcher - 3
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 2
Least Flycatcher - 2
Warbling Vireo - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
American Robin - 7 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Gray Catbird - 5
Cedar Waxwing - 4
Yellow Warbler - 5
Northern Waterthrush - 2
Common Yellowthroat - 5 (plus 1 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Song Sparrow - 13 (plus 2 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Swamp Sparrow - 12 (plus 1 recaptured)
Red-winged Blackbird - 13 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Common Grackle - 3
Baltimore Oriole - 2

SATURDAY, August 15, 2009
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:39
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:15
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.0
No. of Nets: 5.50-13.75
Net Hours: 89.875
Temperature (F): 68-84
Cloud Cover: 20%
Wind: S-SE @ 1-3-10 mph
Barometer: 30.20-30.19
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 43 (plus 8 recaptured)
No. of Species: 16
Capture Rate: 56.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers: Tracy McMullen, Roy Weichner, Myrna Weichner
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 2
[Hairy Woodpecker - 1 recaptured]
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 1
Alder Flycatcher - 1
Willow Flycatcher - 1
Warbling Vireo - 1
House Wren - 4
[American Robin - 1 recaptured]
Cedar Waxwing - 6
Yellow Warbler - 2
Common Yellowthroat - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)
Song Sparrow - 12 (plus 4 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 7
Red-winged Blackbird - 1
[Baltimore Oriole - 1 recaptured]

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fall Banding. Yes, Fall Banding!

Believe it or not, its that time of year again. Some birders are aware that Arctic shorebirds begin migrating southward during July and head out to the nearest mudflats and beaches to see them. But the beginnings of songbird migration goes largely unnoticed. I have been opening the banding station at Metro Beach Metropark, Macomb County, Michigan the first week of August partly to sample the population of young birds produced during the summer on the edge of Point Rosa Marsh, but also to begin banding near the very start of songbird migration. And both days spent banding this week delivered both young birds hatched locally and migrants from northern Michigan and beyond.

On Sunday, August 2, an eager group of 7 volunteers, plus me, started out late in the morning (8 a.m.) clearing the net lanes and getting them ready for the banding season. Most of the net lanes were in good shape, so only needed a branch or two trimmed, but the trail out to the Field Nets, and the net lanes out there, had become quite overgrown as they always do. Thankfully, this year a new volunteer, Aaron Potts, brought two gas-powered weed-whackers and cut a couple hours off our labors. So, the nets were opened a little before lunchtime and kept open for about 4 hours. The banding highlights today included three Cedar Waxwings, which we don't catch every year.

After hatch-year female Cedar Waxwing

A single Eastern Wood-Pewee and two Warbling Vireos were other infrequently banded species, and which we usually only band in early August. The biggest surprise was the capture of not one, but two Swainson's Thrushes. This species nests more than 100 miles north of here, so were definitely early migrants. A single Ruby-throated Hummingbird banded was also a highlight, as any day banding a hummingbird is a good day!
On Tuesday, August 4, a good number of Yellow Warblers was captured, probably the last day where there will be a high count of these and several showed fat deposits indicating that they were migrants and not summer residents. Juvenile sparrows made a good showing, with lots of young Song Sparrows and a few Swamp Sparrows. Their plumages were confusing enough that I had to resort to assessing the wing formula given in the Pyle Guide we use for banding. A juvenile flycatcher was captured today too, out at the Field Nets where a pair of Willow Flycatchers has clearly nested. This youngster had a short tail, wings, and bill, which means that the measurements necessary to confirm it as a Willow Flycatcher could not be made.

Hatch-year Willow Flycatcher

Another highlight was the capture of two Marsh Wrens. They breed in the marsh and are present during May, but for some reason we never, never catch them in spring...only in fall.

Hatch-year Marsh Wren

Migrants were once again captured today, with a Swainson's Thrush originally banded on Sunday recaptured, and a surprisingly early Tennessee Warbler. This species apparently is one of few passerines known to undertake a "molt migration", departing the breeding grounds early for a staging area where they molt before continuing their migration. Today's bird was a second-year female, as indicated by very worn plumage and other characteristics. And she had apparently very recently departed the breeding grounds as her brood patch was still very well developed. Very few Tennessee Warblers nest in Michigan, and well to the north of Metro Beach. These early second-year female Tennessee Warblers have been turning up at the banding stations of the Kalamazoo Nature Center for years but this is the first time one has turned up here.

Second-year female Tennessee Warbler

Many thanks to the hard working volunteers who helped clear the net lanes on Sunday, and who helped set up and operate the station on Tuesday: Dave Furi, Andy Johnson, Thierry Lach, Aaron Potts, Renee Render, Amanda Sheehy, Jason St. Pierre, Cathy Thiesen, and joan Tisdale.

Banding Data
SUNDAY, August 2, 2009

Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:25
Time Open (E.S.T.): 8:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 4.50
No. of Nets: 3.75-13.75
Net Hours: 44.125
Temperature (F): 68-73
Cloud Cover: 20-40%
Wind: W @ 1-3-10 mph
Barometer: 29.93-29.95
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 23 (plus 6 recaptured)
No. of Species: 14
Capture Rate: 65.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers: Dave Furi, Thierry Lach, Aaron Potts, Renee Render, Amanda Sheehy, Jason St. Pierre, Joan Tisdale

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee - 1
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 1
Warbling Vireo - 2
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
House Wren - 3
Swainson's Thrush - 2
American Robin - 2
Gray Catbird - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Cedar Waxwing - 3
Yellow Warbler - 2 (plus 2 recaptured)
Common Yellowthroat - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Song Sparrow - 2 (plus 2 recaptured)

TUESDAY, August 4, 2009
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:27
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:00
Hours Open: 6.0
No. of Nets: 5.50-13.75
Net Hours: 76.125
Temperature (F): 73-81
Cloud Cover: 60-80%
Wind: SW @ 5-10 mph
Barometer: 29.90-29.87
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 46 (plus 10 recaptured)
No. of Species: 16
Capture Rate: 73.6 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers: Andy Johnson, Cathy Thiesen

Downy Woodpecker - 2
Willow Flycatcher - 1
Warbling Vireo - 1
House Wren - 1
Marsh Wren - 2
[Swainson's Thrush - 1 recaptured]
American Robin - 1
Gray Catbird - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Cedar Waxwing - 2
Tennessee Warbler - 1
Yellow Warbler - 14 (plus 3 recaptured)
Common Yellowthroat - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Song Sparrow - 14 (plus 4 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 3
Red-winged Blackbird - 1
Baltimore Oriole

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer 2009 Hummingbird Banding

I have been offline for a while, doing a lot of different things, including banding hummingbirds. I got a late start, not banding any until late June, but I made up some ground and have banded more this summer than in any previous summer, with 364 banded. Of course, to compare with other years, the number of birds per trap-hour is the best measurement, and this summer's 6.5 per trap hour is perhaps slightly below average. Some banding sites have had greater numbers than usual, while a couple of sites have produced far fewer birds than normal. This seems to be the case every summer, with local ups-and-downs for one summer at most. At the end of September, I'll have a better idea of how the numbers stack up.

On July 25, the Third Annual Michigan Hummingbird Festival was held at the River Lake Inn Restaurant near Colon, and good crowds estimated at 700+ turned out, and a record 51 hummingbirds was banded, in addition to 5 recaptured that were banded in previous years (3 from 2008, 2 from 2007 and 1 from 2006).