Friday, October 23, 2009

Metro Beach banding report - October 22, 2009

Once again a rainy week and a shortage of volunteers conspired to limit banding to one day this week instead of the two days in the protocol. In the 12 years from 1989-2000 banding was conducted twice a week, on weekends, during spring and fall migration. My current banding efforts, begun in 2004, attempts to use consistent methods as much as possible so that at the conclusion of ten years of banding (in 2014) statistically sound comparisons can be made.

This day was similar, weather-wise, to two weeks ago when a cold front passed through the area on the day of banding. The results were similar, with not many birds banded. An effort was made to audio-lure for owls (Northern Saw-whet and Eastern Screech-Owls) for about an hour before first light in the Upland Nets area, but without success.

Banding highlights for Thursday, October 22 included 7 more American Robins, adding to this fall's record numbers.

Hatch-year male American Robin

The real highlight of the day was the FIVE species of warbler! Two species are expected this late, two are generally mostly gone by now, and one was unexpected. The most expected warbler species, Orange-crowned, was not banded today!

A Nashville Warbler was one of the species that can occur this late into October with some regularity, so it wasn't too surprising that we caught one.

Hatch-year female Nashville Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler is the other species that occurs well into October, though this fall not many have been banded. The one captured today had a single white feather in the rear crown, visible in the photo below.

Hatch-year female Yellow-rumped Warbler

Blackpoll Warblers can also occur into mid-October with some regularity, but are starting to be fairly scarce by this date, so this one was a pleasant surprise.

Hatch-year male Blackpoll Warbler

Another late warbler is the Black-throated Blue Warbler, which like the Blackpoll can occur into late October in small numbers. The female banded today had a very small white spot at the base of the primaries, which could easily be overlooked in the field.

Hatch-year female Black-throated Blue Warbler

Some females can completely lack this field mark, which can cause confusion for some birders who might be relying on a single field mark to identify the species. But even lacking this distinctive mark, the female Black-throated Blue Warbler can be fairly easily identified by the pattern on her head. The close-up below shows that she has a distinctive dark cheek and especially dark in front of the eye, along with a short white "eyebrow" and a small white eye arc below the eye.

Hatch-year female Black-throated Blue Warbler

This pattern is most similar to the Yellow-rumped Warbler (compare with photo above), but the female Black-throated Blue is not streaked, shows no wing bars, and does not have a yellow rump. Also, if one looks closely, often a blue tinge can be detected on the wings and tail.

The biggest surprise of the day was a very late Ovenbird. Normally, this species is gone from southern Michigan by the first few days of October except for an occasional individal that has lingered in downtown Detroit into December!

Hatch-year female Ovenbird

If she looks fat in this photo, that's because she was! Very well prepared to continue her migration.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included an Eastern Screech-Owl that responded to the audio-lure when I was fiddling with it at lunch time. This bird must have been within 50-feet of us but it quickly stopped calling and we never laid eyes on it. Perhaps we'll catch it next week. A juvenile Great Horned Owl has been begging in the area north of where we park for more than a month now, and began its complaining just about first light, letting up before sunrise. A Chimney Swift flying over was a bit unexpected, and a little late. Two Eastern Phoebes, also drawn in by the owl audio-lure, were seen near the cars. A White-breasted Nuthatch was a little unusual as the normally stay near the nature center and don't visit the swamp woods often. At least 4 Winter Wrens were heard calling in the banding area but none were captured. An Orange-crowned Warbler was present briefly near the cars but avoided capture. And one species that should have been captured by now, but which has not really been noticed in the banding area yet this fall is Fox Sparrow. We only have one more week to catch one, which so far we've done annually.

An interesting insect flew out from beneath the feathers of one of the Hermit Thrushes banded today. It is a Hippoboscid fly, called "flat flies" by banders because they are very flattened which allows them to move around beneath the feathers of birds. They feed on the blood of birds and have not been known to bite humans. They are slightly smaller than a common house fly.

Hippoboscid Fly (Hippoboscidae)

Many thanks to John Bieganowski, Dave Lancaster, and Tom Schlack for once again volunteering to help band this week.

Banding Data
THURSDAY, October 22, 2009
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:53
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:30
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:00
Hours Open: 7.50
No. of Nets: 4.00-13.25
Net Hours: 91.313
Temperature (F): 57-59
Cloud Cover: 100-50-100%
Wind: SSW @ 7-10 mph to NW @ 12-15 just before close
Barometer: 29.97-30.05
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 34 (plus 9 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 14
Capture Rate: 48.2 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers: John Bieganowski, Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack

Downy Woodpecker - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Brown Creeper - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 2
Hermit Thrush - 6 (plus 4 recaptured)
American Robin - 7 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Nashville Warbler - 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 1
Ovenbird - 1
Song Sparrow - 4 (plus 3 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 3
American Goldfinch - 2

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