Sunday, December 12, 2010

Old Goldie

Since 2002, I have been banding birds in my back yard in Inkster, Wayne County, Michigan where, since we moved here in 1987, a total of 140 species have been recorded in, over, or from the yard. Initially only hummingbirds were banded, but in 2004 I began to band all birds in the yard to study populations and winter site fidelity. In general, in "winter" I band three days a month from October to March, and since the yard is so small, set up only two nets in the back, and two traps in the front. Through 2009, a total of 2201 birds of 30 species has been banded, not too bad for a very urban site, 5 miles northeast of Detroit Metropolitan Airport (the red square on the screen capture from Google Earth below).

A number of interesting species have been banded over the years, including 3 Cooper's Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawk (1 in 2010), a total of 114 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (2002-2009), a Red-breasted Nuthatch, 3 Brown Creepers, 5 Carolina Wrens, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Field Sparrow, Common Redpoll (2008), and 19 Pine Siskins (1 in 2008, 18 in 2009). But more than half of all birds banded (1200+) have been American Goldfinches. It is interesting to see the population ups and downs over the years, but it is the recaptures that are even more interesting. Over the years, I've caught two different American Goldfinches banded in Dearborn, 5-6 miles away, by Julie Craves. One of the goldfinches I banded in the yard was found in spring near Hamilton, Ontario. Each winter, several goldfinches banded in previous winters return, and birds that are 3-4 years old are not too uncommon.

Last week, however, I caught an adult male goldfinch that I had originally banded as a second-year male on March 9, 2004. This means he was hatched in summer 2003, so was 7 years old this summer. This is by no means the oldest American Goldfinch on record. The Bird Banding Lab maintains a web page of longevity records, where they show the record for American Goldfinch as 10 years, 5 months. The standard way of determining a recaptured bird's age is to presume it was fledged in June. This works well for most songbirds, but late-nesting species like Cedar Waxwings and American Goldfinches may not fledge until July or August (or even early September). But even though he isn't the oldest, it appears he is among the oldest (maybe 7th oldest), and so I've nicknamed him Old Goldie. Oddly, unlike many other goldfinches that are recaptured in the yard, this bird has not been captured even once since he was originally banded in 2004. Maybe he'll change his pattern and return in a couple years.

This isn't Old Goldie, but another winter adult male American Goldfinch.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Three December Hummingbirds in Michigan

Michigan in December is not normally thought of as a welcoming place for hummingbirds. But on December 1, 2010, there was not only one, but THREE hummingbirds of THREE species in the state. Most readers of this blog will know that only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird breeds here, and is the only expected species at any time.

At Grand Marais, in the Upper Peninsula, two homeowners had taken down their feeder on the 1st or 2nd of October because they had not seen a Ruby-throat in about ten days. The next day, it became apparent to them that there were still two hummingbirds present and they put the feeder back up. Over the course of the next two weeks, they became suspicious that the adult male might not be a Ruby-throat but something else. On October 24, they took his photo and by October 27 several local birders had confirmed he was actually an adult male Anna's Hummingbird, a first ever in Michigan! Others have taken better photos, but below is one that I took of him on an overcast day, November 1, 2010. His pose in this photo is characteristic of an Anna's Hummingbird singing, which he was noted to do rather frequently from this favorite perch in an apple tree.

The other bird was also photographed around that time, and was assumed to be a female Ruby-throated. But closer examination of the photos by me and others suggested that this hummingbird was also an Anna's Hummingbird, likely a female! Determining the age of female Anna's Hummingbirds is difficult without having the bird in-hand, or good photos of the spread tail. My own photos, one below, suggests to me that she is an adult as it appears there is white on the second rectrix, which an immature might not show.

The adult male Anna's Hummingbird was last seen on November 11. As this species begins nesting as early as December in California and February in southwestern British Columbia, his departure at this time makes sense. The female was still on-site on December 1, despite the temperatures dipping into the 20s and 30s, and a snow accumulation which is expected this time of year in the Upper Peninsula. It is worth noting that an Anna's Hummingbird spent the entire winter of 2009-2010 in the Alaska Panhandle.

On November 10, I traveled to the northern Lower Peninsula, near Irons in Lake County, where homeowners were reporting a hummingbird that, based on photos sent to me by local birders, was either a Rufous or Allen's Hummingbird. Although there are 26 accepted Michigan records of Rufous Hummingbird between 1974-2009, only two have been from the Upper Peninsula and only three from the northern Lower Peninsula (two in 1988 and one in 1989). There are an additional 7 accepted records of Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird (species undetermined) between 1988-2007, of which one was from the northern LP and the rest from the southern LP. Upon capturing and banding this hummingbird, it was determined that she was a hatch-year (immature) female Rufous Hummingbird.

The diagnostic character for Rufous Hummingbird is often the presence of "notches" on the second tail feather (centrals are the first). But as is often the case, in my experience, with immature females this notching is very subtle or even non-existent (see spread tail photo below). In this case, it comes down to the measured widths of the first (central) tail feather and the fifth (outer) tail feather. In these measurements, she was within the range of Rufous and outside the range of Allen's, which measures narrower, but in some cases by only a fraction of a millimeter.

This hatch-year female Rufous Hummingbird was still present on December 1, 2010. The homeowners have nicknamed her "Tinkerbell".

On October 18, 2010, a homeowner near New Boston, Wayne County in Michigan's southern Lower Peninsula, noticed a hummingbird at a feeder he hadn't yet taken down although he hadn't seen a hummingbird for more than a week. After photos were obtained by local birders in early November, it was determined that she was a female and/or immature Ruby-throated Hummingbird. This species lingers into October in varying numbers every year in Michigan, but there are only about 10 confirmed records for November. Daily reports kept coming in, and I personally went to see this bird on November 12, when I guessed that she was an adult female based on the state of her molt. She seemed quite active and came in to the feeders several times, but I never got photos of her perched on the feeder.

On November 26, I went to the home to band her, and to assess her condition. I confirmed that she was an adult female, and that she had a good amount of body fat. This was good news suggesting that she should migrate eventually. Her weight was 3.91 grams, which is well above many that I band in late September, and significantly above the typical "non-fat" weight of about 3.25 grams. Since the temperature when I banded her in the afternoon had finally risen to 32 (from 25 in the morning), I was reluctant to take photos of her in-hand, so released her quickly. She returned to the feeder within 20 minutes. A photo of her perched in her favorite Witchhazel tree shows the worn tail tips, which is a clue to her being an adult.

Her presence on November 26 tied the record late date for the species in Michigan, as there had been one on November 26, 2009 in southwestern Michigan (Allegan County), and one from Halloween through November 26, 2007 in Marquette, amazingly in the Upper Peninsula. But she continued on and was still present on December 1.

It has been an amazing fall season for hummingbirds in Michigan.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Metro Beach Fall 2010 Banding Summary

Banding was conducted on a total of 24 days between 7 August and 3 November 2010, which is consistent with protocols although a couple days were "non-standard" with fewer nets run. A record number of 2201 new birds was banded, of 71 species which is the second highest ever and tied with number of species banded in 2009. In addition, 268 birds were recaptured and 53 released unbanded, resulting in a total number of captures of 2522. The number of net hours (1776.69) was the second highest ever, and almost the same number as 2009. The capture rate of 141.9 birds per 100 net hours was the highest ever by a considerable margin. Below is a simple species list with number banded this fall. More details will be published as a PDF file on the Metro Beach Banding website.

Fall 2010 Banding Results

Sharp-shinned Hawk - 2
Mourning Dove - 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 86
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 4
Northern Flicker - 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee - 3
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 2
Alder Flycatcher - 1
Willow Flycatcher - 4
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 6
Least Flycatcher - 3
Blue-headed Vireo - 2
Warbling Vireo - 1
Philadelphia Vireo - 1
Red-eyed Vireo - 6
Blue Jay - 22
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 25
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
White-breasted Nuthatch - 4
Brown Creeper - 22
House Wren - 29
Winter Wren - 12
Marsh Wren - 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 79
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 33
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 7
Swainson's Thrush - 25
Hermit Thrush - 71
American Robin - 8
Gray Catbird - 8
Tennessee Warbler - 19
Orange-crowned Warbler - 5
Nashville Warbler - 40
Northern Parula - 3
Yellow Warbler - 11
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 9
Magnolia Warbler - 62
Cape May Warbler - 2
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 51
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 33
Blackburnian Warbler - 4
Palm Warbler - 12
Bay-breasted Warbler - 3
Blackpoll Warbler - 47
Black-and-white Warbler - 7
American Redstart - 42
Ovenbird - 14
Northern Waterthrush - 14
Connecticut Warbler - 1
Mourning Warbler - 3
Common Yellowthroat - 60
Wilson's Warbler - 12
Canada Warbler - 4
Northern Cardinal - 7
Rose-breasted Grosbeak - 2
Indigo Bunting - 2
Eastern Towhee - 1
American Tree Sparrow - 12
Field Sparrow - 1
Fox Sparrow - 19
Song Sparrow - 170
Lincoln's Sparrow - 36
Swamp Sparrow - 77
White-throated Sparrow - 379
White-crowned Sparrow - 43
Dark-eyed Junco - 6
Red-winged Blackbird - 1
American Goldfinch - 512

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - October 29 and November 3, 2010

I have delayed posting of these final banding days of the fall season because I wanted to wait until both had been completed. Normally, banding continues only through the last week of October, but only enough volunteer interest could be generated to band on one day that week. And, with the extension of Daylight Savings Time into the first week of November, we could get into the park at 6 a.m. (DST) one more time in early November to try one more time to audio-lure for Northern Saw-whet Owls.

Results on Friday, October 29 were quite surprising. A very strong weather system, with strong southwesterly "flow" passed through Michigan on October 26-27. These storms, especially the stronger ones, have a tendency to bring interesting birds into the region, so we had high hopes of banding something really odd. The character of the day, though, was essentially a flashback to early October, with lots of sparrows around, especially White-throated. The weather was extremely cooperative. A day with 168 birds banded the last week of October is more than three times what we've done before. Our efforts to audio-lure for owls was hampered when we arrived in the dark to find that a tree had fallen across those very net lanes, and four of us could not move any of it, so we altered the setup to an "L" shape instead of the "U", as one of the 18-meter nets could not be used. Highlights of birds banded included a hatch-year male Sharp-shinned Hawk, only the 5th or 6th Sharp-shin ever banded here, and the second of this fall season. Only once before have two Sharp-shinned Hawks been banded here in one fall season.

A Winter Wren was the first in a couple weeks, and only the 11th for the season. Normally I expect 15-20 each fall.

Two Yellow-rumped Warblers, including the hatch-year female below, were the latest ever banded here as most have moved out of the area.

It was clearly a sparrow day, with 9 species captured. The 4 American Tree Sparrows captured today brought the season total to 5, tying the previous record.

A Field Sparrow was the first for the season, and is a true rarity here as we don't catch one every year and this was only the 6th or 7th ever for the station. Note the differences from the tree sparrow above. The Field Sparrow shows a pink bill, not a bicolored one, and a very plain face with a narrow white eyering. And, lack of a breast spot alone does not confirm Field Sparrow, as a few tree sparrows lack this field mark!

Four Fox Sparrows today fell two short of breaking the single-day record, but the last one was the 16th for the season, which was a record.

Three Lincoln's Sparrows banded today added to the record already set several weeks ago, bringing the season total to 36. And, these were the latest Lincoln's Sparrows ever banded here.

Among the 10 Swamp Sparrows banded today was this individual with streaking below, making it resemble a Lincoln's Sparrow somewhat. But note the buffy wash across the breast of the Lincoln's above, as well as the buffy malar with black on either side. Also note the narrow buffy eyering of the Lincoln's. Not easily seen in the Swamp Sparrow photo below are the rufous wing coverts, which are another character that often will distinguish them from Lincoln's. The streaky Swamp Sparrows may be birds retaining some juvenile plumage, but occasionally these streaks can be retained well into the next breeding season on a few individuals.

At the other extreme of Swamp Sparrow plumage was this unusually colorful individual below. Swamp Sparrow numbers are low this year, but mainly due to a poor showing in the early season captures, which I believe represents breeding birds. Normally, between August 1 and September 15 from 25-50 are banded, mostly juveniles. This year, only about 10 were banded during that period. During October, I believe most of the Swamp Sparrows are migrants, not local breeders, and numbers during this period seem about normal. My best guess is that the tardiness of the Phragmites burn on April 19 may have put off breeding in this species this year.

White-throated Sparrow numbers saw a surge that was reminiscent of their peak in early October, and the individual below was the 300th of the season. The previous one-season record for White-throats was 285, and this one was caught on the first net run so we're well past the record this year.

The other three species of sparrow banded today were Song, White-crowned, and Dark-eyed Junco, which were not photographed. Another milestone was the banding of the season's 500th American Goldfinch. The previous one-season record of 233 was surpassed way back in early September.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a Great Horned Owl calling before dawn, a Red-breasted Nuthatch high in the trees, an Eastern Towhee calling near the cars but not near the nets, and two flyover Purple Finches out in the field.

On Wednesday, November 3, I already knew that every bird banded would be a "record late" only because we've never banded this late before! Since we have to work out of our cars, open to the elements, November can be a difficult time of year. The weather was chilly in the morning but the frost quickly disappeared and we had weather that was essentially appropriate for the season. Hand saws were brought to bear by Tom on the fallen tree in our "Owl Nets" lane, and we quickly set up the audio lure there. Unfortunately, we failed to catch any owls again, but we'll certainly try again next year. Highlights of birds banded included a few Golden-crowned Kinglets.

Numbers of kinglets vary quite a bit from year to year. This season, it was quite obvious that we were missing large numbers because of the frustrating pattern of big influxes occurring BETWEEN banding sessions. This happened in early October, and once again today we had reports from birders who told us that kinglets were "everywhere" just a couple days before.

A single Brown Creeper today was the first in a couple weeks, and pushed us to a record for the season at 22.

Having these interesting birds in hand allows for close examination of their thin, curved bills that show a pinkish lower mandible...something rarely seen in the field. One can almost see why creepers are thought to be most closely related to wrens.

But then there's that woodpecker-like tail with stiff pointed tips, which is clearly more functional, and a case of convergent evolution rather than an indication of any relationships.

And it was another day of sparrows, though with only 6 species banded today. A single-day record of 7 American Tree Sparrows was nice to see, bringing the season's total to a record of 12.

Three more Fox Sparrows extended the record season to a total of 19.

And one more White-crowned Sparrow brought the season's total to 43...the previous record was 15. Also, a recaptured White-crown today brought the season total to 12, where previously I've never had a single recapture of this species. New data!

And, the very last bird banded this fall season, the 2201st bird, was.....

A hatch-year Song Sparrow.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included two calling Great Horned Owls before dawn, two lingering Yellow-rumped Warblers, a few Rusty Blackbirds in flyover flocks of Red-wings, and a single flyover Pine Siskin (we'll catch one eventually!).

Many thanks to the banding volunteers who helped on these two days, getting up extremely early, and in some cases having to do extra chores when trees come down into the net lanes. Thanks to John Bieganowski, Dave Lancaster, Michelle Serreyn, and Tom Schlack.

Banding Data
FRIDAY, October 29, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 7:01
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 14:00
Hours Open: 8.25
No. of Nets: 3.50-11.75
Net Hours: 91.750
Temperature (F): 43-54
Cloud Cover: 100-30%
Wind: WNW-SW @ 5-7-10 mph
Barometer: 29.85-29.94
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 168 (plus 18 recaptures and 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 18
Capture Rate: 204.9 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.5 hours, 6:00-16:30): John Bieganowski, Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack.

Downy Woodpecker - 2 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 3 recaptured)
Winter Wren - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 6
Hermit Thrush - 16
American Robin - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 2
American Tree Sparrow - 4
Fox Sparrow - 4
Song Sparrow - 35 (plus 2 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 3
Swamp Sparrow - 10 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 47 (plus 2 recaptured)
White-crowned Sparrow - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Dark-eyed Junco - 3
American Goldfinch - 28 (plus 9 recaptured)

WEDNESDAY, November 3, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 7:09
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.25
Net Hours: 87.750
Temperature (F): 29-48
Cloud Cover: 50-10-100%
Wind: NW-SW @ 1-3-5 mph
Barometer: 29.86-29.768
Precipitation: None (light rain after close)
No. Banded: 49 (plus 12 recaptures and 1 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 12
Capture Rate: 70.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 6:00-14:00): John Bieganowski, Tom Schlack, Michelle Serreyn (2.5 hrs).

Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
Brown Creeper - 1
Winter Wren - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 4
Hermit Thrush - 3
American Tree Sparrow - 7
Fox Sparrow - 3
Song Sparrow - 10 (plus 1 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Swamp Sparrow - 5
White-throated Sparrow - 6 (plus 2 recaptured)
White-crowned Sparrow - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 7 (plus 6 recaptured)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - October 20 & 23, 2010

The number of birds banded this week was about half of last week, and continues to be dominated by sparrows, though one warbler reminded us that their migration isn't quite over yet. The weather on Wednesday, October 20 was cool in the morning to warmer than normal at mid-day, with winds picking up by closing time. On Saturday, October 23, intermittent light rain starting around 10:15 forced net closure, with a brief (1/2 hour) period when they were opened again, before the rain became more of a drizzle and banding was cut short for the day.

Highlights of birds banded on Wednesday, October 20 included the 300th White-throated Sparrow of the season...the single season record of 285 was surpassed late last week. When photographing this bird, I noticed that it had "fault bars", which are one way that banders can age songbirds. Note the subtle band across the middle of the tail in the photo below.

During feather growth, these areas where the feather is less dense are formed during periods of poor nutrition, and in the case of a nestling it may represent a day when the adults were unable to feed the nestling sufficiently. This occurs in adults too, but since they molt their feathers in pairs, not growing them all in at once like fledglings, these fault bars would be staggered, or evenly across all the tail feathers. Another explanation is that this bird lost its tail and is growing a new one, but the relative pointiness of the tail feathers indicates to me that this is a hatch-year bird.

Another highlight was the five Fox Sparrows banded today, which is a one-day record here for the species.

One Fox Sparrow was also showing fault bars that were even more conspicuous than the White-throated Sparrow above.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a Winter Wren still in the area, as well as two flyover Purple Finches and a Pine Siskin out in the field.

Highlights of birds banded on Saturday, October 23 included the first American Tree Sparrow of the season, which is the earliest this species has been banded here.

This species can be identified even if the central breast spot cannot be seen (and some individuals lack it entirely). The bicolored bill, black above and yellow below, is shared in our area only with the Fox Sparrow. The rufous crown distinguishes it from Chipping Sparrow, which does not show this in winter plumage, and the gray cheek and broad rufous line behind the eye further distinguish American Tree Sparrow from Field Sparrow, which has a pink bill.

The Lincoln's Sparrow banded today was the latest here by about a week, and the two White-crowned Sparrows pushed the record season further along, and generated yet another same-season recapture for the species, which is the first season ever for this species to be recaptured.

A hatch-year male Orange-crowned Warbler was the latest ever banded here, by four days. There could still be one or two out there yet to be observed or captured.

Almost never seen in the field, the orange in the crowns of males (only) is at the bases of the crown feathers, so remains hidden most of the time, unless a banding assistant helps us see it as in the photo below.

An American Robin was the first one in several weeks. I always enjoy the head pattern on these hatch-year birds.

Black-capped Chickadee is a common resident species, which normally generates longevity records not migration records. But it is well known that every 3-4 years, chickadees undergo irruptive movements, often in large numbers. This year is an irruption year, and I've been watching the daily posts from the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory in Ontario, Canada, where I banded from 1997-2003 (and counted hawks and passerines from 1976-1996). Several chickadee irruptions have been documented there, and typically these movements begin around October 25. But this year seems different, as daily counts of 100-300 have been noted most days for the past two weeks (apparently starting around October 16), and a couple days this past week have noted 600+ per day. Already, nearly 2000 Black-capped Chickadees have been reported flying from east to west past the hawk tower at Holiday Beach! What's coming in the next month?

Chickadee irruptions have been noted in Michigan as well, but the phenomenon seems to be most prevalent along the shorelines of the Great Lakes. It has not been documented at Metro Beach Metropark, which of course is right on the shore of Lake St. Clair, but prior to 2004 banding has only rarely been conducted later than October 10. So far this year, a record of 23 Black-capped Chickadees has been banded, including the one banded today, but this is far short of what is expected if they are moving through this area. Perhaps the final week of banding next week will turn up a few more chickadees.

Banding could not have been done this week without the following volunteers: John Bieganowski, David Boon, Terri Chapdelaine, Dave Lancaster (both days!), and Tom Schlack.

Banding Data
WEDNESDAY, October 20, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:50
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:45
Hours Open: 7.00
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.25
Net Hours: 74.625
Temperature (F): 43-66
Cloud Cover: 50-20-80%
Wind: SSW-SW @ 7-10-15 mph
Barometer: 29.54-29.39
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 45 (plus 13 recaptures and 3 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 11
Capture Rate: 81.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.0 hours, 6:00-15:00): David Boon (5.5 hrs), Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack.

[Mourning Dove - 1 released unbanded]
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 2
Hermit Thrush - 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1
Fox Sparrow - 5
Song Sparrow - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 2
White-throated Sparrow - 16 (plus 3 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
White-crowned Sparrow - 3 (plus 5 recaptured)
Northern Cardinal - 2
American Goldfinch - 9 (plus 3 recaptured)

Saturday, October 23, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:54
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 11:30 (rain forced early closure)
Hours Open: 5.25
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.25
Net Hours: 64.375
Temperature (F): 49-57
Cloud Cover: 70-100%
Wind: SSW-SW @ 5-7-10 mph
Barometer: 29.74-29.76
Precipitation: Int. Lt. rain 10:15-10:45, Steady Drizzle 11:15-12:00+
No. Banded: 47 (plus 9 recaptures and 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 14
Capture Rate: 90.1 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 8.0 hours, 6:00-14:00): John Bieganowski, Terri Chapdelaine, Dave Lancaster.

[Mourning Dove - 1 released unbanded]
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
Hermit Thrush - 3
American Robin - 1
Orange-crowned Warbler - 1
American Tree Sparrow - 1
Fox Sparrow - 3
Song Sparrow - 7
Lincoln's Sparrow - 1
Swamp Sparrow - 2
White-throated Sparrow - 15 (plus 3 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
White-crowned Sparrow - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 9 (plus 4 recaptured)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - October 13 & 14, 2010

The weather this past week cooperated nicely, with the rain being confined to the afternoon and evening of Wednesday, October 13, but that meant a damp slog through the weeds in the morning on Thursday, October 14. And, for the first hour after first light on Thursday, some intermittent light rain appeared out of wasn't on the radar when I left home.

Sparrows are still numerous, and records have now been set for Lincoln's (32), White-crowned (32), and White-throated (295), but are far short of normal for Swamp Sparrow. A good push of kinglets earlier in the week did not continue for us on the banding days, so our captures of them were modest. Another influx is likely later this month. Thrushes are now limited to just Hermits, which continue in reasonable numbers. Warblers have mostly gone, though there were a few interesting captures. The overall total banded this season surpassed the record of 1841 set in fall 2008, and I'm now looking toward the possibility of my first-ever 2000+ bird season with four more banding days to go this fall, as I'm only about 120 birds shy of that number.

An audio lure for Northern Saw-whet Owls was operated for about an hour before sunrise in the Swamp Nets. Last year this was attempted in the Upland Nets and so far without success. But perhaps this will be a better year for owls, and the species has been seen in the park near the banding area, so I'm hopeful that sometime in the next two weeks we'll catch one (or more).

Highlights of birds banded on Wednesday, October 13 included two firsts for the season. One of these was expected, and in fact a little overdue; a Fox Sparrow.

The second new bird for the season was very unexpected. So unexpected in fact that it was the first I've banded since restarting this project in 2004, only the fourth ever banded here, and the first since fall 1992. You'd think I'm talking about a really rare bird, but it is a really common bird. The Mourning Dove caught in the Swamp Nets today is a rather large bird that tends to avoid nets and, if caught, can easily get out of nets I use which are optimized to catch birds thrush-size and smaller.

I do catch and band Mourning Doves all the time as part of a winter study in my back yard in Inkster, Wayne County, Michigan, but getting to them quickly is essential as they can flip themselves out of the nets and probably 1/3 of those caught get away. It is nice to get a close look at the bare parts on the head of Mourning Doves, with the fleshy eye ring being pale blue and pale greenish-yellow, while the corners of the gape are bright fuschia-pink (for better views, enlarge the photos by clicking on them).

Only four individual warblers were captured today, consisting of four species, Orange-crowned, Black-throated Blue (recap), Yellow-rumped, and probably the last Common Yellowthroat of the season. A single House Wren was probably also the last of the season.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included presumed adult (hooting) and juvenile (begging) Great Horned Owls that seemed to get "turned on" by the saw-whet owl lure that we set up for the first hour before sunrise. A single Dark-eyed Junco in the banding area was the only other species of note that wasn't banded.

Highlights of birds banded on Thursday, October 14 included a season first that we don't catch every fall, a male Eastern Towhee.

Eastern Towhees are aged by eye color, red in adults and brown in hatch-years, so this bird's eye clearly told us it was hatch-year.

Three more Fox Sparrows were nice to see. Five warblers of two species were banded today. Two of those were the fattest birds I've ever seen. Blackpoll Warblers are thought to migrate non-stop from the east coast of the U.S. over the Atlantic Ocean to northern South America, and so need to put on impressive fat deposits as fuel.

When I was banding at the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory in Ontario, Canada, Blackpolls caught in October were often quite fat, but the two today exceeded even those observations. I've never seen one that I gave a fat score greater than 5 (0-7 scale), but these I gave a score of 6. Earlier in the migration, Blackpolls with no fat weigh about 11-12 grams. The two today weighed 21.0 and 21.4 grams!

Last week, Sue Finnegan banded a Blackpoll Warbler at her Wing Island Banding Station near Cape Cod that she was able to photograph showing the fat. The two birds I banded today had similar bulges in the furcular hollow, spilling over onto the front of the sternum, also with lots of fat in the vent area also spilling up onto the sternum, with only a small gap on the center of the sternum with no fat.

The only interesting bird that was "observed" but not banded today was a single Pine Siskin heard calling over the Swamp Nets in late morning.

As the sun crept in later in the day, dragonflies started becoming more active. One particular Yellow-legged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum), the only species usually in evidence this late in the fall, made friends with Tom Schlack while he was recording the banding data. Check out the dark spot on the notebook page above Tom's left hand in the photo below. Dude! There's a DRAGON in your lap!

The closeup photo below was easy to obtain, as this bug was landing on me, checking out the bird bags, and generally using us as hunting (and warming?) perches whenever possible.

Many thanks to the volunteers who helped out this week. Banding could not have been done without you. Amanda Grimm, Dave Lancaster, Michelle Serreyn, Tom Schlack, and Charlie Weaver.

Banding Data
WEDNESDAY, October 13, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:42
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:45
Hours Open: 7.00
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.25
Net Hours: 86.625
Temperature (F): 43-64
Cloud Cover: 30-100%
Wind: SSW-NE @ 1-3-10 mph
Barometer: 29.71-29.69
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 107 (plus 22 recaptures)
No. of Species: 21
Capture Rate: 148.9 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.5 hours, 6:00-15:30): Amanda Grimm, Michelle Serreyn (5 hrs), Charlie Weaver.

Downy Woodpecker - 1 (plus 1recaptured)
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
Brown Creeper - 2
House Wren - 1
Winter Wren - 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 4
Hermit Thrush - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Orange-crowned Warbler - 1
[Black-throated Blue Warbler - 1 recaptured]
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 1
Fox Sparrow - 1
Song Sparrow - 10 (plus 3 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 6
Swamp Sparrow - 10
White-throated Sparrow - 31 (plus 6 recaptured)
White-crowned Sparrow - 7 (plus 3 recaptured)
[Northern Cardinal - 1 recaptured]
American Goldfinch - 22 (plus 6 recaptured)

THURSDAY, October 14, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:43
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:00
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.25
Net Hours: 88.938
Temperature (F): 47-63
Cloud Cover: 70-100-40%
Wind: WNW-NW @ 3-5-10 mph
Barometer: 29.65-29.64
Precipitation: Lt. rain 6:30-7:00, Int. lt. rain to 8:00
No. Banded: 108 (plus 26 recaptures and 3 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 16
Capture Rate: 150.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 6:00-16:00): Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack.

Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 3 recaptured)
Brown Creeper - 1
Winter Wren - 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 13
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 4
Hermit Thrush - 8 (plus 1 recaptured)
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 3 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Blackpoll Warbler - 2
Eastern Towhee - 1
Fox Sparrow - 3
Song Sparrow - 9 (plus 3 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 3
Swamp Sparrow - 9 (plus 4 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 32 (plus 3 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
White-crowned Sparrow - 6 (plus 2 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 11 (plus 10 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - October 7 & 9, 2010

Banding in October is off to a great start with good numbers on both Thursday, October 7 and Saturday, October 9. Cooler conditions earlier in the week gave way to warmer temperatures on banding days, and large flocks of kinglets were diminished in numbers. Warblers were well represented on Thursday, but very scarce on Saturday. Sparrows and thrushes dominated the captures on both days. The 157 birds banded on Thursday was the 8th highest ever, while the 202 banded on Saturday was only 1 short of the all-time record set last year, around this same time. Despite the overall numbers, there were no single-day records for any species, though several were still banded in very good numbers.

Highlights of birds banded on Thursday, October 7 included the 400th American Goldfinch of this season; the record of 233 set in 2008 was left in the dust long ago.

Two firsts for the season included a Blue Jay. We're nearing the end of the peak of their migration, so it was about time we caught one!

And a surprising first was a Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Over the years, a few have been banded, and in a couple instances larger numbers including 50+ on one day this past spring. But never before has one been captured in fall here.

This individual was aged as after hatch-year (adult) based on complete skull ossification, and female based on the lack of "serrations" on the outer primary (present only in males) that gives the species its name. What I did not expect to see, probably because I don't band many swallows and very few in fall, is the apparent suspended flight feather molt she was showing. In the photo below, you can see that the outer three primaries (p10, p9, and p8) are old and duller than the inner primaries, and the adjacent primary coverts show the same pattern. The seventh primary is blacker and is shorter, indicating it has nearly grown in (this was symmetrical on both wings).

The tail also showed symmetrical molt, with the outer three feathers on each side duller and worn. Perhaps this bird will complete its molt before continuing its migration, or will molt while it is migrating, or more likely in my opinion, will suspend molt at this point and resume it on the wintering grounds.

Four Black-throated Blue Warblers were banded today, bringing the season's total to 51, which is one more than the record set in fall 2008.

A Blackpoll Warbler banded today extended the record season by one more individual, and allowed photos of the clean white undertail coverts, which is an often overlooked way to identify the species. Bay-breasted Warblers are often more buffy here. Note the streaks on the breas and sides, which Bay-breasted tends to lack.

An Orange-crowned Warbler was only the second of the season, though I expect more will be captured in the next two weeks or so.

The first Tennessee Warbler in some time, and getting a little late, allowed a comparison with the Orange-crowned Warbler. Note that the yellowest part of the Orange-crowns underparts is on the undertail coverts, while the whitest part of the Tennessee's underparts is on the undertail coverts.

Typically, Tennessee shows a more distinct supercilium but from certain angles, like in the photo above, this can be difficult to see and more closely resembles the Orange-crowns broken yellow eyering.

An unusual individual was a hatch-year Song Sparrow with crossed mandibles.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included two Cooper's Hawks and eight Sanderlings, all flyovers.

Highlights of birds banded on Saturday, October 9 included a somewhat late Eastern Wood-Pewee, good numbers of Blue Jays, and the first (3) Dark-eyed Juncos of the fall. After reading about many arrivals of this species in southeastern Michigan, and even in Indiana and Ohio, we were certainly due to catch them. Three photos of one nice adult male are included below.

The large number of birds banded today did not allow many photos, and indeed only the junco was new for the season today. But both yesterday and today, good numbers (for this site) of White-crowned Sparrows were captured. Most of these were hatch-year birds, which have brownish crown stripes instead of black of the adults. Several subspecies of White-crowned Sparrow are known, and the Eastern subspecies is by far the most numerous in Michigan. But there are records of the more western "Gambell's" White-crowned Sparrow in Michigan. They tend to lack the black between the eye and forehead in adults. In hatch-year birds, there is usually a suggestion of this line as shown on the individual below.

A couple individuals, like the one below, seemed to lack this line, and perhaps could have been "Gambell's".

Not a bird highlight, but an interesting insect observation was this tiny (4mm long) "flat fly" (Hippoboscidae) that came off a Golden-crowned Kinglet that was being banded. These flies are very flat, and move through bird feathers quite easily, and feed on their blood. Most often, I've seen larger individuals (species?) that have come off of larger birds. This is the smallest Hippoboscid fly I've seen, and the first I've seen on a kinglet.

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included a Fox Sparrow as well as a small number of warblers including Yellow-rumped, Palm, and Black-throated Blue. Away from the banding area, some interesting shorebirds were seen on the beach as reported to us by Brian McGee who passed through the banding area around noon. After we closed the station at 4:30, we hit the beach and found seven Dunlin.

With them was a very cooperative juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper.

Farther up the beach, they joined another group of shorebirds that included another White-rumped, two Baird's Sandpipers, and a single Least Sandpiper. Unfortunately, the two Red Knots reported by Brian could not be found.

Many thanks to the volunteers who made banding on these two days possible: John Bieganowski, Teri Chapdelaine, Mike Charlebois, Dave Lancaster (both days!), and Tom Schlack.

Banding Data
THURSDAY, October 7, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:35
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.50
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 94.125
Temperature (F): 51-72
Cloud Cover: 0-10%
Wind: WNW-NW @ 7-10 mph
Barometer: 29.59-29.68
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 157 (plus 7 recaptures and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 26
Capture Rate: 178.5 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 6:00-16:00): John Bieganowski, Mike Charlebois, Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack.

[Downy Woodpecker - 1 recaptured]
Red-eyed Vireo - 1
Blue Jay - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Brown Creeper - 5
[House Wren - 1 recaptured]
Winter Wren - 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 4
Hermit Thrush - 9
Tennessee Warbler - 1
Orange-crowned Warbler - 1
Nashville Warbler - 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 12
Palm Warbler - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 3
Song Sparrow - 14
Lincoln's Sparrow - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 9 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 51 (plus 4 released unbanded)
White-crowned Sparrow - 8
American Goldfinch - 16 (plus 2 recaptured)

SATURDAY, October 9, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:37
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:45
Hours Open: 8.00
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 99.500
Temperature (F): 53-73
Cloud Cover: 0%
Wind: Calm-NE-SE @ 0-3-7 mph
Barometer: 29.69-29.74
Precipitation: None.
No. Banded: 202 (plus 11 recaptures and 10 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 22
Capture Rate: 224.1 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.5 hours, 6:00-16:30): Terri Chapdelaine, Dave Lancaster.

Eastern Wood-Pewee - 1
Blue-headed Vireo - 1
Blue Jay - 21
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
Brown Creeper - 7
[House Wren - 1 released unbanded]
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 23
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 8
Hermit Thrush - 20
[Tennessee Warbler - 1 recaptured]
Orange-crowned Warbler - 3
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 1
Song Sparrow - 19 (plus 1 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 4
Swamp Sparrow - 7 (plus 1 released unbanded)
White-throated Sparrow - 60 (-lus 1 recaptured and 7 released unbanded)
White-crowned Sparrow - 8
Dark-eyed Junco - 3
Northern Cardinal - 1
American Goldfinch - 12 (plus 2 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)