Saturday, May 29, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - May 28, 2010

Once again I was only able to muster enough interest from volunteers for one day of banding this week, but having a day of jury duty right in the middle on Wednesday didn't help, as anything after that day had to be tentatively scheduled. It was a day with very few migrants, none caught, but some interesting captures regardless.

Highlights of birds banded on Friday, May 28 included a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Always a highlight, this hummingbird was unusual in that she had a fairly noticeable amount of fat, which I rarely observe in spring, and her weight was 3.9 grams where about 3.2 to 3.4 would be a normal "non-fat" weight. Clearly, Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration is still ongoing in southern Michigan. Surprisingly, both the Downy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker were firsts for this spring season. A recaptured "Traill's" Flycatcher, probably one of the locally nesting Willow Flycatchers, was of interest as it was banded as a hatch-year on 2 August 2009; probably fledged locally. The flycatcher highlight, though, was this adult female Great Crested Flycatcher.

Her sex was determined by the presence of a brood patch, not visible in the field of course. Great Cresteds are not caught at Metro Beach every year, and in fact this appears to be the 23rd since 1989 (20 from 1989-2001, in both spring and fall), and only the third since 2004 (all in spring). An after hatch-year mal Tree Swallow recaptured in the Upland Nets for the second time this spring is obviously nesting in the area, and was banded in 2009 out at the Field Edge nets. A pair of Tree Swallows has taken ownership of the nest box put out by the Field Nets by Neil Gilbert in 2007 but they haven't been captured yet...perhaps they're familiar with the situation and are banded too. A singing male Wood Thrush in the area of the Swamp Nets was finally captured late in the day (sex verified by the presence of an enlarged cloacal protuberance). The wooded acreage in this park is probably very limiting for the nesting of Wood Thrushes, but it appears that he might be attempting to establish a territory, with or without a female.

The early warm spring, and continued mild conditions, have allowed for some species to succeed in raising young already. While nestling American Robins are being reported and found on the ground all over the Metro Detroit area now, this one captured today was fully-feathered and is probably independent of its parents. Last year, we caught the first juvenile robins on June 5-6 (four of them), so I expect that next week should find more of them in our nets.

As noted in a previous posting, European Starlings are not something that most banders would make the effort to band. But, the protocol for banding anything and everything caught at Metro Beach was set before I restarted the effort in 2004, so once again the starling caught today was banded. Not too many are captured, and although they are an introduced species, and harmful to some native birds, it does migrate so could give us some information on their movements. And, they're beautiful with their iridescence. Something that not many people, other than banders know, is that in the breeding season the sexes can be distinguished by a spot of color on the base of the lower mandible, blue in males pink in females. No kidding! Obviously, our bird today was a male.

Sometimes what birders see and what banders can determine are quite different. The Yellow Warbler in the photo below appears to have some chestnut streaks on the breast, which might suggest that it is a male to some birders (perhaps second-year as they're not particularly bold).

But examination of this individual's molt indicates that it is an after second-year bird, and further, checking under the feathers reveals a surprise. It is clearly a female as she is showing an extensive brood patch, and is clearly developing an egg in her abdomen.

Thanks to Tom Schlack for taking the photo above while I blew her feathers aside until I nearly passed out! A good number of Red-winged Blackbirds was banded today, making up somewhat for the ones we usually get in April, but missed this year.

Interesting birds observed today but not banded included two rather late Common Loons flying northeast off Lake St. Clair just at sunrise, a Blue-winged Teal calling softly from the swamp near the Upland Nets, and the continuing presence of Cooper's Hawks at their second nesting site after apparent failure at their first. Singing Eastern Wood-Pewee and Alder Flycatcher were of interest, as was both Red-eyed and Warbling Vireo. A Swainson's Thrush singing briefly and softly was the only species noted today that does not breed in southernmost Michigan.

Thanks to Jean Gramlich and Tom Schlack for helping out today in the heat, and beginning of mosquito season. Banding could not have been done today without you.

Banding Data
FRIDAY, May 28, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:00
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:00
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 87.813
Temperature (F): 62-84
Cloud Cover: 10-0%
Wind: NW @ 3-7 mph
Barometer: 30.00-29.93
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 36 (plus 22 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 18
Capture Rate: 68.3 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 6:00-16:00): Jean Gramlich, Tom Schlack.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker - 1
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Great Crested Flycatcher - 1
[Tree Swallow - 1 recaptured]
House Wren - 1
Wood Thrush - 1
American Robin - 5 (plus 1 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Gray Catbird - 2 (plus 2 recaptured)
European Starling - 1
Yellow Warbler - 1 (plus 4 recaptured)
Common Yellowthroat - 1 (plus 4 recaptured)
[Song Sparrow - 4 recaptured]
Swamp Sparrow - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 14 (plus 3 recaptured)
Common Grackle - 2 (plus 1 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - May 20, 2010

It seems that it has been a long time coming, but finally on May 20 we had a good day for banding warblers, with 43 individuals of 10 species plus recaptures of one additional species. But it was also a pretty good day for sparrows and thrushes too, and a surprise capture near the end of the day (as well as more net damage by White-tailed Deer). Few spring days have seen more than 100 birds banded, so this was a good day by any measure and the 31 species captured is one of the best ever. It is unfortunate that scheduling issues prevented banding on two days this week.

Highlights of birds banded on Thursday, May 20 included a recaptured Northern Flicker that was originally banded in April 2009, and may be the first recapture of this species at Metro Beach.

After second-year male Northern Flicker

Only the second Marsh Wren ever captured at Metro Beach in spring (and the second THIS spring) was caught in the Field Nets, where the first was also captured...a rare locale for this species in the fall. It seems that this odd situation might be one immediate effect of the burn as Marsh Wren habitat is not yet grown back sufficiently to provide cover, so they're seeking cover near the shrubby area around the Field Nets.

After hatch-year Marsh Wren

Swainson's Thrushes were much in evidence, with several heard singing, and a good number captured. Among the warblers, Magnolia and Common Yellowthroat were the most numerous captures, while a few American Redstarts in the nets under-represented the number that were in the bushes singing. This second-year male can be recognized by the black feathering on its face, not present in females.

Second-year male American Redstart

It was a very good day for Canada Warblers, with a total of six including both males and females.

Second-year female Canada Warbler

Second-year male Canada Warbler

Only the fourth Northern Parula banded in spring at Metro Beach was a delight, as it was also of personal interest being only the second I've personally captured in spring, and the first spring male. It was a second-year bird and had a chestnut breast band but not a gray band.

Second-year male Northern Parula.

The six Lincoln's Sparrows banded today brings the season total to 15, a very good number. Also, two White-crowned Sparrows were nice as they rarely are captured in swamp woods or marsh edges. But the biggest surprise of the day was the first ever Cooper's Hawk banded at this station. It was an adult (after second-year) male, with rufous-banded underparts and blue-gray upperparts and flight feathers, so it was definitely not the male of the breeding pair as that bird was a second-year retaining juvenile plumage. Perhaps a male from a nearby pair sneaking in to feed, or even to attempt to lure the local female into infidelity.

After second-year male Cooper's Hawk

Eye color of juvenile Cooper's Hawks (and Sharp-shinned too) is yellow, and is maroon in older birds. But the rate of change is variable, and some adults may never get a maroon eye, instead having an in-between orange eye like this bird did. So, aging is best accomplished by looking at the molt of the flight feathers.

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included singing Eastern Wood-Pewees, Willow and Great Crested Flycatchers, a rather late Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (maybe they'll nest in the banding area this year), single Wood Thrush and Brown Thrasher, and additional warbler species including Tennessee, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Blackpoll, and Black-and-white.

Many thanks to the volunteers who made banding possible today: John Bieganowski, Amanda Grimm, and Dave Lancaster.

Banding Data
THURSDAY, May 20, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:06
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 14:00
Hours Open: 8.25
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 102.313
Temperature (F): 55-78
Cloud Cover: 0-20%
Wind: SW-S @ 3-5-7 mph
Barometer: 30.10-30.12
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 104 (plus 21 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 31
Capture Rate: 126.1 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.5 hours, 6:00-16:30): John Bieganowski, Amanda Grimm, Dave Lancaster.

[Downy Woodpecker - 1 recaptured]
[Northern Flicker - 1 recaptured]
Warbling Vireo - 1
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 released unbanded]
House Wren - 2
Marsh Wren - 1
Veery - 1
Swainson's Thrush - 14
American Robin - 5 (plus 1 recaptured)
Gray Catbird - 2
European Starling - 1
Northern Parula - 1
[Yellow Warbler - 2 recaptured]
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 2
Magnolia Warbler - 10
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 2
American Redstart - 5
Ovenbird - 3
Northern Waterthrush - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 11 (plus 6 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Wilson's Warbler - 2
Canada Warbler - 6
Song Sparrow - 3 (plus 4 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 6
Swamp Sparrow - 7 (plus 2 recaptured)
White-crowned Sparrow - 2
Red-winged Blackbird - 8 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Common Grackle - 1 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Baltimore Oriole - 3 (plus 3 recaptured)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - May 14 & 15, 2010

After a lot of rain during the week, the banding area on Friday, May 14, had returned to its previous muddy, water-filled splendor as the rain had just stopped just the day before. The miniature landscape of mud, grasses, and water in the photo below shows this can be somewhat beautiful as well as messy!

With the passing of the bad weather, migration seems to have returned to near normal, and the cattails in the marsh and adjacent to the banding area (especially the Field Nets) continue to grow quickly.

Highlights of birds banded on Friday, May 14 included two female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. It seems a little unusual that males were not in evidence today.

Another flycatcher species arrived, with this Willow Flycatcher being captured out at the Field Nets where one was heard singing early in the morning.

It was also a good day for banding Warbling Vireos, with 5 captured today. This is an all-time record for one day at this site.

A surprise near the end of the day, and after a White-tailed Deer ran through a net nearby, was this second-year female Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Her worn wing and tail feathers are indicative of age, and the lack of black eyebrow and forehead indicates female.

A good number of migrant warblers were around today, but mostly resident Yellow Warblers were captured, and many banded in previous years also recaptured including a female banded as an after hatch-year in spring 2005! One nice first-of-season warbler banded was this second-year male Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Here's a better look at those nice chestnut sides.

A suprise was the seeming early arrival of Wilson's Warblers, and there were a few singing all around in the banding area. Near the end of the day, one was finally captured. The photo below of an adult male, shows the glossy nature of the black cap with is often not apparent in the field.

Another highlight later in the day was this Savannah Sparrow, only the third banded here since 2004 and only the fourth since 1989 (all in spring). The three most recent were all captured in the Field Nets, which are really on the edge of a marsh so somewhat unusual habitat for this species.

The streaked breast without a central breast spot, and the yellow eyebrow, can be seen quite well in the closeup below.

The first Baltimore Orioles of the season were captured today. The hummingbird feeders have been set up at the Field Edge for about a week, and this is where both of them were caught.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included finding the new nest of the Cooper's Hawk pair which apparently failed two weeks ago, possibly due to the cold and rain. Also, two Soras were heard calling from the marsh north of the road, as well as out in the burn. Some in the group saw an Osprey flying overhead carrying a fish. Both Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos were heard singing overhead, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet was in the area briefly. Warblers in the area not banded included Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Black-and-white, Mourning, and Canada, and American Redstart. But the most interesting of all was the female Cerulean Warbler nearly on the ground in a brush pile near the Willow East net, soon flying into shrubbery nearby and vanishing. This is apparenly only the fourth record of Cerulean Warbler observed in the park, and is a personal first.

Second-year female Cerulean Warbler banded at Port Huron SGA in 2008.

Highlights of birds banded on Saturday, May 15 included THREE Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, including two adult males.

An unusual capture was an after hatch-year male White-breasted Nuthatch out in the Field Nets. This species isn't often seen or captured in the swamp-woods/marsh transition where the banding station is located, and this is only the fourth banded here since 2004 and only the sixth since 1989 (and the first ever in spring).

Another unusual capture was an adult female European Starling. These aren't captured very often here, and most stations would release them unbanded but the protocol established by the previous operator of this station was to band them, so I did too.

The first Magnolia Warbler banded this spring was a second-year female.

The second-year Palm Warbler captured near the end of the day seemed somewhat late, and was the first banded this spring.

The seven Lincoln's Sparrows banded today was a single day record. A nice adult Whtie-crowned Sparrow was an unusual capture as they prefer more open, less wet habitats.

Highlights of birds observed but not banded included a somewhat late Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and four new warbler species not found yesterday; Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, and Bay-breasted. An odd and persistent song over right where we park the cars turned out to be a female Yellow Warbler. I was unaware that females of this species sang (it was a lot like a Cape May or Blackpoll), and I'll be doing more research to see how unusual this might be.

I am very grateful to the following volunteers for helping out on these two days: Andrea Charlebois, Mike Charlebois, Jean Gramlich, Amanda Grimm, Jennifer Munson, Tom Schlack, and Judi Wade.

Banding Data
FRIDAY, May 14, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:12
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:30
Hours Open: 7.50
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 91.125
Temperature (F): 59-72
Cloud Cover: 90-50%
Wind: W-WNW @ 5-7-12 mph
Barometer: 30.12-30.11
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 44 (plus 27 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 23
Capture Rate: 82.3 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10 hours, 6:00-16:00): Jean Gramlich, Jennifer Munson, Tom Schlack, Judi Wade (half day)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 2
Willow Flycatcher - 1
Warbling Vireo - 5
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - 1
Veery - 1
Swainson's Thrush - 1
American Robin - 2
Gray Catbird - 2
Yellow Warbler - 8 (plus 14 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 1
Ovenbird - 2
Northern Waterthrush - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 3 (plus 5 recaptured)
Wilson's Warbler - 1
Savannah Sparrow - 1
[Song Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
Lincoln's Sparrow - 1
Swamp Sparrow - 5 (plus 2 recaptured)
Red-winged Blackbird - 3 (plus 1 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1
Baltimore Oriole - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
[American Goldfinch - 2 recaptured]
SATURDAY, May 15, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:11
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:00
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 87.813
Temperature (F): 50-63
Cloud Cover: 10-60%
Wind: WNW-NW @ 1-3-10 mph
Barometer: 30.26-30.28
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 49 (plus 24 recaptured and 3 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 26
Capture Rate: 86.5 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10 hours, 6:00-16:00): Andrea Charlebois, Mike Charlebois, Amanda Grimm.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 3
[Downy Woodpecker - 2 recaptured]
Willow Flycatcher - 1
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Veery - 1
American Robin - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
Gray Catbird - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)
European Starling - 1
Nashville Warbler - 1
Yellow Warbler - 5 (plus 8 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Palm Warbler - 1
Ovenbird - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
[Northern Waterthrush - 1 released unbanded]
Common Yellowthroat - 6 (plus 5 recaptured)
Wilson's Warbler - 2
Song Sparrow - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 7
Swamp Sparrow - 2 (plus 1 released unbanded)
White-throated Sparrow - 2
White-crowned Sparrow - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 2
Common Grackle - 1
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Baltimore Oriole - 1 (plus 4 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 1

Monday, May 10, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - May 7 & 8, 2010

The closer it got to the weekend, the more apparent it was that banding on Friday, May 7 and Saturday, May 8 would be a challenge. And indeed it was, but with surprising results. On Friday we set up the first three nets, and almost immediately had to close them due to a rain shower starting. Hoping it would be temporary, we set up two more nets and furled them closed, then went to the Upland area to set up those four nets. The rain had stopped, so I re-opened the Field, Field Edge and one Willow net. Then we set up the Swamp Nets and did the first net run. We got a few birds, banded them, and just when we set out for the second net run it started to rain lightly. I took birds out, and the volunteers furled the nets closed behind me. In the 1.5 hours that all the nets were open, a total of 55 new birds and 13 recaptures had been caught! These were banded under the shelter of the hatchback of my car, and a couple umbrellas. We waited for 4 hours more but the rain increased instead of diminished. No wonder the cattails that were 3-inches tall just last week in the burn were now 18-24 inches tall today. We took all the nets down in the rain. The word of the day: Yuck!

Saturday at least didn't have rain in the forecast, but there was a high wind advisory. We got the Field and Field Edge nets open, but a loop broke on the Willow Net so we continued on to the Upland Nets and set them up. At that point, it started to rain, so we furled them all closed for an hour, and replaced the Willow Net with one backup net that I had. Once the rain stopped, it was obvious that all the nets we'd set up so far weren't safe to open due to the wind. But in the Swamp area, there was much less wind due to the sheltering trees, so we set those three up, and moved the other Willow net to the roadside as there were lots of swallows foraging around low to the road. This strategy rarely works, as swallows are very good at avoiding nets. But this time, we had an initial catch of 5 swallows in the roadside net. Then, on the very next net run, there were 79 swallows of three species in these four nets! I quickly worked to get them out (swallows don't tangle much so come out easily) and we closed the nets after maybe a little over an hour's effort. The word of the day: Weird!

Highlights of birds banded on Friday, May 7 included single Veery and Swainson's Thrushes which were firsts for the season, and a single Hermit Thrush rounding out a trio of thrushes captured today. A single Brown Thrasher which is a species we don't catch here every year, was nice to see.

There were lots of warblers in the bushes, frolicking in the rain, which was somewhat frustrating as for most of the day it wasn't safe to have nets open. But, during the brief dry spell, we did manage to catch 8 species of warbler including Nashville, several Yellows, a nice pair of male Black-throated Blues, a small flock of Yellow-rumpeds, single Black-and-white and Ovenbird, two Northern Waterthrushes, and a few Common Yellowthroats.

Black-and-white Warbler, After hatch-year female

Black-throated Blue Warbler, After hatch-year male

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Second-year female

Nashville Warbler, After hatch-year female

Ovenbird, After hatch-year

Probably the most unusual catch of the day was on the very first net run, the station's 4th Field Sparrow out in the Field Nets (appropriately, though it is really a marsh-edge).

Interesting birds observed today but not banded included a Solitary Sandpiper in a puddle between the Field and Field Edge nets, good numbers of Chimney Swifts and swallows, an Eastern Kingbird flying over, a Wood Thrush calling from near the Upland nets, two Northern Parulas, two Chestnut-sided Warblers, and single Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, and Palm Warblers, and two American Redstarts. Non-warblers included single Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breeasted Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting, and several Baltimore Orioles.

Highlights of birds banded on Saturday, May 8 were hard to come by, as only 5 species was captured. But the story of the day had to be the swallows. There were hundreds of them in the banding area, including foraging low over the road, even perching on the roadside picking bugs out of the vegetation. It wasn't particularly cold (48-50 degrees), but the high winds apparently were keeping insects low to the ground. Other than a single Yellow Warbler and a single Common Yellowthroat, and two recaptured Yellows, all birds captured today were of three swallow species. Though not the most numerous species observed, Northern Rough-winged Swallows found their way into the nets more than the other species.

Next most frequently captured, but more numerous overall in the swirling flocks, was the Barn Swallow.

Tree Swallows were numerous too, but apparently were most adept at avoiding the nets as these were captured in the lowest number.

Interesting birds observed today but not banded included Purple Martin and Cliff Swallow, single Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and multiples of several warbler species including Nashville, Chesnut-sided, Mangnolia, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white Warblers, and American Redstart, Ovenbird, and Northern Waterthrush. Sparrows were not much in evidence, but there were a couple Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and a few Baltimore Orioles.

Many thanks to the following volunteers, who worked in difficult conditions on both days, and put in a real team effort to get the job done: Mary Buchowski, Andrea Charlebois, Chris Charlebois, Jacob Charlebois, Jennifer Munson, Aaron Potts, Tom Schlack, and Judi Wade.

Banding Data
FRIDAY, May 7, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:20
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:15
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 8:30
Hours Open: 2.25
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 25.063
Temperature (F): 50-52
Cloud Cover: 100%
Wind: NE-E @ 5-7-15 mph
Barometer: 30.08-29.86
Precipitation: Rain from 8:30-13:00
No. Banded: 55 (plus 13 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 23
Capture Rate: 275.3 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 8 hours, 6:00-2:00):  Jennifer Munson, Aaron Potts, Tom Schlack, Judi Wade

Warbling Vireo - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
[Tree Swallow - 1 recaptured]
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
Veery - 1
Swainson's Thrush - 1
Hermit Thrush - 1
American Robin - 4
Gray Catbird - 3
Brown Thrasher - 1
Nashville Warbler - 1
Yellow Warbler - 7 (plus 5 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 5
Black-and-white Warbler - 1
Ovenbird - 1
Northern Waterthrush - 2
Common Yellowthroat - 4 (plus 2 recaptured)
Field Sparrow - 1
Swamp Sparrow - 9 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 8
Red-winged Blackbird - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
[Brown-headed Cowbird - 1 recaptured]
[Baltimore Oriole - 1 recaptured]

SATURDAY, May 8, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:19
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 9:00 (closed early due to wind)
Hours Open: 2.25 (closed 6:30-7:30 during rain)
No. of Nets: 3.25-6.25 (too windy at most locales)
Net Hours: 10.688
Temperature (F): 50-48
Cloud Cover: 90-100%
Wind: NW @ 10-12-20+ mph
Barometer: 29.59-29.73
Precipitation: Light rain from 6:30-7:30
No. Banded: 86 (plus 2 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 7
Capture Rate: 842.1 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 7.5 hours, 6:00-1:30): Mary Buchowski, Andrea Charlebois, Chris Charlebois, Jacob Charlebois

[Downy Woodpecker - 1 released unbanded]
Tree Swallow - 12
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - 53
Barn Swallow - 19
[American Robin - 1 released unbanded]
Yellow Warbler - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
Common Yellowthroat - 1

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - April 30, 2010

Finally, after nearly a month of waiting, decent numbers of birds were in the park, and captured at the banding station, though the bulk consisted of White-throated Sparrows and American Goldfinches. It has been my experience that it is all too easy to take local observations and extrapolate them to apply to larger areas, such as an entire county or even an entire state. More often than not, these extrapolations lead to erroneous conclusions which is why I tend to keep my comparisons to the local area. And when making comparisons at this locale over time, more than once I've been mistaken in my recollections so having the hard data to return to is very important. My thoughts have been that this is the worst April for banding at Metro Beach since I began here in 2004. As of April 24, I'd banded only 98 birds of 14 species in 7 days of effort. But in April 2004, I banded only 95 birds but this was over 6 days of effort, and in April 2005 again over 6 days, banded 121 birds. The April 2010 total, after banding 58 birds on April 30, is now officially third worst at 156 banded in 8 days of effort. The best April was 2009 with 348, and April 2007 second-best with 307.

It is tempting to blame the controlled burn on lower numbers, but in fact the burn didn't happen until April 19, and already at that point numbers were very low. And, as evidenced by today's efforts, numbers are starting to build as expected. The photo above shows cattails beginning to grow back among the burned Phragmites. A few toads and Western Chorus Frogs were heard today, perhaps signalling a renewed effort to breed.

Banding highlights from Friday, April 30 included no less than TEN new species for the spring, though this is not unexpected given the dearth of birds so far. Among the new species were common ones like Brown-headed Cowbird (two females), Blue Jay, and Gray Catbird.

The first Ruby-crowned Kinglet was perhaps overdue, but the House Wrens were right on time with a surprising three banded for the day.

The first Lincoln's Sparrow was a nice capture, as it is one of my favorite sparrows, partly due to its subtle beauty but also because of its beautiful thrush-like song.

The closeup photo below shows the suite of field marks that identify this bird; the white throat with narrow dark streaks, the streaked upper breast washed with buff, the mainly gray head with narrow buffy eyering and buffy malar with dark brown on either side.\

The first warblers of the season were captured today, though both were recaptures of individuals banded in 2009. A female Common Yellowthroat was a bit of a surprise as no males have been heard yet in this area this spring, although one was heard briefly in the afternoon.

At least eight singing male Yellow Warblers were in the banding area today, a first arrival in a big way. The only one caught was this nice adult male originally banded in 2009.

Among the more unusual captures for the day were the two Tree Swallows captured on the same net run in the Upland Nets. Both were males, but one already had a band on it. Swallows aren't banded very often at Metro Beach, and a recapture is extremely rare, as I've only recaptured a Tree Swallow once before, and a Northern Rough-winged Swallow banded here was found dead a couple miles north in the housing portion of Selfridge Air National Guard base. I'd banded this particular Tree Swallow in spring 2009, captured in the Field Edge net. They're not very cooperative for photos, so this one had to be held in the "banders grip" in order to get a decent photo.

Most unusual today was the Marsh Wren, captured in the Field Nets.

This is a species that breeds at Pt. Rosa Marsh, where the Field Nets are placed, and between 1989 and 2001 a total of 105 Marsh Wrens was banded here by Ellie Cox and assistants ranging between 0 and 26 each year. Between 2004 and 2009, I have banded 16 Marsh Wrens here ranging from 1 to 7 each year. But this species has an odd capture pattern at Metro Beach. Despite the fact that they nest less than 100 yards away from some of our nets, until today this species has NEVER been captured in spring. All previous captures have been from the fall season, and very often in the swamp woods not in the open or marshy areas (and never when Neil Gilbert was out helping). It is possible that this particular Marsh Wren found its way into one of the few remaining patches of cover after the burn, as there are no dried cattail stalks for it to start setting up a territory. Time will tell whether this species benefits or not from the burn.

Interesting birds observed today, but not banded, included a single flyover Common Loon (John only), only a single Cooper's Hawk (the nest where incubation was occurring last week seems to be abandoned now), a Sora calling from the marsh north of the road, two Red-bellied Woodpeckers fighting much of the afternoon with a pair of Downy Woodpeckers over a nest hole, a briefly singing Warbling Vireo, three Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a singing Nashville Warbler, a couple Yellow-rumped Warblers, a singing Black-and-white Warbler, a well-seen Northern Waterthrush, two Rusty Blackbirds, and a Baltimore Oriole right over the road. A passing birder reported a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the area but none of the crew got a look at it. Nearby, just outside the banding area, a few White-crowned Sparrows were in the grass along the maintenance road and just after 6 a.m. a Black-bellied Plover was briefly heard calling from the beach area to our west.

Many thanks to the volunteers who made banding today possible: John Bieganowski, Chris Charlebois, Mike Charlebois, Jerry McHale, and Tom Schlack.

Banding Data
FRIDAY, April 30, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:29
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: 92.375
Temperature (F): 52-72
Cloud Cover: 20-10%
Wind: SSE-S @ 7-10-15 mph
Barometer: 29.78-29.72
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 58 (plus 13 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 18
Capture Rate: 81.2 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers: John Bieganowski, Chris Charlebois, Mike Charlebois, Jerry McHale, Tom Schlack

Blue Jay - 1
Tree Swallow - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
House Wren - 3
Marsh Wren - 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
Hermit Thrush - 1 (plus 1 released unbanded)
American Robin - 2
Gray Catbird - 1
[Yellow Warbler - 1 recaptured]
[Common Yellowthroat - 1 recaptured]
Song Sparrow - 1 (plus 4 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 1
Swamp Sparrow - 6 (plus 1 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
White-throated Sparrow - 6 (plus 2 released unbanded)
Red-winged Blackbird - 1
Brown-headed Cowbird - 2
American Goldfinch - 10 (plus 4 recaptured)