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)

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