Saturday, June 19, 2010

Let the games begin!

As my blog is titled "Michigan Hummingbird Guy" I sometimes get criticized for not posting about hummingbirds year-round. Unfortunately, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are in Michigan generally only for 6 months of the year, from May to October, so my many other interests take over at other times, or my songbird banding projects consume my blog-space. Hopefully, by the end of June, you'll be able to read a detailed songbird banding report from Metro Beach Metropark on my website here. We haven't been able to afford to travel much in recent years, so I don't have any timely tropical hummingbird topics to discuss in winter. I did band an Anna's Hummingbird in Indiana back in April, a first for the state, but it was released by a rehabber in a yard where the homeowners preferred not to have visitors (and where the bird was captured back in December 2009), and the bird only stayed one more day, so I didn't post anything about that interesting story (the record is still in review by the Indiana Bird Records Committee).

In years past, I tried to band hummingbirds during May, but was largely unsuccessful as my major banding sites are at private homes, and the birds just don't seem to settle down until about the second week in June here. So now, this past week, I started focusing on hummingbirds. It was a good start to the season, with 113 new hummingbirds banded on 4 days between June 8-18, at 6 homes. Plus, 32 hummingbirds banded in previous years were recaptured. A new trap design, the Dawkins Trap (I call it the D-trap for short), was easy and inexpensive to construct, and I've been trying it out so far with some success. The photo below shows one hummingbird inside and one outside the D-trap.

At my first site, in Salem Township, Washtenaw County, I banded 8 hummingbirds which was a pretty good start for this locale, where I banded for the first time in 2009. Next, I went to two sites near Milford, Oakland County, where I've been banding for some time. I managed to band 9 more here, plus recapture one that had been originally banded in 2009. On June 15, I went to two homes, each 1/4 mile apart, in Waterloo Township, Jackson County where I annually band good numbers. At the first home I banded 19, and at the second banded 25. This was the first good test of the D-trap, which worked much better at the second home than the first. Also, 16 hummingbirds banded in previous years were recaptured. This included the oldest hummingbird I've ever recaptured, a female that was banded as an adult on July 11, 2003 at the same home she was recaptured today, making her at least 8 years old! She's been recaptured every year since she was banded, except in 2009.

Also, the oldest male I've ever recaptured, was one banded on July 27, 2006 as an adult male at one of these two homes, but recaptured this day at the other. This makes him at least 5 years old.

On June 17 I went to another good hummingbird site, in Hamburg Township, Livingston County. There were probably fewer hummingbirds here than I'd ever seen, and I only managed to catch three new hummingbirds, plus three banded in previous years, including an adult female banded here in 2005. Other feeder activity, birds and squirrels, may have reduced the catch, though it was nice to band three orioles, two females and one male.

After second-year female Baltimore Oriole.

The male was particularly interesting, as he seemed to be starting his post-breeding (pre-basic) molt already, with the second and third primaries on both wings in exactly the same stage of regrowth. Although orioles are in Michigan for only a short time, this still seems a bit early for molt as they won't be migrating south until late August. If you look carefully, you can see these feathers growing in on the photo below.

After second-year male Baltimore Oriole.

On June 18, I met Rich and Brenda Keith at the site where we annually band the most hummingbirds (except for Rich and Brenda's own property!), a home on the southwest side of Battle Creek, Calhoun County. There were very good numbers present, and in only 2 1/4 hours, we had captured and banded 49 new hummingbirds, and recaptured 13 others returning from previous years. The ratio of males to females seemed more heavily skewed in favor of males than seemed normal, with 27 males (55%). Normally, the males seem to lose interest fairly quickly and often account for no more than 25-35% of the captures. This male bias extended to the recaptures from other years as well, with an amazing 6 of 13 having been banded originally as hatch-year males. Recaptures of hatch-years is generally rare in my experience, and females seem to survive better than males. It would appear that there was good survival of last year's hatch of males, though that impression could change later this season when we've banded a couple more times.

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