Sunday, September 26, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - September 22, 24 & 25, 2010

The weather this past week presented a few challenges for banding.

Wednesday, September 22, was a non-standard effort day. I was in the park that day anyway to clean and refill the hummingbird feeders near the Field Edge net, which have been a standard part of the setup since 2005, and decided to put up 5 nets and see if I could catch a few hummingbirds, and possibly other species too. The rain in the morning delayed setting up for about an hour, and in mid-morning I had to close the nets down so that I could catch up to band all the birds I had caught (nearly 100 for the day!).

On Friday, September 24, a wind advisory was in the forecast starting at 11:00 a.m. It was windy at 6:00 a.m. but not too windy to band, and most of the nets were sheltered from the southwest winds. We ended up closing the Upland Nets around 10:30 as they were most exposed to the wind, and right on schedule at 11:00 the winds picked up considerably, and we closed all the nets soon after.

Saturday, September 25, was unhindered by weather though the winds were stronger than I'd prefer it was still safe to open all the nets, and winds diminished through the day. The result was another 100+ bird day, including lots of warblers in addition to thrushes, sparrows, and kinglets which have all definitely moved in this week. The number of birds throughout the day caused us to stay open an hour longer than is standard. Numbers of American Goldfinches were diminished, though the 300th of the season was banded on the 24th, and the 1000th bird of the season was also banded on the 24th, which is perhaps the earliest we've reached this threshhold in fall.

A hatch-year female Black-throated Blue Warbler, banded on September 15, was apparently found dead (it may have been alive when first found) by a homeowner just outside the park (exact locale not yet known) on September 18. This is the second time this has happened with this species...the first time was a couple years ago and involved a male Black-throated Blue.

Banding highlights on Wednesday, September 22 included 5 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and the first two Ruby-crowned Kinglets of the fall. Observers had been reporting this species for more than a week, but I'd failed to catch, or even observe any until today.

Another highlight was a warbler that had me taking a second look.

The grayish head, green upperparts, yellow underparts, and lack of wing bars told me immediately that it was an Oporornis, but which one? It looked big, and I was tempted to call it a Connecticut, but the eye ring didn't look complete enough. But the apparent size, as well as the late date, made me skeptical that it was a Mourning. Back at the banding station (the back of my car), I broke out my Pyle guide and set to work taking the measurements that distinguish Connecticut from Mourning Warbler. The sixth and ninth primaries were of equal length, and subtracting the flattened wing measurement from the tail measurement, were both in the range for Mourning Warbler. Another character, that I'd overlooked in my excitement, was the length of the undertail coverts, which are much longer in Connecticut than in Mourning.

The few times I've captured Connecticut Warblers, the wide, full eyering has been quite obvious, so this bird did give me doubts, and the fact that it turned out to be a Mourning Warbler (hatch-year male) wasn't too surprising. But it was quite late for Mourning Warbler, which peaks in migration in this area during August.

Interesting birds observed today but not banded included a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, two Brown Creepers, many Golden-crowned Kinglets, Gray-cheeked, Swainson's, and Wood Thrush, and a Brown Thrasher. Warblers observed but not banded included Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Palm, and Northern Waterthrush. Two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were also observed.

Banding highlights on Friday, September 24 included two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and the first Winter Wren of the season.

Three Gray Catbirds were caught, for the first major influx of this species this fall, which is very strange. The number of catbirds, as well as Swamp Sparrows (only one banded today), is way down compared to every previous fall season since 2005.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a Brown Creeper, a singing Carolina Wren in the distance (strangely scarce in the banding area this year), and a flyover American Pipit.

Banding highlights on Saturday, September 25 included three Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and a hatch-year female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, only the third since 2005 and the ninth since 1989. Hatch-year sapsuckers typically retain a lot of their brown juvenal plumage, particularly on the back, face, breast, and flanks. Both males and females have red on the crown, though females have less, and males often have some red feathers on the throat as well. It was not possible to get a photo of her with her bill closed, and she attempted to drill a hole into my knuckle...

Another first was a Red-breasted Nuthatch (hatch-year female), which is only the sixth since 2005 and the tenth since 1989.

The first Brown Creeper was right on schedule and, along with the kinglets, indicative of the gradually changing character of the fall migration season.

Several Golden-crowned Kinglets were captured today for the first of likely many more to come.

Having these little scrappers in-hand allows us to see the differences in crown color between the all-yellow females (above) and the yellow with orange in the center of males (below).

The first Hermit Thrushes are yet another indication that fall migration is shifting away from warblers and flycatchers to the later, and shorter-distance migrants.

But warblers aren't done yet! Nine species were banded today with good numbers of both Magnolia and Black-throated Blue, the latter typically a later migrant which we'll likely catch at least into the middle of October. A Northern Waterthrush was a little on the late side. Magnolia Warblers are one of my favorites, and a challenge still awaiting a solution is to be able to sex the hatch-year birds. They show so much variation, but there seem to be several characters that, when taken together, may allow sexing of a very few. I've been working on this for many years, but am not yet ready to state anything definitively. So, it is nice when we catch a clear, after hatch-year (adult) male.

Note the broad, "truncate" tips on the tail feathers indicative of an after hatch-year (his skull was also completely ossified. The all-black upper tail coverts, large black centers on the back feathers, and especially the black feathers on the face, all indicate that he's a male.

Two rather drab birds were captured today, with which I always enjoy "quizzing" the banding assistants.

The lack of field marks is in itself a good field mark, while the short conical bill indicates a species in the sparrow or finch family. This hatch-year female Indigo Bunting was also streaked lightly below and had no blue feathers at all. The two banded today were only the 6th and 7th in fall since 2005.

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included a flyover Wood Duck, a fly-past Black-bellied Plover, a Northern Harrier working the marsh, and a calling Wood Thrush. Two additional warbler species were observed, Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Green.

Many thanks to the volunteers who came out to help this week. Banding could not have been done without you! Thanks to Melissa Brady, Mary Buchowski, Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack, and Sue Wright.

Banding Data
WEDNESDAY, September 22, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:19
Time Open (E.S.T.): 7:15 (rain delayed open)
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:30
Hours Open: 4.25 (closed 9:00-10:00 to catch up)
No. of Nets: 3.00-5.25
Net Hours: 21.188
Temperature (F): 66-70
Cloud Cover: 100%
Wind: S @ 3-5-10 mph
Barometer: 29.65-29.77
Precipitation: Rain delayed open
No. Banded: 97 (plus 14 recaptures and 3 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 14
Capture Rate: 538.1 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.0 hours, 7:00-16:00): Allen Chartier.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 5 (plus 1 released unbanded)
House Wren - 4 (plus 3 recaptured)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 2
Gray Catbird - 2
[Nashville Warbler - 1 released unbanded]
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 2
Mourning Warbler - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 6 (plus 3 recaptured)
Song Sparrow - 10 (plus 1 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 2
White-throated Sparrow - 30 (plus 3 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
American Goldfinch - 29 (plus 3 recaptured)

FRIDAY, September 24, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:21
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 11:00 (high winds forced early close)
Hours Open: 5.25
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 58.313
Temperature (F): 72-81
Cloud Cover: 80-100%
Wind: SSW @ 10-12-20+ mph
Barometer: 29.55-29.45
Precipitation: None.
No. Banded: 45 (plus 3 recaptures)
No. of Species: 18
Capture Rate: 82.3 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 7.0 hours, 6:00-13:00): Dave Lancaster, Sue Wright.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 2
Red-eyed Vireo - 1
House Wren - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Winter Wren - 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 2
Swainson's Thrush - 1
Gray Catbird - 3
Nashville Warbler - 1
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 2
Song Sparrow - 1
Lincoln's Sparrow - 1 (plus 1 recaptured!)
Swamp Sparrow - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 14
American Goldfinch - 10 (plus 4 recaptured)

SATURDAY, September 25, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:22
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 14:00
Hours Open: 8.00
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 100.750
Temperature (F): 58-59
Cloud Cover: 100%
Wind: W-NW @ 7-12-5 mph
Barometer: 29.60-29.71
Precipitation: None.
No. Banded: 124 (plus 9 recaptures)
No. of Species: 28
Capture Rate: 132.0 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 11.0 hours, 6:00-17:00): Melissa Brady, Mary Buchowski, Tom Schlack.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 3 (plus 3 recaptured)
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Brown Creeper - 1
House Wren - 5 (plus 2 recaptured)
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 7
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 6
Swainson's Thrush - 4
Hermit Thrush - 2
[Gray Catbird - 1 recaptured]
Nashville Warbler - 1
Magnolia Warbler - 16
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 16
Palm Warbler - 4
Blackpoll Warbler - 5
American Redstart - 4
Ovenbird - 5
Northern Waterthrush - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
Song Sparrow - 4
[Lincoln's Sparrow - 1 recaptured!]
Swamp Sparrow - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 12
Northern Cardinal - 1
Indigo Bunting - 2
American Goldfinch - 16 (plus 1 recaptured)

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