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)

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