Saturday, November 6, 2010

Metro Beach banding report - October 29 and November 3, 2010

I have delayed posting of these final banding days of the fall season because I wanted to wait until both had been completed. Normally, banding continues only through the last week of October, but only enough volunteer interest could be generated to band on one day that week. And, with the extension of Daylight Savings Time into the first week of November, we could get into the park at 6 a.m. (DST) one more time in early November to try one more time to audio-lure for Northern Saw-whet Owls.

Results on Friday, October 29 were quite surprising. A very strong weather system, with strong southwesterly "flow" passed through Michigan on October 26-27. These storms, especially the stronger ones, have a tendency to bring interesting birds into the region, so we had high hopes of banding something really odd. The character of the day, though, was essentially a flashback to early October, with lots of sparrows around, especially White-throated. The weather was extremely cooperative. A day with 168 birds banded the last week of October is more than three times what we've done before. Our efforts to audio-lure for owls was hampered when we arrived in the dark to find that a tree had fallen across those very net lanes, and four of us could not move any of it, so we altered the setup to an "L" shape instead of the "U", as one of the 18-meter nets could not be used. Highlights of birds banded included a hatch-year male Sharp-shinned Hawk, only the 5th or 6th Sharp-shin ever banded here, and the second of this fall season. Only once before have two Sharp-shinned Hawks been banded here in one fall season.

A Winter Wren was the first in a couple weeks, and only the 11th for the season. Normally I expect 15-20 each fall.

Two Yellow-rumped Warblers, including the hatch-year female below, were the latest ever banded here as most have moved out of the area.

It was clearly a sparrow day, with 9 species captured. The 4 American Tree Sparrows captured today brought the season total to 5, tying the previous record.

A Field Sparrow was the first for the season, and is a true rarity here as we don't catch one every year and this was only the 6th or 7th ever for the station. Note the differences from the tree sparrow above. The Field Sparrow shows a pink bill, not a bicolored one, and a very plain face with a narrow white eyering. And, lack of a breast spot alone does not confirm Field Sparrow, as a few tree sparrows lack this field mark!

Four Fox Sparrows today fell two short of breaking the single-day record, but the last one was the 16th for the season, which was a record.

Three Lincoln's Sparrows banded today added to the record already set several weeks ago, bringing the season total to 36. And, these were the latest Lincoln's Sparrows ever banded here.

Among the 10 Swamp Sparrows banded today was this individual with streaking below, making it resemble a Lincoln's Sparrow somewhat. But note the buffy wash across the breast of the Lincoln's above, as well as the buffy malar with black on either side. Also note the narrow buffy eyering of the Lincoln's. Not easily seen in the Swamp Sparrow photo below are the rufous wing coverts, which are another character that often will distinguish them from Lincoln's. The streaky Swamp Sparrows may be birds retaining some juvenile plumage, but occasionally these streaks can be retained well into the next breeding season on a few individuals.

At the other extreme of Swamp Sparrow plumage was this unusually colorful individual below. Swamp Sparrow numbers are low this year, but mainly due to a poor showing in the early season captures, which I believe represents breeding birds. Normally, between August 1 and September 15 from 25-50 are banded, mostly juveniles. This year, only about 10 were banded during that period. During October, I believe most of the Swamp Sparrows are migrants, not local breeders, and numbers during this period seem about normal. My best guess is that the tardiness of the Phragmites burn on April 19 may have put off breeding in this species this year.

White-throated Sparrow numbers saw a surge that was reminiscent of their peak in early October, and the individual below was the 300th of the season. The previous one-season record for White-throats was 285, and this one was caught on the first net run so we're well past the record this year.

The other three species of sparrow banded today were Song, White-crowned, and Dark-eyed Junco, which were not photographed. Another milestone was the banding of the season's 500th American Goldfinch. The previous one-season record of 233 was surpassed way back in early September.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a Great Horned Owl calling before dawn, a Red-breasted Nuthatch high in the trees, an Eastern Towhee calling near the cars but not near the nets, and two flyover Purple Finches out in the field.

On Wednesday, November 3, I already knew that every bird banded would be a "record late" only because we've never banded this late before! Since we have to work out of our cars, open to the elements, November can be a difficult time of year. The weather was chilly in the morning but the frost quickly disappeared and we had weather that was essentially appropriate for the season. Hand saws were brought to bear by Tom on the fallen tree in our "Owl Nets" lane, and we quickly set up the audio lure there. Unfortunately, we failed to catch any owls again, but we'll certainly try again next year. Highlights of birds banded included a few Golden-crowned Kinglets.

Numbers of kinglets vary quite a bit from year to year. This season, it was quite obvious that we were missing large numbers because of the frustrating pattern of big influxes occurring BETWEEN banding sessions. This happened in early October, and once again today we had reports from birders who told us that kinglets were "everywhere" just a couple days before.

A single Brown Creeper today was the first in a couple weeks, and pushed us to a record for the season at 22.

Having these interesting birds in hand allows for close examination of their thin, curved bills that show a pinkish lower mandible...something rarely seen in the field. One can almost see why creepers are thought to be most closely related to wrens.

But then there's that woodpecker-like tail with stiff pointed tips, which is clearly more functional, and a case of convergent evolution rather than an indication of any relationships.

And it was another day of sparrows, though with only 6 species banded today. A single-day record of 7 American Tree Sparrows was nice to see, bringing the season's total to a record of 12.

Three more Fox Sparrows extended the record season to a total of 19.

And one more White-crowned Sparrow brought the season's total to 43...the previous record was 15. Also, a recaptured White-crown today brought the season total to 12, where previously I've never had a single recapture of this species. New data!

And, the very last bird banded this fall season, the 2201st bird, was.....

A hatch-year Song Sparrow.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included two calling Great Horned Owls before dawn, two lingering Yellow-rumped Warblers, a few Rusty Blackbirds in flyover flocks of Red-wings, and a single flyover Pine Siskin (we'll catch one eventually!).

Many thanks to the banding volunteers who helped on these two days, getting up extremely early, and in some cases having to do extra chores when trees come down into the net lanes. Thanks to John Bieganowski, Dave Lancaster, Michelle Serreyn, and Tom Schlack.

Banding Data
FRIDAY, October 29, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 7:01
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 14:00
Hours Open: 8.25
No. of Nets: 3.50-11.75
Net Hours: 91.750
Temperature (F): 43-54
Cloud Cover: 100-30%
Wind: WNW-SW @ 5-7-10 mph
Barometer: 29.85-29.94
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 168 (plus 18 recaptures and 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 18
Capture Rate: 204.9 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.5 hours, 6:00-16:30): John Bieganowski, Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack.

Downy Woodpecker - 2 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 3 recaptured)
Winter Wren - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 6
Hermit Thrush - 16
American Robin - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 2
American Tree Sparrow - 4
Fox Sparrow - 4
Song Sparrow - 35 (plus 2 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 3
Swamp Sparrow - 10 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 47 (plus 2 recaptured)
White-crowned Sparrow - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Dark-eyed Junco - 3
American Goldfinch - 28 (plus 9 recaptured)

WEDNESDAY, November 3, 2010
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 7:09
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.25
Net Hours: 87.750
Temperature (F): 29-48
Cloud Cover: 50-10-100%
Wind: NW-SW @ 1-3-5 mph
Barometer: 29.86-29.768
Precipitation: None (light rain after close)
No. Banded: 49 (plus 12 recaptures and 1 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 12
Capture Rate: 70.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 6:00-14:00): John Bieganowski, Tom Schlack, Michelle Serreyn (2.5 hrs).

Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
Brown Creeper - 1
Winter Wren - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 4
Hermit Thrush - 3
American Tree Sparrow - 7
Fox Sparrow - 3
Song Sparrow - 10 (plus 1 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Swamp Sparrow - 5
White-throated Sparrow - 6 (plus 2 recaptured)
White-crowned Sparrow - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 7 (plus 6 recaptured)


Jerry Jourdan said...

Terrific post, Allen. And wonderful diversity. And just look at that bug-eyed look on the Sharpie. We may have to start measuring iris diameter to eyeball ratio...

Susan Cybulski said...

Thank you so much for your blog, Allen. I am always learning from you. You are a wonderful asset to our birding community.