Sunday, November 6, 2011

Metro Beach banding report - The final day, November 4, 2011

I managed to convince three volunteers to try to band one more day at Metro Beach, luring them with the possibility of catching an owl early in the morning. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in catching an owl, and the number of birds banded was not high, but we had a really nice day to be out, considering it was early November in Michigan! White-tailed Deer have been less of a problem than in some recent fall seasons, but today they finished destroying a net that I'd turned upside down so the holes they made were at the top, making new holes in it; and they also ran through an adjacent net, ripping out the bottom entirely.

After reading the highlights and totals from this week, continue reading for a basic summary of the season.

Highlights of the 26 birds banded on Friday, November 4 included only the second Tufted Titmouse this fall.

Hatch-year Tufted Titmouse

This species is very uncommon in the banding area, and only a few are found in the park year-round. They can become quite secretive, especially in summer, as evidenced by the fact that the park bird checklist does not indicate that they are a breeding species. But having banded hatch-year birds over the past three years is certainly proof that this non-migratory species does breed in the park.

Hatch-year Tufted Titmouse

A small number of kinglets was still present in the park, with both species banded. Numbers of kinglets banded this fall were quite low, for reasons unknown.

Hatch-year male Golden-crowned Kinglet

Hatch-year male Golden-crowned Kinglet

The only Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the day was the last bird banded this season.

Hatch-year male Ruby-crowned Kinglet

As expected, the selection of birds banded included a wintery mix, starting with a good number of American Tree Sparrows. The bi-colored bill shows up well in the photo below.

Hatch-year American Tree Sparrow

One Fox Sparrow was still lingering in the banding area, which they may do through November but few if any will remain through the winter.

Hatch-year Fox Sparrow

Of course, Dark-eyed Juncos are the classic winter bird, although they have been in the banding area for almost a month already.

Hatch-year female Dark-eyed Junco

Song Sparrows have not gotten a lot of attention in this blog. They are common as a nesting species, and quite a few over-winter every year, and we typically band well over 100 in a fall season, as we did this year.

Hatch-year Song Sparrow

An adult male House Finch was the 11th banded this fall, the most since 1993 but short of the record of 16 in fall 1991.

After hatch-year male House Finch

And we did very well with American Goldfinches this fall, with more than 400 banded being just short of last year's record. This photo shows a hatch-year female quite well, with her dull (not shiny dark) blackish wings and blurry dull whitish tail spots.

Hatch-year female American Goldfinch

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a soaring Sharp-shinned Hawk, three Red-tailed Hawks, calling Eastern Screech-Owl and Great Horned Owl when it was still dark, and a flyover Belted Kingfisher. Perhaps the most interesting bird observed today occurred during a mid-morning net check. While we were out at the Field Nets, the half-dozen Mourning Doves in the dead tree in the center of the array suddenly flushed away, being replaced by a similar-sized gray bird. A Northern Shrike!

Banding could not have been done today without the help of three dependable volunteers, John Bieganowski, Dave Lancaster, and Tom Schlack.

Banding Data
FRIDAY, November 4, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 7:09
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:15
Hours Open: 6.50
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.50
Net Hours: 81.25
Temperature (F): 37-52
Cloud Cover: 80-0%
Wind: NE @ 1-3-5 mph
Barometer: 30.26-30.41
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 26 (plus 3 recaptured)
No. of Species: 13
Capture Rate: 35.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.0 hours, 5:00-14:00): John Bieganowski (6.0 hrs), Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack.

Tufted Titmouse - 1
[Brown Creeper - 1 recaptured]
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
American Robin - 3
American Tree Sparrow - 7 (plus 1 recaptured)
Fox Sparrow - 1
Song Sparrow - 2
Swamp Sparrow - 2
Dark-eyed Junco - 2
[Red-winged Blackbird - 1 recaptured]
House Finch - 1
American Goldfinch - 4

2011 Fall Banding Totals
First Banding Day: 7 August
Last Banding Day: 4 November
Total Banding Days: 25
Total Banding Hours: 169.25
Total Net Hours: 2057.375
Total Banded: 2115 (plus 302 recaptured and 53 released unbanded)
Total Species Banded: 79
Overall Capture Rate: 120.1 per 100 net hours

Yellow-billed Cuckoo - 1
Eastern Screech-Owl - 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 158
Downy Woodpecker - 9
Northern Flicker - 2
Olive-sided Flycatcher - 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee - 8
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 2
Alder Flycatcher - 3
Willow Flycatcher - 6
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 4
Least Flycatcher - 11
Eastern Phoebe - 1
Great Crested Flycatcher - 1
Eastern Kingbird - 1
Blue-headed Vireo - 2
Warbling Vireo - 19
Philadelphia Vireo - 6
Red-eyed Vireo - 11
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - 2
Black-capped Chickadee - 13
Tufted Titmouse - 2
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Brown Creeper - 27
Carolina Wren - 1
House Wren - 5
Winter Wren - 8
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 19
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 23
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - 1
Veery - 2
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 19
Swainson's Thrush - 25
Hermit Thrush - 50
Wood Thrush - 1
American Robin - 27
Gray Catbird - 29
Cedar Waxwing - 11
Tennessee Warbler - 34
Orange-crowned Warbler - 4
Nashville Warbler - 129
Northern Parula - 2
Yellow Warbler - 15
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 8
Magnolia Warbler - 51
Cape May Warbler - 3
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 34
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 58
Black-throated Green Warbler - 2
Blackburnian Warbler - 1
Palm Warbler - 5
Bay-breasted Warbler - 3
Blackpoll Warbler - 10
Black-and-white Warbler - 4
American Redstart - 18
Ovenbird - 13
Northern Waterthrush - 6
Mourning Warbler - 3
Common Yellowthroat - 53
Wilson's Warbler - 20
Canada Warbler - 2
Northern Cardinal - 8
Rose-breasted Grosbeak - 3
Indigo Bunting - 6
Eastern Towhee - 1
American Tree Sparrow - 12
Field Sparrow - 2
Fox Sparrow - 15
Song Sparrow - 170
Lincoln's Sparrow - 12
Swamp Sparrow - 96
White-throated Sparrow - 240
White-crowned Sparrow - 32
Dark-eyed Junco - 4
Red-winged Blackbird - 56
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1
Baltimore Oriole - 10
House Finch - 11
American Goldfinch - 445

Watch for the detailed fall summary at the end of the year at the Metro Beach Banding web page.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Metro Beach banding report - October 24 & 29, 2011

The weather forecast for this week was little or no rain, but as has happened pretty much every week since banding started, it turned into a fairly wet week. The rain on Monday, October 24 was confined to a little in the morning that delayed opening only about 15 minutes and another brief period with a "trace" mid-day. On Saturday, October 29, skies were fairly clear but they became overcast quickly. We didn't have any nets open before it rained Saturday, but we ended up taking them down in rain, and perhaps even sleet. We may band one more day next week, but this week is the "official" end of the fall banding season at Metro Beach Metro Park. Next week's blog will include a brief summary of the fall banding totals.

Highlights of the 148 birds banded on Monday, October 24 included yet another first for the station, and a personal first as well, a handsome Yellow-billed Cuckoo. It is the 112th species at the station since 2004, and the 78th species this fall (previous record was 77 species in 2008). This species is very rare in Michigan after about September 15, and almost completely unexpected after October 1.

Hatch-year Yellow-billed Cuckoo

This species can usually be aged in the field quite easily, as hatch-year birds have a bright yellow eye ring. It is also interesting to see that the bill is half black, just like the Black-billed Cuckoo's (see the banding report for May 28 in this blog) but with yellow on the lower mandible instead of blue-gray.

Hatch-year Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Cuckoos have a zygodactylus arrangement of toes on their feet, similar to woodpeckers, and it was interesting to observe this closely. Vocalizations of birds in-hand are often quite different from anything heard in the field. In the 1990s, I tape recorded quite a few of these, including Black-billed Cuckoo which gives an eerie sound very similar to what this Yellow-billed gave. It is perhaps appropriate this week before Halloween, so if you want to listen, click here.

Zygodactylus toe arrangement of Yellow-billed Cuckoo

One species that has been captured in low numbers this fall, and has been absent in our nets for some time, was Winter Wren. Four banded today brought us into a more normal range (though low) for a season's total.

Hatch-year Winter Wren

And another species also absent for some time is Orange-crowned Warbler; all three for the season were banded on only one day early in October. So today's was a welcome sight.

Hatch-year male Orange-crowned Warbler

The single-season record here for Nashville Warblers was broken quite some time ago, but they just keep coming, including this fairly late individual today.

Hatch-year male Nashville Warbler

It was another good day for White-throated Sparrows, with the 76 banded today being the second best day ever, after last week's 96. Swamp Sparrows also continued their strong movement, somewhat late, with another 15 today bringing the season's total to nearly 100.

Hatch-year Swamp Sparrow

Interesting birds observed, but not banded today included a Wilson's Snipe flushing away from the Field Nets when we went out there in the dark to set them up, and at least 3 Eastern Phoebes out in the field/marsh as well. A Purple Finch was singing north of the road for part of the day. I am starting to wonder where all the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are. I have not seen any, anywhere, yet this fall. Perhaps it is just my bad luck?

Highlights of the 28 birds banded on Saturday, October 29 included two Brown Creepers, which brought the season's total to a record 26. One of the birds showed a pattern that might be considered "adult", as the outer primary covert doesn't really have a buffy "spot" but rather an almost hourglass-shaped buffy area that runs along the shaft.

Brown Creeper (age and sex unknown)

The 79th species for the fall was much more expected; American Tree Sparrow, with 5 today.

Hatch-year American Tree Sparrow

This offers perhaps one last reminder about not relying on just a single field mark to identify birds. In the photo above, the "stickpin" breast spot is not visible because of the angle, so other characters would need to be relied upon. The rufous crown is pretty conspicuous, and some birders might think this is a Chipping Sparrow, but that species does not keep its rufous crown into winter, and there are a couple other better field marks visible here. The eyebrow is gray, not white as in Chipping, and the bill most notably is bi-colored; black on top, yellow below. The bill of Chipping Sparrow is black in summer, and pinkish in winter. Field Sparrow also shows a very dull rufous crown even in winter, lacks a "stickpin", but has a fairly prominent eye ring and, most importantly, a pink bill.

Hatch-year American Tree Sparrow

And sometimes the dependable "stickpin" field mark isn't so dependable. It might be quite faint, as on this individual, or might be absent altogether! Check the bill color!

Interesting birds observed, but not banded today included a Wilson's Snipe again in the early morning out in the field. Surprising at mid-morning was an American Woodcock that came whizzing/whirring over the road about 20 feet up...with a Cooper's Hawk about 10 yards behind it. The outcome of this chase is unknown. A Merlin flew out over the field briefly, but was not seen again. The audio lure for saw-whet owls did not succeed today, but did get at least one Eastern Screech-Owl calling until well after sunrise. The pair of Great Horned Owls was also spontaneously calling this morning. A single Marsh Wren was still giving its twanging call note out near the Field Nets. It has been dissapointing that there have been so many of these around this fall, but we have not caught a single one. Five Horned Larks and eight American Pipits flew over at one point, and there were a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers still in the area.

Once again, banding could not have been done this week without the help of dedicated volunteers, including John Bieganowski, Stevie Kuroda, Dave Lancaster, Jeremy Miller, Tom Schlack, Judi Wade, and Bruce Watson. Thank you!

Banding Data
MONDAY, October 24, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:55
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.50
Net Hours: 92.625
Temperature (F): 50-63
Cloud Cover: 100-20%
Wind: W @ 3-5-10 mph
Barometer: 29.89-29.97
Precipitation: Trace
No. Banded: 148 (plus 21 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 18
Capture Rate: 186.8 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 5:00-15:00): Dave Lancaster, Jeremy Miller, Tom Schlack.

[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
Brown Creeper - 7
Winter Wren - 4
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
Hermit Thrush - 7 (plus 1 recaptured)
Orange-crowned Warbler - 1
Nashville Warbler - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1
Fox Sparrow - 5 (plus 1 recaptured)
Song Sparrow - 15 (plus 3 recaptured)
[Lincoln's Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
Swamp Sparrow - 15 (plus 3 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 76 (plus 7 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
White-crowned Sparrow - 2 (plus 3 recaptured)
[Northern Cardinal - 1 recaptured]
American Goldfinch - 9

SATURDAY, October 29, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 7:01
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:30
Hours Open: 6.75
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.50
Net Hours: 86.75
Temperature (F): 37-50 (down to 41 during takedown)
Cloud Cover: 25-100%
Wind: Calm-S @ 0-5-7 mph
Barometer: 30.11-30.14
Precipitation: Rain at close
No. Banded: 28 (plus 10 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 12
Capture Rate: 45.0 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (total 9.5 hours; 5:00-14:30): John Bieganowski (3.0 hrs), Stevie Kuroda (2.0 hrs), Tom Schlack (6.5 hrs), Judi Wade (7.5 hrs), Bruce Watson (2.0 hrs).

[Downy Woodpecker - 1 recaptured]
Brown Creeper - 2
[Winter Wren - 1 released unbanded]
American Robin - 1
American Tree Sparrow - 5
Fox Sparrow - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)
[Song Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
[Lincoln's Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
Swamp Sparrow - 5 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 2
[White-crowned Sparrow - 2 recaptured]
Red-winged Blackbird - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 8 (plus 2 recaptured)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Metro Beach banding report - October 17 & 21, 2011

It was another interesting week for banding at Metro Beach. Other than the two banding days on Monday (Oct 17) and Friday (Oct 21), it was pretty wet and windy. Monday's weather was quite nice for mid-October, and we captured a species that is the first ever banded at this station. Friday was a bit cooler, though not unseasonal, with just a trace of mist for a couple brief periods, and an all-time record number of birds banded for one day here (224).

Highlights of the 67 birds banded on Monday, October 17 had to include the first bird captured, an Eastern Screech-Owl, the first ever banded at Metro Beach, and the 111th species for the cumulative banding species list since 2004 (not including fledgling Great Horned Owls banded by another bander elsewhere in the park each year).

Hatch-year Eastern Screech-Owl

Since 2009, I have been setting up an audio-lure during late October since our start time at 6 a.m. (daylight time) allows 45-60 minutes before first light to attract owls. Our primary target is Northern Saw-whet Owls, which we've not captured yet; possibly because we're too late in the morning for them, and maybe too early in their migration. But we'll keep trying this year too. But this screech-owl was brought in with a screech-owl tape, and is our first success.

Hatch-year Eastern Screech-Owl

Three species of warbler were banded today; Nashville (1), Yellow-rumped (2), and Palm (2). One of the Palm Warblers had a fair bit of yellow on the underparts. I am not experienced enough with fall birds to say if it was the eastern (Yellow) subspecies, but a bird very similar to this one was posted to the Wing Island Bird Banding Station blog, where they have more experience with Yellow Palm Warblers as they're located on Cape Cod, Massachussetts.

Hatch-year (Yellow?) Palm Warbler

After being observed on surveys in the park last week, the first Fox Sparrows of the season were banded today.

Hatch-year Fox Sparrow

Likewise, Dark-eyed Juncos have been around for at least a week in small numbers, but the first of the season was banded today.

Hatch-year female Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco

Interesting birds observed but not banded included 3 Red-tailed Hawks, diving up and down, and screaming at each other, two Eastern Phoebes, 3 Winter Wrens, a Marsh Wren out near the Field Nets, a very late adult male American Redstart, and a flyover Pine Siskin. One frustration of the day was a male Eastern Towhee that was in the net on our last round before closing, but it got away before I was able to get to it. There were at least two towhees in the banding area all day today.

Highlights of the record 224 birds banded on Friday, October 21 included the second Blue-headed Vireo of the season and a very good total of 9 Brown Creepers (the record is 11 for one day). I am still measuring the length of the buffy tip on the outermost primary covert, and there does seem to be a correlation to those that I can age by skull as hatch-year with a small buffy tip. One bird today had the smallest buffy tips observed so far this season (almost nonexistent), as seen in the photo below. There do seem to be some intermediates though, with apparently more than two different patterns on these feathers.

Hatch-year Brown Creeper

Carolina Wrens are occasionally banded in small numbers at Metro Beach, as they do nest here although they move around a lot. But after a run of banding a few almost every spring and fall from 2005-2008, none has been banded since fall 2008...until today.

Hatch-year Carolina Wren

Today saw the best influx of kinglets so far this season, but numbers are still below average. Hermit Thrushes definitely contributed to the record number of birds banded today, although the 19 banded today is far from the one day record for the species of 72 set in October 2009.

Hatch-year Hermit Thrush

A Gray Catbird was somewhat late. A single Nashville Warbler was getting late, and 8 Yellow-rumped Warblers pushed the season total to nearly double the previous record of 33 set in fall 2010. The clear "bird of the day" was White-throated Sparrow. In a typical year, there is a big influx around October 5-10, but until now numbers have been far behind what is expected. Today's record of 96 (previous record was 68) put us up into the "normal" range, though the tardiness of this influx is notable.

After hatch-year White-throated Sparrow

The 11 White-crowned Sparrows today paled in comparison, but it was only one short of the record of 12 on October 7, 2007. The 26 Song Sparrows was also the highest so far this fall, but 9 short of the record, and the 22 Swamp Sparrows was a record, beating the 21 on April 27, 2007 and the fall record of 17 set in 2008 and 2009 (perhaps notably both these dates were three weeks earlier in the season).

And after hearing Eastern Towhees all day in the banding area (up to 6 may have been present), we caught one late in the day, bringing the species total for the season up to 77, which ties the record set in fall 2008.

Hatch-year female Eastern Towhee

Interesting birds observed but not banded included an American Woodcock flushed from the vicinity of the Swamp Nets while it was still dark, two flyover Eastern Bluebirds (very infrequent in this park), a calling Black-throated Blue Warbler, and a singing Purple Finch back in the swamp to the north of the banding area.

Banding could not have been done at all this week without the commitment and capabilities of Dave Lancaster and Tom Schlack, who came out on both days, and Marie McGee who came out for most of the day on Friday. Thank you!

Banding Data
MONDAY, October 17, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:47
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.50
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.50
Net Hours: 89.00
Temperature (F): 48-64
Cloud Cover: 0-10%
Wind: WSW @ 7-10-15 mph
Barometer: 29.76-29.76
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 67 (plus 17 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 20
Capture Rate: 96.6 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 5:00-15:00): Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack.

Downy Woodpecker - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
Brown Creeper - 6
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 2
Hermit Thrush - 8 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Robin - 2
Nashville Warbler - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 2
Palm Warbler - 2
[Eastern Towhee - 1 released unbanded]
Fox Sparrow - 3
Song Sparrow - 4 (plus 5 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 12 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 15 (plus 1 released unbanded)
(Eastern) White-crowned Sparrow - 1 (plus 4 recaptured)
Dark-eyed Junco - 1
Northern Cardinal - 1
[Red-winged Blackbird - 3 recaptured]
American Goldfinch - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)

FRIDAY, October 21, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:51
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:45
Hours Open: 7.00
No. of Nets: 5.00-13.50
Net Hours: 88.25
Temperature (F): 45-50
Cloud Cover: 100-80-100%
Wind: W-WNW @ 7-10-12 mph
Barometer: 29.86-30.06
Precipitation: Trace
No. Banded: RECORD 224 (plus 14 recaptured and 3 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 21
Capture Rate: 273.1 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 11.0 hours; 5:00-16:00): Dave Lancaster, Marie McGee (7.25 hrs), Tom Schlack.

Downy Woodpecker - 1
Blue-headed Vireo - 1
[Black-capped Chickadee - 3 recaptured]
Brown Creeper - 9
Carolina Wren - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 11
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 9
Hermit Thrush - 19 (plus 1 recaptured)
Gray Catbird - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 8
Eastern Towhee - 1
Fox Sparrow - 2
Song Sparrow - 26
Lincoln's Sparrow - 1
Swamp Sparrow - 22 [record] (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 96 [record] (plus 3 released unbanded)
White-crowned Sparrow - 11 (plus 4 recaptured)
Dark-eyed Junco - 1
[Northern Cardinal - 1 recaptured]
American Goldfinch - 3 (plus 2 recaptured)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Metro Beach banding report - October 12 & 14, 2011

This past week was rainy and windy, with a decrease in birds but still some interesting captures. On Wednesday, October 12, the strong winds were from the NE switching to SE, resulting in an exponential increase in leaves falling into the nets, but it did not affect the nets to the point of forcing the station to close. But the rain starting just before noon (EDT) did force us to close early. On Friday, October 12. rain in the morning delayed setting up for about an hour, while increasing winds did eventually force the station to close early as well. The large movements of White-throated Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes expected at this time of year seem to have passed us by, or haven't arrived yet.

Highlights of the 43 birds banded on Wednesday, October 12 included a flycatcher; an Eastern Phoebe. I don't normally catch very many phoebes in spring (max 7) or fall (max 5). I was hoping to show the all black bill of this species in the photo, but he just wouldn't keep his mouth shut! Normally, I work with a bird to get the photo I want for about a minute and, if I can't get it, release the bird.

Hatch-year Eastern Phoebe

It was easy to age this bird based on the "molt limit" visible in the greater secondary coverts. In the photo below, the arrows point to the brighter buffy juvenile coverts contrasting with the paler-tipped "first basic" coverts.

Hatch-year Eastern Phoebe

There were very few kinglets in the banding area, somewhat unexpected for this time of year, and only a few thrushes which included a somewhat late Gray-cheeked. Only four warbler species were in the banding area today, with singles of two species banded, Nashville and Black-throated Blue.

Hatch-year female Black-throated Blue Warbler

Sparrows dominated today, as they will for the remainder of the season. Not one, but two Field Sparrows were nice to see. This species isn't captured at this station every year, and this is the first time every with two in the same season, and only the 6th and 7th banded here since 2004 (plus 4 from 1990-1993).

Hatch-year Field Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow is in the highlights again this week partly because it appears to be a good season for them, and partly because of two special individuals captured today. There are about 5 subspecies of White-crowned Sparrow recognized, with the Eastern (subspecies leucophrys) the dominant form in our area. Along the southern shores of Hudson Bay and westward is another form, Gambell's (subspecies gambellii) that is a rare but annual migrant through Michigan (sometimes fairly common at Whitefish Point in the Upper Peninsula). I have banded a handful of hatch-year Gambell's over the years, and probably as many or more intergrades, but today was the first adult Gambell's I've ever banded anywhere.

After hatch-year "Gambell's" White-crowned Sparrow

The streaking on the back is more contrasting in Gambell's than in Eastern, but the main differences are on the head, as shown in the comparison photo below.

"Gambell's" (top) and "Eastern" (bottom)
White-crowned Sparrows (both AHY)

Most obviously, the black supraloral of Eastern is absent in Gambell's, and the bill is slightly paler. Right next to this adult Gambell's, in the same net run, was a clear-cut hatch-year Gambell's as well, shown below compared with a hatch-year Eastern.

"Gambell's" (top) and "Eastern" (bottom)
White-crowned Sparrows (both HY)

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a calling Great Horned Owl before dawn, a couple of Winter Wrens in the undergrowth, a somewhat late Common Yellowthroat, and two Dark-eyed Juncos.

Highlights of the 45 birds banded on Friday, October 14 included two Brown Creepers. As mentioned in last week's posting, there has been some discussion among North American banders with European ringers on ageing them by the pale buffy spots on their longest primary coverts (larger in adult Common Treecreeper, smaller in hatch-year). But ageing Brown Creepers by skull becomes tricky as after October 1 ossification can be completed, making it very difficult (or impossible) to age a bird as after hatch-year at this time. The wings of today's two birds are shown below. One was clearly a hatch-year with "incomplete" skull ossification (and small pCov spots), while the other had completed its skull ossification (and shows larger pCov spots).

Possible after hatch-year Brown Creeper

I also noticed two different colors of median secondary coverts on this apparent adult (above), which can be seen just below my finger. Is this a molt limit? Maybe this is actually a hatch-year bird and the larger primary covert spot is not indicative of age? No answers yet to these questions...

Hatch-year Brown Creeper

There was another influx of Yellow-rumped Warblers today (18 banded), bringing the season's total to 47, the highest since I restarted banding at this station in 2004, and the third highest ever (77 in fall 1991, 60 in spring 1996).

After hatch-year female
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler

Banders in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada have noted much lower numbers this fall (so far anyway). In eastern Canada, a two-year cycle has been detected. The Yellow-rumps banded so far at Metro Beach have consisted of a larger than expected number of hatch-year birds, so perhaps there was a poor nesting season? Another possibility is that we've been having more northeasterly winds than is typical for this time of year, which may have pushed some of eastern birds into the Great Lakes instead? One hatch-year Yellow-rump banded today had a several deformed bill.

Hatch-year male Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
with deformed bill (inset shows bill from below)

The only other warbler banded today was a Palm Warbler.

Hatch-year (Western) Palm Warbler

A non-avian highlight today was this small frog, found hopping across the trail. I believe it is a Striped Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata), but I've never seen an orange one before! The field guides say they can be brown, which I suppose this one is brown, but it was more colorful than expected.

Striped Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata)

Interesting birds observed today but not banded included a Turkey Vulture (this species has been unusually scarce in the park this year), at least 3 Winter Wrens, a somewhat late Swainson's Thrush, the first flock of Cedar Waxwings in the area since August, and an Eastern Towhee.

Banding could not have been done this week without the help of volunteers who have been most generous with their time: Jeremy Joswick, Dave Lancaster, Marie McGee, Tom Schlack, Jeff Silence, and Joan Tisdale.

Banding Data
WEDNESDAY, October 12, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:41
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 11:15 (rain forced early close)
Hours Open: 5.25
No. of Nets: 4.50-13.50
Net Hours: 65.125
Temperature (F): 61-61
Cloud Cover: 50-100%
Wind: NE-SE @ 3-5-12 mph
Barometer: 30.02-29.98
Precipitation: Trace (light rain after close)
No. Banded: 43 (plus 15 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 15
Capture Rate: 95.2 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 8.5 hours, 5:00-13:30): Jeremy Joswick, Jeff Silence, Joan Tisdale.

Eastern Phoebe - 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 3 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 1
Hermit Thrush - 5
Nashville Warbler - 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 1
Field Sparrow - 2
Song Sparrow - 8 (plus 6 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 4
White-throated Sparrow - 5 (plus 3 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
(Eastern) White-crowned Sparrow - 6 (plus 2 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
(Gambell's) White-crowned Sparrow - 2
[Northern Cardinal - 1 recaptured]
[Red-winged Blackbird - 1 recaptured]
American Goldfinch - 3

FRIDAY, October 14, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:43
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:45 (rain delayed open)
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:45 (wind forced early close)
Hours Open: 6.00
No. of Nets: 4.50-13.50
Net Hours: 69.00
Temperature (F): 55-59
Cloud Cover: 100-70-100%
Wind: W @ 7-10-15 mph
Barometer: 29.38-29.43
Precipitation: Trace at close
No. Banded: 45 (plus 9 recaptured)
No. of Species: 15
Capture Rate: 78.3 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.5 hours; 5:00-14:30): Dave Lancaster, Marie McGee (7.25 hrs), Tom Schlack.

Downy Woodpecker - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
Brown Creeper - 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 18
Palm Warbler - 1
Song Sparrow - 2
[Lincoln's Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
Swamp Sparrow - 3
White-throated Sparrow - 8 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-crowned Sparrow - 3 (plus 3 recaptured - one of them a HY Gambell's)
[Northern Cardinal - 1 recaptured]
[Red-winged Blackbird - 1 recaptured]
House Finch - 1
American Goldfinch - 3

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Metro Beach banding report - October 2 & 7, 2011

The weather on these first two banding days in October were quite different, weather-wise. On Sunday, October 2 it was cool and becoming windy while Friday October 7 was warmish, sunny, and almost windless. There were still a few warblers around, and sparrows started making a stronger showing.

Highlights of the 96 birds banded on Sunday, October 2 included two Eastern Wood-Pewees which were somewhat late, but not a record. Note the suggesting of a slight, narrow eye ring, confined mainly to the rear part of the eye on this individual, as well as the extensive dark coloration on the lower mandible. This is not too unusual in hatch-year Eastern Wood-Pewees.

Hatch-year Eastern Wood-Pewee

The first Hermit Thrushes of the season were banded today, and they came in strong with 4 banded.

Hatch-year Hermit Thrush

Six species of warbler were banded today, but dominating with 23 captured was Yellow-rumped. This is nearly double the highest day since 2004, but short of the one-day record of 31 on 6 October 1991.

After hatch-year female Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler

Among the 5 species of sparrows today was the first White-crowned Sparrow of the season, a hatch-year bird.

Hatch-year White-crowned Sparrow

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included a Wilson's Snipe heard giving its "scaip" alarm call as it flew off in the darkness near the Field Nets, a calling Great Horned Owl at dawn, and the first Rusty Blackbirds of the fall.

Highlights of the 68 birds banded on Friday, October 7 included four firsts for the season, all of them somewhat overdue. Perhaps the most stunning was the Blue-headed Vireo caught in the Field Nets.

After hatch-year Blue-headed Vireo

After being noted in the banding area for more than a week, we finally caught the first Brown Creeper of the fall.

Hatch-year Brown Creeper

There has been some discussion on bird banding forums, with interesting exchanges of information with European "ringers" who age their Common Treecreeper by the amount of white on the tip of the longest primary coverts. Creepers can be aged as hatch-year if their skulls show incomplete ossification, but after mid-October even a hatch-year may have a completely ossified skull; similar to the rapid ossification of kinglets. For comparative purposes, the spread wing of this individual is shown below which, even if you're not a bander you can enjoy the beauty of the markings. The white tip on the longest primary covert measured 2 mm in this individual. I wonder if something like this might be useful for sexing these birds eventually?

Hatch-year Brown Creeper

And after more than a week in the banding area, we finally caught the first Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets of the fall.

Hatch-year female Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Hatch-year male Golden-crowned Kinglet

And among increased numbers of sparrows, of 5 species again, were more White-crowned Sparrows including some crisply plumaged adults.

After hatch-year White-crowned Sparrow

One species was notable by its absence today; American Goldfinch, which has been banded every day this fall except the first day (August 7) and today. The peak of their migration is just past, but more should be banded throughout the month of October.

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included the continuing pair of Great Horned Owls, re-affirming their pair bond, an Eastern Phoebe out in the field, a fairly good migration of Blue Jays overhead, and a Carolina Wren that after staying well away from the banding area all fall, finally came into the middle of it, and even was watched right next to the road; but not captured. A Wood Thrush and Brown Thrasher teased us near the Swamp Nets in the morning but soon disappeared, while a few warblers were also observed including Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, and American Redstart.

I really appreciate the help of the following volunteers, who made banding this past week possible: Chris Charlebois, Mike Charlebois, Jacob Charlebois, Brandon Charlebois, Sandy Cohen, Karen Fenwick, Dave Lancaster, and Tom Schlack.

Banding Data
SUNDAY, October 2, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:30
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:45
Hours Open: 7.00
No. of Nets: 4.50-13.50
Net Hours: 87.50
Temperature (F): 42-61
Cloud Cover: 30-10-100%
Wind: NW @ 5-7-20 mph
Barometer: 30.17-30.11
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 96 (plus 11 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 22
Capture Rate: 123.4 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.5 hours, 5:00-14:30): Chris Charlebois, Mike Charlebois (5.0 hrs), Jacob Charlebois, Brandon Charlebois, Sandy Cohen, Karen Fenwick.

Downy Woodpecker - 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee - 2
Black-capped Chickadee - 2
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 3
Swainson's Thrush - 2
Hermit Thrush - 4
American Robin - 1
Gray Catbird - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Nashville Warbler - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
[Magnolia Warbler - 1 recaptured]
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 23
Blackpoll Warbler - 1
American Redstart - 1
Ovenbird - 2
Song Sparrow - 6 (plus 3 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 1
Swamp Sparrow - 8 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 14 (plus 1 released unbanded)
White-crowned Sparrow - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 7
American Goldfinch - 10 (plus 4 recaptured)

FRIDAY, October 7, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:35
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:30
Hours Open: 6.75
No. of Nets: 4.50-13.50
Net Hours: 86.375
Temperature (F): 50-73
Cloud Cover: 0%
Wind: Calm-S @ 0-3 mph
Barometer: 30.40-30.46
Precipitation: a.m. Fog
No. Banded: 68 (plus 6 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 18
Capture Rate: 88.0 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.0 hours; 5:00-14:00): Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack.

Blue-headed Vireo - 1
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
Brown Creeper - 1
Winter Wren - 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 6
Swainson's Thrush - 1
Hermit Thrush - 7
Nashville Warbler - 1 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Palm Warbler - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 2
Song Sparrow - 10 (plus 2 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 2
Swamp Sparrow - 2
White-throated Sparrow - 23
White-crowned Sparrow - 6 (plus 2 released unbanded)
[Northern Cardinal - 2 recaptured]