When Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on Groundhog Day this year, forecasting an early spring, I was skeptical. In Michigan this has been one of the latest-arriving springs in many years. What do you expect from a 125 year old Woodchuck anyway!
Lingering remnants of winter continued to be the theme of banding this past week. On Friday, April 22 (Earth Day) we were delayed for 3 hours setting up while we waited for the rain, and before sunrise mixed with snow (!), to stop. On Saturday, April 23, there were several records for the local banding books with latest ever bandings for two wintering and early migrant species, and a record high number for one spring day (and the season) for another. Species diversity is also creeping up from the 8 species banded on April 3 to 16 species on April 23.
Highlights of birds banded on Friday, April 22 included a single Winter Wren as well as the season's first banded White-throated Sparrow. As with last week's recaptured White-throat, which had been banded by me at this locale in November 2010, it is possible that today's bird has overwintered, although the freshness of its plumage suggests it is a recent arrival (they molt before migrating northward).
|AHY-U White-throated Sparrow|
Interesting birds observed but not banded included 8 Common Loons flying over, with one even calling loudly as it flew northward. A Wilson's Snipe was winnowing over the marsh, as last week, and a flock of 14 Bonaparte's Gulls flew northward over the banding area. An Eastern Towhee was detected by its call, and small numbers of Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Yellow-rumped Warbler continue to be seen but have avoided the nets.
Highlights of birds banded on Saturday, April 23 included two Tufted Titmice, which are only rarely captured in our banding area which is a swamp woods transitioning to wet meadow and marsh. One of them was showing a brood patch, so was a female. This species nests fairly early, and there are no observations of them at nest holes in the park, though they clearly do so.
|AHY-F Tufted Titmouse|
The 9 Brown Creepers banded today was a single-day record for spring, and not far off the fall record of 11. It also brought the season's total to 21, beating the previous spring record of 17 in 2005 and just one short of the fall record set in 2010. The latest the species has been banded at Metro Beach is April 25, so there may not be any more, unless winter returns yet again.
The season's first Ruby-crowned Kinglets were banded today, one male and one female. Despite the appearance in the photo below, this is the male which has concealed his ruby crown patch quite well.
|AHY-M Ruby-crowned Kinglet|
Perhaps most amazing this spring has been the American Tree Sparrows. Most spring seasons we band them on the first day, in earliest April, and not after that even though they remain most years until 15-20 April. This spring has seen a total of 23 banded, beating the previous all-time record of 12 set in fall 2010. Among today's record late catch were four recaptures including one that was banded on November 3, 2010 at this same locale.
|AHY-U American Tree Sparrow|
The single Fox Sparrow banded today brought the spring total to 8, beating the previous spring record of 7 set in 2006, and it was also a record late date by two days.
An unusual Red-winged Blackbird was also captured today, a second-year bird with yellow instead of orange-red on the shoulders.
|SY-M Red-winged Blackbird|
Interesting birds observed but not banded included both Virginia Rail and Sora calling from the marsh east of the Field Nets, a single Purple Martin overhead, two singing Winter Wrens and a Brown Thrasher. The Eastern Towhee from yesterday was still present and was seen flying over the top of the Field Edge net.
Banding on these two days would not have been possible without the help of eager and willing volunteers, including Diana Dugall, Mike Matuszak, Sarah Matuszak, Tom Schlack, and Sue Wright.
FRIDAY, April 22, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:42
Time Open (E.S.T.): 8:15 (Rain/Snow delayed open)
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:45
Hours Open: 4.50
No. of Nets: 5.00-10.00
Net Hours: 42.50
Temperature (F): 39-48
Cloud Cover: 100%
Wind: ENE-SE @ 7-10-12 mph
Precipitation: Intermittent Light Rain
No. Banded: 13 (plus 2 recaptures and 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 9
Capture Rate: 40.0 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.5 hours, 6:00-15:30): Diana Dugall, Sue Wright [Tom Schlack helped set up].
[Downy Woodpecker - 1 recaptured]
Brown Creeper - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Winter Wren - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
Hermit Thrush - 3
American Robin - 1
Swamp Sparrow - 2
White-throated Sparrow - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 3 (plus 2 released unbanded)
SATURDAY, April 23, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:40
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:00
Hours Open: 7.00
No. of Nets: 4.25-13.25
Net Hours: 85.750
Temperature (F): 45-72
Cloud Cover: 100-50%
Wind: SW @ 5-7-12 mph
No. Banded: 41 (plus 24 recaptures)
No. of Species: 16
Capture Rate: 75.8 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 6:00-16:00): Mike Matuszak, Sarah Matuszak, Tom Schlack.
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
Tufted Titmouse - 2
Brown Creeper - 9 (plus 3 recaptured)
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 2
Hermit Thrush - 2
American Robin - 2 (plus 3 recaptured)
American Tree Sparrow - 4 (plus 4 recaptured)
Fox Sparrow - 1
[Song Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
Swamp Sparrow - 6 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 2
[Northern Cardinal - 1 recaptured]
Red-winged Blackbird - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)
Common Grackle - 1
American Goldfinch - 4 (plus 9 recaptured)