Monday, September 12, 2011

Metro Beach banding report - week of September 5-10, 2011

Banding last week was definitely affected by the passing of Tropical Storm Lee, which sent a spiraling arm of rain from New England west across southern Ontario into southern Michigan lasting for several days. It was a very odd weather pattern for this time of year. On Thursday, and to a lesser extent on Friday, conditions in the banding area resembled a classing spring "fallout" with warblers everywhere. It seemed to me that perhaps some migrants that would normally be moving east of us may have been pushed west, and those coming from the north ran into the wall of rain and had to land. Rain prevented banding on Thursday but Friday was the 8th best banding day ever at Metro Beach even though due to a shortage of volunteers we set up 9.5 nets instead of 13.5 nets. A third day of banding was conducted this week, on Saturday September 10th in support of a "Monarchs and Hummingbirds" program put on by the park's nature center, which also turned out to be very successful, once the rain stopped and allowed us to set the station up.

THE WARBLERS HAVE ARRIVED!!! Most years there is a significant migration of songbirds, especially warblers, between the 8th and 12th of September. Some totals from this period in past fall seasons include 179 (Sep 8, 2010), 83 (Sep 8, 2008), 79 (Sep 9, 2007), and 177 (Sep 10, 2006). This week nicely followed that pattern.

Highlights of the 92 birds banded on Monday, September 5 (Labor Day) included 8 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, and 2 Red-eyed Vireos (less scarce this year than most). Most often, hatch-year Red-eyed Vireos are captured in fall, which show brown eyes, but one of today's birds was an adult.

After hatch-year Red-eyed Vireo

The 3rd Cape May Warbler of the season (the most since before 2004) was a nice capture but it was too busy at the time to take photos. The first Palm Warbler of the season was caught at a more convenient moment.

Hatch-year Palm Warbler

Three more Blackpoll Warblers were captured today and the first Bay-breasted Warbler of the season as well.

After hatch-year female Bay-breasted Warbler

If you look carefully at the photo above, you may see that the bird's feet are gray, not yellow as they are in Blackpoll Warbler. This field mark is touted as a good distinguishing character to tell the two species apart, but often the feet are difficult to see, resulting in many of these warblers going down into birders' field notebooks as "Baypoll". Having both species in-hand today presents another good reminder that it isn't a good idea to rely on just one field mark. Look back at the photo of the Palm Warbler above. They have yellow feet too! As do Magnolia, Black-thoated Blue, Cape May, and other warbler species not very similar to Blackpoll. The composite photo below shows a view often experienced by birders, but the ID information present in "warbler butts" is often ignored.

Hatch-year Blackpoll (left) and Bay-breasted (right) Warblers

Overall coloration can be helpful clue in telling these two "most confusinng fall warblers" apart. Both species are greenish on the upperparts, but Blackpoll tends to be pale yellow while Bay-breasted tends to be buffy. On the undertail coverts, shown here, Bay-breasted is still buffy but Blackpoll is typically bright white. Also note that these coverts are longer on the Blackpoll, giving it a somewhat shorter-tailed appearance from below. There are also differences in the shape and size of the white spots on the tail feathers, but they'd have to hold very still to assess that, and they rarely do!

Another first for the fall was two Black-and-white Warblers, presenting no identification challenges.

Hatch-year male Black-and-white Warbler

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a flyover Solitary Sandpiper, a singing Warbling Vireo, and a Blackburnian Warbler.

Highlights of the 169 birds banded on Friday, September 9 included a single day record of 30 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (previous record was 27 on September 10, 2006. It was also a good day for Least Flycatchers, with 8 banded.

Hatch-year Least Flycatcher

It is always nice to have an easy flycatcher to identify for a change. The Least's broad, bright white eye ring with a pointed extension behind (teardrop) on a grayish head can be confused with no other Empidonax species at this locale. A species that is typically caught in low numbers is the Black-throated Green Warbler. Since we missed it entirely in spring, it was nice to catch the first one of the fall today.

Hatch-year male Black-throated Green Warbler

Arriving a little later than expected were the first migrant Ovenbirds of the fall season.

Hatch-year Ovenbird

Mourning Warblers are an infrequently captured, early migrant, so it was nice to band two more today. Compare the lack of any breast markings on this hatch-year female with the hatch-year male posted here two weeks ago. Note also the narrow whitish eye arcs, not present on spring birds, and not completely encircling the eye (as in Connecticut which also has a larger bill).

Hatch-year female Mourning Warbler

The last highlight, and the last bird of the day, was another Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The pink wing linings clearly indicate that this is a male.

Hatch-year male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Two weeks ago, another Rose-beasted Grosbeak presented an interesting study of molt. This bird's molt was interesting as well, though thanks to an email exchange with Peter Pyle (author of the bander's ID guide), it is not as confusing. Clearly, with all brown primaries and secondaries, it is a hatch-year bird. It has molted its greater secondary coverts but I'm not sure what the proper terminology would be for this limited molt (post-juvenal? pre-basic?).

Hatch-year male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a calling Great Horned Owl before dawn, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, a singing Carolina Wren (they've moved away from the banding area the past couple years, but are still in the park), a calling Wood Thrush, and a Canada Warbler.

Highlights of the 62 birds banded on Saturday, September 10, after we waited in the car for the heavy rain to stop, included 10 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. This was very appropriate as this was the "Monarchs and Hummingbirds" program day, with events at the nature center and one of the staff shuttling visitors the quarter mile down to the banding area so they could see hummingbirds being banded up close. As luck would have it, the season's 100th Ruby-throated Hummingbird was banded today, followed by 5 more that brought the season total to a record 105 (previous record was 94 in 2007.

100th Ruby-throated Hummingbird (hatch-year male) of season

Few hummingbirds nest in the park, so at this season it is mostly migrants passing through. The habitat is ideal for them to stop over during their diurnal movements to refuel on the abundand Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), also known as Touch-me-not. The blooms were only moderately abundant during August but since the beginning of September there has been a burst of flowers providing the best display I've ever seen here.

Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

Each flower is tubular, and perfectly configured to deposit pollen on the foreheads of hummingbirds, making them an important pollinator of Jewelweed.

Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

In addition to focusing on hummingbirds for the public event, other birds were banded too, with the main highlight being two Philadelphia Vireos. Only three have been banded since 2004, one each in fall 2008, 2009, and 2010, while a total of 48 were banded between 1989-2000 (44 in fall).

Hatch-year Philadelphia Vireo

Having a "bussed in" audience allowed me to get all worked up explaining things like molt in one of the commonest species (200+ banded so far this fall) like the American Goldfinch I'm holding below.

Allen Chartier with American Goldfinch

Of course I enjoy talking about migrants more, and the importance of the banding area at Metro Beach as a resting and refueling stop for species like this Ovenbird. I was probably wondering where my reading glasses went about a minute after this photo was taken...

Allen Chartier with Ovenbird

The banding volunteers (Joan and Tom) were eager to share their field guides with visitors so that they could learn how to use field marks to identify birds.

Magnolia Warbler helping with field guide ID

Of course a highlight for the participants, "kids" of all ages, was the opportunity to release a banded bird.

Sebastian Bartley releasing a Black-throated Blue Warbler

Hannah Bartley releasing an American Goldfinch

Rose Armstrong releasing an American Goldfinch

Sebastian Bartley releasing Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Banding on these three days could not have been conducted without the outstanding assistance of several volunteers: Stevie Kuroda, Kathy McDonald, Tom Schlack, Joan Tisdale, Judi Wade, and Bruce Watson. Thank you!

I would also like to thank Lee Bartley for allowing me to use several of her photos on this blog. And thank you to Hannah and Sebastian Bartley, and Rose Armstrong, for giving me permission to use photos of them on this blog.

Banding Data
MONDAY, September 5, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:01
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:00
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 4.50-13.50
Net Hours: 90.625
Temperature (F): 60-63
Cloud Cover: 70-100%
Wind: N @ 7-10-20 mph
Barometer: 29.96-30.07
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 92 (plus 12 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 22
Capture Rate: 119.2 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.5 hours, 5:00-14:30): Stevie Kuroda, Tom Schlack, Bruce Watson.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 8 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee - 1 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Red-eyed Vireo - 2
Black-capped Chickadee - 3
Swainson's Thrush - 2
Tennessee Warbler - 1
Nashville Warbler - 2
Magnolia Warbler - 2
Cape May Warbler - 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 2
Palm Warbler - 1
Bay-breasted Warbler - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 3
Black-and-white Warbler - 2
American Redstart - 4
Northern Waterthrush - 2
Common Yellowthroat - 2 (plus 1 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
Song Sparrow - 1
[Northern Cardinal - 2 recaptured]
Red-winged Blackbird - 6
American Goldfinch - 45 (plus 9 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)

FRIDAY, September 9, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:05
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:30
Hours Open: 6.50
No. of Nets: 3.50-9.50
Net Hours: 50.75
Temperature (F): 64-75
Cloud Cover: 100-60%
Wind: NE @ 3-5 mph
Barometer: 30.01-30.32
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 169 (plus 8 recaptured and 1 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 26
Capture Rate: 350.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 5:00-15:00): Kathy McDonald, Judi Wade (5.5 hours)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 30 (record)
Willow Flycatcher - 1
["Traill's" Flycatcher - 1 recaptured]
Least Flyucatcher - 8
Red-eyed Vireo - 4
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
Gray Catbird - 1
Tennessee Warbler - 13 (plus 1 recaptured)
Nashville Warbler - 23 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 5
Magnolia Warbler - 10 (plus 1 recaptured)
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 5
Black-throated Green Warbler - 1
Bay-breasted Warbler - 2
Blackpoll Warbler - 1
Black-and-white Warbler - 1
American Redstart - 2
Ovenbird - 4
Mourning Warbler - 2
Common Yellowthroat - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)
Wilson's Warbler - 8
Song Sparrow - 4
Swamp Sparrow - 2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 5
House Finch - 1
American Goldfinch - 30 (plus 4 recaptured)

SATURDAY, September 10, 2011
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:06
Time Open (E.S.T.): 7:45 (rain delayed opening)
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 14:30
Hours Open: 6.75
No. of Nets: 4.50-13.50
Net Hours: 81.625
Temperature (F): 63-75
Cloud Cover: 100-40%
Wind: Calm-NE-SE @ 0-3-7 mph
Barometer: 30.06-30.07
Precipitation: Rain (5:00-7:30)
No. Banded: 62 (plus 14 recaptured and 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 15
Capture Rate: 98.0 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 11.0 hours, 5:00-16:00): Stevie Kuroda (2 hours), Tom Schlack, Joan Tisdale, Bruce Watson (2 hours).

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 10 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Philadelphia Vireo - 2
Red-eyed Vireo - 1
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
Swainson's Thrush - 1
Nashville Warbler - 3
Magnolia Warbler - 4
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 6 (plus 1 recaptured)
Blackpoll Warbler- 2
Ovenbird - 4
[Common Yellowthroat - 2 recaptured]
Wilson's Warbler - 3
Red-winged Blackbird - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
[House Finch - 1 recaptured]
American Goldfinch - 25 (plus 7 recaptured and 3 released unbanded)

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