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)

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