Sunday, April 22, 2012

Metro Beach banding station report - April 18, 2012

I was only able to muster enough volunteer help to band on one day this week instead of the two days of the protocol established since 1989. It was a pretty good day with spring arrivals of White-throated Sparrows most noticeable but with no Yellow-rumped Warblers in evidence and fewer Hermit Thrushes, unlike last week. The weather was perfect for banding. Thank you to the volunteers who helped on this day: John Bieganowski, Jean Gramlich, and Tom Schlack.

Highlights of the 60 birds banded on Wednesday, April 18 included only the second Mourning Dove banded here since 2004 (I band quite a few in my backyard in winter).

After hatch-year male Mourning Dove

In-hand, it is interesting to see the iridescence on the sides of the neck, as well as the green and blue eye ring and the pink corners of the mouth.

The first Tree Swallows of the spring were banded today too, though we often don't band very many. They are not yet building nests, but still fighting over cavities, so although this individual was brightly colored on the upperparts I was not able to determine the sex, as it was not showing the cloacal protuberance of a male nor a brood patch that a female would show.

After hatch-year Tree Swallow

This individual did have an interesting asymmetrical scattering of white feathers on its forehead, most prominent on its left side.

After hatch-year Tree Swallow

The second Tree Swallow of the day was easier to age, as it was almost entirely brown on the upperparts. These are second-year birds and I'm sure that some are misidentified early in the season as Northern Rough-winged or even Bank Swallows.

Second-year Tree Swallow

Some years we don't catch any Brown Thrashers at all, and in a good year only two or three, so one today was very much appreciated by all the volunteers present. It was also nice that it was more cooperative for photos than most.

After hatch-year Brown Thrasher

The bird of the day was obviously Swamp Sparrow, as they accounted for more than 1/3 of the birds banded. They are definitely our spring "mascot". There is a lot of variation in crown color and pattern, seemingly unrelated to the age or sex of the birds. Those showing nice solid and extensive rufous caps like the one below represent perhaps only about 25% of the population based on what we see here, despite what field guide illustrations show. We see very few hatch-year birds in fall with this much rufous, so there certainly is some age or seasonal correlation.

After hatch-year Swamp Sparrow

A surprise was this Field Sparrow, partly because only about 10 have been banded here since 2004 but also because it was caught in the "Upland" swamp woods nets not in the field or marsh. Note that American Tree Sparrows have bicolored black and yellow bills, while the Field Sparrow has a pink bill. There are of course several other plumage differences but the bill color is the easiest to look at first in the field (no pun intended).

After hatch-year Field Sparrow

Interesting birds observed but not banded included four flyover Common Loons, a flyover Solitary Sandpiper, a flyover Caspian Tern, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Banding Data
WEDNESDAY, April 18, 2012
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:47
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:30
Hours Open: 6.50
No. of Nets: 4.50-13.50
Net Hours: 81.75
Temperature (F): 36-54
Cloud Cover: 10-20%
Wind: E-SE @ 5-7-10 mph
Barometer: 30.34-30.27
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 60 (plus 11 recaptured and 8 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 13
Capture Rate: 96.6 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.5 hours, 5:00-14:30): John Bieganowski, Jean Gramlich, and Tom Schlack.

Mourning Dove - 1
Tree Swallow - 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
Hermit Thrush - 1
American Robin - 3
Brown Thrasher - 1
Field Sparrow - 1
Song Sparrow - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 23 (plus 2 recaptured and 2 released unbanded)
White-throated Sparrow - 9
Red-winged Blackbird - 13 (plus 4 recaptured and 5 released unbanded)
Common Grackle - 1 (plus 1 released unbanded)
American Goldfinch - 3 (plus 3 recaptured)

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