Sunday, November 11, 2012

Metro Beach banding station report - November 1 & 3, 2012

My final report for the fall banding season at Lake St. Clair Metropark is a bit tardy because I've been chasing hummingbirds to band in two different states. I hope to post more on that later, but for now I'll focus on the Metro Beach station. Normally I band into the last week of October, and sometimes band on one day in November if October 31 is in the middle of the week. This time it worked out that both days of banding were in November, Thursday the 1st and Saturday the 3rd, but this isn't the latest I've banded at this locale (4th or 5th I think). The weather was reasonably cooperative, though temperatures were about 10 degrees colder than normal. A full day of banding was possible on both days, and only a trace of mist for a short period during Thursday morning was the only precipitation. One final expected species, American Tree Sparrow, was added to the tally for this fall. But the number of these banded was definitely not expected.

Thank you to the following volunteers for making banding possible this week: John Bieganowski, Kathleen Dougherty, Stevie Kuroda, Dave Lancaster, Tom Schlack, Bruce Watson, and Blanche Wicke.

Highlights of the 79 birds banded on Thursday, November 1 included the third Mourning Dove of the season...there have only been a couple of these banded here before now.
After hatch-year male Mourning Dove

Among a handful of Swamp Sparrows banded today was this hatch-year bird. I took its photo because it appeared to show a yellowish tinge to the grayish supercilium above the lores, something that a fellow bander in Massachussetts has indicated she sees all the time, but which I've never noted among the many hundreds of this species that have been banded at this site. It is not clear if this is a geographic difference, but is it possible that this could be a bird pushed west by Hurricane Sandy?
Hatch-year Swamp Sparrow

The first American Tree Sparrows of the fall were captured today. The best season we've ever had for this species was spring of 2011 with 23; the best single day was 12 on April 9 of that year. In fall, the best season total has been 12 (2010 and 2011). So, today's total of 27 really blew me away! 
Hatch-year American Tree Sparrow

Five more Pine Siskins were banded today, adding to the 19 from last week.

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included a continuing Red-breasted Nuthatch, two Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a somewhat late Yellow-rumped Warbler, two flyover Rusty Blackbirds, and most interesting of all because they were new for the park checklist, a flyover flock of a dozen Red Crossbills!

Highlights of the 44 birds banded on Saturday, November 3 included not one, but this time TWO Mourning Doves, bringing the season total to five. Now, many stations surely band many more than this, but the terrain and habitat is not all that well suited to Mourning Doves, and the nets we use are targeted more to smaller birds, so these large birds often get out of the nets on their own before we can get to them. One of today's Mourning Doves was a hatch-year bird that was showing very conspicuous pale fringing on the feathers of its upperparts (also note the less colorful eye ring than on the adult above). From my experience elsewhere, I can't remember seeing such obvious fringing so late in the season, which suggests that this species may have continued to breed well into early fall this year since these fringes tend to wear quite a lot the longer a bird is out of the nest.
Hatch-year Mourning Dove

Another highlight was a recapture of a species we don't catch very often even though they are resident in the park. This after hatch-year Carolina Wren was in heavy molt when it was banded last month, but now it was finished molting and in fine feather!
After hatch-year Carolina Wren

The single Fox Sparrow banded today brought the season's total to about 7, which is about average. Our efforts here are not about establishing records, though we do document such things as well as notable declines, but in determining what is normal, and also by keeping track of weight gains and losses in migrants to help land managers understand that this patch of habitat is important for migrating birds. 
Hatch-year Fox Sparrow

And the final highlight for the day is Black-capped Chickadee, for three reasons. First, there were better than average numbers banded today, as well as on Thursday, with a number of these birds showing visible fat deposits. From my prior experience at a Canadian banding station, this is indicative of migrating chickadees rather than resident ones. Every 2-3 years, Black-capped Chickadees "irrupt" and move south in sometimes large numbers. This phenomenon seems to be most pronounced along the immediate shorelines of the Great Lakes and less so "inland". For some reason, our site has not detected any evidence of these irruptions, until this year. Second, the last of the five (!) Black-capped Chickadees REcaptured today was originally banded in fall of 2007 as a hatch-year bird, confirming that she is now in her 6th year. And I also know she is female because when recaptured in 2008 she had a very extensive brood patch, so was clearly sitting on eggs somewhere in the banding area. And the final reason for this species being a highlight is that the last bird banded for the day, and for the season, was a hatch-year Black-capped Chickadee. Often, the last bird tends to be the biggest bird in the last net run, because of our protocol for how I prioritize the banding sequence for each net run. But the final net run of the day produced 8 chickadees (4 new, 4 recaps), and nothing else!
Hatch-year Black-capped Chickadee

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included both Cooper's and Red-tailed Hawk flying over, a calling Great Horned Owl early, a couple flyover Horned Larks, a flyover Eastern Bluebird, two flyover Rusty Blackbirds, two flyover Purple Finches, and four flyover Pine Siskins. A trip to the beach, well away from the banding area, with Dave produced several waterbirds including a Red-necked Grebe which is rare in the park, and was my 200th species observed in the park this year.

Banding Data
THURSDAY, November 1, 2012
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 7:06
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:30
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:30
Hours Open: 7.0
No. of Nets: 5.0-13.5
Net Hours: 88.25
Temperature (F): 41-45
Cloud Cover: 100%
Wind: WNW-W @ 7-10-12 mph
Barometer: 29.68-29.74
Precipitation: Trace rain in morning
No. Banded: 79 (plus 7 recaptured)
No. of Species: 14
Capture Rate: 97.5 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.50 hours, 5:00-14:30): John Bieganowski (5.5 hrs), Dave Lancaster (4.0 hrs), Tom Schlack, Blanche Wicke.

Mourning Dove - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 6
Brown Creeper - 3
Winter Wren - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 9
Hermit Thrush - 1
American Tree Sparrow - 27
Fox Sparrow - 1
Song Sparrow - 10 (plus 4 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 5 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 5 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-crowned Sparrow - 1
Pine Siskin - 5
American Goldfinch - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)

SATURDAY, November 3, 2012
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 7:09
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:00
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 5.0-13.5
Net Hours: 92.50
Temperature (F): 37-45
Cloud Cover: Variable %
Wind: NW @ 7-10-3 mph
Barometer: 30.14-30.20
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 44 (plus 15 recaptured)
No. of Species: 13
Capture Rate: 63.8 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.5 hours, 5:00-14:30): Kathleen Dougherty, Stevie Kuroda, Dave Lancaster, Bruce Watson.

Mourning Dove - 2
Downy Woodpecker - 2
Black-capped Chickadee - 6 (plus 5 recaptured)
Brown Creeper - 1
[Carolina Wren - 1 recaptured]
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Tree Sparrow - 9
Fox Sparrow - 1
Song Sparrow - 6 (plus 3 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 3 (plus 2 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 1
Northern Cardinal - 1
American Goldfinch - 10 (plus 3 recaptured)