Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Banding kickoff

After a long, hard winter in southeastern Michigan it was nice to get out once again and slog around in water instead of ice, and slippery mud instead of hard dirt! Of course, the scene below greeted us at the meeting spot on opening day on Sunday, April 6, lots of ice piled up on the shoreline of Lake St. Clair.
Icy shore of Lake St. Clair with rafts of ducks in distance

Once we got back into the banding area in the swamp woods and edge of Point Rosa marsh, there was little to clear in the net lanes, and the water and mud was as it has been the past several years, with no increase despite near-record snowfall over the winter. Perhaps the marsh is draining better now with the improvements implemented over the past couple of years? It didn't take too long to get the station up and running, allowing us to band for 4 hours and catch a good number of birds. The weather cooperated nicely, with temperatures ranging from 30-50, and on Wednesday, April 9, there were similar temperatures though the light north wind made it feel cooler. It was great hearing the first frogs of the season, though almost a month later than in may recent years!

Highlights of the 35 birds banded on Sunday, April 6 included several Golden-crowned Kinglets, with the first bird banded this season being the adult male below.
After hatch-year male Golden-crowned Kinglet

Starting the banding season this early is intended to document the very earliest spring migrants, including Golden-crowned Kinglets which in many years have already mostly departed by early April. It is also intended to catch some of the last lingering winter species, including American Tree Sparrow. Like the Golden-crowned Kinglets, many of these are often out of our area by early April with typically low numbers banded most springs. The ten American Tree Sparrows banded today represented a good, but not record number, and an additional bird already wearing a band had been banded on November 3 last fall, providing the first proof (though it was assumed) of late fall tree sparrows overwintering at this locale.
After hatch-year American Tree Sparrow

An early migrant, that overwinters in small numbers (perhaps none this winter?) is Fox Sparrow, and the 6 banded today was a very good total for a single day.
After hatch-year male Fox Sparrow

An interesting Black-capped Chickadee, banded last year as an after hatch-year female (showing a brood patch in late spring), was captured. She had three feathers on her crown that appeared brown. Might this be a sign of hybridization with Boreal Chickadee? Since Boreals don't breed within 200 miles of this site, more likely they are just some worn feathers.
Brown feathers on Black-capped Chickadee crown

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a single flyover Double-crested Cormorant, a Northern Harrier flying in off Lake St. Clair and heading north, three Wilson's Snipe winnowing over the marsh most of the morning, two Eastern Phoebes in the banding area but avoiding the nets, several Tree Swallows including a couple birds checking out the nest box near the Field Nets, and a single singing Winter Wren. A few Brown Creepers were in the area but avoided capture.

Highlights of the 33 birds banded on Wednesday, April 9 included the first Eastern Phoebe of the season. This species has been banded later than the end of April only once in 10 years, so starting early int he spring is a good way to document their occurrence. This first bird was documented as a second-year, which is only occasionally possible, by the presence of two very worn outer greater secondary coverts contrasting (molt limit) with the rather fresh-looking and broadly whitish tipped inner coverts.
Second-year Eastern Phoebe

Second-year Eastern Phoebe. Arrows show older worn coverts.

The first Brown Creepers of the spring were banded today, the last of the early migrants that starting so early in the season is intended to document.
After hatch-year Brown Creeper

It is always nice to get a close look at this species amazing bill, and interesting eye shape that it shares with the wrens.
After hatch-year Brown Creeper

An interesting recapture was another American Tree Sparrow that was banded in a fall season, but this one was banded in fall 2012, documenting for the first time (but completely expected) winter site fidelity of this species in the park. 

Interesting birds observed but not banded included 4 flyover Double-crested Cormorants, two flyover Great Egrets, a calling Virginia Rail in the marsh near the Field Nets, a flyover Sandhill Crane, three Wilson's Snipe still winnowing over the marsh, two singing Winter Wrens, and a single singing Swamp Sparrow (many more to come!).

Banding Data
SUNDAY, April 6, 2014
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:06
Time Open (E.S.T.): 8:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:30
Hours Open: 5.5
No. of Nets: 5.0-14.0
Net Hours: 70.00
Temperature (F): 30-55
Cloud Cover: 10-20%
Wind: Calm-S-ESE @ 0-3-7 mph
Barometer: 29.57 - 29.50
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 35 (plus 7 recaptured)
No. of Species: 8
Capture Rate: 60.0 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 8.00 hours, 7:00-15:00): Jacob Charlebois (4.5 hrs), Annie Crary (1.5 hrs), John Hummel, Sarah Toner

Black-capped Chickadee -1 (plus 4 recaptured)
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 8
American Robin - 4
American Tree Sparrow - 10 (plus 1 recaptured)
Fox Sparrow - 6
Song Sparrow - 3
Red-winged Blackbird - 1
American Goldfinch - 2 (plus 2 recaptured)

WEDNESDAY, April 9, 2014
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:01
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:00
Hours Open: 7.00
No. of Nets: 5.0-14.0
Net Hours: 91.00
Temperature (F): 37-52
Cloud Cover: 30-10%
Wind: NW-S @ 3-5-7 mph
Barometer: 29.25 - 29.35
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 33 (plus 20 recaptured)
No. of Species: 11
Capture Rate: 69.6 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.5 hours, 5:00-14:30): Jacob Charlebois, Anne Ross (9 hrs), Edie Schmitz (9 hrs), Sarah Toner, Blanche Wicke (9 hrs).

[Downy Woodpecker - 1 recaptured]
Eastern Phoebe - 1
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
Brown Creeper - 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 9 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Robin - 3
American Tree Sparrow - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
Fox Sparrow - 2 (plus 4 recaptured)
Song Sparrow - 4 (plus 6 recaptured)
Red-winged Blackbird - 2
American Goldfinch - 7 (plus 6 recaptured)

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