Monday, May 26, 2014

Metro Beach banding report - May 17-24, 2014

As we head into the latter half of May, the weather has improved, although warbler and thrush migration has not. It is an odd mix of the typical species for this time of year and some typically early species lingering later than normal. The higher than normal water levels in the marsh and swamp are reflected in the rail and shorebirds banded this spring. But on the negative side, much of the area is flooded enough to attract Mallards, and a female decided to try to land in one of the Willow nets, with disastrous results to the net; two huge holes. Late May also brings increasing numbers of flycatchers, including my favorites, the Empidonax, and this week we are off to a good start.

Highlights of the 51 birds banded on Saturday, May 17, and particularly of the 25 birds recaptured, included an adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbird that had originally been banded in spring 2013. Only a few hummingbirds are banded at this site in spring (10 times as many in the fall), and there is not a lot of suitable breeding habitat in the park, so having a returning bird is always a good thing.
After hatch-year female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

And I was hopeful that once again we would document the continuing presence of "Lucky" the Song Sparrow; wearing band number 2281-10323, which I have committed to memory since I've recaptured him more than 25 times since banding him as an after hatch-year in 2007, making him at least 7 years 11 months old. He turned up again today, in a net he is not often captured in, and ready to breed as evidenced  by his enlarged cloacal protuberance.
"Lucky", an after 8th year male Song Sparrow

I really enjoy Empidonax flycatchers because of the challenges they present, and today the first "Traill's" Flycatcher of the season was captured. In-hand (and after 30+ years of experience), separating these flycatchers has become fairly straightforward. Least Flycatchers are small, big-headed, with broad white eye rings and a fairly strong contrast between their gray heads and olive backs, and a dirty white throat. Yellow-bellied are very green and yellow overall, with yellow on the throat as well as the belly. Acadians are at the northern edge of their range in our area so are rarely banded, and are also more greenish. Willow and Alder are brownish-olive on the back with a slightly more grayish crown, and typically with narrow and indistinct pale buffy eye rings. They typically show gleaming white throats contrasting with a pale grayish wash across the upper breast.
After hatch-year "Traill's" Flycatcher

Distinguishing Willow from Alder (formerly lumped as one species, "Traill's" Flycatcher) is up to the measurements and proportions. After taking a number of measurements, and comparing them to an established source on a scatter plot, up to 50% of them will key out to one species or the other. Unfortunately, today's flycatcher was in the overlap zone so had to be left as Traill's.

For those who prefer their birds brilliant and iridescent (include me among those), we banded a beautiful male Indigo Bunting today as well; a species captured infrequently here.
After second-year male Indigo Bunting

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included both Sora and Virginia Rails calling near the field nets, and the first Marsh Wren in the banding area this spring. Warblers observed or heard (in small numbers), but not banded included Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Blackpoll, American Redstart, and Wilson's. A Scarlet Tanager was high in the trees for part of the day.

Highlights of the 46 birds banded on Thursday, May 22 included not one, but TWO Spotted Sandpipers, bringing the total this spring up to three, and the total for the station's entire history to four as the first ever was banded here last spring. These two today provided an excellent opportunity to compare second-year to after second-year, and male to female. Sexing Spotted Sandpipers is done by evaluating the size and number of black spots on the underparts; the males having smaller and fewer spots, the females more and larger. The male below was also a second-year bird, which can be determined by the retained barred coverts that have a white tip, black subterminal band, and white band above that.
Second-year male Spotted Sandpiper

These coverts on the after second-year female below are not retained juvenile type, but are retained basic types, with a white tip and black subterminal band, and no white band above that. Of course, given that my entire life experience with this species in-hand consists of four individuals, I'd be happy to be corrected.
After second-year female Spotted Sandpiper

The portrait below shows the large spots of the female.
After second-year female Spotted Sandpiper

And a wonderful Empidonax surprise today, among the total of 5 today, was an Acadian Flycatcher, only the 3rd banded here since 2004. They are larger than most Empids, with a robust bill, and a narrow, clean, complete eye ring that is tinged yellow, with olive upperparts and whitish throat.
After hatch-year Acadian Flycatcher

After hatch-year Acadian Flycatcher

After hatch-year Acadian Flycatcher

Surprisingly late was a female Ruby-crowned Kinglet; the latest ever here was on 23 May 2006.
After hatch-year female Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Another late bird was the first (!) Palm Warbler of the spring, a rather worn individual that may have been a female. This ties the record late spring date for the species here, set in 2006.
Second-year Palm Warbler

The first Wilson's Warblers of the spring, six of them, put this species into the position of second most numerous migrant warbler this spring, after the 10 Northern Waterthrushes banded so far. Of course there have been more of the two breeding species, Yellow Warbler and Common Yellowthroat, banded this spring.
After hatch-year male Wilson's Warbler

Among the 13 Yellow Warblers recaptured today were two originally banded in 2008. Interesting birds observed but not banded included a calling Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and a number of newly arrived flycatchers including Eastern Wood-Pewee as well as singing Least, Willow, and Great Crested flycatchers. Additional warblers in the banding area were an interesting mix of early and late species: Tennessee, Nashville, Blackburnian, Blackpoll, and Black-and-white.

Highlights of the 47 birds banded on Saturday, May 24 included a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a species infrequently banded here.
After second-year male Red-bellied Woodpecker

After second-year male Red-bellied Woodpecker

Not really a highlight, but an oddity perhaps, was the 5 European Starlings captured today. Last week, there were also 5 starlings, all of them males as determined by the blue bases of their lower mandibles. Today's birds were all females, including this individual with an unusually pale eye color, perhaps indicating it was a second-year.
After hatch-year female European Starling

Most of the sparrow migration occurs in April (and seems to have bypassed us this spring), so a Savannah Sparrow was a bit of a surprise today, and only the 8th here since 2004 and 9th since 1989. There is very little breeding habitat for the species anywhere in the park, so this may be a late migrant.
After hatch-year Savannah Sparrow

After hatch-year Savannah Sparrow

After hatch-year Savannah Sparrow

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher that made a brief appearance, and called, next to the banding station, and singing Red-eyed Vireo and Swainson's Thrush. Unbanded warblers included Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Canada, and several American Redstarts.

Banding Data
SATURDAY, May 17, 2014

Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:09
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): 46-59
Cloud Cover: 100-80%
Wind: NW-S @ 3-5-7 mph
Barometer: 30.07-30.15
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 51 (plus 25 recaptured, 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 29
Capture Rate: 85.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.50 hours, 5:00-14:30): Marie McGee (5.0 hrs), Tom Schlack (5.0 hrs), Jeff Silence, Blanche Wicke.

Mourning Dove - 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Downy Woodpecker - 1
[Northern Flicker - 1 recaptured]
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 1
[Warbling Vireo - 1 recaptured]
Tree Swallow - 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - 1
House Wren - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
Veery - 1
Swainson's Thrush - 2
[Hermit Thrush - 1 recaptured, rather late]
[American Robin - 1 recaptured]
Gray Catbird - 2
European Starling - 1
Yellow Warbler - 7 (plus 5 recaptured)
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Northern Waterthrush - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 4
[Song Sparrow - 4 recaptured]
Lincoln's Sparrow - 2
Swamp Sparrow - 9 (plus 1 recaptured)
White-throated Sparrow - 1
Indigo Bunting - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 3 (plus 2 recaptured, 2 released unbanded)
Common Grackle - 1
Baltimore Oriole - 1 (2 recaptured)
House Finch - 1
American Goldfinch - 3 (plus 5 recaptured)

THURSDAY, May 22, 2014
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:04
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:00
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 4.0-10.0
Net Hours: 66.50
Temperature (F): 55-72
Cloud Cover: 10-80%
Wind: NW-WNW @ 5-7-12 mph
Barometer: 29.93-30.04
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 46 (plus 23 recaptured, 2 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 26
Capture Rate: 106.8 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 5:00-15:00): John Bieganowski (5.0 hrs), Marie McGee, Tom Schlack (5.5 hrs).

Spotted Sandpiper - 2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 2
Acadian Flycatcher - 1
Alder Flycatcher - 1
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Least Flycatcher - 1
Warbling Vireo - 1
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
House Wren - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
Swainson's Thrush - 1
American Robin - 1
European Starling - 1
Yellow Warbler - 3 (plus 13 recaptured)
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Palm Warbler - 1
American Redstart - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 5 (plus 1 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Wilson's Warbler - 6

Song Sparrow - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 1
[Swamp Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
Red-winged Blackbird - 1 (plus 1 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Common Grackle - 2
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1
Baltimore Oriole - 2
American Goldfinch - 5 (plus 3 recaptured)

SATURDAY, May 24, 2014
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:03
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.50
No. of Nets: 5.0-13.0
Net Hours: 91.50
Temperature (F): 50-75
Cloud Cover: 10-40%
Wind: SW-SSE @ 1-3-5 mph
Barometer: 30.22-30.22
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 47 (plus 25 recaptured, 3 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 20
Capture Rate: 82.0 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 5:00-15:00): Edie Schmitz, Tom Schlack (5.0 hrs), Sarah Toner, Blanche Wicke.

Mourning Dove - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
[Warbling Vireo - 1 recaptured]
American Robin - 3
European Starling - 5
[Yellow Warbler - 5 recaptured]
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 2
[Wilson's Warbler - 1 recaptured]
Savannah Sparrow - 1
[Song Sparrow -4 recaptured]
Lincoln's Sparrow - 3
Swamp Sparrow - 2
Red-winged Blackbird - 10 (plus 4 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Common Grackle - 8 (plus 1 recaptured, 2 released unbanded)
Baltimore Oriole - 1
American Goldfinch - 5 (plus 6 recaptured)

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