Sunday, June 8, 2014

Metro Beach banding report - Spring 2014 finale

The first week of June is the last week of spring banding at this site every year. Some years there are migrants still moving through, while in other years migration has ended and nesting is well underway in the area. This year, it was mostly the latter, and only one banding day (Friday June 6) could be scheduled due to the limited availability of volunteers. Highlights of that banding day are described below, followed by a brief summary of the entire spring season.

Highlights of the 28 birds banded on Friday, June 6 included a Ruby-throated Hummingbird; this one an adult female that was showing signs of breeding locally.
After hatch-year female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

 A single Empidonax flycatcher was banded today. This one keyed out to Alder Flycatcher, which makes it a likely migrant as they rarely summer here, with Willow breeding annually. It was the only migrant captured today. Banding volunteer, Marie McGee, suggested that I explain how these flycatchers are identified. I hope I can do it accurately and concisely, without being too boring...
After hatch-year Alder Flycatcher

Keying out Willow and Alder flycatchers requires taking a number of precise measurements that can be tricky to obtain on a squirming bird in-hand. The chart below, shown in the Pyle guide that all North American banders use, shows a scatter plot with Willow on one side, Alder on the other, and a zone of overlap along a median line. Along the X-axis is a "wing formula", which is something our European colleagues are used to doing with a number of their warbler species. It consists of the difference between two measurements of primary lengths, all done on the closed wing, which only increases the degree of difficulty. Formula I is the difference between the longest primary and the 6th primary, minus the difference between the 10th primary and the 5th primary; the latter is a negative number of the 10th primary is longer than the 5th. On the bird above, Longest primary minus the 6th was 4.7mm, and p10 minus p5 was -0.5, so the Formula I value is 5.2mm. The Y-axis is the length of the bill measured from the front of the nostrils (nares) to the tip. On this bird it was 7.9mm. So, using the top chart for adults in spring (the bottom chart is only for hatch-year birds in fall), the intersection of these two values is approximately at the tip of the arrow, which is well within the range for Alder Flycatcher. It does take a bit of practice to do this quickly, but accurately, especially on busy days. And, in my experience about 50% of them fall in the overlap zone and remain as "Traill's" Flycatcher.
Figure 149 in Pyle for identifying Willow/Alder Flycatchers

A couple of Common Yellowthroats were banded today, including this female that decided she'd sit in my hand after being released. After about a minute, she flew off strongly.
Second-year female Common Yellowthroat

American Goldfinches have not been in the highlights for a while, and the number of newly banded this spring was only about average (51), after record numbers last year both in spring and fall. Those records surely contributed to the greater than normal number of returnees from previous years, which included: 1 from 2008, 1 from 2011, 3 from 2012, 9 from spring 2013, and 32 from fall 2013.

Similarly impressive numbers of returnees of Yellow Warblers were noted, with a very good total of 38 newly banded plus 27 returning from previous years (1 from 2007, 3 from 2008, 2 from 2009, 3 from 2011, 9 from 2012, and 9 from 2013).

The final bird banded of spring 2013 was this second-year female Common Yellowthroat (the 36th of the spring). She is showing rusty on the forehead that some individuals have.
Second-year female Common Yellowthroat

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included single calling Virginia Rail and Sora, and persistently singing Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Great Crested Flycatcher.

Banding Data
FRIDAY, June 6, 2014

Sunrise (E.S.T.): 4:56
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.50
No. of Nets: 5.0-14.0
Net Hours: 98.00
Temperature (F): 50-73
Cloud Cover: 10-70%
Wind: Calm-SE @ 0-5 mph
Barometer: 30.05-30.05
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 28 (plus 22 recaptured, 3 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 13
Capture Rate: 42.9 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.50 hours, 5:00-14:30): Mike Carnill, Robyn Carnill, Dave Lancaster, Marie McGee, Blanche Wicke.

Mourning Dove - 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 1
Alder Flycatcher - 1
House Wren - 3 (plus 2 recaptured)
American Robin - 3
[European Starling - 1 recaptured]
[Yellow Warbler - 3 recaptured]
Common Yellowthroat - 2 (plus 2 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Song Sparrow - 1 (plus 4 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Red-winged Blackbird - 9 (plus 3 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Common Grackle -3
[Baltimore Oriole - 1 recaptured]
American Goldfinch - 5 (plus 6 recaptured)

2014 Spring Banding Season Summary

The spring of 2014 was interesting for some great highlights, but had the lowest number of species banded (59) since banding was re-started here in 2004; and only 5 of the years between 1990-1999 had a lower species total. The 656 individuals banded ranked this spring 7th among the last 11 spring seasons, so well below average. Poor showings of thrushes and warblers contributed, in addition to the profoundly low number of White-throated Sparrows. In some ways, migration seemed to pass us by, even though other locales in southeastern Michigan had a pretty good spring.

Banding Totals (Spring 2014)
Mourning Dove - 3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 9
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 9
Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker - 4
Alder Flycatcher - 7
Willow Flycatcher - 2
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 4
Least Flycatcher - 1
Eastern Phoebe - 1
Warbling Vireo - 3
Blue Jay - 8
Tree Swallow - 8
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - 8
Black-capped Chickadee - 4
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Brown Creeper - 8
House Wren - 8
Winter Wren - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 17
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 5
Veery - 2
Swainson's Thrush - 5
Hermit Thrush - 15
American Robin - 34
Gray Catbird - 5
European Starling - 15
Nashville Warbler - 1
Yellow Warbler - 38
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 1
Magnolia Warbler - 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 2
Palm Warbler - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 1
American Redstart - 2
Northern Waterthrush - 10
Common Yellowthroat - 36
Wilson's Warbler - 6
Northern Cardinal - 3
Indigo Bunting - 1
American Tree Sparrow - 12
Fox Sparrow - 8
Song Sparrow - 24
Lincoln's Sparrow - 8
Swamp Sparrow - 60
White-throated Sparrow - 4
Red-winged Blackbird - 138
Common Grackle - 32
Brown-headed Cowbird - 2
Baltimore Oriole - 15
House Finch - 2
American Goldfinch - 51

Monday, June 2, 2014

Metro Beach banding report - May 29 & 31, 2014

Things start slowing down in late May, and we start looking forward to the first hatch-year birds of the year. What species will it be? Very few migrants are left, and most of the resident birds are showing signs of breeding. Weather was good on both days this week, but the results did vary.

Highlights of the 36 birds banded, and 13 recaptured, on Thursday May 29 included a good total of 6 Empidonax flycatchers. All of them were of the Willow/Alder species pair, called Traill's Flycatcher when they cannot be identified any further. Of the 5 new banded Empids, the measurements of 4 of them enabled them to be keyed out to species; 1 was Willow and 3 were Alder.
After hatch-year Alder Flycatcher

 Not exactly a highlight, the number of European Starlings banded this spring has been more than normal. Some years none are banded. An adult female banded today had an apparently unusual eye color. I don't know if this is age related, or just a variation.
After hatch-year female European Starling

 The number of Yellow Warblers banded this year in the 7-acres encompassed by the 14 nets has been very good, with 35 new banded, and in addition there have been 25 returnees from previous years. Among the returnees have been a few banded in 2008, including the individual below banded (as AHY) in 2008.
After 7th year male Yellow Warbler

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a small male Cooper's Hawk chasing American Crows, a circling and calling Sandhill Crane, a calling Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and singing American Redstart, Blackpoll, and Wilson's Warblers. A Scarlet Tanager was heard singing briefly.

Highlights of the 35 birds banded, and 26 recaptured, on Saturday May 31 included an adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird...always a highlight and a privilege to band.
After hatch-year male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Some males show a distinct purple iridescence on their tails, though this is difficult to photograph well.
After hatch-year male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

A Hairy Woodpecker was a nice catch, as they are infrequently banded here.
Second-year female Hairy Woodpecker

More Empidonax flycatchers were captured today, including one returning bird; banded in 2012. Its measurements did not allow it to be keyed out to species, and when recaptured in 2013 it was the same. So it was not surprising that when remeasured again today, it still did not key out! Most likely it is a Willow Flycatcher since that is the most frequent species nesting in the park, with Alder occurring in summer perhaps only one summer out of five.

Among the three Northern Rough-winged Swallows captured today was one that had been banded in 2013; the first returnee of this species from a previous year at this station.
After hatch-year male N. Rough-winged Swallow

The species gets its name from small, hook-like structures long the leading edge of the outermost primary, on the males only. This can be seen in the photo below.
Small hooks on leading edge of wing.

A single migrant warbler was banded today, a female Blackpoll Warbler, which was a bit of a surprise. Blackpolls are banded annually in the fall, sometimes in good numbers, but this is the first one in spring since 1998, and only 5 were banded between 1993 and 1998.
After hatch-year female Blackpoll Warbler

As anticipated, the first young of the year were captured today, including an American Robin and a European Starling.
Hatch-year American Robin

Hatch-year European Starling

In the early afternoon, when things were starting to get really slow, one of the volunteers (Jacob Charlebois) extracted a Swainson's Thrush from a net close to where we band along the road. It was a banded bird, so naturally I presumed it was the Swainson's I'd banded in the morning.
After hatch-year Swainson's Thrush

But when I looked at the band, I said "wow" or something... The numbers were all along the bottom of the band, with the inscription at the top being "", and a small "c" above the numbers. It was the first ever INTERNATIONAL recapture at this station! band on Swainson's Thrush

I immediately recognized this organization as that operated by Manuel Grosselet, who bands at a station in Veracruz, Mexico! I emailed Manuel when I still had the bird in my hand, and heard back from him later in the evening. This Swainson's Thrush was banded on May 7, 2014 at the Observatorio de Aves del Pantano de Santa Alejandrina (OAPSA), which is east of Minatitlan, Veracruz. This bird traveled over 2900 kilometers NNE in only 24 days, if it went in a straight line, to get to Michigan from Mexico. But it may have actually flown around the Gulf of Mexico through Texas, probably extending its trip by a few hundred kilometers. A Google map of the banding site and re-encounter site is shown below.
Minatitlan, Veracruz to Lake St. Clair Metropark, Michigan

And below are Google maps of the banding site, and re-encounter site, to show surrounding habitat. Yellow pins show the precise locations.
Minatitlan, Veracruz, Mexico

Lake St. Clair Metropark, Michigan, USA

 And here is Jacob with "his" Mexican Swainson's Thrush.
Jacob Charlebois with Swainson's Thrush

But the day was not over, and another strange bird was captured. But this one had to be released unbanded, because my banding permit does not include waterfowl.
Second-year female Wood Duck

This female Wood Duck was kinder to my net than the female Mallard that tried to land in a net last week...she put two large holes in it. This duck did no damage to the net. Although I could not band her, I still brought her back to the station to take photo, and for everyone to admire her plumage.
Second-year female Wood Duck

I also was curious to see if I could age her, using the Pyle guide. One volunteer commented that it looked like she was helping out...
Second-year female Wood Duck

It appears that she was a second-year based on the relative lack of iridescence on her back, and the short extension of white behind the eye, which was only 15 mm (20mm or more is ASY).
Second-year female Wood Duck

Interesting birds observed but not banded included an American Woodcock flushed from near the Upland Nets, and single singing Red-eyed Vireo, Bay-breasted Warbler, and American Redstart.

Banding Data
THURSDAY, May 29, 2014

Sunrise (E.S.T.): 5:00
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 5.0-14.0
Net Hours: 96.75
Temperature (F): 50-70
Cloud Cover: 20-60%
Wind: NW @ 1-3-7 mph
Barometer: 30.16-30.19
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 36 (plus 13 recaptured, 3 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 15
Capture Rate: 53.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.50 hours, 5:00-15:30): Dave Lancaster, Marie McGee, Edie Schmitz (7.5 hrs), Blanche Wicke (7.5 hrs).

Downy Woodpecker - 1
Alder Flycatcher - 3
Willow Flycatcher - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
"Traill's" Flycatcher - 1
Warbling Vireo - 1
Tree Swallow -1
[House Wren - 1 recaptured]
American Robin - 3 (plus 1 released unbanded)
European Starling -3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Yellow Warbler - 3 (plus 8 recaptured)
Common Yellowthroat -3
Song Sparrow - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 5 (plus 1 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Common Grackle -8 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Baltimore Oriole - 1

SATURDAY, May 31, 2014
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 4:59
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:45
Hours Open: 8.00
No. of Nets: 5.0-14.0
Net Hours: 106.00
Temperature (F): 55-77
Cloud Cover: 20-0%
Wind: NE-S @ 1-3-5 mph
Barometer: 30.28-30.27
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 35 (plus 26 recaptured, 5 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 21
Capture Rate: 62.3 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 5:00-15:00): Patrick Bohm (5.0 hrs), Jacob Charlebois, Marie McGee (5.0 hrs), Sarah Toner (8.0 hrs), Blanche Wicke.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird -1
[Downy Woodpecker - 1 recaptured]
Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Alder Flycatcher -2
Willow Flycatcher - 1
["Traill's" Flycatcher - 1 recaptured]
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
[Black-capped Chickadee - 1 recaptured]
Swainson's Thrush - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Robin -2 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Gray Catbird - 1
European Starling -2 (plus 1 recaptured)
Yellow Warbler - 3 (plus 6 recaptured)
Common Yellowthroat - 6 (plus 2 recaptured)
[Song Sparrow - 4 recaptured]
[Swamp Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
Northern Cardinal - 1 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Red-winged Blackbird - 5 (plus 4 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Common Grackle - 4 (plus 1 recaptured, 2 released unbanded)
Baltimore Oriole - 1
American Goldfinch - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)