Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Metro Beach banding report - September 4-13, 2014

The rain continues! Although we managed to squeeze four days of banding in during the first half of September, rain was either just finishing before we arrived at the park, started after we took the station down, or both! On one day, we were delayed setting up by two hours. But with all this inconvenience, the birds came in, including lots of warblers. Of the 345 birds banded on these four days, 108 were warblers.

Thank you to the following volunteers for making banding possible on these days. Jean Gramlich, Caden Gramlich, Dave Lancaster, Steve Mangas, Tom Schlack, Sarah Toner, Blanche Wicke, and Sue Wright.

Highlights of the 56 birds banded on Thursday, September 4 included the first Swainson's Thrushes of the fall. Many years, they arrive before mid-August, but not this year.
Hatch-year Swainson's Thrush

A few warblers were banded, including the first Magnolia Warbler of the fall. Normally this fairly common migrant is first captured in late August here, so another late initiation of migration perhaps.
Hatch-year Magnolia Warbler

And the first female Black-throated Blue Warbler of the fall was captured. This individual had a very inconspicuous white patch at the base of the primaries, which is not a rare situation with hatch-year females of this species.
Hatch-year female Black-throated Blue Warbler

So it always pays to have a backup field mark. On female Black-throated Blues, the dark gray cheek with short white line over the eye, and white arc under the eye are all distinctive.
Hatch-year female Black-throated Blue Warbler

Another Red-winged Blackbird was captured today, expanding my personal experience with the molt of this species. It appears to me that this is a hatch-year male, but I am willing to be persuaded that it might be a second-year.
Hatch-year male Red-winged Blackbird

Hatch-year male Red-winged Blackbird

Interesting birds observed but not banded included two flyover Green-winged Teal, a couple of Virginia Rails out near the Field Nets, and a Belted Kingfisher with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird chasing it just a foot behind! Other aerial maneuvers were observed today too, provided by the U.S. Navy's aerobatic team, the Blue Angels. They were practicing their routines for the air show coming up on Saturday, distracting us a little from the birds, and giving great photo opportunities.
The Blue Angels

The Blue Angels

The Blue Angels going straight up

The Blue Angels going straight down

The Blue Angels flying upside down

The Blue Angels beginning their starburst maneuver

The Blue Angels starburst maneuver

Highlights of the 98 birds banded on Saturday, September 6 included two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds; very appropriate since today was the Nature Center's "hummingbirds and monarchs" program. Unfortunately, both were captured, banded, and released before 8 a.m., and the program wasn't scheduled to start until 10 a.m. In past years, I've taken advantage of the surroundings to show the intimate relationship during fall migration between hummingbirds and Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), which is abundant in the banding area.
Hatch-year male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
feeding on Jewelweed

The first Yellow-bellied Flycatcher of the fall was banded today. While all Empidonax flycatchers inf all can have yellow bellies, the Yellow-bellied is the only one with yellow on the throat. They also tend to be greenish-olive all over, with a distinct narrow eye ring that is often pale yellowish.
Hatch-year Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Hatch-year Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

The first Red-eyed Vireo of the fall was unusual in that it was an adult, with a bright red eye.
After hatch-year Red-eyed Vireo

An adult Marsh Wren in fine plumage was the 13th of the fall, a very good number for so early in the season. The blaak-and-white streaking on the back is much more prominent in adults.
After hatch-year Marsh Wren

But it was the warblers that stole the show today, with most species representing firsts for the fall, including Nashville, Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Blackpoll, and Black-and-white.
After hatch-year female Tennessee Warbler

Hatch-year female Nashville Warbler

Hatch-year male Chestnut-sided Warbler
(note single chestnut feather on breast)

Hatch-year Blackpoll Warbler
(note the bright white undertail coverts, and
yellow feet)

Hatch-year male Black-and-white Warbler

Hatch-year male Black-and-white Warbler

Some of the more special (i.e., less frequently captured) warblers included a very nice hatch-year male Blackburnian Warbler, not one but three Mourning Warblers, and a single Canada Warbler.
Hatch-year male Blackburnian Warbler

Hatch-year male Blackburnian Warbler

Hatch-year Mourning Warbler

Hatch-year male Canada Warbler

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a flyover Semipalmated Plover, continuing Virginia Rails near the Field Nets, a Black-throated Green Warbler, and flyover Indigo Bunting and Bobolink.

Highlights of the 97 birds banded on Thursday, September 11 included 9 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds; the most on a single day so far this fall (but far from a record), and 4 Eastern Wood-Pewees, which might be a record. But once again it was the warblers that were the highlight, but among the 15 individuals of 7 species, only the Bay-breasted Warbler was a first for the fall. Nearly half of the birds banded today were American Goldfinches!
Hatch-year Bay-breasted Warbler

Note the general buffy tones on the underparts, including on the undertail coverts (compare with the Blackpoll Warbler above). On hatch-year Blackpoll Warblers, usually only the soles of the feet are yellow, making leg color very difficult to deterimine (and other warblers have yellow feet too!).
Hatch-year Bay-breasted Warbler

Interesting birds observed, but not banded, included a Cooper's Hawk that bounced out of the Field Nets, a Common Nighthawk very early when setting up nets, both Yellow-bellied and Least Flycatchers, a Philadelphia Vireo, a somewhat late Yellow Warbler, and an Ovenbird.

On Saturday, September 13, it was raining when we arrived at the park at 6 a.m., so we waited it out while looking out at rainy Lake St. Clair and Huron Point in the distance. By 8 a.m. the rain had stopped and we were able to band for the rest of the day.
Huron Point, viewed from ~0.4 miles SE of the banding station

Highlights of the 94 birds banded included another Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and three Least Flycatchers. The Red-eyed Vireo captured today was the expected age, hatch-year, with brown eyes.
Hatch-year Red-eyed Vireo

Among the 5 Tennessee Warblers banded was an interesting individual that I am certain would be misidentified in the field by many as an Orange-crowned Warbler, a species that is extremely rare (almost nonexistent actually) in most of Michigan before September 15. This individual did not have as prominent a pale supercilium that most Tennessee's show, and there was a faint suggestion of streaking on the breast probably caused by feather shadows. But this bird did not show the prime field mark for Orange-crowned, the bright yellow undertail coverts (some Tennessee's can have buffy there!). If you look closely, the undertail coverts are clean, bright white, which is shown by Tennessee and not by Orange-crowned. And there are other differences...
After hatch-year Tennessee Warbler

The prize of the day, as we don't catch very many (some years none), was the Northern Parula.
Hatch-year female Northern Parula

Hatch-year female Northern Parula

Hatch-year female Northern Parula

Bay-breasted Warblers are Spruce Budworm specialists (along with others, like Cape May Warbler). In the past, numbers of these warblers showed "boom and bust" cycles, with lots of them in some years. In recent decades, spraying to control this native predator on conifers has flattened out this cycle, so that we have had only low numbers for quite some time. So it was nice to get FIVE of them on one net run, including two young males, one showing chestnut on the crown, and the other showing chestnut on the flanks. Note that neither bird shows a pale neck patch described in some field guides...perhaps that is a character more often seen in adults.
Hatch-year male Bay-breasted Warbler

Hatch-year male Bay-breasted Warbler

It is always nice to catch an after second-year American Redstart, as kind of an early reminder of Halloween!
After second-year male American Redstart

Hatch-year Magnolia Warblers cannot reliably be sexed in-hand (despite what some field guides say!). But the adults are less problematic. The adult (after hatch-year) below can be told by its large square tail spots, all-black upper tail coverts, black centers to the green back feathers, and bold flank streaking. These characters should translate to hatch-year birds in some way, but there is a bewildering number of combinations of these characters on hatch-year birds.
After hatch-year male Magnolia Warbler

Probably my favorite Michigan sparrow is the Lincoln's, and today we had our first of the fall. It is a subtly beautiful bird, with tons of field marks!
After hatch-year Lincoln's Sparrow

Interesting birds observed but not banded included a Least Bittern (along the boardwalk, a little ways away from the banding area), a continuing Virginia Rail, a briefly calling Great Crested Flycatcher, a Cliff Swallow in the morning swallow flock, a Black-throated Green Warbler, and two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

Banding Data
THURSDAY, September 4, 2014
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:01
Time Open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 12:15
Hours Open: 6.50
No. of Nets: 4.0-14.0
Net Hours: 82.25
Temperature (F): 68-82
Cloud Cover: 10-60%
Wind: S @ 3-5-12 mph
Barometer: 30.07-30.06
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 56 (plus 13 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 14
Capture Rate: 85.1 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 9.0 hours, 5:00-14:00): Dave Lancaster, Blanche Wicke, Sue Wright.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 3
Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Warbling Vireo - 1
Marsh Wren - 5
Swainson's Thrush - 3
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 2
American Redstart - 1
Common Yellowthroat - 8 (plus 4 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Song Sparrow - 5 (plus 1 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Red-winged Blackbird - 1
House Finch - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 22 (plus 6 recaptured)

SATURDAY, September 6, 2014
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:03
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.25
No. of Nets: 4.0-14.0
Net Hours: 92.00
Temperature (F): 62-68
Cloud Cover: 100-70%
Wind: SW-NW @ 1-3-10 mph
Barometer: 30.02-30.13
Precipitation: Trace in a.m.
No. Banded: 98 (plus 20 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 29
Capture Rate: 129.3 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 11.0 hours, 5:00-16:00): Steve Mangas, Tom Schlack (5.5 hrs), Sarah Toner, Blanche Wicke.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 2
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Eastern Wood-Pewee - 2
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 1
Alder Flycatcher - 1
Warbling Vireo - 2
Red-eyed Vireo - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 3
Marsh Wren - 1
Swainson's Thrush - 5
Gray Catbird - 1
Tennessee Warbler - 4
Nashville Warbler - 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 1
[Black-throated Blue Warbler - 1 recaptured]
Blackburnian Warbler - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 11 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Black-and-white Warbler - 1
American Redstart - 1
Ovenbird - 1
Northern Waterthrush - 2
Mourning Warbler - 3
Common Yellowthroat - 5 (plus 1 recaptured)
Canada Warbler - 1
Song Sparrow - 9 (plus 7 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 3 (plus 3 recaptured)
Northern Cardinal - 1
American Goldfinch - 32 (plus 7 recaptured)

THURSDAY, September 11, 2014
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:08
Time Open (E.S.T.): 6:15
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 13:15
Hours Open: 7.00
No. of Nets: 4.0-14.0
Net Hours: 91.00
Temperature (F): 57-59
Cloud Cover: 100%
Wind: WNW-N @ 10-12-7 mph
Barometer: 29.85-30.13
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 97 (plus 27 recaptured, 3 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 16
Capture Rate: 140.7 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 10.0 hours, 5:00-15:00): Dave Lancaster, Steve Mangas, Blanche Wicke,

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 9
Northern Flicker - 2 (plus 2 recaptured)
Eastern Wood-Pewee - 4
Black-capped Chickadee - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Tennessee Warbler - 1
Nashville Warbler - 3
Magnolia Warbler - 2
[Black-throated Blue Warbler - 1 recaptured]
Bay-breasted Warbler - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 2
Common Yellowthroat - 6 (plus 4 recaptured)
Song Sparrow - 15 (plus 2 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Swamp Sparrow - 3 (plus 4 recaptured)
Northern Cardinal - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 2
American Goldfinch - 43 (plus 13 recaptured, 2 released unbanded)

SATURDAY, September 13, 2014
Sunrise (E.S.T.): 6:10
Time Open (E.S.T.): 7:15
Time Closed (E.S.T.): 14:00
Hours Open: 6.75
No. of Nets: 4.0-13.0
Net Hours: 85.00
Temperature (F): 52-58
Cloud Cover: 100-70-100%
Wind: N @ 3-5-15 mph
Barometer: 30.13-29.64
Precipitation: Rain delayed opening
No. Banded: 94 (plus 26 recaptured, 4 released unbanded)
No. of Species: 27
Capture Rate: 145.9 birds per 100 net hours
Volunteers (worked 11.0 hours, 5:00-16:00): Jean Gramlich (8.5 hrs), Caden Gramlich (8.5 hrs), Steve Mangas, Blanche Wicke.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)
Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 1
Least Flycatcher - 3
Warbling Vireo - 1
Red-eyed Vireo - 1
[Black-capped Chickadee - 2 recaptured]
Tufted Titmouse - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
[White-breasted Nuthatch - 1 recaptured]
Swainson's Thrush - 3
Gray Catbird - 1
Tennesee Warbler - 5
Nashville Warbler - 11 (plus 1 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Northern Parula - 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 1
Magnolia Warbler - 12 (plus 2 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 1
Bay-breasted Warbler - 5
Black-and-white Warbler - 1
American Redstart - 5
Common Yellowthroat - 5 (plus 2 recaptured)
Wilson's Warbler - 2 (plus 1 recaptured)
Song Sparrow - 4 (plus 3 recaptured)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 1
[Swamp Sparrow - 2 recaptured]
Red-winged Blackbird - 2
American Goldfinch - 21 (plus 10 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)

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