Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Hummingbirds and other things

After returning from our week in North Carolina (and other states), preparations were made to begin a summer of banding hummingbirds, as I've been doing for 15 years now. Between June 15 and July 15, more than 300 hummingbirds were banded at 20 locations in southeastern and south-central Michigan. Some places, like our own yard here in Inkster, have low activity. But the places that are always busy, have a lot of hummers this summer as expected. 
Hatch-year female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Rather unexpected was capturing a very young, very recently fledged (based on short bill, tail, and wings), female (based on the shape of her 6th primary) on the early date of July 3. She was among a large number of adults banded at a wonderful site near Augusta in Kalamazoo County. Around the 4th of July, there should be large numbers of hummingbirds fledging in southern Michigan. When the females arrive in mid-May they begin building nests (alone), which takes a week to 10 days. After that, they lay eggs and incubate them (alone) for 14 days. Then the nestlings take 18-22 days to fledge (females alone feeding them). One cool, wet summer a few years ago two nestlings did not fledge until they were 29 days old. But over the years, the average date when we first capture a hatch-year bird is July 25, with the earliest around the 16th or 18th, and by then their bill, wings, and tail are fully grown. 

At our site near Constantine, St. Joseph County, we were anticipating another good banding session since we have always had a lot of birds here since Rich and Brenda "discovered" this site in 2012. With the help of our new bander, Amy Wilms, from Indiana and her capable assistant Mike, along with a team from the Kalamazoo Nature Center, we banded 160 hummingbirds in 3 hours, and also recaptured 39 returning from previous years. The video above shows one small area where the homeowner hangs feeders, but does not really give a good idea of how many hummingbirds are visiting this property.

Hatch-year Tree Swallow
Other projects this summer have included banding nestling Tree Swallows at Lake St. Clair Metropark, Macomb County (see photo above). The nest boxes are adjacent to an area that is being investigated as a new banding site in the park, after the old site (used for 20 years) was flooded out last year with the success of the marsh restoration program. During June, 18 nestling Tree Swallows were banded from 3 nest boxes. And later in July, another nest box containing perhaps 4 young will be banded. Attempts to capture and band adults were unsuccessful.

Summer is also the season of bugs (insects), but it has been surprising so far how few mosquitos and deer flies there have been, considering how wet and rainy it has been. Perhaps the cool conditions (we have not had a 90 degree day yet) have been keeping their numbers down? Driving back and forth to hummingbird banding sites, I often stop at rest areas along the freeway and check the walls for moths. Again, there haven't been very many so far, but among them was this interesting species, which I've only seen once before. It is a Chestnut-marked Pondweed Moth, about an inch across the wings.
Paraponyx badiusalis
Butterflies have seemed to be more numerous this summer than last summer, and the butterfly count that I participated in at Seven Ponds Nature Center, Lapeer County, found good numbers of Hairstreaks and Skippers, but for the third year in a row, no Monarch. A surprise, in my own driveway in Inkster, was this Tawny Emperor that landed on the car tail light when we were unloading groceries in our driveway.
Asterocampa clyton
And finally, an interesting beetle was presented to me at a home where I was banding hummingbirds. It was a species I was not familiar with, but thanks to a new book on beetles (Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans, 2014, Princeton University Press), I was able to identify it as a non-native Scarab, the Asiatic Garden Beetle.
Maladera castanea
It has a similar size and shape to the destructive Japanese Beetle (Popillia japonica), and apparently has been in the northeastern U.S. since the 1920s, but range maps do not show it quite reaching southeastern Michigan (see link here). Perhaps an unfortunate range expansion (see link here)? Or maybe I've misidentified it? Opinions are welcome on this.