Thursday, October 27, 2016

Lake St. Clair Metropark bird banding report - October 16-26, 2016

Once again, coverage and volunteer participation has been good over the past two weeks with four days of banding conducted, although rain closed us down early on two of those days. Sparrows are still mysteriously scarce, but numbers of kinglets and thrushes (mainly Hermits) remain good. Temperatures have finally dropped to the normal range for this time of year, which may help migration, but makes operating our station a little challenging as we are outdoors all day (though the Nature Center is close by and is usually available from 9:00 a.m. on for us).
Banding table, with banding area behind.

With sunrise occurring later now (almost 8 a.m. EDT), our start time of 6 a.m., when the park gates open, allows us to get more than half the nets set up and open while it is still dark. This is a prime time to make a brief attempt before sunrise to capture owls, which we do using an audio lure. A single MP3 player with a speaker placed at the center of the setup can be heard from all of the 17.25 nets in the 3-acre area where we work. We have been doing this for the past 5 years or so, with an occasional Eastern Screech-Owl being captured. Some interesting results of these efforts this month are discussed below.

Highlights of the 47 birds banded on Sunday, October 16 included the first, and possibly last, Blue-headed Vireo of the season.
Hatch-year Blue-headed Vireo

After hearing them singing and calling near the nets for more than a month, we finally caught one of the Carolina Wrens, which are uncommon permanent residents in the park as we are near the northern edge of their breeding range. They seem to move around a lot from year-to-year, but are always somewhere in or near the park.
Hatch-year Carolina Wren

The audio-lure was set this morning to play Eastern Screech-Owl, as it might be a bit early for Northern Saw-whet Owls to be in our area, and we got an immediate reply. But although we were able to let the audio-lure run for about 45 minutes, we did not catch the owl. Other interesting birds observed, but not captured, included a pair of Sandhill Cranes calling from the nearby marsh, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a couple of Rusty Blackbirds. Rain began at 11:30 (EDT), after we had removed all birds from the nets and had pushed them closed. My heroic volunteers took the nets down in the increasingly heavy rain, while I finished banding the last few birds under a canopy. They deserve double credit for today!

Highlights of the 43 birds banded on Wednesday, October 19 included a record early (by 4 days) American Tree Sparrow, which is a bit unusual in this poor year for sparrows.
Hatch-year American Tree Sparrow

And we finally captured our first Fox Sparrow of the season; about 3 weeks later than expected.
Hatch-year Fox Sparrow

Hatch-year Fox Sparrow

Hatch-year Fox Sparrow

The Eastern Screech-Owl audio-lure this morning did not elicit any responses. Interesting species observed but not banded today included flyover American Wigeon and Northern Pintails, and apparent migrant Sharp-shinned Hawk and Peregrine Falcon. Three somewhat late Tree Swallows flew over along with a lot of other songbirds that were clearly heading south, including a big flock of several thousand Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and a few Rusty Blackbirds. At least 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches were also noted, and were probably moving through, as well as a couple flyover Purple Finches.

Highlights of the 39 birds banded on Sunday, October 23 included our first success with the owl audio-lure, a nice gray morph Eastern Screech-Owl, only the 4th ever banded in the park.
Hatch-year Eastern Screech-Owl

It was captured about 15 minutes before sunrise, and released a couple minutes after sunrise into a nice protected thicket. You can actually see the sunrise in the bird's eyes in the next photo. No flash photography is allowed at this station of any owls. We provided light for photography using my head lamp, which was aimed at the lower part of the owls body well away from its eyes, and we only allowed for a two minute photo session before it was released.
Hatch-year Eastern Screech-Owl

A big surprise was a female Purple Finch caught in the net near the thistle feeders, which was only the 3rd banded in the park since 2004 (one was banded in 1993 at the Point Rosa Marsh location).
Hatch-year female Purple Finch

The (indistinct in this individual) white supercilium and maler, and lack of brown wash on the flanks, distinguishes this bird from female House Finch. The upper mandible tends to be straight in Purple Finches and curved in House Finches, so the slight curvature of this bird's bill shows that using that character alone might not result in a correct identification.
Hatch-year female Purple Finch

Interesting birds observed but not banded today included a flyover flock of 100 or so Canvasbacks, and a few Lesser Scaup, all heading south toward Lake St. Clair. The long-staying Osprey (over 3 weeks now) flew directly overhead and seemed to be hunting over the channel immediately adjacent to our banding area. A Bonaparte's Gull flew over very high overhead and two American Pipits flew over much lower, headed toward the beach. Several Rusty Blackbirds spent some time in the woods across the channel from our nets, and the first Pine Siskins of the fall flew over with a few more Purple Finches as well. Surprisingly early was a calling Common Redpoll flying over. We noticed several Monarch butterflies migrating today, and a nice fresh Eastern Comma was also observed. Several Banded Woollybear caterpillars, which will transform into Isabella Tiger Moths, were seen today as well.

On the morning of Wednesday, October 26, we started by playing Northern Saw-whet Owl on the audio-lure, and were very pleasantly surprised when we caught TWO of them at once, about a half-hour before sunrise! These are the first ever banded in this park, and the first I've ever banded under my permit (I've helped band them other places).
Hatch-year female Northern Saw-whet Owl

Ageing these owls is easier using an ultraviolet (black) light, but these birds were not captured in the dark, so that wasn't possible. The uniform appearance of their primaries and secondaries indicated that they were both hatch-year birds.
Hatch-year female Northern Saw-whet Owl

Using wing chord and weight criteria from Project Owlnet, it was determined that both individuals were based on weight alone (101 g).
Hatch-year female Northern Saw-whet Owl

We took only two minutes for our photo session, using the same lighting techniques we did for the previously captured Eastern Screech-Owl described above, and only for the first Saw-whet...the second bird was not photographed at all but released immediately after processing. Both owls were placed in dense sheltered thickets, a few minutes before sunrise.

Interesting birds observed but not banded included an American Woodcock flushed from near the Bat Net while it was still dark, and a Fox Sparrow flushed from one of the thickets were we released one of the owls. Impending rain forced us to close the station early today, but unlike before, we got everything taken down and packed into the car before the rain started. Dry volunteers are happy volunteers!

Banding on these four days could not have been done without the capable assistance of the following volunteers: Jenifer Benke, John Bieganowski, Jacob Charlebois, Mike Charlebois, Carol Goodman, Stevie Kuroda, Dave Lancaster, Ava Lau, Harry Lau, Rose Lau, Bruce Watson, and Blanche Wicke. Three more banding days are planned between October 30 and November 6, so there will be one more banding update this fall.

Bird Banding Results

October 16, 2016

Time open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time closed (E.S.T.): 9:15 (rain forced early close)
Hours Open: 3.5
Net Hours: 57.125
Temperature (F): 66-63
Cloud Cover: 50%-100%
Wind Direction: SW
Wind Speed (mph): 7-10
Barometer: 29.34 - 29.36
Precipitation:  Rain started at 9:30
No. Banded: 47 (plus 7 recaptured)
Species Captured: 12
Capture Rate (#/100 net hours): 94.5
Banding Assistants (5.5 hours worked): Jenifer Benke, Carol Goodman, Stevie Kuroda, Bruce Watson, Blanche Wicke.

Blue-headed Vireo - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 2 (plus 3 recaptured)
Brown Creeper - 1
Carolina Wren - 1
Winter Wren - 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 16 (plus 2 recaptured)
Hermit Thrush - 9 (plus 1 recaptured)
Nashville Warbler - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 1
[Northern Cardinal - 1 recaptured]
American Goldfinch - 7

October 19, 2016

Time open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time closed (E.S.T.): 12:30
Hours Open: 6.75
Net Hours: 111.062
Temperature (F): 52-64
Cloud Cover: 0-40%
Wind Direction: WNW-SE
Wind Speed (mph): 1-3-5
Barometer: 29.40 - 29.50
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 43 (plus 5 recaptured, 2 released unbanded)
Species Captured:  14
Capture Rate (#/100 net hours): 45.0
Banding Assistants (9.0 hours worked): John Bieganowski, Mike Charlebois (4.0 hrs), Carol Goodman, Dave Lancaster, Blanche Wicke (4.5 hrs).

Black-capped Chickadee - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Winter Wren - 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 6 (plus 4 recaptured)
Hermit Thrush - 7 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 3
American Tree Sparrow - 1
Fox Sparrow - 1
Song Sparrow - 2
Swamp Sparrow - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 6 (plus 1 released unbanded)
Dark-eyed Junco - 5
Northern Cardinal - 1
American Goldfinch - 1

October 23, 2016

Time open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time closed (E.S.T.): 12:30
Hours Open:  6.75
Net Hours: 112.062
Temperature (F): 46-59
Cloud Cover: 50-0%
Wind Direction: Calm-SW
Wind Speed (mph): 0-3
Barometer: 29.97 - 29.94
Precipitation:  None
No. Banded: 39 (plus 2 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Species Captured: 15
Capture Rate (#/100 net hours): 37.5
Banding Assistants (8.5 hours worked): Jenifer Benke (5.0 hrs), Carol Goodman, Stevie Kuroda, Bruce Watson. 

Eastern Screech-Owl - 1
Eastern Phoebe - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 3
Brown Creeper - 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 6
Hermit Thrush - 9
American Robin - 1
Orange-crowned Warbler - 1
Fox Sparrow - 1
Song Sparrow - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 5
Dark-eyed Junco - 3 (plus 1 released unbanded)
[Northern Cardinal - 1 recaptured]
Purple Finch - 1
American Goldfinch - 4 (plus 1 recaptured)

October 26, 2016

Time open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time closed (E.S.T.): 10:30 (rain forced early close)
Hours Open:  4.5
Net Hours: 74.375
Temperature (F): 39-43
Cloud Cover: 100%
Wind Direction: E
Wind Speed (mph): 5-7-10
Barometer: 30.47 - 30.48
Precipitation:  Rain at 12:15
No. Banded: 33 (plus 6 recaptured)
Species Captured: 13
Capture Rate (#/100 net hours): 52.4
Banding Assistants (6.5 hours worked): John Bieganowski, Jacob Charlebois (4.0 hrs), Dave Lancaster, Harry Lau, Ava Lau (2.5 hrs), Rose Lau (2.5 hrs). 

[Downy Woodpecker - 1 recaptured]
[Tufted Titmouse - 2 recaptured]
Brown Creeper - 2
Winter Wren - 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 2
Hermit Thrush - 17
Orange-crowned Warbler - 1
Swamp Sparrow - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 3 (plus 1 recaptured)
Dark-eyed Junco - 1
American Goldfinch - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)

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