Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring is here - Bird banding begins at Lake St. Clair Metropark

After a warmer than normal winter, we were glad for reasonable temperatures on our first banding day of the spring on Sunday April 2. But the wetter than normal conditions continued into early spring, and our net lanes were quite wet. The photo below shows the Channel Nets, and the net lane is almost indistinguishable from the channel! We managed to dodge the weather and band on four days between April 2 and 18.

Highlights of the 51 birds of 10 species banded on Sunday, April 2 included a Northern Flicker, which is an infrequently captured species at this site.
Second-year female Northern Flicker

This Golden-crowned Kinglet, one of 7 banded today, was the first bird banded this spring.
After hatch-year male Golden-crowned Kinglet

A Carolina Wren was singing in the banding area as soon as the sun came up, but we didn't catch this bird, which was originally banded here last year, until a few hours later...and when it was in-hand, there was still a Carolina Wren singing in the area!
After hatch-year Carolina Wren.

Spring banding is started at this locale the first week of April so that the migration period of earliest migrants (like Golden-crowned Kinglets and others) is fully documented. We also typically catch some winter residents as they start heading north, like this American Tree Sparrow (one of 3 today).
After hatch-year American Tree Sparrow

Interesting birds observed, but not banded, included a winnowing Wilson's Snipe, and early Eastern Phoebe, and a very early House Wren singing lustily from an area between the "Thicket" and "Bat" nets.

Our second banding day was Saturday, April 8, and although there was another period of rain mid-week, it wasn't the 2 inches of the week before. So, the water was a bit diminished, but not entirely gone as this photo of the Channel Nets taken from the same spot as the photo above shows.

Highlights of the 76 birds of 18 species captured included more of the expected early migrants including Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Fox Sparrow, and an early White-throated Sparrow.
After hatch-year Brown Creeper
After hatch-year Winter Wren
After hatch-year Fox Sparrow
Another Carolina Wren was captured (this one unbanded), and 5 more American Tree Sparrows, along with another over-wintering species, Dark-eyed Junco.
Second-year female Dark-eyed  Junco
Interesting birds observed, but not captured, included a migrating group of Turkey Vultures, a flyover Great Egret, a flyover Common Loon, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and the same (?) singing House Wren from last week.

Highlights of the 52 birds of 15 species banded on Friday, April 14, included two Northern Flickers and two Tree Swallows, which nest in boxes very near the Meadow Nets but can easily see the nets if it isn't cloudy or foggy. 
After hatch-year Tree Swallow
Another Winter Wren was only the second this spring, and two Hermit Thrushes today brought the spring total up to about a half-dozen.
Second-year Hermit Thrush
And among a number of Golden-crowned Kinglets was the first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the season.
After hatch-year male Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Interesting birds observed, but not banded, included flyover Bonaparte's Gull and Caspian Tern, and two Common Loons migrating north and calling to each other. 

Highlights of the 47 birds of 18 species banded on Tuesday, April 18, included yet another Northern Flicker, and a Brown Thrasher which had been singing in the area. It is a species that is expected around this time of year, but is an uncommonly captured species in the park. 
After hatch-year Brown Thrasher
Much more surprising was a very early Wood Thrush.
After hatch-year Wood Thrush
Another interesting capture was an early White-crowned Sparrow. This individual was in the middle of molting out of its juvenile brown-and-buff crown pattern into its adult black-and-white crown pattern. I've never captured one at this stage of molt before. By the time they typically arrive in southern Michigan in late April or early May, they have all completely molted. So this individual may have wintered farther north than most, and gotten an early start on migration.
Second-year White-crowned Sparrow
Second-year male White-crowned Sparrow
Interesting birds observed, but not banded today included an American Bittern calling from the North Marsh and audible from the banding table, a migrating "V" of 6 Great Egrets, a near-adult Bald Eagle, and the House Wren present since April 2 continued to sing, but evaded the nets once again!

Many thanks to the following volunteers for making banding possible on these four days: Steve Carlson, Jacob Charlebois, Joe Grabowski, Jean Gramlich, Harry Lau, Rose Lau, Stevie Kuroda, Steve Mangas, Matthew Porter, Bruce Watson, Blanche Wicke, Christian Zammit, Julian Zammit.

Bird Banding Results

April 2, 2017

Time open (E.S.T.): 5:15
Time closed (E.S.T.): 12:45
Hours Open: 7.5
Net Hours: 117.0
Temperature (F): 39-57
Cloud Cover: 20-50%
Wind Direction: SW-S
Wind Speed (mph): 3-5-7
Barometer: 30.23 - 30.20
Precipitation:  None
No. Banded: 51 (plus 4 recaptured, 1 released unbanded)
Species Captured: 10
Capture Rate (#/100 net hours): 47.9
Banding Assistants (9.5 hours worked): Steve Carlson, Jacob Charlebois, Stevie Kurda (7.0 hrs), Bruce Watson (7.0 hrs), Christian Zammit, Julian Zammit. 

Northern Flicker - 1
[Carolina Wren - 1 recaptured]
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 7
American Robin - 5
American Tree Sparrow - 3
Song Sparrow - 13 (plus 2 recaptured)
Northern Cardinal - 2
Red-winged Blackbird - 7 (plus 1 released unbanded)
American Goldfinch - 11 (plus 1 recaptured)
House Sparrow - 2

April 8, 2017

Time open (E.S.T.): 5:45
Time closed (E.S.T.): 12:45
Hours Open: 7.0
Net Hours: 116.0
Temperature (F): 36-55
Cloud Cover: 20-0-10%
Wind Direction: WNW-SW
Wind Speed (mph): 3-5-10
Barometer: 30.04 - 30.11
Precipitation: None
No. Banded: 76 (plus 12 recaptured, 3 released unbanded)
Species Captured:  18
Capture Rate (#/100 net hours): 78.4
Banding Assistants (9.5 hours worked): Stevie Kuroda, Bruce Watson.

Downy Woodpecker - 1
[Black-capped Chickadee - 3 recaptured]
Brown Creeper - 2
Carolina Wren - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Winter Wren - 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 3
Hermit Thrush - 1
American Robin - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Tree Sparrow - 5
Fox Sparrow - 1
Song Sparrow - 11 (plus 2 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 1
Dark-eyed Junco - 1
Northern Cardinal - 1 (plus 2 recaptured)
Red-winged Blackbird - 19 (plus 2 released unbanded)
American Goldfinch - 23 (plus 3 recaptured)
House Sparrow - 3 (plus 1 released unbanded)

April 14, 2017

Time open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time closed (E.S.T.): 12:45
Hours Open:  6.75
Net Hours: 113.75
Temperature (F): 43-57
Cloud Cover: 40-20%
Wind Direction: ENE-SE
Wind Speed (mph): 5-7-10
Barometer: 30.38 - 30.41
Precipitation:  None
No. Banded: 52 (plus 8 recaptured)
Species Captured: 15
Capture Rate (#/100 net hours): 52.7
Banding Assistants (9.0 hours worked): Jean Gramlich, Harry Lau, Rose Lau, Matthew Porter. 

Northern Flicker - 2
Tree Swallow - 2
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
Winter Wren - 1
Brown Creeper - 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 8
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
Hermit Thrush - 2
American Robin - 6 (plus 2 recaptured)
[American Tree Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
Song Sparrow - 4 (plus 2 recaptured)
Swamp Sparrow - 2
Red-winged Blackbird - 13 (plus 1 recaptured)
American Goldfinch - 6 (plus 1 recaptured)
House Sparrow - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)

April 18, 2017

Time open (E.S.T.): 6:00
Time closed (E.S.T.): 12:45
Hours Open:  6.75
Net Hours: 113.75
Temperature (F): 39-60
Cloud Cover: 20-50-10%
Wind Direction: NE-SE
Wind Speed (mph): 5-7-10
Barometer: 30.40 - 30.37
Precipitation:  None
No. Banded: 47 (plus 15 recaptured, 2 released unbanded)
Species Captured: 15
Capture Rate (#/100 net hours): 56.3
Banding Assistants (9.5 hours worked): Joe Grabowski, Steve Mangas, Blanche Wicke.

Northern Flicker - 1
Black-capped Chicakdee - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Brown Creeper - 1
[Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1 recaptured]
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 3
Hermit Thrush - 1
Wood Thrush - 1
[American Robin - 1 recaptured]
Brown Thrasher - 1
[American Tree Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
[Song Sparrow - 2 recaptured]
[Swamp Sparrow - 1 recaptured]
Northern Cardinal - 1 (plus 1 recaptured)
Red-winged Blackbird - 22 (plus 3 recaptured, 2 released unbanded)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 2
American Goldfinch - 11 (plus 4 recaptured)
House Sparrow - 1

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Winter Bird Banding Summaries

It is always challenging for me to blog during the winter months, mainly because not much is going on with hummingbirds, but also not much going on in general. My hummingbird banding summaries are typically finished by February, and that is the case for my 2016 summary, but for some reason I have been unable to update my website. I would be happy to send anyone a PDF who wants it; just email me. There were not too many "winter" hummingbirds in the Great Lakes this past season, but I did band 4 Rufous Hummingbirds in Ohio (one still on-site near Cincinnati) and 1 in Michigan , as well as 1 Anna's Hummingbird in Ohio. For the past 14 years, I have been banding birds in my tiny urban/suburban back (and front) yard from October through March; a site I've named the Inkster Banding Station in eBird. I have operated 2-3 mist nets in the back yard, and 2 traps in the front yard on 3 days each month, weather permitting. I have posted a summary of this winter's banding below. And, for the first time, I attempted to band Northern Saw-whet Owls on their winter "territories" on Belle Isle, following a very successful morning for this species on the Christmas Bird Count on January 1, 2017.

The Inkster Banding Station, shown in the Google Earth screen capture above (yellow rectangle), is a small (0.15 acre) residential urban/suburban property in the city of Inkster, Wayne County, Michigan. We have lived here since 1987, and recorded 145 bird species in and from the yard. The main north-south road at the left of the image is Inkster Road, and the wooded area on the right is part of Lower Rouge Park and includes part of the Bell Branch of the Rouge River watershed (the stream runs north-south under the word "station", and turns northeast from there). Since 2001, I have been banding hummingbirds here, and beginning in the winter of 2003-2004 began songbird banding in "winter" (October-March). In the past 14 winters, I have banded a total of 4793 birds of 35 species. In 2016-2017, a total of 345 new birds of 18 species was banded, which was slightly below average, and a total of 57 individuals of 6 species returned from previous years. Totals are shown below:

Sharp-shinned Hawk - 0 (avg. 0.1)
Cooper's Hawk - 0 (avg. 0.3)
Mourning Dove - 20 (avg. 20.3)
Red-bellied woodpecker - 0 (avg. 1.4)
Downy Woodpecker - 11 (avg. 13.3) [+3 returns]
Hairy Woodpecker - 0 (avg. 1.0)
Blue Jay - 2 (avg. 1.8)
Black-capped Chicakdee - 12 (avg. 14.7) [+4 returns]
Tufted Titmosue - 2 (avg. 1.3)
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1 (avg. 0.3)
White-breasted Nuthatch - 5 (avg. 3.5) [+3 returns]
Brown Creeper - 0 (avg. 0.6)
Carolina Wren - 0 (avg. 0.6)
Winter Wren - 0 (avg. 0.1)
Ruby-crowned  Kinglet - 0 (avg. 0.3)
Hermit Thrush - 0 (avg. 0.1)
American Robin - 2 (avg. 2.0)
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 0 (avg. 0.1)
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1 (first banded here)
Northern Cardinal - 7 (avg. 13.4)
American Tree Sparrow - 17 (avg. 17.8) [+5 returns]
Field Sparrow - 0 (avg.0.1)
Fox Sparrow - 1 (avg. 0.3)
Song Sparrow - 1 (avg. 1.0)
White-throated Sparrow - 0 (avg. 5.8)
White-crowned Sparrow - 0 (avg. 0.3)
Dark-eyed Junco - 46 (avg. 34.5) [+4 returns]
Red-winged Blackbird -  3 (avg. 3.9) [+1 return]
Common Grackle - 1 (avg. 3.2)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 0 (avg. 0.8)
Purple Finch - 0 (avg. 0.1)
House Finch - 28 (avg. 22.8)
Common Redpoll - 0 (avg. 0.1)
Pine Siskin - 0 (avg. 2.3)
American Goldfinch - 185 (avg. 202.9) [+37 returns]

For the past several years, I have covered Belle Isle as part of the Detroit River Christmas Bird Count, along with several friends. Pre-dawn efforts to find owls typically turns up a few Eastern Screech-Owls and sometimes a Great Horned Owl or two. Since 2005, when there were several Northern Saw-whet Owls over-wintering in the 200-acre swamp woods, there have been very few reports (only one year on the CBC). This year we had no less than 7 different saw-whets respond to our audio lures. Most of the banding of these tiny owls is done during spring and fall migration, but their winter habits have apparently been little studied. A warm spell in mid-January, and heroic efforts of the Michigan DNR permits office, allowed a preliminary project to be done. The photo above shows one of the 8 net locations where we tried to catch owls using audio lures on 4 nights. We did hear owls calling at new locations, and these were mapped in addition to the original 7 locations. And...we captured and banded two Northern Saw-whet Owls.

Our final attempt to band was in early March, and we did not hear any owls calling back to our audio lures even though we had set up in an area where there had been birds responding, so it is possible they had already migrated back north (it was a very mild winter). One evening, right after opening the nets, we did catch a different species...

In mid-March, the DNR had to remove about 100 oak trees that had contracted oak wild in the 200 acre woodland where we were working. So, we decided to end our efforts there. The map below shows the various locations of calling owls, owls banded, and our banding sites.

Hopefully we'll be able to try again starting in October, but for now, its time to start thinking about spring banding.