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.


Robin & Jerry Jourdan said...

Brilliant repot, Allen! Congratulation on the Saw-whet captures. "They DO exist!"

Joyce Peterson said...

Very cool!!

Mary Stempien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.