Tuesday, June 23, 2009

West Sister Island Paradise

It is that time of year, the end of June, where we make our annual trek to West Sister Island to check on the colonial waterbirds nesting on the island. This island is the most important island for nesting herons and egrets in the Great Lakes. It holds 40% of all the nesting herons and egrets in the Great Lakes. Pretty impressive that an 80 acre island can be so important. The island is owned and managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and was designated as a wilderness area by F.D. Roosevelt. The Ohio Division of Wildlife also is a partner in conducting nest surveys with USFWS and Observatory personnel to monitor distribution and numbers of each species of Great Blue Heron, Greg Egret, Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Little Blue Heron, and Black-crowned Night-Heron.

Let me paint a picture of the island paradise. Imagine lush vegetation due to the fertilizer produced by concentrated nutrients from fecal material that comes from the nesting birds. The trees are predominantly Hackberry with some more than 100 feet tall. The understory is quite impressive with extra large wildflowers such as Jack-in-the–Pulpit, Solomon’s Seal, Broad-leafed Waterleaf , Stinging Nettle, and Jewelweed to name a few. There is Poison Ivy on the island that is larger than most people have ever seen. It is a big as small bushes with some having the trunk diameter of 2-4 inches. I am not kidding! The giants are an allergic person's nightmare!

This was a very successful trip with the great help of everyone from Ottawa NWR and Ohio Division of Wildlife ferried everyone over on their boats; It was a fairly warm day but the bugs only bothered us the last hour; we hit the mother load of Black-crowned Night-Herons in the managed cut tree area; and the worst part was it was the crappiest day I have ever had out there!
What do nestling wading birds do when they want to scare a predator away? Show you what they had for breakfast or shoot the recycled version of it from the other end. The smell was very fishy I must say!

We banded 128 colonial waders this trip. There may be another trip if weather cooperates and transportation is available. The wilderness area is only entered on planned minimal occasions. The herons and egrets will abandon the area or nests if disturbed early in the nest laying stages. This is why they nest on islands or secluded areas. If we return to the island this year it will be to band the Great Blue Herons and the little whites (Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Little Blue Herons). We have seen adult snowies and cattles but no Little Blues. However, an immature was seen flying from the island to the mainland. So they nest out there somewhere. The little whites are difficult to distinguish as nestlings and all of these species are white. It is best to verify with an adult bird seen near the nest. This trip it appeared that the Cattle Egrets were still on eggs.

Snowy Egret Chick ready to be banded.

Birds banded by species:
Double-crested Cormorant -2
Great Egret – 16
Black-crowned Night-Heron – 83
Herring Gull – 17
Snowy Egret – 10
This is Cliff and Lester showing their excitement early in the day. They are holding onto the birds' heads because the Double-crested Cormorant have razor sharp bills. Their excitement waned toward the end of the trip.

This is an island paradise to the birds but I would not call it paradise for humans. We all smelled the same when we left the island and those that did not go with us could definitely tell where we had been!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Breeding Birds of June

Running the Navarre MAPS station was pretty slow and not eventful. The number one bird was Common Grackle. One interesting feature was that one net had 4 unbanded Yellow Warblers. With the migration station less than 100 yards away, I would have thought that this many unbanded Yellows in one net on one net check was unlikely. I guess this says a lot about site fidelity and the cueing in on the small sites for breeding. Remember this spring we captured the Nashville Warbler that we had banded a couple years ago?! This shows that at least for this one bird it did come back to use the same stopover habitat emphasizing the importance habitats for not only breeding and migration. Hmmmm...

Even better yet at the Oak Opening MAPS station yesterday, we recaptured a female Blue Grosbeak which we banded last June on the same area. Hot diggedity! The other highlights for the day at the Oaks-as I call it, was a Red-headed Woodpecker and a male Hooded Warbler! The site is not too far from Mallard Lake where I know on previous years a pair has nested there.
It was a good day for hatching year Eastern Bluebirds with their spotted thrush breasts too.

Quiz Bird! Go for it!

Top 5 bird species were:
Eastern Bluebird - 5
Field Sparrow - 4
American Goldfinch - 4
Eastern Phoebe -3
Indigo Bunting - 3

AND to top off the day, there had been a recent emergence of toads and frogs. They were barely over a half inch long and they were hopping off the sand trails in the tens or more. They blended in very well. A few that were caught looked like toads and some tree frogs. Boy were they cute!
Answer to the Quiz bird below:

Blue Grosbeak! Looking for the male next time! For another quiz, can you tell me which Eastern Phoebe below is the hatching year bird?-yes, the babies are out!

See the buffy wing bars? That bird is the youngun'!

Never a boring moment in NATURE I say! Enjoy!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The last day of spring migration season brings a Connecticut Warbler!

Today was the last day for spring migration monitoring and first day for the Navarre Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (M.A.P.S.). The MAPS banding station has 10 mist nets and is about 100 yards north on the same ridge as the migration station.

What a day when you can see a Connecticut Warbler, let alone in the month of June!
(Take a look at her eye ring! Tiny little feathers make up that eye ring. How amazing!)

The winds overnight were out of the southwest which made the catch better than previous days. There were still some Swainson’s Thrushes to come through. Three Swainson’s Thrushes on the migration station and two were captured on the MAPS station. They are not giving up the race yet, but what do you think about a White-throated Sparrow in NW Ohio in June?! Along with these were the trio of Canada, Wilson’s, and Mourning Warblers. You never know birds what may be straggling north. Navarre Migration top 6 species:
Traill’s Flycatcher – 8
Yellow Warbler – 5
Red-winged Blackbird – 5
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher – 4
Wilson’s Warbler -3
Indigo Bunting -3

Navarre MAPS top 5 species:

Red-winged Blackbird - 6

Common Grackle - 4

Gray Catbird - 3

Traill's Flycatcher - 2

Swainson's Thrush -2

As I close out the spring migration portion of this blog for the year, I want to take my hat off to all the volunteers who spent hours of running, walking, working on the Navarre research project. It has been a great spring with this being the second highest for the station in all of its history. We could not have done it without all of you! This spring was a steady volume of birds for several weeks and volunteers were willing to pitch in when needed. I can’t say enough to thank you! It is not as easy as it looks and until you experience it, you don’t really know why I call it work. Extracting the birds from the mist nets, transporting to the banding station, banding, measuring their wing, checkign for energetic condition, weighing and getting them out of the door as quickly and safely as possible takes teamwork! It was a great spring and I now look forward to the fall season to see how well the birds did on the breeding grounds. In the mean time I will be conducting a couple MAPS projects so I will intermittently be posting on those days. Enjoy the summer and study up for your fall confusing warblers! It will be here faster than you know!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Slow days of summer...

It is June! This is a time when you think more of breeding birds than migrants. However, some are still heading north for the quick opportunity to breed and turn around and return south again. Some of those include the Mourning and Wilson’s Warblers we caught today. Migration is definitely winding down with mostly second year females. Thirty-four new birds were netted for the day with 15 recaptures.

Highlights for the day include a Cedar Waxwing and several Mourning Warblers one of which was a male (no kidding! He is not in a hurry, apparently…).

Top 4 species:
Red-winged Blackbird – 9
Mourning Warbler – 3
Yellow Warbler – 3 (one of which had considerable amount of fat reserves)
Traill’s Flycatcher – 3

The numbers are telling that the season is coming to a close. It sure was a great one for all to experience. Here is a quiz bird for you:
Here is the front view: Do you see any resemblance to the thrush family? This is a hatching year American Robin.

Did you know you can tell male from female Cedar Waxwing by whether or not it has a black beard or not? This one is female with a brown throat. Cedar Waxwings are such sleek looking birds!
Enjoy the birds in your yard!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Third day of Northeast winds make for a slow day...

Can we say another Northeaster for the third day in a row! Not much chance of having the last migrants hanging out on the ridge with this kind of wind. However, you should not discount that there would be any migrants. What do you think about a Nashville Warbler in June? Here she is: Warblers seen or heard were Yellow, Nashville, American Redstart, Prothonotary (caught another female, no brood patch yet on this one), Mourning, Common Yellowthroat, and Wilson’s.

Top 2 species:
Red-winged Blackbirds – 6 (birds gathering food times for their young)
Wilson’s Warbler – 2

If we get another northeaster tomorrow it will be an extremely slow day. While Mark, Dan and Barb Myers were in Navarre, I started the Monitoring Avian Productivity breeding bird project at the Oak Openings Metropark for the 16th year today with the assistance of Mark Bleim and Karen Mitchell. We netted one great migrant: Olive-sided Flycatcher! A beauty! Sorry the camera had bad batteries so no picture! The habitat is savanna and woods habitats where we have our research site set up. The catch for the day included Olive-sided Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, Northern Cardinal, and American Goldfinch.

We are hoping for a different wind direction for tomorrow… Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Connecticut Warbler still around the marshes...

Another Northeaster and the bird numbers were similar to yesterday with 42 new banded birds and 15 recaptures. The male Mourning Warbler is still hanging around hoping to find a girlfriend I suppose. A female Connecticut Warbler also made an appearance today. Eleven species of warbler were seen or heard today including Yellow (the new banded ones still coming in with some fat reserves), Chestnut-sided (singing on territory), Black-and-white (female with a brood patch!), American Redstart, Prothonotary, Ovenbird, Connecticut, Mourning, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s, and Canada.

Top 4 species:
Traill’s Flycatcher – 17
Red-winged Blackbird – 5
Canada Warbler – 3
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher – 3

A high pressure sytem is to be overhead for tomorrow so the sun will shine but the lake breeze will prevail.
It will slow the bird action on the beach ridges. For something to do, try getting a big day for June! See how many bird species you can get in one day!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lincoln Sparrow- a highlight for the day!

I found out I am as good as the weather people! The winds really were blowing from the NNE this morning. So the weather today was not conducive for a big day for June. It was not bad if you can say we had eleven species of warbler with Mourning, Wilson’s, and Black-throated Green Warbler singing. Forty-two new banded species with 20 recaptures including a highlight of a Lincoln Sparrow and a new female Prothonotary Warbler!

Enjoy the last of the Lincoln Sparrowssss…..

Why not have another quiz bird? Here you go...

Note the yellow legs helps give it away this time of year and in the fall as well with its yellow pads to its feet. Nice female Blackpoll Warbler right?!

Have a good day!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cool southerly breeze brought in a few migrants

Today held with the winds but the temps were sure not what the weatherperson predicted unless you count the mid-seventies by 3 PM. Despite the cool dampness of the morning we mustered a respectable number of 84 new birds banded and 29 recaptures. Most of the recaptures are breeding birds on site except for the Veery, Gray-cheeked Thrushes (4), and a couple banded Swainson’s Thrushes. A couple Wilson’s Warblers and a Mourning Warbler were still singing on site today. There was a number of Great-crested Flycatchers and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers that came in overnight. Thirteen warblers were seen or heard in Navarre including Yellow (some still carrying fat reserves), Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Prothonotary, Northern Waterthrush, Mourning, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s, and Canada. The numbers of warbler species are decreasing daily I must say.
Highlights for the day were a female Blackburnian Warbler! A couple other highlights but thought I would let you guess what they are with a couple quiz bird photos.

Quiz bird number 1:

Quiz bird number 2:

Top 5 species:
Traill’s Flycatcher – 27
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher – 8
Swainson’s Thrush – 5
Mourning Warbler – 4
Gray Catbird – 4

Take a look at this female Indigo Bunting. She has an extraordinary amount of blue on her for being a second-year bird. The coverts tell us she was hatched last year. Tomorrow may be good for the second day of June if you get out early. The winds are to turn to the NNE so depending on when that happens will determine what birds stayed, went or which ones came in. When you say the month of June you still can’t wish for the species list you had in mid-May. Okay you can wish but do not hold your breath! Quiz bird answers.....Female Tennessee Warbler and Great-crested Flycatcher! Did you see all the rust color in its wings and tail of the Great-crested Flycatcher?! Good!