Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Highlights from May 20-26th, 2013

If you are looking for challenges while out birdwatching, this is the time of year to get up early and stay out late. Flycatchers including the not so easy to identify Empidonax flycatchers, female Magnolia Warblers (MAWA), Common Yellowthroats (COYE), and American Redstarts (AMRE) arrived in great numbers on Monday May 20th. Some of the early warblers had a few stragglers as well including the Black-throated Green and Nashville Warbler (NAWA).

PROW male
We had an exciting foreign recovery of a male Wilson Warbler banded by   Manuel Grosselet last October near Vera Cruz, Mexico. Foreign recoveries (those banded by someone and recovered by another banding station) else are few and far between, but are exciting when they are encountered. We also caught an old returning Prothonotary Warbler (PROW) that was banded as an After-Second-Year male and is now at least 5 years old. 

The weather is shaping up for the last pulse of the third wave occurring by mid-week. This will bring in the last peak of the flycatchers, Red-eyed Vireos (REVI), Mourning Warbler (MOWA), Blackpoll Warbler (BLPW), Wilson Warbler (WIWA) and the elusive Connecticut Warbler (CONW).

PROW male back-note white tail spots


Highlights for the week:

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (YBCU)-note rufous wings
YBCU-note tail spots

Here's a reminder that bird plumage does not always follow examples of field marks you will find in the field guide:

Wilson Warbler male with many yellow feathers in his cap

WIWA back

Male Yellow-breasted Chat (YBCH). How do we know it's a male?  
Males have black mouth lining while females have pink. 
Scarlet Tanager (SCTA) female. Note greenish yellow body color versus golden yellow body feathers of a female Summer Tanager.
Olive-sided Flycatcher (OSFL) back.
Not showing the white tufts emphasized in field guides.
OSFL front view. Note the dark gray vest it is wearing. This may be a better field mark than the white on its back. The song/call is more telling as well.
Philadelphia Vireo (PHVI) back- note the white superciliary line.
PHVI: note its lemon yellow throat and belly.
Check out our banding totals at

and Kenn Kaufman's Migration forecast at
Get outside and enjoy the last migrants of spring! 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Highlights for May 12-19th

Even with the end of the Biggest Week in American Birding, there were still many birds to be found in the Lake Erie Marsh Region this past week. Our first Connecticut Warbler was captured and its cousin the Mourning Warbler sang its heart out this week at the station while small numbers were banded. The second pulse of the second wave of migratory songbirds occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday of the week. We were inundated with Magnolia Warblers (MAWA) and Common Yellowthroats (COYE). A few more of the older Yellow Warblers arrived back at the site, with a couple of five-year-olds showing up this week. Several older Baltimore Orioles also made it back home from their Central American winter residence.

Interesting things can be found while gathering data on songbird migration. It is a unique opportunity to have the birds in hand, allowing study of plumages of similar species. Take a look at these second-year (SY) female Black-throated Blue Warblers (BTBW). The primary coverts are diagnostic to age in second-year females, and both of these birds are SY; however, the differences in their plumage was striking. One has a small white handkerchief at the base of its primaries, the other virtually none. The coloration of the plumage of one has a yellowish cast while the other is whitish. You can see why field guides are a useful identification source but can't show all the variability that a species may demonstrate.

Quiz bird back for you to ponder:


We managed to get the whole group of brown thrushes for comparison
Thrushes from left to right: Wood, Hermit, Veery, Swainson's, and Gray-cheeked Thrush
Backs of thrushes from left to right: Wood, Hermit, Veery, Swainson's,
and Gray-cheeked Thrush

Some highlights of the week:
Scarlet Tanager male
Quizbird front view

Wilson Warbler (WIWA)-male
Female Bay-breasted Warbler (BBWA)
Back of female BBWA

Quizbird answer: male Cape May Warbler (CMWA)
Note the fine streaks on the chest and the thin pointed bill.

This week will bring more birds leading into the third wave of migratory songbirds. Stay tuned for your favorite vireos and Empidonax flycatchers!

Check out what we have banded this spring at:
and get migration predictions at 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Highlights May 6th - 12th 2013

The birds did not fail to awe during the Biggest Week in American Birding. Nor did the birds of the second wave fail to appear within their window of opportunity (May 7th- 13th). The southwest winds during the latter part of the week did produce the dominants of female Myrtle Warblers (MYWA) and Ruby-crowned Kinglets (RCKI) and male Magnolia Warblers ((MAWA) with a sprinkle of color from the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles.

One of the pieces of information acquired from this long-term research project is the return of breeding birds to the marsh region of which we capture and document their site fidelity to this important habitat. This week, we captured a Yellow Warbler (YEWA) that was at least eight (8) years old and two that were six (6) years old. A male Common Yellowthroat also returned for his fifth year. This is quite a feat for birds that make a 4,000 plus round trip migration to Central America and back to our marshes each year! It is estimated that most warblers live an average of 3 years, but some definitely beat the odds.

We were fortunate to capture a female Orchard Oriole (OROR) and Baltimore Oriole (BAOR) at the same time, so here they are for a comparison.

Female OROR

Female BAOR

Front of OROR and BAOR female
Backs of OROR and BAOR females
A Red-bellied Woodpecker was encountered in our mist nets this week. This is the fourth one we've banded this spring, along with one previously banded bird we recaptured (past record was 2 in a given year). The Emerald Ash Borer infestation has expanded the habitat use of this species in many areas including Navarre Marsh.

A special prize of the week, was this male Cerulean Warbler (CERW). A tree top warbler on most days.

Back of the CERW- a view that most people do not get to see

Next week the second pulse of the second wave of migrants is expected to occur when the winds shift to the southwest. We look forward to many Magnolia Warblers and Swainson's Thrushes with an increase in redstarts and many other warbler species.

Enjoy the great days of spring!
Check out the Navarre Banding totals at

Monday, May 6, 2013

Highlights from April 29th- May 5th

It has been like the birds know the Biggest Week in American Birding was starting on May 3rd. What the past week had in store for us was the biggest day of the season at the banding station (so far this spring) with over 300 birds and 49 species banded. Not bad for the 3rd of May, and what a way to kick off the festival!

This week we had 26 species of warblers including Blue-winged (BWWA), Golden-winged (GWWA), Tennessee (TEWA), Orange-crowned (OCWA), Nashville (NAWA), Northern Parula (NOPA), Yellow (YEWA), Chestnut-sided (CSWA), Magnolia (MAWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Myrtle (MYWA), Black-throated Green (BTNW), Blackburnian (BLBW), Western Palm (WPWA), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), Black-and-white (BAWW), Prothonotary (PROW), Worm-eating (WEWA), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Mourning (MOWA), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Hooded (HOWA), Wilson's (WIWA), and Canada (CAWA). 

The next burst of southerly winds should bring in the second wave cadre of birds in full glory. Look for a low pressure cell around Oklahoma/Arkansas for the best push of warm tropical air. We have seen a glimpse of the second wave with a few MAWAs, a Scarlet Tanager (SCTA), and Rose-breasted Grosbeak (RBGR) this week.

Take time to notice the small things on these birds. Can you guess what the following birds are by the coloration on their backs?

Although only one bird sports the name "Yellow-rumped Warbler," many warblers have yellow rumps. Here are two of them.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (left) and Magnolia Warbler (right)

Other highlights of the week:
Blackpoll Warbler

And here are some beautiful birds - just for the joy of it!
Male Bay-breasted Warbler


Male BTBW back view-note white wing patch

Male Indigo Bunting (INBU)

Sharp-shinned Hawk (SSHA)
The station has banded nine this spring along with one Cooper's Hawk
Quiz Bird
And the answer to the Quiz Bird: Female Hooded Warbler with its white tail spots and gray hood. Note the appearance of the large bill and large eye.

Migration has definitely gotten off to a good start this year. Follow this magical event with us here and with BSBO's migration predictions compiled by Kenn Kaufman and the banding totals at