Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fall migration is exciting...

I am still excited about fall migration season. The first Swainson’s Thrush for the season added to the other 34 birds we captured for the day. Fourteen species tallied including six warbler species. Three recaptures rounded out the day.

It was a run on Eastern Phoebes on the beach. Four immature phoebes with their loose feathers that make them look silly.

Top four species banded
Gray Catbird - 8
Magnolia Warbler - 7
Common Yellowthroat - 6
Eastern Phoebe - 4

The highlight for the day was an adult male Mourning Warbler. It was processed and out the door before I could get his picture! Some days you have to enjoy the brief good moments before they are gone!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fouteen species made up the catch...

This day made me begin to get excited about fall migration season. Birds picked up today with a calm morning to allow for some migrants to drop in. It's not much but a 36 bird day after less than double digits for a day seemed like things were looking up. Fourteen species made up the catch including five recaptures. Seven warblers were captured today (Black-throated Blue, Common Yellowthroat, Ovenbird, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Wilson’s, and Mourning). Yes, I realize the best warbler has been seen on the Magee Bird Trail but I have yet to see one Blackburnian. I am glad others are getting to enjoy the birds. Yes, they are seeing multiples of Blackburnians. My time will come.

One of the attractive warblers in fall is the Chestnut-sided Warbler. Their basic plumage is quite beautiful or handsome depending on what sex it is. Even if you cannot see any chestnut on its sides see if you can see the upper tail coverts. The males will have very distinct black centers to the upper tail coverts. You are already gazing at the bird to identify it, why not see if you can tell what sex it is? Challenge yourself!

Another challenge is the Baltimore Orioles at this time of year. Unless you look closely you may be calling the Baltimores you see- females. Well, the immatures look female-like—Hmmm what would be the advantage of that? Survival tactic, it is best to blend in. If you look at these photos can you tell which is an adult female, immature hatching year male, and an unknown immature (hatching year)?

You can actually tell by just looking at the heads of these birds. First look at the beak color. An adult Baltimore will have a slate gray bill with the upper mandible being slightly darker than the lower. The bill looks that way on an adult male too but who looks at the bill with the brightly colored black and orange bird? The immatures have a lower mandible that is not gray but flesh to pinkish color more so towards the base of the bill. The bill has not matured or reached its hardened state. By spring the bill will not be a characteristic to use for aging but it works in the fall at this time and latitude. This bill coloration difference occurs in many if not most of immatures of the same species. It is very apparent with adult and immatures of Yellow Warblers. Okay back to these pictures. The immature pictures you will see some black coming in on the face of one. That bird you can sex as male. The other one has to go as unknown at this time. I always make notes because there are some that I really think could be females because of their pale coloration even at this date. A few of these birds will return to this site next spring and can be compared with my notes and what the bird is in its alternate plumage. Unfortunately not many come back to this same exact location for much of a sample size to amount to anything but anecdotal information. Wing chord length does not help because of the great overlap in measurements of both sexes.

All sorts of things to ponder… Enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2008

I wonder why I get up so early?

Another very slow week, some days I wonder why I get up so early to catch a handful of birds. Wednesday was especially a yawner with a total of 5 birds for the day. Birds do not look at the calendar so they migrate when the conditions are right. This week the winds were predominantly out of the East and Southeast so not much migration occurred here. It did give us time to really study the birds we did catch.

August fall songbird migration encompasses the southward movement of flycatchers, Yellow, Canada, and Prothonotary Warblers. These species will not be around by mid-September when the higher diversity of warblers will be in the marsh region.

For the week, 61 new birds were banded. Another 12 recaptures can be added to the total capture for the week. Twenty-three species including 7 species of warblers were caught in the mist nets. The warbler species were: Wilson’s, Magnolia, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Waterthrush, Chestnut-sided, and Black-throated Blue. Eastern Wood Pewee, Traill’s Flycatcher, and Eastern Phoebe comprise the flycatcher guild for the week. Veeries made an appearance and were the second highest species caught for the week with six individuals captured. Gray catbird was the big catch with sixteen birds netted.

Highlights for the week were the American Woodcock and an Eastern Screech Owl. The woodcock was a male with its narrow outer primaries and shorter bill than the female. The owl appeared to be the runt of the clutch with a high percentage of its juvenile plumage still remaining at this late date.

Black-throated Blue Warbler males are one of the few that do not have a different basic plumage for immatures and adults. This is a hatching year (immature) male with its green edged primary coverts and alula.

The female is also a hatching year bird above and has no white on the wing. I have seen some hatching year females with some white at the base of the primaries making up the wing patch.

Take time to enjoy the season,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fall Migration has started...

The start of fall migration songbird monitoring is slow. No more than 15 birds captured a day for on average of six hours with 21 nets. The winds have been out of the Southwest or East which is not the best for fall migration here along the lake where the Navarre ridge juts out into Lake Erie toward the East.

Though the winds are from the wrong direction, we have managed to capture a couple migrant birds each day. For the five days of operation we banded 75 birds including 23 species. Seven warbler species were banded (Yellow, Magnolia, American Redstart, Prothonotary, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, and Canada).

The first basic American Redstart males we are seeing look like females. The feathers in the axillaries are brighter orange contrasting with the surrounding lemon yellow under the wings. Females have all lemon yellow feathers in the axillaries and under the wing. Adult American Redstarts are easy to identify since they are black and orange.

We have caught a couple immature Yellow-shafted flickers (Northern Flicker). One we captured had its prebasic breast feathers growing in. Notice the juvenile feathers are loose textured and the newly growing ones are more structured.

Looking forward to more fall like winds to help the birds move south.
Enjoy the early season!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Unusual Catch-Mourning Dove

Another light southwest wind made the lake quite calm and peaceful if I might say so myself. I was surprised that the boaters were not out on the lake. They lost out on a beautiful day. Back to the birds. Today’s catch included 107 new banded birds of 21 species with an additional 27 recaptures. Eleven warblers graced us with their presence Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted, Nashville, Blackburnian, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Cape May, Black and White, and Tennessee. Once again thrushes and catbirds were the main birds again. We did capture the adult male Mourning Warbler again. He is always a handsome sight to see!
Highlights for the day are the two Red-breasted Nuthatches that were taunting me high up in the Hackberry trees and the first Brown Creeper and White-throated Sparrow for the fall season. Southerly winds still had a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher hanging around and of course another great bird today was a Blackburnian Warbler!
Species and Number Banded
Blackpoll Warbler - 22
Swainson’s Thrush -21
Gray-cheeked Thrush -17
Gray Catbird -14
Common Yellowthroat - 9

An unusual catch was a Mourning Dove. They may fly into the net but the small mesh size keeps them from getting caught. The net mesh size is 30 mm which is for warbler sized birds. This dove was an adult female. It has obvious molt limit (last year’s feathers or more than one generation of feathers) and no iridescence on the head.
Today is a great day for quizzes. Here is a Black and White Warbler we captured today. Can you tell me what age and sex this bird is?

Enjoy one more Quiz Bird!

P.S. Black and White Warbler is a Hatching Year Male—gray face with distinct black stripes on the flanks. Females have blurry streaks on the flanks. Adult males have black cheek patches with distinct black striping on flanks.
The other quiz bird is a female Cape May Warbler—remember the fine streaks on the chest and the fine bill.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008