Friday, October 30, 2009

Rare Visitor to the Beach Ridge

I suppose I caught everyone's eye by saying rare visitor. This bird is a rare visitor to the beach ridge. This species and the other forest guild of chickadees and titmice rarely make an appearance on the ridge. The winters are too harsh and cold from the lake conditions as well as little food is to be found. As I have said before, we usually have a pair of Black-capped Chickadees nest somewhere near the research site. This year we have had an abundance of chickadees and Downy woodpeckers. I am guessing that the winter was bad last year and mortality was high. Birds counteract a bad year with double-clutching (laying an extra set of eggs). I was initially thinking all the Black-caps we were catching were northern migrants; but since we were capturing just as many new (unbanded) Downy Woodpeckers that it must have been a poor survival winter in 2008 for most cavity nesting birds on the ridge. We have caught nine new chickades and usually we only catch one or two if we are lucky.
This is a female with a "gray" head and the male would have a black thick stripe on its head like the color of the nape on this bird. Note the lower mandible shape is chisel-shaped for probing underneath the bark for food items. (White-breasted Nuthatch)--Beautiful Bird!
This is a quiz bird from behind... My friend Dave Lewis can appreciate this bird since he takes the best bird behind pictures. The tail feathers (retrices) are coming in symmetrically from both sides. Symmetrical molt tells us it is an adult without looking at other feather features. Hatching year birds grow their feathers in all at once. Note the yellow tips on the retrices. Here is the front view! A Cedar Waxwing to brighten the day! A black throat indicates it is a male. Not all waxwings have wax on their wings. Most times it is age related as to how many wax tips they have.
Enjoy the few days of fall. Be on the lookout for the elusive Am. Tree Sparrow. Winter may be around the corner.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great time to see Rusty Blackbirds in the marsh region

Rusty Blackbirds have been present in the marsh about a half hour after sunrise and sporadically throughout the morning with a greater tendency to appear just before noon. They will mix in with other blackbirds but you can hear their distinguishing call of a clinky warble. I do not know how else to describe it. Once you hear it you know it is a Rusty Blackbird from then on. Do you think they may use the call of the Rusty Blackbird as a "wild" sound in a movie. Probably not.
Species diversity is waning, but the American Tree Sparrows have not made it here as far as I have seen, so winter is not officially here. I suppose the official date is December 21st for the winter solstice or as I have been told, meteorologists say December 1st. So whichever your winter date preference, we still have a long way to go before winter sets in. I am thinking positive! Bird banding in Navarre however is winding down. A few more days here and there before the station will be closed for the season.
Many, Many THANKS to all the volunteers who have put in time this year for the good of the project. Your assistance has been invaluable. I hope to see you again soon.
Here are some highlights and some helpful aging and sexing clues to ponder.
Here is a nice looking male Rusty Blackbird on the left with a female on the right. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the male has dark irridescent feathers and the female is gray. You can see how the rust edging on the bird will wear away by spring and leave the nice irridescent feathers of the male or gray feathers on the female.Above is an adult male Blackpoll Warbler. Note all the many defining black streaks on its back and upper tail coverts. The shadow on the rump makes it difficult to see the rump but this is a diagnostic characteristic in the fall for sexing Blackpolls. There are also other characteristics such as wing chord and aging by the primary coverts. (P.S. I hope you positively ID'd this warbler before I told you!)Which one above is a "Blue-head"? Here is a Nashville Warbler on the left with its eye ring, gray head, yellow breast, and no wing bars or tail spots. The right bird is a Blue-headed Vireo with its "blue" head (I would call it gray), white spectacles and wing bars. There is also a size difference with the beaks too. And because I like the curved-billed birds, here are the Carolina Wren and Brown Creeper. Enjoy the warm days. It looks like by the weekend the Fox Sparrows should arrive in better numbers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

First Rusty Blackbird for the fall

Kinglets are in! I really hope you have had the opportunity to watch the little birds. The kinglets are such energy machines for such little birds. Today there also a good movement of American Robins. They have been moving most of the week but decided to pay us a visit on this day. They were our second highest species banded. It was a good day for all the later fall migrants. You will see when you look at the top species list. The highlight for the day was our first Rusty Blackbird. I had heard them a couple days ago. Rusty Blackbirds received their name because of the rusty tipped feathers on their head and chest. This coloration wears away by spring and leaves the iridescent black of the male Rusty and the duller gray of the female. The Rusty Blackbird is the same size and shape of the well known Red-winged Blackbird. This is what I wanted to show in this picture but asking two birds to cooperate at the same time is like asking two kids to behave for pictures. It usually does not happen.
Today was a good day for a late push of Nashville Warblers. We caught five along with a nice looking female Black-throated Green Warbler. Other warblers for today include: Tennessee, Myrtle, and Blackpoll. Information from our friend Kristen in New Jersey, she says the Myrtle Warblers have funneled themselves to the coast. She reports lots and lots of them. The weather patterns last week must have pushed them down the east coast. We surely are not overwhelmed with them around the SW end of Lake Erie.

Main inside top species:
Ruby-crowned Kinglet- 27
American Robin-27
Golden-crowned Kinglet-25
White-throated Sparrow-17
Hermit Thrush-17
Cedar Waxwing-8

Enjoy this bird:
If you look at the alula feather (thumb feather) you can see it is duller brown and off color from the greater coverts. This tells you it is a hatching year bird.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Purple Finch made the day!

Today was definitely a kinglet day and if you can hear the high pitched voices they make your brain was probably exploding from audio overload. Both Ruby-and-Golden-crowned Kinglets seemed to be everywhere on the ridge; and even in the town of Oak Harbor in the afternoon you could hear their tiny little voices in the trees. I hope all of you got the opportunity to hear or see some kinglets today!
Rain showers shut us down early today. Despite the shortened day, it was a grand day to experience the kinglets as I said previously. A highlight for the day was a male and female Purple Finch. The weather was not conducive for a photo but since the male was so bright (Yes, I said this about a male bird!), I just had to try to get a picture.
The strong northeast winds kept the beach nets closed today.
Our top species catch for the main inside nets were
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-20
Hermit Thrush-15
White-throated Sparrow-13
Golden-crowned Kinglet-11
Winter Wren-6
Other highlights were another Field Sparrow and a couple Slate-colored Junco. This time we had a male junco. The two juncos we have caught previously were females. I realize it is October, but when the weather is comfortable for you to get out, please do! You never know what you may see! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Serenaded by White-throated Sparrows!

Another brisk morning with fairly strong northwesterly winds made for a slow going day. However, once the sun came out, some of the small birds became a little more active. Fifty-five new banded birds, 35 recaptures, and 999 fallen leaves were the catch in the mist nets for today. No, I did not count every last leaf, but there were more leaves than birds. This morning nets were set up with a loud chorus from White-throated Sparrows both singing and giving their typical sharp chip note. This did translate into them being the number one captured bird but there were a lot more in the marsh than we banded. Most of them did not fly or move around much during the day.
The warmer last net check round produced these two species to add to the day’s list. Both have the same genus scientific name (Vermivora). You can see similarities in the head, bill shape, and size.
The bird on the right is a Nashville Warbler with its gray head, distictive eye ring, and bright yellow breast. The other bird is the quiz bird for the day. I gave you this bird a week or so ago and mentioned that it will come back to help you remember or refresh your memory. Here is the left bird from the top if that helps. Can you see how camouflaged it is from above. No accipiter will see this bird flying overhead. See below and note the pattern on its chest. The gray streaking helps give it away to me with the split eye ring. Here is the side view of the bird with yellow undertail coverts.

Okay that is enough hints to give you!

Beach top species:
White-throated Sparrow-3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-3
Gray Catbird-1

Main Inside top species:
White-throated Sparrow-19
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-6
Winter Wren-4
Golden-crowned Kinglet-4
Swainson’s Thrush-3
Hermit Thrush-3
Nine species of warbler were seen including Orange-crowned Warbler (quiz bird answer), Nashville, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Black-throated Green, Ovenbird, and Common Yellowthroat. Another highlight of the day was this Philadelphia Vireo.
Some of these species we are seeing need to head south! The weekend sounds good for being outside so I hope you can take some time to enjoy the outdoors.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kinglets were number one today!

One hundred and three new birds banded with 47 recaptures. I need not tell you what bird species were remaining on the ridge for another day.
The highlights of the day were these Spizella sparrows and a male Black-throated Blue Warbler. I may have to admit that it is getting close to the tail end of fall songbird migration. The species diversity went way down today. Only five species of warbler were seen including Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, American Redstart, and Common Yellowthroat. Before I give in, I will have to see what tomorrow will bring. A northwest wind is in the forecast. If that holds true, it may be a pleasant day for birds.

Beach top species:
White-throated Sparrow-7
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-4
Blackpoll Warbler-2

Main Inside top species:
Golden-crowned Kinglet-22
White-throated Sparrow-19
Myrtle Warbler-13
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-6
Blackpoll Warbler-5
These sparrows are immatures with the beak on the Chipping Sparrow is still changing from a lighter color to the black as we most readily recognize it. The Field Sparrow looks pretty much like it would in the fall plumage. The Field Sparrow had immature pointed feathers to determine its age as well as an unossified skull. If ever you need an opportunity to laugh or smile just look at a kinglet. I think they can make anyone smile. Enjoy the day!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Crisp cool morning makes for slow moving birds

I was hoping for an influx of kinglets but not today. It was very chilly with temps down to 33 degrees so no smart kinglet was going to move around until it warmed up. You could see the cloud bank line over the lake. Michigan was getting sunshine and we were in the clouds for most of the morning. This kept the temperatures cold until afternoon. It was very quiet birdwise in the marsh today. Some of the birds were skinny but not most of the Blackpoll Warblers.
You can tell there has been a turnover of Swainson’s Thrushes to Hermit Thrushes. We are getting only a few new Swainson’s as compared to the number of new Hermit Thrushes.
The highlight of the day was this bird: Here is its back. Can you tell what it is? Sorry about you folks who are colorblind. There is some blue on the wings and tail. That was probably a big hint.

Beach top species:
Golden-crowned Kinglet-8
Blackpoll Warbler-6
White-throated Sparrow-5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-4

Main Inside top species:
Blackpoll Warbler-10
Golden-crowned Kinglet-8
Hermit Thrush-8
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-5

Here is the side view of the highlight bird. It is a very nice looking adult male Indigo Bunting. It too has its basic plumage. It still has blue-edged primary coverts which makes it an adult.
As you can see, there is more outside than one would expect for October. Nine species of warbler today were seen including Nashville, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Blackpoll, Ovenbird, Mourning, and Common Yellowthroat. Also another highlight was our 3rd Marsh Wren for the fall season! Enjoy!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

BSBO brings the birds to hundreds of scouts at Davis Besse Power Station

A Canadian high pressure dropped down to make it a great day to be outside in the sunshine with birds and several hundred scouts in front of Davis Besse Power Station. Great volunteers kept the birds coming all day as I told the scouts about the importance of the Lake Erie Marshes for migratory birds and then showed them a few birds we banded. Some were really into the birds and others will now know that there are tiny little kinglets in their world.
Back at the banding station behind the power station is where all the work took place. Okay maybe not all of it, but it made my job much easier. One hundred sixty-one new banded birds and 67 recaptures. Yes, as you can guess when someone taking a bird out of the net says they have a banded bird to record, whoever is recording can guess it is a Blackpoll Warbler. However, the banded Mourning Warbler is still hanging around as well. It is well equipped with fat reserves. Maybe it is waiting for a northerly wind to help it go south.

Beach top species:
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-6
Golden-crowned Kinglet-5
Blackpoll Warbler-3
Nashville Warbler-2
Hermit Thrush-2
Gray Catbird-2

Main Inside top species:
Hermit Thrush-21
Golden-crowned Kinglet-20
White-throated Sparrow-19
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-14
Common Grackle-11
Can you tell the grackles invaded?! These birds should have waited until Monday for Nancy who loves them. They bite and scratch. I think that is what she likes about them.

A quiz bird for you!
The high pressure system is to stick around for a few days so I do not expect too much movement in. Today there was thirteen species of warblers (Tennessee, Nashville, Northern Parula (a very nice female which I showed off to the scouts!), Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Blackpoll, American Redstart (Also a nice adult male to show the scouts. I call it the Halloween bird with its orange and black costume), Ovenbird, Connecticut (Yes, this is another new banded one!), Mourning, and Common Yellowthroat. You do know what this means don’t you? There are no excuses for you to not get outside and rack up the warbler species. They are still quite a few around!

P.S. quiz bird answer is a Hatching Year White-crowned Sparrow with its brown and tan striped head. You see the similarities to the adult which has the flesh colored beak, and its stripes would be a crisp black and white. I call them Michigan football players because they look likeMichigan helmets with their dark and light stripes similar to a White-crowned Sparrow's head. I probably will upset any Michigan fans unless they too agree with me that the elegant crisp white and black head stripes of the White-crowned look like their favorite football helmets.
P.S.S. Many thanks to Mark, Keith, Tracy, Brenda, and Jay for all their help during the day. It was a longer than ususal day.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

First Fox Sparrow of the season!

More southwesterly winds today; not as strong as yesterday, but it still produced some great birds. I hope all of you have not stopped searching for fall songbirds. Take a look at this handsome looking male:
It deserves a whistle, if I do say so myself!

Ninety-nine new birds banded today with 51 recaptures. If you follow this blog, then you can probably guess what the number one species recaptured was: Blackpoll Warbler. There were some porky ones too, with fat classes in the 4.5-5.5 range, and weights of 18-20 grams. A Blackpoll Warbler with no fat would weigh around 12-13 grams depending on its size.
Beach top species:
Blackpoll Warbler-4
White-throated Sparrow-3
Common Yellowthroat-3
Golden-crowned Kinglet-2
Gray Catbird-2
Main Inside top species:
White-throated Sparrow-13
Swainson’s Thrush-9
Blackpoll Warbler-6
Hermit Thrush-5

Too many good birds to spend time writing a lot of text. We had eight species of sparrow observed on the site today, including a Snow Bunting that flew over; are you feeling like winter should be here? Just say, “No!” Eastern Towhee, Fox, Song, Lincoln, Swamp, White-throated, and Slate-colored Junco were the other seven sparrow species. Here are four that we had at the same time:
Here are front and back views to help with ID
I'm giving you one of the other sparrows as a quiz bird. Give it your best shot!
Another treat was the American Woodcock with its camouflaged feather coat. Look at its toes too. There are so many interesting features on a woodcock.
The Quiz bird is a Lincoln Sparrow with its buffy chest markings with dark brown flecks. It also has brownish-gray wings unlike the other small sparrow (Swamp) in the top group shot.
Group sparrow pictures from left to right: Swamp, White-throated, Song, and Fox Sparrow.

Get out this weekend and take part in National Wildlife Refuges Week. There are lots of activities at your nearby National Wildlife Refuge (Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge). Check out the Observatory’s website for more event details. (

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First Eastern Towhee heard and seen this fall

The light winds did not happen as predicted so no good movement of kinglets on the ridge today. With southwesterly winds, ten species of warblers were seen including Nashville, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Western Palm, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Ovenbird, and Common Yellowthroat. Today was the first we had seen or heard an Eastern Towhee for the season. We have yet to band one this fall. Towhees usually are only visitors to the beach ridge they do not stay in winter nor do they breed there.
One-hundred and one new birds were banded with 48 recaptures. Not as many banded Blackpoll Warblers as in the past days. A good movement of White-throated and Swamp Sparrows seemed to have come in overnight. We saw and caught more than we have all fall.

The beach nets were not very active today with nine birds where Blackpoll Warbler was the top species.
Main Inside top species:
Blackpoll Warbler-24
Swainson’s Thrush-12
White-throated Sparrow-9
Golden-crowned Kinglet-6
Gray-cheeked Thrush-5
Hermit Thrush-4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-4
Swamp Sparrow-4
To add some color to the fall season take a look at this guy!
This time of the fall colorful birds are hard to find so enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

First Orange-crowned Warbler of the fall season

Westerly winds and I was hopeful for a good day. It was a good day in that the sun came out and we caught 13 species of warblers (Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Ovenbird, Connecticut, Mourning, and Common Yellowthroat). Notice the new warbler listed? Does it look like this bird? It is the first for the fall. Not the best looking specimen for an Orange-crowned Warbler but that is what it is. Just remember I gave you the name of this bird. A picture of this species may appear in a later posting so take note of the field marks. Best of all, make sure they are the field marks that work for you to identify the species. I use the split eye ring, and yellowish breast with the faint gray streaks. Of course it has yellow undertail coverts which definitely differentiates it from the Tennessee Warbler which has white undertail coverts. Some think the O-C has a line through its eye not seeing the split eye ring. It is a pretty bland looking bird because it has no wing bars or tail spots. Otherwise it is a nice looking green color if I do say myself. Whatever you do, please do not rely on seeing the orange patch on its head. The orange patch is more prevalent on a male and then it is not so obvious on most. Use other characteristics to help you ID the Orange-crowned.
Eighty-five new banded birds including 36 recaptures were today’s catch.
Another highlight of the day besides the O-C was another Connecticut Warbler. Yes, you probably thought it was a typo above but it was not. There are not many kinglets around yet. My predictability for fall movements is slim but from my experience, larger kinglet movements have occurred in the southwestern shore of Lake Erie on calm nights. Maybe tomorrow will be a good kinglet day.
Beach top species:
Blackpoll Warbler -5
Gray Catbird-3
Red-winged Blackbird-2

Main Inside top species:
Blackpoll Warbler-18
Swainson’s Thrush-10
Myrtle Warbler-7
Gray-cheeked Thrush-6
White-throated Sparrow-6
Get outside if you can and enjoy the sights and sounds of fall. This morning a Great Horned Owl was serenading me as I put up the nets. You never know what you will find.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Not a bad day for October birds!

With southwesterly winds I had no idea of what really to expect birdwise. The weatherman was not good at predicting today’s weather. Sunshine was what he said but unfortunately he got paid for today being not so correct on his forecast. I wish most people could be paid for this accuracy. Anyhow, the day produced one hundred eleven new birds and 50 recaptures. Once again even you can predict what the recaptures were: Blackpoll Warbler and thrushes. Ten species of warbler were seen today including Nashville, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Black-throated Green, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Ovenbird, and Common Yellowthroat.
Beach top species:
Blackpoll Warbler-11
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-2
Swainson’s Thrush-2

Main Inside top species:
Blackpoll Warbler-34
Swainson’s Thrush-10
Cape May Warbler-5
Bay-breasted Warbler-5
Myrtle Warbler-5
Brown Creeper-5
White-throated Sparrow-5
Quiz bird for the day:
Take special note of the face pattern… It looks the same in spring and fall. Remember it has wing bars.
There is still good weather ahead. The wonderful weather people are predicting those white flakes by the beginning of next week. AARGH! Once again I hope they are not correct on their forecast.

P.S. the quiz bird is a hatching year Black-thorated Green Warbler. I did see a nice adult male while conducting the point count this morning but it did not want to get any "bling" today.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First Golden-crowned Kinglets and Hermit Thrushes of the season

The first day of October and you would think it was the last day of October with the cold temperature. Freeze and frost warnings were forecasted for the morning. Yes, it was in the 30’s this morning and clear. A good night for all those banded Blackpoll Warblers to leave town and thankfully most of them did. Before I forget again, yesterday we caught an old female Common Yellowthroat that we had banded in 2001 as an adult. So she was at least 9 years old! She was one sharp looking yellowthroat. Some of these birds have seen more of the world than I. She only weighs the equivalent of a couple quarters. The miles she has tallied is unfathomable to me.

One hundred fifty-two new birds banded with 44 recaptures. I am so glad the banded Blackpolls have moved on. The Blackpoll Warbler tied second place with White-throated Sparrow behind Swainson’s Thrush today as the top species banded. Highlights for the day were a female Sharp-shinned Hawk, and the first Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, and snowbird for the fall season. I guess it was appropriate to have the chilly birds here on this morning. We had an increase in Swamp Sparrows today as well. The sparrow guild will be increasing in the next several weeks. Fox Sparrow is yet to come. Yay! Eleven species of warbler were seen today including Tennessee, Nashville, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Blackburnian, Blackpoll, American Redstart, Ovenbird, and Common Yellowthroat.
Beach top species:
Blackpoll Warbler-5
Swamp Sparrow-4
Swainson’s Thrush-3

Main Inside top species:
Swainson’s Thrush-30
White-throated Sparrow-16
Blackpoll Warbler-13
Gray-cheeked Thrush-12
Brown Creeper-9
Hermit Thrush-5

Quiz bird for you: Here is the back.(You never see the whole bird sometimes so give it a guess!)
Here is an interesting looking bird. It looks like it had lost its original facial feathers to mites of something and they grew in without pigment on this Common Grackle. Doesn't htis bird look evil?! One of the highlights of the day:
A hatching year Sharp-shinned Hawk with its vertical breast streaks and yellow eye.

A front view of the quiz bird! Note the pink bill. The outer tail coverts on the back view should have given you the clue it was a snowbird. That is what my mother calls the junco. Since in banding we need to differentiate from all the subspecies of juncos in case the others become more common, banders call this bird Slate-colored Junco. This is a female. Tomorrow is forecasted for rain so we shall see if the weather persons know what they are talking about. The weekend should be good once the rain leaves Saturday morning.