Friday, April 30, 2010

A Great Time to be OUTSIDE!

Today was such a great day to be outside! I hope everyone got out today because it was spectacular and I think tomorrow will be even better. You may have to dodge a few raindrops but the temps are to be in the low 60's overnight and in the mid-70's during the day. That tells me birds will be moving north overnight on a southerly wind. It was great to be in the marsh early this morning. There were at least 5 Whip-poor-wills calling and while putting up the nets one zipped past me and landed within 20 feet and we were lucky to catch it in the net a little later.

We had 140 new banded birds and two recaptures including a Red-winged Blackbird and an Old Yeller--Yellow Warbler which is at least 2 years old and has made the trip from Central America and back a couple times at least! We heard or saw 15 species of warbler including: Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Nashville, Northern Parula, Yellow, Myrtle, Western Palm, Black-and-white, Prothonotary, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, and Yellow-breasted Chat. Seventy-nine species were observed in the marsh. There were tons of Blue Jays moving again today!

A close-up of one of the highlights today: (Nice looking female!) Just imagine this bird skulking in the underbrush and all you get is a glimpse of its head.

Females have gray crowns and males have black crowns. Males can have some gray on the head but the crown is black.

Top 7 species:
White-throated Sparrow (WTSP)-70
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (RCKI)-9
Western Palm Warbler (WPWA)-5
Northern Waterthrush (NOWA)-5
Ovenbird (OVEN)-4
Gray Catbird (GRCA)-4
House Wren (HOWR)-4

Another highlight of the day was this bird and you usually see it flying away if it flushes in front of you. So here is its tail for identification:
White tail spots versus tan tells you it is a male Whip-poor-will. Females have tan tail spots.

And here is a view that you may never get to see; the top of a Whip-poor-will's head. Such beautiful colored feathers and so camouflaged. It has long rictal bristles for assisting in capturing insects with its big mouth!
If you have the opportunity to get outside to go birding around dawn--say 6 a.m. or so--listen for the call of the Whip-poor-wills.

Whatever you do, I would try to get outside tomorrow; it should be a great day. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On the cusp of the first wave...

There were calm winds when we arrived in the marsh this morning but winds began to blow out of the south at sunrise. Of course White-throated Sparrows were serenading the dawn and a couple Myrtles and Nashvilles chimed in as the sun rose. A beautiful day to be outside, I must say. Tomorrow looks to be better for birds with the winds to remain southerly overnight. Quiz bird from the top side:
Eighty-four new banded species with two recaptures tells us that the earlier banded birds have left for northern climes. Nine warblers were heard or seen including Blue-winged, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Western Palm, Black-and-white, and Common Yellowthroat. Highlights were hearing a Baltimore Oriole and catching a Red-breasted Nuthatch and a Blue-winged Warbler male.
Top 5 species were:
White-throated Sparrow-34
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-12
Myrtle Warbler-7
Blue Jay-5
Hermit Thrush-4

Tomorrow should have more diversity. Enjoy the last days of April! Quiz bird front:
Bird with a slender Vermivora, fine gray streaks on chest, split eye ring, and no wing bars or tail spots says it is an Orange-crowned Warbler! There was no orange on the crown of this bird making it a female. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sharp-shinned Hawk and Common Yellowthroat first for the year!

With lighter winds than the past few days, we were greeted with the sweet songs of White-throated Sparrows as we set up the nets this morning in the marsh. I left Mark with the great volunteers so that I could assist Education Director, Ken Keffer with school programs for 5th and 8th graders at the Observatory. We had a grand time catching Blue Jays while the banding station caught a Sharp-shinned Hawk! I hear it was a noisy one and by the looks of this photo it definitely had an attitude!

Five warblers were seen or heard today in the marsh including: Black-and-white, Yellow, Myrtle, Western Palm, and Common Yellowthroat. Another highlight were three Eastern Towhees that stayed in our nets long enough for us to remove them and put a band on them. Normally with their long tails and short wings they are able to flip themselves out of the net before someone is there to extract them. Forty-three new birds and 15 recaptures were the catch of the day in 138.0 net hours.
Top 4 species were:
White-throated Sparrow-22
Eastern Towhee-3
Hermit Thrush-3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher-3

Tomorrow and Friday look to be increasingly better each day. The winds are to shift to the south. Enjoy the early spring!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fog and strong NE winds did not deter the White-throated Sparrows!

It would seem that if you have a wind there would be no fog. Or so one would think. However, there must have been lots of warm air above us that created fog from the wind blowing over the cool lake. It was foggy the whole morning until it began to rain. Regardless of the weather, the White-throated Sparrows were in good numbers. Fortunately most of the small birds stayed still. We did catch five Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the heavy fog mist. There were mostly females. Note no black eyebrow. Seventy-two new banded birds and 12 recaptures were the catch of the day in 126.5 net hours. Highlights were four species of sparrows including Field, Chipping, Swamp, and White-throated. Another highlight you can find on the BSBO Facebook page www.facebook,com/bsbobird
Fourty-four species observed today including Myrtle and Western Palm Warbler.
Top 6 species:
White-throated Sparrow- 32
Hermit Thrush-9
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher-5
Swamp Sparrow-4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-4
Field Sparrow-3
It looks like when the high pressure gets out of here which is slowing moving to the east, we will have southerly winds bringing the birds to northern Ohio. This has been about the tenth day of easterly or northerly winds which has not be conducive for migration north.

Enjoy the early spring days!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

High pressure still in control of winds

Another sunshining beautiful day with light northerly winds produced a handful of birds in the nets. I did not spend the morning in the marsh today. I was assisting Kim Kaufman, Executive Director at the Observatory with a banding and migration program for 75+ Perrysburg High School students. It went very well and the students were pretty sharp -- once they woke up.

Mark and crew banded 24 new birds and 5 recaptures. Highlights for the day were Pine and Western Palm Warbler. It had been a few days since either one of these had been seen. Here they are to brighten the day! The Pine Warbler is an adult female. She does have some yellow on her but not much.
Below is the Western Palm Warbler. Even though you are not able to sex the birds accurately by any measurements as of yet, I would bet that this one is a male with that large clean rust cap on its head.

Top Four Species:
Hermit Thrush (HETH) - 7
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (RCKI) -6
White-throated Sparrow (WTSP) -3
Myrtle Warbler (MYWA) -2

Another new banded House Wren for the week. I guess many of them are not leaving the country during the winter. I know I would, just to be where the temperatures stayed above freezing! Enjoy the Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another comment from the Field... Sparrow...

With another day of northerly winds one cannot expect much and that is what we got. Twenty-one new banded birds and seven recaptures today in five hours.

Top 4 species:
Hermit Thrush-5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-4
Red-winged Blackbird-2
Field Sparrow-2
A small front appears to be coming in tomorrow night. I do not hold out much for it, since the computer weather forecast, television forecasts, and the newspaper forecast for the winds are all different. It should be a mostly dry day so that is a plus.

Here is a nice looking Field Sparrow we caught today:
One of three sparrows east of the Mississippi River if you are counting the Dark-eyed Junco in the sparrow family-which it is, but some do not think of it that way.

You can see all the banding totals and high capture numbers on the Observatory website at under passerine research. Enjoy the day!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Light winds off lake produce light bird numbers

A brisk morning turned into a beautiful day in the marsh. A House Wren was singing along with a lone Fox Sparrow male serenading the last female of its kind; A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker squawking on the Basswood trunk, and a number of Barn Swallows migrating; What a day!
There were quite a few Myrtle and Western Palm Warblers singing on site but they stayed high in the trees. We did have the fortunate opportunity to catch two Palm Warblers. Nineteen new birds and ten recaptures were banded today in 5.25 hours. One recapture was a Dark-eyed Junco from a week ago. Light northerly winds produced by a high pressure system has some birds sitting tight.

Top 5 species:
White-throated Sparrow (WTSP)- 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (RCKI)- 4
Red-winged Blackbird (RWBL)- 2
Western Palm Warbler (WPWA)- 2
American Robin (AMRO)- 2

Not a bad day today!

How about a lesson on aging female Red-winged Blackbirds while there is not 99 different species flying outside your window?

Female Red-winged Blackbirds in their first-winter molt and up until their second winter molt have yellow pigmentation in their upper secondary coverts (also known as the epaulet). This time of year the bird would be called a second-year bird for its age class. Here is an example of a second-year bird:
Those after their second winter molt are considered After-second year birds and have most times more orange and red than yellow such as this bird:

The older females generally have more orange on the face as well.
It sounds like the high pressure system will be around for a couple more days so more sunshine and probably not much change in bird numbers. Enjoy the day!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Northerly winds keep birds off the lakefront

What a difference a cold front can make! Brrr! There were birds out on the beach ridge but they were hunkered down. Some Ruby-crowned Kinglets were heard calling and seen moving about but not many birds were captured today. Thirty-three new birds banded with two recaptures (Northern Cardinal and American Robin) in 4.75 hours of net operation. A highlight was a Pine Warbler singing. Mark said he heard it. I think it may be just ringing in his ears. There were also a few Myrtle Warblers around as well. There was not much difference than yesterday as far as species diversity goes.
Top 4 species
White-throated Sparrow- 9
Ruby-crowned Kinglet-9
Hermit Thrush- 4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher- 3

The weather is not going to change much in the next couple days. I do not think it even reached the high temperature the weather people were calling for today. They also said partly sunny. HA! How about hardly sunny? It was out briefly for sunrise and then as we left the station it shone for maybe a minute. I will hope for more sun tomorrow to warm up things up for insects to fly for the insectivorous birds we have here now.

To make us all feel better I am sharing pictures of birds to come. This should warm us all up!

The early warm weather will make this bird harder to see this spring. You had better study up. You don't want to be spending time looking at the field guide as it skulks around on the ground among the understory and slips out of sight.

AND look at this LADY! She is quite beautiful. Note her golden wing.
One of our common first wave migratory songbirds.
This bird is for Sam Woods of Tropical Birding! May he get the opportunity to see this bird this spring!
The grand finale is this cavity nesting flycatcher. It is always a pleasure to hear them call.

Enjoy the days of early spring where ever they are!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Threat of rain brings out beautiful Swamp Sparrows

Nets up for three hours produced 19 new banded birds and one recapture. The cold front came in as predicted around 0930. The temperature dropped and winds shifted to the WNW. First for the spring was a Field Sparrow, but Hermit Thrushes were the number one bird. There were more White-throated Sparrows around than yesterday. Several Blue Jay flocks were moving along the beach ridge before the rains hit.

Top 2 Species:
Hermit Thrush- 11
Swamp Sparrow- 3

A single Myrtle Warbler graced us with its presence too. It could be confused with a female but it has worn primary coverts which makes it a second year male. The arrow points to the worn and abraded primary coverts. Remember coverts are those feathers that cover or protect a major set of feathers.

I think the highlight of the day was this gorgeous Swamp Sparrow. I have never seen so many vivid browns, reds, and blacks on a bird. I also took a picture to show the difference in the amount of red or rust on their heads. The bird on the right is an adult bird, probably several years old, but we can't really tell since they molt all their feathers after their second year and then on an annual basis.

Even a sparrow has some unusual merits that one might not see without closer inspection.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day brings the first House Wren!

We arrived at the marsh to SW winds. Judging by the amount of song in the marsh the winds must have not turned until early this morning. It was a clear and beautiful morning none the less. I heard my first Purple Martin, Eastern Bluebird, and Purple Finch of the year. Mark conducted the point count this morning while I tended to other spring preparations for opening the station. He was fortunate to have a pod of birds at a point which included a Pine Warbler, a couple Myrtle Warblers (Yellow-rumped-although I have heard they may change the Yellow-rumped back to the Myrtle so you may want to get used to the name Myrtle), Blue-headed Vireo, and a Purple Finch. He gets all the luck! Not really because I got to remove the first House Wren from the net! Now, after about 50 to 100 more of these and I will not think it is so great. The first for the area was seen on April 1st at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area according to the e-bird records.Note the lighter undertail coverts of the House Wren. I know who looks at the undertail coverts of birds? They can be helpful on many occasions. Believe it or not. The Winter Wren has darker undertail coverts with mainly black and brown. How some people can mistake the two wrens is hard for me to contemplate but then if you look at the length of the tail that should get the two set in your mind. Winter Wrens have a bitty tail to go with their bitty body. Anyhow, enjoy the House Wrens coming in and savor the few Winter Wrens that are here for a short while!
The catch of the day included 45 new banded birds and 4 recaptures. The top species was the Hermit Thrushes. They appeared to be everywhere I looked.

Top 4 species:
Hermit Thrush- 19
Ruby-crowned Kinglet- 6
White-throated Sparrow- 5
Northern Cardinal- 4
We have only just begun to see one of my favorite birds to capture in the mist nets! The White-throated Sparrow. There was a couple serenading us as we raised the nets this morning. The males are arriving. Some used to say the white striped headed ones were the males and the brown headed ones were the females. That idea has been flushed with research that shows that the brown striped morphs favored more grassland/shrub habitats to nest. The white striped morphs tended to select the more wooded habitats. The sexes of White-throated Sparrows are determined by the length of their longest primaries in a folded wing position. This is also known as the wing chord measurement. Males have wing chords of 75 mm or greater and females are determined to have wings of 68 or less mm. Of course there is great overlap between 69 and 74 mm. You have to remember that there is great variability even in males and females of all species. Tomorrow should be another good day for the short-distance migrants. Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched yet and wish for the multiple species of warblers. Afterall, it is only tax day today; so we have at least 6 more weeks of enjoyment of the best spectacle in North America! Do not wish it to be here all at once! Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Highlight of the day: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Easterly winds today as they were yesterday appeared to have pushed the non-resident birds off the beach ridge. It was another day to stretch the legs and get ready for the day to day monitoring of migratory songbirds. I think I am ready.
Top four species:
Fox Sparrow -5
Red-winged Blackbird -4
Brown Creeper -2
Hermit Thrush -2
Northern Cardinal -2

Total birds captured in 3.5 hours were 21 new banded and three recaptures (One Dark-eyed Junco from Monday). They soon will be leaving.... I have not seen an American Tree Sparrow lately.

Highlight of the day was this male Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (note his black eyebrow or supercilium--females lack the black eyebrow).

Isn't he handsome?!

Note his white outer tail coverts! They're very noticeable when they are flitting around.

The winds are to turn to the southwest so be on the look out for some of those early warblers. Follow the latest in birding information for the Lake Erie Marsh Region by going to and click on Kenn Kaufman's Crane Creek/ Magee Birding box on the left side. Enjoy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Second day out = three new species for the spring!

Another bluebird day for early spring! Eastern Phoebe, Fox Sparrow, and the first Hermit Thrushes graced us with their presence. Eastern Phoebe and Fox Sparrows were present yesterday but never came in for a closer look or to be adorned with research jewelry (AKA a band). I learned something new today. Did you know that the tongue on a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has a serrated tip? The tongue on a Northern Flicker is smooth and sticky for eating ants. This makes total sense to me. However, a bird that eats sap most of the time needs a serrated tongue? Apparently it does. Here is the proof or it is an anomaly. The male sapsucker yesterday did not give me the opportunity see if his tongue was serrated or not.
The top four species were:
Golden-crowned Kinglet- 9
Brown Creeper – 7
Dark-eyed Junco- 4
Fox Sparrow-3

Total number of birds for today during 3.8 hours of netting was 30 new birds and 3 recaptures (2 Golden-crowned Kinglets banded yesterday and a Northern Cardinal).

Look at this:
Did you ever think to look at the wing on a Brown Creeper (bird on the right)? Notice the wing bar-stripe on its wing. There is a wing bar window-stripe on the Hermit Thrush too. It is more visible on the underside. If you happen to be driving at dusk or dawn and a thrush-size bird flies in front of your headlights and you see a flash of a light-colored window in the wing, it was a Catharus thrush. (Just a bit of trivia for you.)

Another neat thing I noticed today had to do with two different looking species of sparrow(Melospiza and Passerella). BUT can you see something in common?
I see a series of breast feathers that come together to form a spot on both birds. That was my observation for the day!

Song Sparrow and Fox Sparrow

As I have said many times before, you never know what nature may surprise you with! Enjoy!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Good Day! And that is no April Fool's Joke!

A warm day with winds out of the south gets the blood pumping for spring migration! The net lanes are cleared and nets set to greet the first day of April. Everyone has probably heard signs of spring with Fox Sparrows, Brown Thrashers, Song Sparrows, and Northern Cardinals singing.

Mark and I, with the help of our Education Director, Ken Keffer, caught these early spring short-distant migrants: Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Brown Thrasher, Dark-eyed Junco, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Resident species captured included Northern Cardinal and Black-capped Chickadee.
What do you think of this handsome guy?! Such a brilliant red throat! Females only sport a red head. Can you see the yellow on its belly? That is about all the yellow you're going to see on this bird. It is not often observed with the bird often drilling on a tree for sap.

Take a look at the largest and the smallest wrens you normally see east of the Mississippi River.
Their tail lengths and eye stripes are something to notice as well. Hmmmm... One is a resident species and the other is here for the winter. Here are a beautiful Winter Wren and a Carolina Wren.

Spring migration will really kick in in several weeks but it is great to start now and see the whole progression of birds coming north. Get outside and enjoy the season!