Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spectacular Sparrows for the First Half of October

October is the month for sparrows as they begin invading the marsh as a part of their annual southerly trek. The week has tallied ten species of sparrows including Eastern Towhee (EATO), Chipping (CHSP), Field (FISP), Fox (FOSP), Song (SOSP), Swamp (SWSP), Lincoln (LISP), White-throated (WTSP), White-crowned (ECSP), and Dark-eyed Junco (SCJO). This week the Song Sparrows  arrived in good numbers while White-throated Sparrow numbers continue to build. When looking at sparrows, certain field marks are important to observe such as head pattern, length of tail, streaked or plain breast, etc.

Here are four species we captured at once:

Left to right: WTSP, SOSP, WCSP, FOSP

Backs of the four species:
Left to right: SOSP, WTSP, FOSP, WCSP

Here's a tricky sparrow to ID in the fall. 
We'll make it a quiz bird and see if you can work it out:
Can you resist the urge to scroll down right now for the answer?!

And here we have the first for this fall season, and the official BSBO Bird of Winter, the American Tree Sparrow (ATSP.
We usually do not see or band an ATSP until late October or early November. It's a beautiful sparrow with its bi-colored beak and breast spot.

Here are a few highlights from the past week:
This is a male Rusty Blackbird (RUBL) with its rusty-edged iridescent plumage. By spring it will have worn off the brown edgings and will be sporting a sleek iridescent plumage. RUBLs are similar in size to Red-winged Blackbirds and have a yellow eye.

We've banded quite a few American Woodcocks (AMWOs) this fall, with major flights in late September and again the past couple of days. This one decided to show us its flexible bill which is used for probing the soil and grabbing worms and invertebrates.
Isn't that just the coolest thing?!
The AMWO has eyes positioned close to the top of the head allowing it  to watch for predators while foraging for invertebrates.

And finally, our quiz bird is an
immature Chipping Sparrow (CHSP).
The bill will darken and the black eyeline will become more distinct. While immature sparrows are not easy, some give a hint of their adult plumage.

There aren't likely to be many more pleasant fall days left, so we encourage you to get out as much as possible and enjoy all the wonderful fall migrants.

We'd also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Observatory's Ohio Young Birders Club!  Thanks to the generous contributions of people from all over the country, the students raised more than $3100 during their Big Sit fundraiser on October 10th.  Many thanks to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge for allowing us to place the count circle alongside the Auto Tour route. This wonderful spot helped the team tally 62 species in 9 hours of effort!  Half the proceeds will support the club's activities for 2011 and the students will donate the other half to the Lake Erie Islands Chapter of the Black Swamp Conservancy for restoration of habitat on Middle Bass Island.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Highlights for September 27th - October 3rd

This may be the last week for a large diversity of warblers along Ohio's north coast. Two strong cold fronts moved through the latter part of the past week which has apparantly sent many of the warbler species on their southerly way. Twenty warbler species were seen during the week including Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Pine, Western Palm, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, and Wilson's.
Highlights for the week were this Pine Warbler (PIWA), that we shared as a quiz bird on the BSBO Facebook Fan page, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, our second Purple Finch of the season, and a bird that gets everyone's heart pumping when we find it in the net....
A gorgeous Sharp-shinned Hawk!
Another major highlight was a Philadelphia Vireo (PHVI) with a band issued to another bander on it! This is what we call a foreign recovery. We have submitted the data to the Report a Band website, however, the data has not been received by the national computerized database from the bander yet. It was a shiny band, looking like it had been put on quite recently. This is one of the exciting parts of banding birds; an opportunity to trace a bird's migratory pathway, or at least a segment of it, adding valuable bits of migrational information about these feathered wonders. We will wait with anticipation for the origin of this PHVI and hope that another bander south of here has the great fortune of catching it again.

Bird speciation is turning over to the "October" dominants of Hermit Thrushes (HETH), White-throated Sparrows (WTSP), Kinglets (GCKI & RCKI), and Myrtle Warblers (MYWA). These will be replacing the late September leaders of Swainson's Thrush (SWTH), Gray-cheeked Thrush (GCTH), and Blackpoll Warbler (BLPW). Also, expect increases in Brown Creepers (BRCR), Winter Wren (WIWR), and a variety of sparrows.

Our first White-crowned Sparrows (WCSP) appeared this week. One of each age class:  a hatching year (HY) individual with its two-tone brown striped head.

And an after hatching year (AHY), with its striking black and white striped cap.  

The Purple Finch (PUFI) we captured was a hatching year bird which could not be sexed because of the lack of any red in its plumage. 

Purple Finches have a broad eye stripe and broader streaks on the breast than their cousins the House Finch (HOFI). The Bird Banding Manual, as part of finch identification, mentions that the PUFI will bite while the HOFI seldom does. How right they are.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers captured were all hatching year birds. Sapsuckers can be identified by their large wing bars. This one is a male with red on top of its head and the throat. The female only has red on its crown.

As a result of the low pressure system that is hovering over the northern part of the state, birds are staying low and provide good viewing. It is a good opportunity to get out and view the last of the warbler stragglers before they head for a warmer climate.

If you'd like to see BSBO's research and education teams living up to our tag line "teaming research with education to promote bird conservation," check us out on TV:  WNWO CHannel 24 Toledo!