Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fall 2011 Highlights

The fall migration had a slow start in August and September at the Navarre Banding Station; however, by the time October rolled around, migration kicked in, and the station recorded numbers above average. This followed a record spring banding total. The tremendous effort of day-in-day out migration monitoring could not be conducted at the Navarre Marsh station without the great help and time given by the Observatory's volunteers. Thank you for all you do!
Mary Lou with her signature bird (Brown Thrasher)

The Sunday crew of Marlene, Jay, and Mark 

Deb and Julie helping at the mist net
(There is a mist net between the two ladies, but it's hard to see)
John and others like him are always fixing our equipment

The grand highlight(s) of the fall season comes with the recapture of six Blackpoll Warblers (BLPW), that we had banded in previous years. The oldest was at least six years old and still flying! Yes, at least 6 times this bird has made the trip down and back from Venezuala/Brazil to the boreal forests of Canada. The other five birds were banded in these years: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 (2)

BLPW- Fall Plumage

One of the greatest rewards of bird banding is learning more about their life history. BSBO's research documents that stopover habitats in the Lake Erie Marshes are important for the Blackpoll Warbler (and so many other migrant birds) each fall. This year, the weather must have been just right and a vast representative of the world Blackpoll population dropped into the small area of NW Ohio that we call home. BSBO uses this information to raise awareness of the value of stopover for migratory birds and to build local, regional, and national support for habitat conservation. If you would like to support the research and conservation efforts of Black Swamp Bird Observatory, please visit the BSBO WEBSITE for ways that you can help.

The highlight of the last day of station operations and
the feathered harbinger of winter...
American Tree Sparrow (ATSP)
With winter around the corner, just remember that spring is at the next bend. For some it is resignation, for some a welcome anticipation. But winter is a part of Ohio's seasons and there are still birds to search out and admire at your feeders or nearby parks. Some of these do not get the attention they deserve. So here they are for you to enjoy.
Male Northern Cardinal (NOCA)

White-throated Sparrow (WTSP)

Carolina Wren (CARW)

CARW back-notice long bill and distinctive eye stripe

Hermit Thrush (HETH)- a short-distance migrant. Some stay around in winter.

Take time to enjoy the birds and consider the fantastic journeys they have made and what it takes for them to make those journeys.

Monday, October 24, 2011

October Birds Linger Despite Monsoon-like Conditions

Despite the monsoon-ish weather and strong Northeast winds of this past week, we did manage to get out a couple days to document late fall migration. There are still lots of White-throated Sparrows (WTSP), Song Sparrows (SOSP), and Hermit Thrushes (HETH) following the front in the marsh region. Banded Blackpoll Warblers (BLPW) are still being captured and are adding fat reserves for their long trek south.

A beautiful White-throated Sparrow

Kinglets were in good numbers and a fair number of Slate-colored Juncos (SCJU) beginning to appear. Warbler species for the days we were out include: Nashville (NAWA), Tennessee Warbler (TEWA), Black-throated-Blue (BTBW), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Blackpoll, Cape May (CMWA), Myrtle (MYWA), and Orange-crowned (OCWA).

Golden-crowned Kinglets

One of the last Gray-cheeked Thrushes for the season is showing his/her hatching year (HY) buffy tips of its secondary coverts. With the accented markings on this bird, it could be aged HY with binoculars. This is not always the case as the buffy tips can be miniscule on some birds.

Note the red arrow indicating the buffy tips on the edges of the secondary coverts
A few White-crowned Sparrows (WCSP) are arriving on the beach ridge as well.
White-cowned Sparrow
This is a Hatching Year bird with brown head stripes
With species diversity declining and increasing numbers of Hermit Thrush, WTSP, Fox Sparrow (FOSP), and Rusty Blackbirds (RUBL) we should expect a fair migration for another week or two before giving way to the wintering species.

A special announcement...
For anyone interested in the future of birds, birding, and bird conservation, please consider attending the Ohio Young Birders Conference on November 5th, in Columbus, Ohio.  This event is not just for kids.  Any adult who wants to learn more about birds and nature should attend this event, where the outstanding presentations are all delievered by young people.  The cost for adults to attend is only $20.00 and this includes a morning field trip, a songbird banding demonstration, a birds of prey presentation with live raptors, fabulous presentations by our students, many great door prizes and raffle items from our sponsors, and a delicious lunch.  And the whole thing takes place at the wonderful Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, Ohio.   Visit OHIO YOUNG BIRDERS CLUB for more details and to register for this amazing event!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mid-October Birds Behind Schedule

For mid-October we should have been overloaded with White-throated Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes, Myrtle Warblers, and kinglets. Only in the past week have they slowly begun appearing on the Navarre Marsh Beach Ridge in numbers. In fact, the last two days have seen capture totals close to a complete average fall total for the MYWA.

The past week proved to be a boost to this year's total with us finally surpassing an average number of birds captured for a fall season. September was quite slow and October is making up for the lull. This week's 16 warbler species include:Tennessee (TEWA), Orange-crowned (OCWA), Nashville (NAWA), Chestnut-sided (CSWA), Magnolia (MAWA), Cape May (CMWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Myrtle (MYWA), Pine (PIWA), Western Palm (WPWA), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), American Redstart (AMRE), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), and Common Yellowthroat (COYE).
Here's a quiz bird for you to ponder:

Note heavy bill and wing bars
We had an opportunity to photograph three sparrow species: two Melospiza and one Zonotrichia genus.
Swamp, Song, and White-throated Sparrows
(Left to right)
Other highlights for the week:
Hatching Year Male
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (RBGR)

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker (RBWO)

Marsh Wren (MAWR)
Note the eye line and dark streaks on back

Another opportunity for a comparison of species. 
Here are (L-R) Winter Wren and Marsh Wren:

Winter Wren (WIWR) and Marsh Wren
Similar body size
Longer tail on the MAWR
It appears likely that the next week should bring in the final big push of October birds. Fox Sparrows (FOSP), MYWAs, and Hermit Thrushes (HETH) should be arriving in good numbers. The American Tree Sparrow (ATSP) will be the last vanguard of the fall species assemblage with its usual appearance at the end of the month.
Take time to enjoy the season!

Quiz bird answer: Pine Warbler.

Monday, October 10, 2011

September Birds Still Around

September birds are still dominating our catch with the stable presence of a high pressure system hanging overhead. Blackpoll Warblers (BLPW) and Swainson's Thrushes have been the primary species with a nice selection of many one of warbler species: Nashville (NAWA), Tennessee (TEWA), Cape May (CMWA), Magnolia (MAWA), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Connecticut (CONW), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Ovenbird (OVEN), Orange-crowned Warbler (OCWA), and Myrtle (MYWA). The last two warbler species represent "October" warblers.
Over the past several days we have been graced with the presence of Tufted Titmice (TUTI) and Black-capped Chickadee (BCCH) in the nets. We normally see a dispersal migration of these species in October along the beach ridge. Are they coming south, going north, or sliding along the coast?

A first in over 20 years of fall banding efforts was this Pine Siskin (PISI). Many flocks have been seen/heard flying over the banding station this week following the ridge.

PISI back -note yellow in wings and tail
 A nice view of a adult male MAWA who is probably several years old noting the amount of black on its face even in basic plumage.
Also of note is the black upper tail coverts diagnostic of an adult male MAWA.

Highlights of the week were:
Fox Sparrow (FOSP)

FOSP front - note characteristic bill color

Rusty Blackbird (RUBL)

Male Red-breasted Nuthatch
(Male has black cap)
Enjoy a rare opportunity to demonstrate a side by side view of Winter Wren (WIWR) and House Wren (HOWR). Note the differences in color and in the size of the body and tail length. The WIWR is much darker than the HOWR.
WIWR left and HOWR right

WIWR left and HOWR right
The next weather front should bring in more kinglets, White-throated Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes (HETH), MYWAs and OCWAs.

Enjoy the beauty of the season!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Brings Late Migrants

Winter Wren (WIWR)
Welcome to fall! This week we had our first captures of Winter Wren (WIWR), Myrtle Warbler (MYWA) and Western Palm Warbler (WPWA). Some of the volunteers weren't ready for the colder weather and were not pleased to see these birds arriving so soon. The cold fronts that passed through this week resulted in some later fall migrants mixing with some early fall migrants such as the Chestnut-sided Warbler (CSWA).
Western Palm Warbler (WPWA)
Here are some additional highlights for the week:
Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) and Yellow-throated Vireo (YTVI)
Hooded Warbler (HOWA)

White tail spots characteristic of the HOWA
Here are a pair of tanagers: can you tell which female tanager this is?

Scarlet Tanagers (SCTA) have white axillaries (wingpits) versus yellow axillaries on a Summer Tanager (SUTA).
Scarlet Tanager (SCTA)
The male has black wings all year 'round. This bird can be aged by its primary coverts seen at tip of red arrow. It is a hatching year bird with its dull brown coverts contrasting with its black primaries.
Scarlet Tanager (SCTA) Male
Next week we anticipate the kinglets appearing.  There have been a few reported in NE Ohio.  Enjoy your fall birding!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 5-11th Highlights

I write this on September 11th, a day I spent in the same place doing my part of the BSBO mission in 2001. It is impossible not to remember the tragedy 10 years ago in New York City, Washington D.C., and in western Pennsylvania. We are very thankful for our freedom and for those who are on the frontlines every day ensuring those freedoms we often take for granted. It is these freedoms that allow us to appreciate the natural world, a natural world we have the responsibility to protect and conserve. 

This responsibility is reflected in Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic, where community is people and wild places including animals, plants, land, and water.
Cape May Warbler
Understanding migrational timing and the interaction of habitats of birds in migration is what BSBO continues to investigate to fill our role in the big picture of  conservation.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

One of the last Yellow Warblers seen before spring

This week had a slow start with the remnants of Hurricane Lee hanging to our east. You could see the influx of migrants coming into the marsh region. Even with a strong Northeaster the birds could be seen and heard crossing the lake. The Observatory, which is about a half mile off the lake, had a large influx of migrants on Tuesday September 6th. We saw the diversity of warblers and thrushes on the Navarre beach ridge but the birds moved inland fast that day to escape the strong lake winds. By the 9th, with west winds the beach ridge took center stage.

Highlights for the week were 19 species of warblers and four of the brown thrushes (Wood (WOTH), Veery (VEER), Gray-cheeked (GCTH), and Swainson's (SWTH)). The warblers included Black-throated Green (BTNW), Wilson's (WIWA), Tennessee (TEWA), Cape May (CMWA), Blackburnian (BLBW), American Redstart (AMRE), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), Magnolia (MAWA), Ovenbird (OVEN), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Nashville (NAWA), Chestnut-sided (CSWA), Black-and-white (BAWW), Mourning (MOWA), Connecticut (CONW), Bay-breasted (BBWA), and Yellow (YEWA). Blackpolls and Magnolia warblers dominated the warbler scene this past week. Blackpolls have only just begun to arrive and will be picking up in the coming weeks.

Here is a quiz bird to keep you sharp:
Note the distinctive facial pattern and it's wing bars... Color should not be needed for the identification of this hatching year bird.

And to show you that there really are Connecticut Warblers out there. We share two caught at the same time. Note the larger bill and the complete eye ring.

It is always interesting to observe two similar species up close to compare their distinguishing features. Take a look at this NAWA and MOWA. Note the size of the two species, plus where the yellow appears on the front of each (the yellow goes all the way up the throat on the NAWA and the MOWA has the hood coloration on its throat), also the complete eye ring of the NAWA and the split eye ring of this hatching year MOWA.
NAWA left and MOWA right
This week saw the capture of three species of vireos including Red-eyed (REVI), Warbling (WAVI) and Philadelphia (PHVI). Note that the yellow on the PHVI extends all the way from the belly to the bill. The WAVI may have yellowish wash along the flanks but does not see yellow extend to the bill.
Philadelphia Vireo

Philadelphia Vireo front view
Next weekend begins the Midwest Birding Symposium and fall migrants should start to peak in numbers and diversity. Get out and enjoy the season and take time to share your love of birds with someone new!

Banding demonstrations at the Observatory are on Friday and Saturday from 8 AM to 9:30 AM. This is a great opportunity to see those confusing fall warblers up close.

Answer to the quiz bird is Hatching Year female Blackburnian Warbler.
After Hatch Year male Blackburnian Warbler