Wednesday, October 3, 2012

End of September Highlights

An increase in thrushes, White-throated Sparrows (WTSP) and Blackpoll Warblers (BLPW) as expected, rolled in on the last cold front. A nice variety of warbler species including Tennessee, Nashville, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Connecticut, Mourning, Common Yellowthroat, and Wilson's were present this week. We still have not seen an Orange-crowned Warbler yet this fall. We had all five species of thrushes this week.
Tennessee Warbler (TEWA)- Hatching year male

A surprise for us was this Indigo Bunting. We usually catch a few earlier in August.

Indigo Bunting (INBU) Hatching year male note blue lesser coverts and brown primary coverts.
Here are a couple pictures of a particularly handsome warbler. The Black-throated Blue Warbler (BTBW) does not look any different in the fall than it does in spring time. That is a good thing!
Adult male BTBW
 Large white tail spots on the adult male BTBW

A nice adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (RBGR) with its black wings and primary coverts showed up in our nets and reminded us all of its large bill.

RBGR- adult male

 A confusing bird to many is this fall plumage bird. 
Can you figure out what it is?

We captured our first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (YBSA) for the fall. 

A Hatching year male determined by its plumage and the red throat.

YBSA-note large wing stripe

Red on throat designating male YBSA
Quiz bird photo #2

And there is still a Connecticut Warbler
two hanging around for you to enjoy!

We have caught the largest number of Red-breasted Nuthatches (RBNU) ever for this 22 year project (61 as of now, smashing our previous record of 34). There must be a shortage of food farther north to bring this many birds down.
RBNU- female on left (gray head) and male on right (black head)

 Quiz answer is American Goldfinch male with black wings. 

Female would have chocolate brown wings.

American Goldfinch (AMGO)
Another cold front is slated to come through by the end of the week.
Looking forward to seeing an Orange-crowned Warbler or two. Enjoy!

Check the banding summary at

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Highlights From September 17th- 23rd

This week saw two cold fronts which brought in some later migrants such as Winter Wren (WIWR), kinglets, Brown Creeper (BRCR) and more Red-breasted Nuthatches (RBNU).  

GCKI- The kinglet with the striped head
Diversity of warblers increased over the week with 22 species being seen or heard: Tennessee, Nashville, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Western Palm, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, American Redstart, Black-and-white, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Connecticut, Mourning, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's, and Canada.

As predicted, an increase in the numbers of Blackpoll Warblers occurred and should only increase over the next couple weeks. In a repeat of last year, when we had several previously banded BLPWs return to the migration site, this week we had one return of a BLPW that was banded last September. Just another reminder of how important these migratory stopover habitats are to these long distance flying birds.
Just for fun here is a warbler line up for you to identify the species:

One of the difficult fall warbler species to identify is the Cape May Warbler (CMWA). If you have a nice adult male with the presence of yellow on the breast and fine dark streaks and large white wing bar identification is much easier. However, most Cape Mays in fall are not that colorful. They still have their fine streaks on their breast and a shadow of the facial disk but this can be challenging in the field. One thing that may be helpful to you is the bill shape and size in relation to the head shape for the CMWA. For example, CMWA and American Redstart (AMRE):

AMRE is a flycatching warbler which has a broad bill and lots of modified feathers called rictal bristles (whiskers). The Cape May has a fine pointed bill and small head compared to its body. CMWA's bill is often encrusted with pollen from tropical plants in the spring when we capture them.
CMWA-left and AMRE-right

Now take a look at the head and bill shape of this CMWA
and a female Black-throated Blue Warbler (BTBW):
CMWA-left and BTBW female-right
You have the fine bill of the CMWA and small head, whereas, the bill and the head shape on the BTBW is much larger in comparison. Feeding habits differ among the species and we can use body differences to aid with ID. Hope this look at bill shape and size is helpful to you in the field.

Dorsal view of a Brown Creeper (BRCR) with rufous rump

BRCR-note curved bill for probing for insects/spiders under bark
Enjoy the week! More kinglets, WIWRs, and I would expect Orange-crowned Warbler and Hermit Thrush to be seen soon!

Check out the navarre banding summary at
to see where we are at in migration this fall. We try to update this file each Friday.

Here are the answers to the warbler line-up from left to right:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Weekend Highlights- September 15-16th

The water feature at BSBO's Anna Macke Mikolajczyk Window on Wildlife has been hopping with migrants and vagrants (Selasphorous hummingbirds). The banding station has not experienced a large volume yet, but we have seen a nice variety of birds. Seventeen species of warblers were seen or heard including Tennessee, Nashville, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Connecticut, Common Yellowthroat, and Wilson's Warbler over the weekend. 
Blackburnian Warbler (BLBW) Hatching Year male

Saturday, the crew was happy to see three Connecticut Warblers (CONW).

Swainson's Thrushes (SWTH) and Blackpoll Warblers (BLPW) are still increasing in numbers. Veery, (VEER), Gray-cheeked (GCTH), and American Robin (AMRO) were the other thrushes seen during the weekend.

A strong cold front arrived on Tuesday and brought in more northern migrants. We have had a Winter Wren (WIWR) and a couple White-throated Sparrows (WTSP) filtering in but more are yet to come.

With southerly breezes we are catching some species that have worked their way back north for a brief time. Several Chestnut-sided Warblers, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (YBFL), and Eastern Wood-Pewee (EAWP) ventured into our nets to be banded. Most of the flycatchers are well south of us by mid-September.  

Quiz bird for you:

Some highlights of large-billed birds:
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (RBGR)-female
RBGR female with yellowish axillaries

Scarlet Tanager (SCTA) male-note black wings

Hatching year bird (HY) with brown primary coverts and note tail with mite fault bars. 

Second photo of Quiz Bird
Adult Male Cape May Warbler (CMWA)

CMWA always have the fine streaks on their breast

CMWA is one of the yellow-rumped warblers.  It is not the "official" Yellow-rumped Warbler but has a yellow rump none the less.

Quiz Bird Answer: Marsh Wren. Note the dark triangle on back and white superciliary line above eye and dark cap.

Check the Navarre banding totals to see where we are at in migration and compair to last year

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cold Front to bring in new birds this weekend

A cold front is slated to come in today and will likely bring in more migrant birds to the Lake Erie Marsh region. The Blackpoll Warbler has become the dominant warbler with numbers increasing daily. Diversity of warbler species should be at its peak over the next couple of week. Swainson's Thrush has been the most common migrant along the lake shore this past week along with increasing Gray-cheeks and a few Veerys. Several species have made early appearances this week. Here are some of the early October birds that we have caught this week so far:
Hatching Year Purple Finch (PUFI)

Winter Wren (WIWR) back

WIWR with short tail and rufous breast

Red-breasted Nuthatch (RBNU) male with black cap
Anyone who has banded Red-bellied Woodpeckers (RBWO) knows they are very vocal while they are being extracted from the net and during the banding session. This fellow was a HY bird who was a bit vocal but did not drill our hands like an adult RBWO normally does.
RBWO-HY male

A couple of highlights for the week were another Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) and a Connecticut Warbler (CONW).
CONW-HY with bold eye-ring
Birds are feeding on insects and Dogwood berries to fatten up during their stopover here in the Marsh Region. They have many more more miles to travel.  To see how migration is progressing check out the BSBO website for daily bird captures at:
Have a good weekend birding!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Highlights of September 3-9th

Towards the end of this past week a strong cold front brought in an increased volume of fall migrants. More Swainson's Thrushes with the first Gray-cheeked thrush movement, the diversity of warblers increased, and the mosquitoes have lessened. Seventeen species of warblers were captured this week including Tennessee Warbler (TEWA), Nashville Warbler (NAWA), Northern Parula (NOPA), Yellow Warbler (YEWA), Chestnut-sided Warbler (CSWA), Magnolia Warbler (MAWA), Black-throated Blue Warbler (BTBW), Black-throated Green Warbler (BTNW), Blackpoll Warbler (BLPW), Black-and- white Warbler (BAWW), American Redstart (AMRE), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Mourning Warbler (MOWA), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Wilson's Warbler (WIWA), and Canada Warbler (CAWA). Magnolia Warbler and American Redstart were the most abundant at Navarre. 
After-hatch year (AHY) male Wilson's Warbler (WIWA)
While the Magee Marsh Boardwalk is located on a smaller beach ridge making it possible to see most species there at any given time, the Navarre banding station is located on the largest remaining ridge. The station only occupies about 5% of the area. The Boardwalk this week reported many vireos, Cape May Warblers (CMWA), and Blackburnian Warbler (BLBW). None of these were identified at Navarre and only a few vireos. Micro-weather conditions play a role in where birds land to rest and feed for the day as well as the size of the habitat block.  Add the opportunity to be seen and migrating behavior and it is easy to highlight how such different impressions can be gotten by individuals.

A Quiz Bird for you to ponder while reading the rest of the post:

Many flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds (RWBL) have been flying over the study site during the first hour after sunrise. A small sample are caught in the nets. Here is a comparison of an adult (AHY) and hatching year (HY) male RWBL. HY male has body feathers similar to female this time of year with orange lesser coverts whereas the AHY male has black body feathers edged with brown which will wear off giving the solid black plumage. The HY male will molt his body feathers again before spring to a black body but still have its orange lesser coverts.
Back of AHY and HY RWBL

Front view of AHY and HY male RWBL
It is often difficult to identify Red-eyed Vireos because the HY birds have dark eyes; however, they still have the dark supercilium and eyeline stripe on their gray head, green back, wings (with no wing bars) and tail, a white belly, and blue-gray legs, like the adult.  They only lack the adult's red eye. By spring the eye has turned red like the adult birds.
AHY left and HY on right
Hint for Quiz Bird-Here is a second photo from the front:

A species that normally is gone by the first week of September is this one:
Yellow Warbler -note yellow tail spots-only found in YEWAs

YEWA adult (AHY) female with slate colored bill and tiny red streaks on breast

Some highlights for the week for you to enjoy:

HY Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (RBGR).
You can see his rosy "wing pits" showing, identifying it as a male. 

HY male Ruby-throated Hummingbird (RTHU)
This coming week should see a good push of new birds. Get out and enjoy the season.  Quiz Bird Answer: HY male Mourning Warbler with its split eye-ring edged with white and the breast has the shadow of its spring black chevron.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Significant Summer Encounter

BSBO's Research Director Mark Shieldcastle Writes: On August 8, during the last session of BSBO's Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (M.A.P.S.) session in the Navarre Marsh (adjacent to where we conduct spring and fall passerine banding studies) we captured a female Myrtle Warbler (the eastern population of Yellow-rumped Warbler). The date was unusual enough, but even more surprising was the fact that the bird had a dried up brood patch and had no presence of molt. 

A "brood patch" is acquired by physiological changes to an incubating bird during the normal nesting behavior. Feathers of the breast and abdomen fall out or are plucked by the bird to permit bare skin to make contact with the eggs or young. Fluid builds up under the skin to increase the ability to transfer heat to the eggs/young. Once the eggs have hatched, there will be a gradual drying of the brood patch as the fluid is reabsorbed. Once the young are fledged the bird will begin its basic molt to the fall plumage. 

The presence of a Myrtle Warbler in this breeding status but without molt is unusual. Generally when this species is encountered in August they are in heavy molt. A capture of this species, which is not recorded to have nested in Ohio, would appear to be a significant capture. These circumstances of brood patch and lack of molt suggest this bird has not traveled very far from its breeding territory before it was captured in our nets.
Breeding condition Myrtle Warbler
captured in BSBO's Navarre Marsh  Breeding
Bird Banding Station on August 8

Checking the Ohio literature finds a report nearest to the Navarre Station was in the Summer 2003 Ohio Cardinal with a female being banded on 2 June at the Darby Unit of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge which is 7 miles east of Navarre. Farther west of this site, in 1991, The Ohio Cardinal reports a singing male at the Oak Openings Metropark on 11 June. Other sightings during summer include: a single male observed at Lakeshore in late June and above the Quarry at Chapin Forest in June and July, a summering bird in 1996 at Penitentiary Glen (Summer 1997, Ohio Cardinal), summer 1992 a male was encountered at Mohican State Park on 09 June and 12 June with a late migrant on 03 June at Green lawn Cemetery (Summer 1992 Ohio Cardinal), other late spring/early summer records of migrants at Headlands Beach 01 June at Camp Berry and 02 June at Headlands Beach in Summer 2008 (Ohio Cardinal). All of these most likely represent late spring migrants; birds that were waylaid on migration for one of many reasons.

This capture appears to be significant in that it is a documentation of an instance of a possible nesting attempt somewhere near the Navarre Marsh site.  It could have come a short ways from Michigan (but only northern Michigan has known nesting records for the species) or from more northern Ontario. The condition suggests that there was little time between nesting completion and its capture but how close to Ohio we can only contemplate. If only these winged marvels could speak.

Monday, August 27, 2012

End of Summer Season Highlights

When the Cicadas start buzzing, it's near the end of the breeding season for birds in our area. This summer has been unusually dry and berry production appears to be low for the early fruitbearers such as raspberries. These fruit producers provide food for many fledgling birds along with the bounty of insects in the marsh. Orioles, Yellow Warblers (YEWA), and Prothonotary Warblers (PROW) as well as Purple Martins (PUMA) and swallows are staging in the marsh region right now. Where they all come from is a mystrey but includes locally raised birds as well as dispersal and reverse migrants coming to the ample and dependable food base near the lake.

 Flycatchers are one of the first to begin the southerly journey each fall. Here are a couple species to compare bill size and color. Notice the dark bill on the Eastern Phoebe (EAPH). However, you can still see the remains of its fleshy gape in the corners of its bill and the inside of its mouth is orange instead of the black as in an adult matching the bill color.
Traill's Flycatcher (TRFL) left and Eastern Phoebe (EAPH) right

TRFL arrows point to rictal bristles which aid in fly catching and buffy wing bars which signify a hatching year flycatcher.
 Some additional highlights of the summer are as follows. Please enjoy.

Blue Grosbeak (BLGR) female-note bi-colored bill

Female BLGR

Male Eastern Bluebird (EABL)
Lark Sparrow (LASP)-note beak, it has been eating berries

LASP-had a brood patch-both sexes appear similar(Note tail markings)
Tufted Titmouse (TUTI)- Hatching Year bird with its yellow gape at base of bill

TUTI with tuft

To gear up for the fall let's add a Quiz Bird!  Here is one for you:

Quiz answer below.

By the end of August YEWAs, orioles, PROWs, and most flycatchers will have migrated south. Sometimes we can get a YEWA later in fall, but that is often an Alaskan bird showing larger size and a greenish cast to the feathers. Enjoy the fall season which is full of confusing fall warblers. They are a puzzle in their migration patterns as well as with their feather patterns. Get set for a great season!
Quiz Answer: Yellow Warbler with its yellow tail spots and all yellow plumage.