Monday, October 27, 2014

Navarre Update: October 20-26th

Fall songbird migration is winding down as an American Tree Sparrow (ATSP) graced us with its presence. The ATSP is a winter bird for Ohio, so that means only one thing: colder temps, and seed-eating birds will make up the majority of birds as cold weather closes in.

Some Hermit Thrushes (HETH) and Myrtle Warblers (MYWA) will stick around during winter with the MYWA switching to a berry diet of dogwood, sumac, etc. One of the diagnostic features of a ATSP is its dark breast spot. However, this bird (photo to the right) does not show this field mark but does possess the other identifying features including the bi-colored bill, chestnut cap and wings and clear breast. Just goes to show not all birds look like the photos or pictures in the book.

 We still had nine species of warblers for the week including: Orange-crowned (OCWA), Nashville (NAWA), Cape May (CMWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Myrtle (MYWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), American Redstart (AMRE), Ovenbird (OVEN), and Northern Waterthrush (NOWA).

A couple of warblers caused minor confusion for our great volunteers this week, so thought we would share:
OCWA left and NAWA right
Note: OCWA has split eye ring and NAWA has complete eye ring and yellow throat

Backs of OCWA and NAWA: OCWA is slightly larger

Both OCWA and NAWA have yellow undertail coverts

 An additional highlight of the week was a male Sharp-shinned Hawk. An older Adult with the ruby red eyes.
SSHA: courtesy of Laura Gooch

 Another harbinger of winter is the Pine Siskin (PISI).
Pine Siskin: with yellow on primaries and retrices

PISI: possesses a considerable amount of yellow on its back, a trait
that you do not always get to see when it visits your feeder or in the field
 Since we're talking winter birds, the Winter Wren (WIWR), which can be found hunting for dormant insects and spiders in the dead of winter in this area, has been in good numbers. A few House Wrens (HOWR) are still moving through the region as well. So we thought we would share some comparisons so that you can be up to speed in case you come across a wren in winter that may not be a Winter Wren.
WIWR-left and HOWR-right
Note: WIWR is darker on underside than HOWR

WIWR is smaller and has a more pronounced eye line than the HOWR.

WIWR left and HOWR right:
Undertail coverts are dark on WIWR and light on HOWR
This corresponds to the light and dark undersides of both birds mentioned above.

 Take time to enjoy the last warm days of fall. There may be a stray long distance warbler still lurking around.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Navarre Marsh Banding Update: October 12-19

Male Golden-crowned Kinglet
We are reaching the latter part of fall songbird migration season and the diversity is beginning to diminish; however, the past week recorded a nice variety of warbler species including Tennessee (TEWA), Orange-crowned (OCWA), Nashville (NAWA), Magnolia (MAWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Myrtle Warbler (MYWA), Black-throated Green (BTNW), Western Palm (WPWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), American Redstart (AMRE), Ovenbird (OVEN), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), and Northern Waterthrush (NOWA).

Sparrows have similar field markings but yet are so different. Having birds in the hand offers an opportunity to see what makes up the field mark as well as making size comparisons. Below are two sparrows with breast streaking, where one of the field marks is a dark spot in the center of its chest (Song Sparrow-SOSP) and the other with similar chest markings, but how the streaks come together on the breast do not make a "spot" (Fox Sparrow-FOSP).
SOSP and FOSP: See any "spot" on the SOSP?
Just a series of streaks coming together to form a "spot"
SOSP and FOSP: note bill coloration on both
Backs of the SOSP and FOSP: Note reddish tail of FOSP
Another comparison includes the two Zonotrichia sparrows,
White-throated (WTSP) and White-crowned (WCSP).
WCSP and WTSP: Front view showing bill coloration of both and breast markings. Both birds pictured are hatching-year (HY) birds. For WCSP, HY birds have brown head stripes while adults have black and white stripes on head. The WTSP age is determined by the gray-brown eye. An adult has a red-brown eye (difficult to call in the field through optics).
Generally WCSP are slightly larger than the WTSP
The backs of sparrows display a series of browns and tans
that are very beautiful.
Top: WCSP (HY bird)
 WTSP bottom
FOSP (L) and WCSP (R)
Note  growth bars on the tail of the FOSP depicting symmetrical molt of retrices.

Fall passerine migration will be continuing for at least another month as new species that we think as wintering birds will begin to make there appearance. 

For a broader scope of migration, take a look at the 2014 fall banding numbers and species on our website. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Navarre Marsh Banding Update: October 6 - 12

Southerly winds resulted in a lot of Blackpoll Warblers (BLPW) sticking around this past week as well as a few other warbler species. A total of 17 species of warblers were seen this week including: Tennessee (TEWA), Orange-crowned (OCWA), Nashville (NAWA), Northern Parula (NOPA), Magnolia (MAWA), Cape May (CMWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Myrtle (MYWA), Black-throated Green (BTNW), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Blackpoll, Black-and-white (BAWW), American Redstart (AMRE), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), and a late Wilson's (WIWA). Hermit Thrushes (HETH), White-throated Sparrows (WTSP), and MYWAs began their descent upon the Marsh Region this past week. There were only a few Gray-cheeked and Swainson's compared to a week ago.

Some of the bird highlights this past week follow a theme of "Sharp or Pointed."

A female Cooper's Hawk made a return visit from the spring. She is very sharp in many ways, with her feisty behavior and her sharp talons including an exceptionally long halix or "hind claw."
COHA: Note the nice gray cap diagnostic of the species.

Talons of COHA
The hind toe, or "halix", is extra long for grasping and securing prey in the air
It is always a treat to have sparrows in the hand to admire their rich browns and tans. Below is a photo selection of the Nelson's Sparrow (NESP) we captured this week (only our 3rd in 25 years). This is an opportunity to share the beauty and fine features of this bird. This species was formerly known as the Sharp-tailed Sparrow but was separated from the Salt Marsh Sparrow. 
NESP: Gray cheek with gray nape

Characteristic "orangish" chest 

Gray nape shown better here.
NESP: Showing its "sharp tail"

 NESP: Showing tail with molt in left rectrices.

To continue on the theme of all things sharp and pointed...
YBSA: with sharp angular bill for pin-holing
Basswood and other trees for sap.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: HY male with red on throat.
YBSA: HY, sex unknown with no presence of red on throat.

This time of year is great to explore and sharpen your sparrow identification. Take time to enjoy the season!
Song Sparrow (SOSP) left and Fox Sparrow (FOSP) right

Monday, October 6, 2014

Navarre Marsh Weekly Banding Update: September 29th - October 5th

As fall makes its way into the region, it brings a few additional migratory bird species along with it. The last week of September through early October continues to record a good diversity of warblers.

The banding station recorded 18 species of warbler this past week including: Tennessee (TEWA), Nashville (NAWA), Northern Parula (NOPA), Magnolia (MAWA), Cape May (CMWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Myrtle (MYWA), Black-throated Green (BTNW), Pine (PIWA), Western Palm (WPWA), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), Black-and-white (BAWW), American Redstart (AMRE), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Connecticut (CONW), and Common Yellowthroat (COYE).

BTBW: Hatching-year male: note green-edged primary coverts
MYWAs and WPWAs arrived with the cold front that came through last Friday. A few Golden-crowned Kinglets and Hermit Thrushes have also been banded. They are a couple of the last species to come south, since they are what is referred to as short distance migrants which do not leave the continental U.S. in winter.

Highlight for the past week were male and female Pine Warblers (PIWA).
This is a warbler that generally nests to our south. 
Adult male PIWA
Adult female PIWA: Note the yellow wash on her breast
For the seasonal summary check out the Navarre fall migration banding totals at BSBO research.
Stay tuned, as next week may well be filled with kinglets, White-throated Sparrows (WTSP), and Hermit Thrushes. The Fox Sparrow and Snowbird (Slate-colored Junco) won't be far behind.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Navarre Marsh Weekly Banding Update: September 22-28

This past week a high pressure system set overhead producing variable winds and the nice clear days. Not the best weather for a large volume of nocturnal migrants, however, it was enough to change the speciation to a more October-like guild. We hate to say it, but winter is coming. Winter Wrens (WIWR), Ruby-crowned Kinglets (RCKI), and White-throated Sparrows (WTSP) began their influx into the Lake Erie Marsh Region with Mytle Warbler and Hermit Thrush sure to be close behind. 
Female Golden-winged Warbler
Photo by Ryan Jacob
In spite of the stagnant pressure system we had a nice variety of 21 species of warblers including:Black-and-white Warbler (BAWW), Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA), Tennessee (TEWA), Nashville (NAWA), Northern Parula (NOPA), Magnolia Warbler (MAWA), Cape May Warbler (CMWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Myrtle (MYWA), Blackburnian (BLBW), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), Prairie (PRAW), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Connecticut (CONW), Mourning (MOWA), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Wilson's (WIWA),Canada (CAWA), and American Redstart (AMRE). 

Gray Catbirds (GRCA) are still wandering south and this is a good opportunity to see the coverts on a hatching-year (HY) bird. Hatching-year secondary and primary coverts are edged with brown while the adult will be clean gray. By spring time most HY birds will have worn this brown edging off but there are a few that may still show some remnant of it and can then be called second-year (SY) instead of the usual after-hatch-year (AHY). Aging a bird AHY only tells you it was born prior to the previous calendar year. It is important that banders age each bird as definitively as possible to improve the knowledge of the demographics of the populations migrating through the area.

Adult GRCA: Note gray edged primary and secondary coverts.
This bird also had some white feathers under its chin where it is normally gray on GRCAs

GRCA: Hatching -year bird with brown-edged wing coverts

HY GRCA: Note off-color of primary coverts as well as edged with brown.
While identifying birds in the field, there are some individuals that look very different than the images in the field guide. Field guide photos and illustrations try to depict a bird with the most representative field marks for the species. But some birds challenge that image! Below we have a Swainson's Thrush (SWTH) showing very unusual plumage. It has an eye ring and breast spots but the overall feather plumage on this bird is a light gray as compared to a normal SWTH which is olive-brown back and tail.
SWTH with aberrant plumage (left), and "normal" SWTH (right)

Rear view of the SWTHs

Oddly plumaged SWTH with eye ring and spotted chest

Back of this unusual SWTH
It's hard to say what someone in the field might have called this thrush. This individual was run through the wing formulation keys to verify to species. This unusual bird may be more easily seen by predators then the normal more camouflaged plumage and may have long-term survival ramifications. 

Another treat of the week was the female GWWA that graced the station. Thanks to volunteers Ryan Jacob and Don Bauman for providing the photos.
GWWA female with gray mask instead black like the GWWA male
Photo by Don Bauman
This week we saw another banded BLPW recaptured. This bird first visited our nets in September 2011. This is more evidence of the importance of this habitat for fall migrating BLPWS. 

With the next big northerly front we expect to see more kinglets, WTSP, BLPWs, MYWA, HETH, and some juncos. Enjoy the birds as they utilize these important habitats along the lake to stopover and refuel on their journey to their wintering grounds.

For daily banding updates, follow BSBO on Facebook.
Visit the BSBO Website for the seasonal totals.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Navarre Banding Update

For the week of September 15-21 we observed the first good cold fronts resulting in movements of Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes and Blackpoll Warblers. There were 19 species of warblers this week which included Black-and-white Warbler (BAWW), Tennessee (TEWA), Nashville (NAWA), Magnolia (MAWA), Cape May (CMWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Black-throated Green (BTNW), Blackburnian (BLBW), Chestnut-sided (CSWA), Bay-breasted (BBWA), BLACKPOLL (BLPW), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Connecticut (CONW), Mourning (MOWA), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Wilson's (WIWA), Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA), and American Redstart (AMRE).

A major benefit of having birds in the hand is to improve aging and sexing techniques in birds. Many species do not have complete aging and sexing keys. Through banding we can make observations, measure morphological 
features, and improve the banding keys. Below is an example of two adult male BAWWs with a variation in the auricular or 'cheek patch.' They both have distinct streaking on the flanks, well rounded primary coverts and alula, and an alula with lots of white coloration in it designating an adult male. Blue arrows are pointing to the alula or wrist feather of the birds. 
BAWW Adult Males: Note variability in cheek patch
BAWW: Adult males with rounded alulas and primary coverts 
Another warbler species which fits well with the confusing fall warblers is the CMWA. The basic plumage has the remnants of the spring facial patterns but are more muted. The auricular patch can still be seen on both female and male (photo below). They have fine breast streaking which can be seen all year. Their bill is thinner than that of BLPWS or BBWAs to fit their feeding style of probing flowers (often showing extensive pollen residues). If you look closely, you can see the yellow coloration of the bottom of their feet (which is a characteristic of BLPWS as well). However, the bill size and shape of the head are quite different than a BLPW.
CMWA: Female on left and male on right
Female CMWAs have two wing bars and males have one larger one.
The CMWA also is one of the warblers with a yellow rump, as you can see below:

CMWA Female: Note the fine streaked breast, fine bill shape and the yellow on head defining where the auricular patch would be prominent in the male spring plumage.

Some highlights of the week that did not get their photo opts earlier:
Brown Thrasher (BRTH): bight yellow eye indicates an adult bird

BRTH: Front shows streaking and size of bill

Golden-winged Warbler (Male)
Interesting that last year during this week we caught a Brewster's Warbler.
This coming week should prove to have excellent species diversity and a large volume of BLPWS. If you have time, get outside and enjoy the official days of FALL. The last Public banding demonstration of the year will be this Saturday (27th) at BSBO at 10 AM. Also check out the season's totals on the BSBO Website. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall is Finally Here! Sept. 8-14th

A strong cold front pushed through this week and brought migration with it. Twenty warbler species were captured and/or observed this week including Black-and-white Warbler (BAWW), Prothonotary Warbler (PROW), Tennessee Warbler (TEWA), Nashville Warbler (NAWA), Yellow Warbler (YEWA), Magnolia Warbler (MAWA), Cape May Warbler (CMWA), Black-throated Blue Warbler (BTBW), Black-throated Green (BTNW), Blackburnian (BLBW), Chestnut-sided (CSWA), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Connecticut (CONW), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Wilson's (WIWA), Canada (CAWA), and American Redstart (AMRE). All five brown thrushes we would expect visited as well. A large push of BBWAs and MAWAs arrived on 13 September following the cold front with most leaving that evening as numbers dropped off considerably on Sunday. BLPWS continue to pick up, and a pleasant surprise of a returning banded adult female Blackpoll Warbler from fall 2013 was recorded. Further support that the Lake Erie Marsh Region is important to this long distance migrant.

Blackpoll and Bay-breasted Warblers can be difficult to tell apart in fall plumage. The opportunity to have the birds in hand, with a good view of different field marks, can assist you in identifying more BBWAs and BLPWs in the field.

BBWA left BLPW right
 Note the dark streaking on the BLPW flanks and back whereas the BBWA has comparatively little. The photo below shows the front of these two species and demonstrates the subtlety of the streaks on the BBWA and the more distinctive streaking of the BLPW.
BBWA left and BLPW right

Note darker and heavier streaking on the back of the BLPW 
One of the striking differences is the feet and leg coloration of the BBWA and BLPW. Surprisingly, leg color can often be observed in the field and can assist in accurate identification. While the color may not register, the light reflective color of the BLPW and dull light absorbing of the BBWA can often be picked up by your eyes providing an indication to the species. See Below:
BBWA feet and legs are a gray color when compared to BLPW below

BLPW have browner legs with yellow on the pads of the feet, which can often be seen in the field.
We do not get many of the forest resident guild along the beach ridge. Species such as Black-capped Chickadee (BCCH), White-breasted Nuthatch (WBNU), and Tufted Titmouse (TUTI) seem to avoid the lakefront for most of the year due to the lake-effect cold of the winter. However, we have seen an influx of these species over the last few years. The beach ridge may be a dispersal habitat rich in food during the critical time of fall migration.

It is easy to tell males from females on Nuthatches by their head color. Females have a pewter gray head and males have a solid black cap.
WBNU female: Note the gray cap, and the specialized bill shape for extracting insects from under tree  bark

WBNU male with black cap
The coming week should result in an increase in the numbers of Blackpolls and thrushes. With our first Ruby-crowned Kinglet showing up this week, we anticipate their arrival as well. And White-throated Sparrow numbers will begin to increase, too.

Get outside and enjoy the diversity of fall migration. Public banding demonstration is this Saturday at BSBO from 10 AM to 11:30 AM.