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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

First Week of September Brings in a Few New Species

CAWA- hatching year male
Making their final appearance in NW Ohio for the year
This week brought some northerly winds giving the appearance of fall with thrushes arriving in moderate numbers. Diversity was still punctuated by 'one of this and one of that' species, which included 15 species of warbler (Black-and-white Warbler (BAWW), Tennessee Warbler (TEWA), Magnolia Warbler (MAWA), Black-throated Blue Warbler (BTBW), Chestnut-sided Warbler (CSWA), Bay-breasted Warbler (BBWA), Blackpoll Warbler (BLPW), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Connecticut Warbler (CONW), Mourning Warbler (MOWA), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Wilson's Warbler (WIWA), Canada Warbler (CAWA), and American Redstart (AMRE). Blackpoll Warblers have started their influx southward and their numbers will be increasing over the next 3 weeks.

BTBW male

Identifying flycatchers can be challenging. Here you have a small flycatcher with no eye ring, wing bars, and bi-colored beak (upper mandible is dark and lower is light, usually yellow).
EAWP: Note buffy-colored wing bars 
With no eye ring, the head appears dark. The buffy wing bars signify that this is a bird hatched this summer. We aged this bird as a Hatching Year Eastern Wood-Pewee (EAWP).

                                  Other birds of note for the week:
Cedar Waxwing (CEDW): Male has the black throat

CONW: Note the pointed tail (retrices) assisting in the aging of this bird as HY

CONW: because you cannot get enough good looks at this bird!
This coming week we should see an increase in Blackpolls, Magnolias, and Swainson's Thrushes. 

There will be two public banding demonstrations coming up on Saturday, Sept. 20th and Saturday, 27th 10:00 AM at the BSBO headquarters. Come out and see some of these visitors up close and learn about fall migration.

You can also monitor our research data on the BSBO website and read daily migration updates on BSBO's Facebook page.