Rain and high winds still prevailed this week. It wasn't until Thursday that I got back out in the field. All our banding is done outside, so I constantly have the elements to contend with. I took a gamble on Thursday as there was a 50% chance of rain and sure enough it came in at 10 am. Not a heavy rain, so I managed to close down the nets I had open quickly and went back to furl them after processing. A makeshift tarp above the banding table kept the equipment dry.
Was I ever glad I took a chance today and banded. I captured our first Prothonotary Warbler! What a gorgeous bird.
He was a hatch year bird aged by skulling. The males have more contrast between the yellow crown/nape (with a greenish wash) and the green back than females
and more white in the rectrices. Young females typically have white patches only on the 2 or 3 outer tail feathers.
This bird had a pinkish color to the toenails. Since I've never handled a Prothonotary Warbler before, are the toes normally dark? What causes white or lighter color toenails? I've been trying to find that answer in books and on the net to no avail. I've only read about leucism (a defect in the deposition of melanin in the feathers) describing feathers.
Speaking of leucism, I banded 3 hatch year (HY) Black-capped Chickadees this week, all sporting leucistic feathers. Same family maybe? In the past I've caught HY chickadees that were noted to be leucistic and upon recapture maybe a year or two later had normal colored feathers. I'm assuming the leucism in those birds was disease or diet related.
A few towhees are still around and this week I banded two females, an adult and hatch year. It is tough to see the molt limit in HY female towhees after their first prebasic molt, the color of the greater and primary coverts is very similar. Other than skulling, here is a good example of eye color being helpful. The adult definitely has a red eye
and the HY bird has a brown one.
I'm still finding many ticks on our birds, mainly in the ears. I've also been noticing bright orange bugs in the ears and have been investigating what they might be. The only thing I can come up with are harvest mites (the larval stage of chiggers) but please enlighten me if that is incorrect. From what I understand they feed on skin cells, cause intense itching, and leave red areas where they feed, which was the case on all the birds infested with these creatures. Here is the adult towhee with them in her ears.
Thursday ended up being a very slow day for this time of year with only 23 new birds banded and 9 recaptures. I guess the excitement for the day was another extremely high tide that Jan Bridge and I were caught in as we crossed the island. Jan, being a new helper, was a real trooper though, and while being a bit apprehensive, understandably not wanting to fall in while carrying camera and cell phone, managed to cross over the board walk through thigh-high water. We had a good laugh as I helped take her boots off. Her feet where sucked into her boot and I almost fell on my behind trying to pull them off!
Here is what this bird will look like in the spring after going through a pre-alternate molt.
Our first Marsh Wren showed up too, caught in our salt marsh nets specifically put up in the fall for sparrows (and occasionally rails).
and we sex them by the wing color, black in males
Total Banded Species: 32 Birds/100 net-hours: 71
Great Blue Heron
American Black Duck
Great Black-backed Gull
Downy Woodpecker- 2
Eastern Phoebe- 2
Blue Jay- 1
Black-capped Chickadee- 24
Tufted Titmouse- 4
Red-breasted Nuthatch- 1
Brown Creeper- 4
Marsh Wren- 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet- 18
Ruby-crowned Kinglet- 15
Hermit Thrush- 1
American Robin- 2
Gray Catbird- 26
Black-throated Blue Warbler- 1 (and 1 escapee)
Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler- 114
Prairie Warbler- 1
Western Palm Warbler- 3
Yellow Palm Warbler- 6
Blackpoll Warbler- 14
American Redstart- 1
Prothonotary Warbler- 1
Common Yellowthroat- 3
Yellow-breasted Chat- 3
Northern Cardinal- 5
Eastern Towhee- 4
Song Sparrow- 19
Swamp Sparrow- 12
White-throated Sparrow- 2
Eastern White-crowned Sparrow- 1
Dark-eyed Junco- 2
Purple Finch- 2
American Goldfinch- 9