Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Slow start

26 April - 7 May
The past two weeks have not been agreeable weather wise to be out and about banding birds, especially with nowhere to escape the elements for both personnel and equipment. I made it out on  26 April with winds from the southwest, but the day was overcast and almost misty. The wind picked up so briskly that I had to close early. I heard the first Willets vocalizing over the marsh and saw my first catbird of the season. I had only 6 species this day, almost all returns from previous years and 3 new birds. One of those was a female cowbird, much to my chagrin. I think the clearing of half of Wing Island has certainly encouraged those birds to look kindly on our banding site as a great place to lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. This bird is however, as much as we don't like it,  a native species and is protected by law.

 I captured 3 Song Sparrows

with one being a new bird and two returns from previous years. The older of the two, an ASY (after second year) male, first banded as an adult last year, surprised me as he had a yellowish hue to his legs and feet. Maybe they darken as they get older but I've never noticed it before.

I also took a picture of a SY (second year) Song Sparrow with pink legs that I am used to seeing on this species.

The weather turned around for the weekend, but unfortunately I was out of town so I didn't get to band again until the 2nd of May. I could hear Brant out by the bay as well as a Common Loon, probably a fly over. The Common Yellowthroats were in and I recaptured an adult male first banded as a hatch year in 2005 making him 6 years old. What a beauty he is!

I had a female cardinal

and chickadee both with beginning brood patches, where they lose their belly feathers to incubate eggs, and by 9:30 the wind was howling so again I closed nets up early.

During the night the winds turned from north to southwest  and with them a few new species for the year arrived. I was expecting a small group of students from Provincetown but unfortunately they missed some of the more colorful birds such as Northern Parula,

 Yellow Warbler,  a SY male with a molt limit in the secondaries,

and the return of a 5 year old Prairie Warbler, all captured on the 2nd net run.

The kids were thrilled to see a Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow,  Downy Woodpecker,
Gray Catbird

 and a female SY Pine Warbler

I think they had fun releasing the birds and were glad they came.

Friday the 6th was windy again but were able to open some of our nets with success. We had no new species for 2011 except a Carolina Wren who wriggled out of my hands before getting a picture. Saturday was a more successful day with a nice variety of birds. Two significant encounters included a Black-capped Chickadee first banded in 2002 as a hatch year bird making her 9 years old and  a Prairie Warbler we first banded as a SY bird in 2004, and have captured in the same area every year after, making him 8 years old. Gretchen found a bird we rarely get in our nets, this is only the seventh bird in 11 years and 2nd time captured in the spring, a Brown Thrasher.

We aged this bird as ASY due to the similar lustre of the greater coverts, carpal covert, primary coverts, and remiges.

I photographed a dull morph White-throated Sparrow, only the 3rd individual so far this spring. We usually have numerous White-throats that pass through, but I probably missed most of them due to inclement weather.

 A more brilliantly colored individual showed up earlier in the week, a bright morph variety.

We captured 2 male Eastern Towhees, one being an older adult, who was not very cooperative with having his picture taken, but I so wanted to get a pic of that gorgeous red eye

and a much more cooperative SY male

You can see the difference in how they molt, the similar color and lustre of the older adult, who molted all his feathers last year 

and the retained juvenal primary coverts compared to the replaced greater coverts of our SY bird.

As Judith says, Gretchen had good birdy kharma on Saturday finding not only the Brown Thrasher but also an ASY male Nashville Warbler

and an Ovenbird, probably heading over to the Punkhorn Parklands to breed.

Thanks very much to Judith Bruce, Stew Goodwin, Tiffany Kerstan and her boyfriend, Steve, and Gretchen Putonen for helping over the past two weeks. Birds seen, heard, or captured between  26 April- 7 May are shown below.
Total Birds: 108                                Total Species: 49
Total Banded Species: 20                 Birds/100 net-hours: 20

Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Greater Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker 3
Yellow-shafted Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Tree Swallow
Blue Jay 2
American Crow
Fish Crow
Black-capped Chickadee 27
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren 1
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 24
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling
Nashville Warbler 1
Northern Parula 2
Yellow Warbler 2
Pine Warbler 1
Prairie Warbler 6
Ovenbird 1
Common Yellowthroat 7
Northern Cardinal 4
Eastern Towhee 2
Song Sparrow 7
White-throated Sparrow 3
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
House Finch
American Goldfinch 11
House Sparrow

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