Thursday, May 24, 2012

5-21 May
So far the spring season for us has been rather dismal for migrants. But then again I do live on Cape Cod, not a great place for spring bird migration, especially on the outer cape. I should know better but I always get pumped up only to be disappointed! If I want a place hopping with birds, I guess I should move to Veracruz, Mexico (eh, Manuel?). Enough whining, I actually feel very privileged to work with birds and they are all wonderful in their own right.

We had our first of two banding demonstrations on Saturday, May 5th and 15 brave souls endured the cool, overcast day. Our nets were only open for a few hours but we captured 29 birds of 11 species. It was a 3 thrush day including Hermit Thrush and we banded our first ever spring Veery, an ASY (after second year) bird, which was released before taking a photo but looks similar (except for the greater coverts)  to the first year bird below.

A real treat for some people in the group was the capture of an ASY Swainson's Thrush,

a life bird for some of them. This bird was just passing through on migration as it makes its way to north to breed.

We caught only 2 species of warblers this day one being a Nashville, an ASY male.

He had quite a bit of rusty feathers in his crown (partially hidden) and a distinct contrast between his gray head coloration and greenish back.

It was nice to have a Northern Mockingbird in the net. We haven't banded many since 2006. Pictured below is an AHY (after hatch year) male in breeding condition.

A female AHY Red-winged Blackbird (below) was found in our saltmarsh nets, not yet breeding.

On May 6th, Gray Catbirds and Nashville Warblers could be heard singing all over the island. We managed to capture 2 more Nashville's and our first Common Yellowthroat male (below), a return from 2010 when he was in his first year.

I like to try to take photos of each species as we capture them, but I tell you trying to get a good picture of a cardinal without getting assaulted, especially by an older male (also a return from 2010) is downright impossible sometimes. After I pried his beak off this finger

he gave me a good bite on my middle finger (is he trying to tell me something?)! See the telltale diamond shaped mark of a cardinal. Oh the things we banders go through for the study of birds... 

The only other new species for the day was a Tree Swallow, a breeding male.

Two more towhees arrived on the 7th, one a SY female,

with a molt limit in her tertials, replacing secondaries 8 and 9, but not s7.  

I could hear many Northern Parulas singing as well as Yellow Warblers that morning and we captured our first of year Yellow Warbler on the second net run.

On the 8th it was a treat to find an adult male Orchard Oriole. We've banded young birds before and I've had SY male Orchards but never an older adult in full breeding plumage.

Male Orchard Orioles delay their full adult plumage until their third year so a SY male would look like this:

While we normally band Field Sparrows in the fall, this AHY bird was another first ever for our spring season.

Prairie Warblers breed on Wing Island and they first arrived on the 5th but we didn't capture one until May 12th, a SY female.

We also banded our first of the year female Common Yellowthroat,

 a White-eyed Vireo,

as well as 2 Brown Thrashers.

May 14th was our best day so far with 57 birds handled of 18 species including recapturing the thrasher, but 33 were new birds like this gorgeous older adult male Magnolia Warbler,

two Northern Waterthrush,

a SY female Wilson's Warbler,

and a new species for our station, an ASY Wood Thrush! I used to hear and band Wood Thrushes often when I lived in central Massachusetts and really miss those birds. Hearing Veeries and Wood Thrushes as I walked through the woods was always so soothing. 

Other species for the day was a SY female Bluejay with a brood patch,

and Swamp Sparrows, which we don't band very often in the spring, but usually have many in the fall. I was able to capture both males and females for a good comparison on crown plumage. First an AHY male below with a good amount of rufous in the crown, 

and a female with a mix of brown, gray and black feathers.  

We've been seeing many of our residents in breeding condition now including this male Black-capped Chickadee on the 17th with a good example of an enlarged cloacal protuberance (CP for short). This area enlarges (notice the protuding area in the area of the lower abdomen) as the bird gets ready to mate and certainly aids us in establishing the sex of species where the plumage of males and females look alike.

Another Magnolia Warbler (we called them Maggies) was banded, this time a SY male.

I also banded a Song Sparrow that had pox evident on his lower mandible. 

No new species showed up again for the spring until the 21st when an ASY female American Robin, also with a brood patch, was banded.

I've been hearing Cedar Waxwings vocalizing since the 19th and finally captured one on the 21st.

I aged and sexed her as a SY female due to her lack of red waxy tips to her secondaries and small amount of yellow on her tail. 

The small amount of black feathering on her chin also points to female. 

We held another banding demonstration on the 19th but was too busy showing birds to people and neglected to take any pictures. They were fortunate to see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird up close and see how we band them. A cute story is of a young girl, perhaps 7, who came to the first banding demonstration and her mother told us she promptly went home and banded all her stuffed animals! They wanted to come back and see more birds of course, but her daughter was also intent on building a mist net (indoors)  in order to catch her 'birds'.

Many thanks to all who helped out at the banding station these past few weeks- Gretchen Putonen, Jo-Anna Ghadban, Jessica Rempel, Alice Wynn, Carolyn Kennedy, and Judy Keller. As usual, below is list of birds seen, heard, and captured (with numbers) throughout this 3 week period.

Total birds: 274                                        Total species: 76
Total banded species: 36                          Birds/100 net-hrs: 26

Green Heron
Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Bobwhite
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
American Woodcock
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird-2
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker-1
Hairy Woodpecker
Yellow-shafted Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Tree Swallow-1
Barn Swallow
Blue Jay-1
American Crow
Fish Crow
Black-capped Chickadee-23
Tufted Titmouse-6
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren-14
Eastern Bluebird
Swainson's Thrush-1
Hermit Thrush-1
Wood Thrush-1
American Robin-1
Gray Catbird-72
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher-4
Cedar Waxwing-1
European Starling-1
White-eyed Vireo-1
Nashville Warbler-3
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler-4
Magnolia Warbler-2
Black-throated Green Warbler
Pine Warbler-2
Prairie Warbler-5
Black-and-white Warbler-2
Northern Waterthrush-2
Common Yellowthroat-53
Wilson's Warbler-1
Northern Cardinal-5
Eastern Towhee-4
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow-1
Song Sparrow-19
Swamp Sparrow-5
White-throated Sparrow-5
Red-winged Blackbird-2
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird-1
Orchard Oriole-1
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch-25
House Sparrow

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