Monday, September 29, 2014

Quiet Weekend

Banding this weekend was quiet and slow. The weather was unseasonably warm with a wind from the south. As much as we enjoyed the weather it really didn't push any birds south in big numbers. I did catch a few migrants and a Black-capped Chickadee I banded earlier in the month. It was fun to compare data from earlier and notice that the chickadee had changed it's molt pattern.

A bird I always like to see is the Ovenbird. We have breeders locally but see migrants through September.
A significant change in the weather is coming later in the week and I expect more leaves to fall and more migrants to show up. We have a banding program next Saturday and it should be busy.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fall Migration Update

I had the good fortune to be banding last Sunday with just beautiful weather. Sometimes for banders this isn't the best but for us it worked out just fine. Our biggest worry was the moderate and constant wind. When your nets look like a sail on a boat you tend not to catch as much but all our nets were pretty sheltered.
We had several migrants for the day, all pretty typical of mid to late fall. The Gray-cheeked Thrush above was one of the last captures. It's always nice to get to check out field marks close up. The face on this bird is the giveaway.
This Philadelphia Vireo is one that we see on an irregular basis and almost always in the fall. Nice and brightly colored this bird was probably the "best" bird of the day.
When the Orange-crowned Warblers show up you know the warbler migration is coming to an end. Yellow-rumps and Orange-crowns wind down September and segue into the sparrow migration of October. We did have the first White-throated Sparrows last weekend and they were all juveniles. Adults will show up in about a week or two.
The common bird for this banding site is the Gray Catbird and they are still present. What I like to show visitors is the eye color of the young birds. A brownish eye with a gray edge is a young bird. Along with eye color, the roof of the mouth of young birds is pink to gray.
 As adults (above) their eyes will be a plum red that is so dark you can't really even see the pupil. The mouth lining will be black.

These are the kinds of characteristic changes that we just wouldn't know about without having these birds in the hand and being able to study individuals over long periods of time. And the best thing about bird banding is that there are still a ton of questions out there about birds that we haven't answered yet!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fall Migration Banding Begins

                                                               Yellow-throated Vireo
   Here in Minnesota we've been seeing southbound migrants since early July. You really have to know what is moving to see the birds but from now until October the movement will pick up over time. What we are seeing now are mostly shorebirds, some vireos, some warblers and a few non-breeders that hung out here over the summer.
    Make no mistake, not all birds are leaving. Some birds are still in the process of raising young and lots of birds are still north of us. However our friend Manuel in Mexico is already catching southbound migrants including a significant number of Orchard Orioles.

    We banded last Saturday for our regular monthly program at the Lowry Nature Center near Victoria, MN and had a very good day with lots of diversity. We believe that some of these individuals are probably migrants. A list of species banded on Saturday is below the photo of this beautiful Yellow Warbler.

Species banded with number of individuals in parentheses

Trail's Flycatcher (1)
American Goldfinch (1)
Warbling Vireo (1)
Clay-colored Sparrow (4)
Field Sparrow (1)
Yellow Warbler (2)
Black and White Warbler (1)
Yellow Throated Vireo (1)
Red-eyed Vireo (2)
Song Sparrow (2)
Northern Cardinal (1)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (1)

   A pretty good morning for us. The next banding sessions should show more migrants and more variety. Gary Dogwood berries are just ripening and are a very good food source for birds. I expect we'll target our nets for every clump of dogwood we can find. The other place we unexpectedly find birds is in field of goldenrod. Some of our best days have been in open fields as opposed to shrubs and woodlands. Just goes to show how opportunistic birds really are.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Still Some Migration Going On

   I am up late hoping to see the meteor shower predicted for tonight and thought I check radar to get a feel for how migration is going.
  Looks like the majority of movement is in the upper Mississippi River Valley. With the heavy radar returns in Iowa, I'm hoping those birds will be landing in my area in about 3-4 hours. The woods were pretty quiet today (now yesterday) but I'm holding out hope for the morning.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Great Spring Weekend

    This past weekend was what banders dream of when they're sitting inside their house on a cold winter day staring at snowdrifts. A huge migratory movement in the past few days put birds everywhere during our two banding sessions. I believe we could have stretched a mist net across the parking lot and captured some great birds. I have included some photos and at the end of this post I will put a complete list of what we handled. You know it's a good time when your most common capture is Ovenbirds!
   Wrens have finally started to fill the air with their bubbly song. Still haven't seen Marsh or Sedge Wrens in numbers yet.

   One of 2 Harris's Sparrow we handled. Not a bird we see every year and certainly not one we band regularly.

   Female Black and White Warbler. Notice the pale cheeks.

     A real treat was to band this Golden-winged Warbler. In Minnesota we have a special place in our hearts for this species. Minnesota is home to more GWWAs than anywhere else in the country. I believe we have 40% of the world's population breeding here.

Species from Saturday and Sunday

Wilson's Warbler 
Tennessee Warbler
Magnolia Warbler   
Golden-winged Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Orange-crowned Warbler
Black-capped Chickadee (recapture from Oct. 2013)
Blackpoll Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler  
Yellow Warbler
Least Flycatcher
Black&White Warbler
Western Palm Warbler
Lincoln Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Swainson's Thrush
Harris's Sparrow
Gray Catbird
Northern Cardinal

21 species for the weekend. I think I need a nap.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wind Map Helps Explain Migration Pattern

   Checking the weather radar tonight I see that migration is pretty heavy in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana even with a line of storms just to the north of Oklahoma. Here's what the image looks like:
   A comparison of this image to the current wind patterns shown on a national wind map might explain why so much more movement in Texas than in Florida, Georgia, etc. Check this out:
   Notice the strong winds moving up through Texas but also how very calm it is in the southeastern U.S.. This is a really good illustration of how favorable winds help move birds along on their long journey. When trying to predict where the heavy movement will occur, looking at the wind map may be another way to anticipate hot spots. The animated wind map can be found at: