Monday, February 16, 2015

Sax-Zim Bog Trip - Hoary Redpoll

   So I went up to northern Minnesota with a couple of friends yesterday to do a little winter birding. It was COLD. The temperature never got above zero degrees but we did see some great birds. Top of the list was a Great Gray Owl that we saw as we started to head home. Literally the last tick on the checklist for the day. Saw big numbers of Pine Siskins, Purple Finches and Common Redpolls. Which brings me to the purpose of this post.

   I saw what I believe is a Hoary Redpoll in a small group of redpolls along Admiral Road (just south of the feeders for those who know the area).

    Here are some photos that I hope will be definitive.

    The bird was very light. Only had faint streaking on sides and color on chest confined to small area.
     Compared to other bird in picture bill looks shorter. Yes, I know head angle can distort this but I'm giving it a shot.
    Unfortunately I couldn't get a shot of the back. I'm throwing it out there folks - does anyone think this is good enough to be called a Hoary Redpoll. We saw dozens and dozens of redpolls yesterday and I saw 2 that I put into the Hoary category. Now I'm hoping you can tell me if you agree or disagree and why.

   Besides this puzzle we had a really good day but struck out on a couple of what should have been easy finds. No White-breasted Nuthatch and no American Goldfinch. Go figure!

   Thanks for the input.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Late migrants

   Just some quick photos of some of the birds that we typically see during the month of October. These are a sure sign winter is not too far away.

    The last of the "spotted" thrushes to move through Minnesota are the Hermit Thrush. Easy to ID and fun to handle we'll see this species early next spring.

    You gotta love that rufous tail!

    One of the shy sparrows that we get once in a while is the Lincoln's Sparrow. Below I also ran into a young Swamp Sparrow. Notice the pointy tail feathers.
    A common bird we don't usually catch is this Common Grackle. Large, mixed flocks of blackbirds can be seen moving through our region right now. A large flock landed near one of our nets and this was the result.
  I just love the iridescence of these birds. Even on cloudy days they seem to glow.

 It won't be long before another season is over but as long as the weather cooperates, it's worth a shot to unfurl those nets!
Here is a shot of the fall colors at our banding site:

As promised, a list of birds banded on Saturday:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet -1
Black-capped Chickadee - 2 (3 retraps)
Dark-eyed Junco - 10
Hermit Thrush - 3
White-breasted Nuthatch - 4
White-throated Sparrow - 2
Northern Cardinal - 2
American Robin - 3
Common Grackle -1

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Birds Across Lake Superior (and other places!)

    Checking radar tonight before tomorrow morning's banding session at Carver Park shows good migration movement. What I really like are the returns from the north shore of Lake Superior.
   It looks like lots of birds are making the jump from Minnesota to northern Wisconsin and the U.P of Michigan. Duluth looks a bit lighter in migration activity but Milwaukee, Chicago and points south are still very active.
   We should be seeing these movements begin to lessen in the next week or two in the Great Lakes region. Activity will continue in the south for a while yet.
   Many of the birds moving south are likely species like Dark-eyed Junco, Kinglets, other late Sparrows (Harris', Fox, etc.) and waterfowl. Warblers, except for Yellow-rumped are pretty much gone from my area. I did have a good number of Hermit Thrushes last week at my banding station.

   I will post results for tomorrows banding session on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Storm Holds up Migration

    The weather radar is very active tonight, especially in the eastern half of the U.S.. There is a line of showers moving across Iowa along a frontal boundary that looks like it is stopping southbound migrants to it's north.
    As this line of rain slides to the east it may mean a grounding of migrants behind (north) it. This may be good news for birders in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin. With the reports of heavy movements of birds in the Lake Superior region the last couple of days there may be lots to look at on Thursday morning.

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