Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Day of Firsts

Fall banding is sometimes more exciting than spring banding, not because we see better birds but because we catch birds that offer more of a challenge. Last Sunday was no exception. After a relatively quiet day of banding at Carver Park near Victoria, MN, we did a program at Ritter Farm near Lakeville and found the conditions to be almost perfect when we arrived. Cool, just a slight breeze and birds everywhere. Walking out to the net lanes I saw flocks of robins, I heard singing Eastern Phoebes and House Wrens. Groups of sparrows jumped off the trail in front of me and skulked through the grapevines and dogwoods that line the path. I was stoked for a busy day and I wasn't disappointed!

Almost as soon as nets were open we started catching birds. Mark started processing birds and pretty much didn't move for the rest of the morning. We ended the morning with a total of 33 birds of 16 species. Not only did we see some first of the fall migrants moving through, we caught one really exciting bird that I personally had never banded and in fact we had to key it out to be sure of it's identification. A list of all the birds we caught will be at the end of this entry.

This Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula, was our first of the fall but reports from around the state suggest it was just one of many that had moved into the area in the last day or two. Many birders had them on their weekend lists.

The real excitement of the day was when we pulled this bird from a net and weren't sure what it was. We had it down to two possibilities just off the top of our head and our friend and banding volunteer made the right call when she IDed it as a Bay-breasted Warbler, Dendroica castanea. We got some nice pictures, made sure it was banded, let everyone get a good final look and then sent her on her way.

You can see why Roger Tory Peterson called this group "confusing fall warblers".

She stopped to straighten out all the feathers we had disrupted, showed off her new "jewelry", and headed south.

Another toughie was this female Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas. While this is a common breeder in the area, it still can be confusing. We might see her next spring on the edge of one of our wetlands.

This bird has been a personal struggle for me in the fall. This Philadelphia Vireo, Vireo philadelphicus, is not one we see much so I spend a lot of time separating Warbling Vireos from Philadelphia Vireos. The older keys say to look at the throat. Philadelphias should show yellow all the way to the base of the bill and Warbling should have a white throat. Apparently this characteristic is NOT dependable. Lots of good people commented on this photo and helped with the ID. I need to catch more Philadelphias.

Finally this Eastern Phoebe, Sayornis phoebe, acted like a typical flycatcher by being uncooperative and jumpy but beautiful in a flycatcher sort of way. Note the black lower mandible. This is a key to identification.

Species List
Traill's Flycatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Nashville Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Black-capped Chickadee (only retraps were chickadees)
Field Sparrow
Bay-breasted Warbler
Philadelphia Vireo
Eastern Phoebe
Red-eyed Vireo
White-breasted Nuthatch
Northern Cardinal
Gray Catbird


Cailin said...

Sunday was AWFUL for us; all of last week was, actually! We had 6 birds one day, 7 the next, etc. Just awful. Luckily it's picking up just a bit this week with birds in the teens.

Bay-breasted - awesome! We have never caught one, though we had an amazing array of warblers in the spring, bringing our yearly tally of birds so far to 66 species. Yellow-breasted chat was my winning warbler for the season! Nothing too exciting coming through this fall.. COYE, BTBW, BTNW, CSWA, AMRE are around but otherwise all the usuals (like more catbirds than I can count... )

And I'm so glad to see it's not just me with phoebes. ;) They're the ONLY BIRD I cannot get to sit still in the hand and take a pretty picture. They're always so angry! That picture made me laugh. :)

Cailin O'Connor Fitzpatrick
Raccoon Ridge Bird Observatory
Branchville, NJ

Anonymous said...

This Warbling Vireo, ...

You mean, "This Philadelphia Vireo,..."

dAwN said...

Nice post..great to see that you are geting some interesting birds coming thru!

Minnesota Birdnerd said...

I've edited the post after communicating with lots of people who are smarter than me. The bird is definitely a Philadelphia Vireo and in hindsight I wish we had taken a closer look at the length of the 10th primary. Allen Chartier pointed out this diagnostic characteristic mentioned in Pyle, et.al. Many thanks to Allen!

Allen Chartier said...

I like your comment that you should catch more Philadelphia Vireos. I agree. And I think I should catch more of them too!