I had a chance to spend some time at my banding site for four days last week (Thursday - Sunday) and while the numbers weren't high the variety was exciting. I also netted a couple of birds that prompted the "What's the heck is this one?" reaction. The photos below are a selection from the 4 days. See if you can guess # 2 and #3 before you look at the label!
#1 This is one of my favorite fall warblers to catch. The Chestnut-sided Warbler has such a different look in fall migration that if you didn't know better you might think it's something else. I've seen these birds flitting through the woods on gray, rainy fall days and the color they display almost glows.
#2 This was the first of two tough IDs I had. It took a while to key it out but I was quite pleased to have figured it out. In the hand are a couple of characteristics that you might not see easily in the field. First, there is no white on the underside of the bird. It has yellow undertail coverts and no white spots on the tail. It also does not have dark legs.
#2 The thing that threw me at first was the white eye ring. Adults of this species don't have an eye ring. As I walked up to the net I thought this was a Nashville Warbler but, in fact, it is a young Mourning Warbler! Not a species we handle much anyway but this youngster really was a challenge.
#3 This was the second bird that made me scratch my head. My friend Mark was with me this day and he immediately recognized it as one of three fall warblers that are really tough to ID. We both take a bit of a perverse pleasure in catching a bird that's is not easy to ID. Part of it is that we know we probably haven't handled the species before and it gives us a chance to learn some of the more subtle characteristics that are only apparent in the hand.
#3 This adult, female Bay-breasted Warbler was the first of that species I have ever handled.
#4 A more typical warbler to catch during migration is this Wilson's Warbler. Large black-cap with quite a bit of olive green edging is something to look for in the fall.
#5 Common in the area during both breeding season and migration is this American Redstart. The only trick to banding these in the fall is to know that young males of the year look like an adult female. The glossy black and bright red feathers of the adult male take a couple of years to develop.
#6 Not a warbler but a species that we catch at the same time as the warblers are moving through here is the Red-eyed Vireo. All the REVIs that I've caught so far are young with brown, not red eyes.
Here's hoping the next banding session is just as much fun as this one.