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!

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