Thursday, July 31, 2014


Except for the first couple of weeks of June while we finish up spring migration monitoring, our visits to the mist nets in summer consist of going out once/week to monitor the breeding birds of our area. Spring migration monitoring finished up on 12 June with 323 birds of 41 species. It wasn't a great spring season, most likely due to the windy, cold weather conditions. Numerous easterly winds pushed the migrating birds inland.

We banded our first baby bird of the season on 2 June, a Northern Cardinal. We were unable to sex it at this point while it was still in full juvenal plumage. Young cardinals have very brown bills that will slowly turn to orange as the fall progresses. This bird was quickly processed and returned to his parents straight away.

The 6th was a very quiet day, not many birds on the move, with only 16 birds handled and out of those 7 newly banded. The highlight of the day was this SY (second year) female Black-throated Blue Warbler, our latest ever for spring migration at this site. 

The 8th was a replay, very quiet, but it was nice to recapture an old gal who is at least 6 years old, we first captured her as an adult in 2009. Her dark mask is a sign of her older age!

Seemingly out of nowhere, bobwhites were heard in the fields, we hadn't heard them before or after the 8th.  We even caught one! They really are beautiful birds. I took measurements and pictures just as I would do on our 'normal' birds but we aren't not allowed to band them so she was released.

On the 12th, our last day for spring monitoring, we banded a SY femaleYellow-shafted Flicker with one red primary, probably diet related as that feather was growing in and not considered an intergrade from a parent mating with a Red-shafted Flicker.

Our numbers started improving on 21 June when we had our first baby chickadees, Carolina Wrens, House Finches, and best of all, a young Barn Swallow. Large flocks of Barn Swallows had been traveling over the salt marsh during the week so it wasn't a surprise to finally capture one. Their tail notches are short until they molt (most likely on their winter grounds).

Robins were noticeably absent in June but we started seeing and hearing them more frequently by the beginning of July. We banded our first for the year on the 7th, an adult male. 

The Brown Thrasher had to be the best bird of the day. This was our first thrasher captured in summer and she had a full brood patch so she must be nesting nearby. 

By 12 July the nets were hopping with birds with 92 handled including this young female Baltimore Oriole.

Our next two banding sessions were just as busy- 121 birds on the 19th including our first of the year House Wren (juvenile) 

and an early fall migrant- a HY (hatch year) Northern Waterthrush! 

We were slammed with birds on the 26th but thankfully had loads of help not only band and go on net runs, but also to return young birds back to the net areas where they were found. I'd rather err on the side of caution if a young bird is still dependent on the parents. This young Hairy Woodpecker was old enough though to go off on his own as he was already molting his primaries.

Productivity appears high this summer for numerous species with increased counts of  Yellow Warblers -25 (average is 7); Gray Catbirds -113 (average 68), and Song Sparrow- 46 (average 24).  

Many thanks to all those who helped out for June and July- Gretchen Putonen, Ron Kielb, Jo-Anna Ghadban, Claire Revekant, Judith Bruce, Lauren Johnson, Megan Nepshinsky, Corey Accardo, Yianni Laskaris, Becca Mattson, Dan, Pat Kemple, Kaiti Titherington, Kim Spiller, Tanya Lama, Kristen Johnson, and Katrina.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


This has not been our best year by far for spring migration monitoring. Cold, windy east winds prevented us opening on many days and the nice SW winds we hope for brought rain. We did manage to get out 16 days this month and had numerous highlights including a first for our station, which I will discuss later in this post.

One of the things I miss  living on Cape Cod is the song of thrushes. The forest would be alive with the melodious songs of Wood Thrushes and Veerys as I walked through the spring woodlands in central Massachusetts. We do have breeding Hermit Thrushes though but I just don't hear them on a regular basis. We did catch a Hermit on 5 May, we tend to band more in the fall, a SY (second year) bird of unknown sex.

Hermit Thrushes are a solitary bird, hence their name, preferring more open forests, often building their nest on the ground. They have a habit of flicking their wings and twitching their tail, especially during courtship.

White-throated Sparrows tend to be an early spring migrant, the last ones coming through at our site on 8 May. We banded our first one for the season on 3 May.

This brightly colored one had an odd molt of the primary coverts with the outer 2 being retained symetrically, so I thought it may be a case of suspended molt.

White-throats have what is called a pseudolimit in their tertials and greater coverts which make the inner feathers appear to be replaced, when actually it is the normal appearance of these feathers.

Prairie Warblers, Gray Catbirds, and Common Yellowthroats all arrived on 3 May and the island was alive with bird song. Typically it is the older birds that arrive first and this ASY (after second year) Gray Catbird posed nicely for the camera. We normally band between 700-1,000 catbirds a season and some days it seems like all we see in our nets are catbirds and

 Common Yellowthroats!

Many goldfinches were still molting into their breeding plumage like this SY male.

Ron and Gretchen were in a teaching mode explaining to one of our newer volunteers, Cooper, the art of banding a catbird!

On the 5th we recaptured a pretty male Prairie Warbler that we originally banded last year as an adult. Prairies love open sandy habitats and their population does well breeding on Wing Island.

Compare him to a SY female we captured on the 6th. The duller gray facial pattern on her face is less distinct as is the streaking on her sides.

We recaptured another Gray Catbird on the 4th and found it was not one of our bands but was originally banded as a HY (hatch year) bird in 2011 at Ninigret Wildlife Refuge, RI! He/She was looking good guys!

 We banded a bright SY year male Swamp Sparrow this day too. 

He had molted his upper two tertial feathers (secondaries 8 &9) and retained s7 on both sides.

 The best bird of the day on the 6th had to be this White-eyed Vireo! So pretty.

We banded a  female Ruby-crowned Kinglet, another early migrant, on the 8th

and our first of many (mostly in my yard) female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

The middle of the month brought our first Blue Jay

a female Rufous-sided Towhee,

 a SY male Yellow Warbler,

and a beautifully plumaged male Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler.

The species below is often seen flying near the nets and many times perches right on the poles, but we hardly ever capture them , a  female Tree Swallow. They have been fighting with House Sparrows who have been trying to take over their nest boxes, but surprisingly the Tree Swallows have so far won out!

We had a nice variety of birds on the 21st, the pictures are all of males, including a Magnolia Warbler,

 Pine Warbler,

another Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 

and a Saltmarsh Sparrow, now a regular breeder in the salt marsh off Wing Island. 

Calm SW winds brought more migrants in on the 25th. It was nearing the end of spring migration so we were happy to have them. This American Redstart male will not reach adult plumage until after he molts this year.

This was only the 3rd spring-banded Chestnut-sided Warbler we have had, a SY male.

Also captured this day was one of four Magnolia Warblers, a SY female,

and two Northern Waterthrushes.

We banded a Canada Warbler on the 26th,

with more variety on the 29th, a SY female Yellow-shafted Flicker

and two species of vireos. The vireos are easily told by the hook at the end of their upper mandible. First the Red-eyed Vireo, aptly named,

and our second only spring-banded Philadelphia Vireo.

To round out the end of the month, we had a Traill's Flycatcher (probable Willow),

a SY female Cedar Waxwing,

but the BEST bird of the day, of the spring, of the year? was a female Blackburnian Warbler! While I've banded this species other places, I've been waiting 15 years for one to show up on Wing Island! This species is hard to capture because they love to be high in the treetops. OK, so it wasn't a beautiful ASY male but we were pleased none the least!

We ended the month having banded 38 species, not the greatest amount for May but somewhat respectable for our site. Many thanks to the following people for helping out this month, in order of donated hours:
Ronald Kielb, Corey Accardo, Gretchen Putonen, Cooper Crose, Jo-Anna Ghadban, Yianni Laskaris, Claire Revekant, Judith Bruce, Kaiti Titherington, Lauren Johnson, and Tanya- sorry Tanya never got your last name! 

The following is a list of birds seen, heard, or banded during the month of May:

Total birds:  517                                        Total species: 84
Total species netted birds: 38                     Birds/100 net-hours: 33

Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
Green Heron
Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
American Woodcock
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3 new
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker 1 recap; 1 unbanded
Hairy Woodpecker
Yellow-shafted Flicker 1 new
Acadian Flycatcher
Traill's Flycatcher 1 new
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Tree Swallow 1 new
Barn Swallow
Blue Jay 4 new; 1 unbanded
American Crow
Fish Crow
Black-capped Chickadee 5 new; 33 recaps; 1 unbanded
Tufted Titmouse 3 new
White-breasted Nuthatch 1 recap
Carolina Wren 1 new
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 new
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush 1 new
American Robin
Gray Catbird 101 new; 54 recaps; 5 unbanded
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing 1 new
European Starling
White-eyed Vireo 1 new
Philadelphia Vireo 1 new
Red-eyed Vireo 2 new
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler 6 new
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1 new
Magnolia Warbler 5 new
Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler 1 new
Blackburnian Warbler 1 new
Pine Warbler 2 new; 1 recap
Prairie Warbler 10 new; 17 recaps
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart 2 new
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat 43 new; 78 recaps; 1 unbanded
Canada Warbler 1 new
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal 5 new; 2 recaps; 2 unbanded
Eastern Towhee 2 new; 1 recap; 1 unbanded
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Saltmarsh Sparrow 1 new
Song Sparrow 11 new; 20 recaps; 1 unbanded
Swamp Sparrow 2 new
White-throated Sparrow 7 new
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird 1 new
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch 1 new
American Goldfinch 36 new; 20 recaps
House Sparrow