Saturday, October 29, 2016

October 23 to 27, 2016

Whew, I'm a tad behind!  This might be a long one!  On Sunday, we banded at PB 46 where in Season 3 we already banded 75 buntings.  There were more to be banded but a malfunctioning trap kept our numbers low.  We were glad to receive data for returning birds (at least 18!)  We banded three more greens as well as incidental captures of House Wren, 2 Common Grackle, 2 Northern Cardinals, a Blue Jay, and an Indigo Bunting.  This month marks a milestone for both Pete and Bill with Pete banding his 300th bird and Bill banding his 100th.

Northern Cardinal

House Wren

On Tuesday we banded at Possum Long.  Things have very much quieted down there.  We had a visit from a marvelous Home School group.  The 20 students and several parents got to see us band a Black-throated Blue Warbler.  After that we did an exercise where the students found stick "bird legs" which they measured with a leg gauge and banded them with "color bands" made from drinking straws.  No two combinations could be the same.  We matched their leg measurement to a real bird size.  One might think the stick is small but a lot of the sticks were the size of one of our largest bands!  ( 5 = Eastern Screech-Owl!)

Color banding exercise

Black-throated Blue Warbler (female)
Photo by Robin Potvin

We did catch another Black-throated Blue Warbler and were packing up when one net produced three more birds to "save" the day.  Two were green Painted Buntings and one was a Gray Catbird.  

One Thursday we banded at PB 48.  Our host has built a feeder that fit our traps and we had much more success there than on previous visits.  We saw one bird that was previously banded, banded 13 more; 11 greens and 2 males!!  Pretty good for only having seen 9 greens!  I keep trying to tell folks that you cannot tell how many birds you have until there is something to differentiate individuals. There were still at least 2 unbanded green also.  

We had two really interesting buntings and created a fun one.  This bird got its Halloween colors.  

Painted Bunting

One of the greens appeared to be a very young bird (second/late nesting??) as it was still molting. This is very strange considering that molt occurs on the breeding grounds or soon after an early (August) arrival.  For those who have not seen previous molt photos on the blog, the white things are not bugs or damage, they are sheaths around growing feathers.  It looks strange but is normal.   

tail molting in - still quite short

molting in head feathers

molting in outer flight feathers (primaries)

Another bunting was molting but in this case the bird somehow lost half its tail and was growing in new feathers.  This likely occurred within the week prior to our banding as there is active growth.

male Painted Bunting with tail replacement in progress 

Total banded buntings Season 4 is now at 26.  55 to go to our 1000th banded bunting!

Next scheduled banding will be Tuesday, November 1.  Nets go up at 7 am.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

October 20, 2016

We did our first official Painted Bunting banding today.  We had banded two others at Possum Long during our other banding project.  For this session we went back to PB 32.  We recaptured a bird we banded last year and 6 new birds.

Photos by Pete Grannis

Return sightings are coming in.  If you are a Painted Bunting host, please send the combinations you see and if the green ones are still green or show male colors.  So many thanks!

October 18, 2016

This regular Tuesday session of banding at Possum Long was a good one.  After banding 10 Gray Catbirds last week it is amazing that we did not band any new ones this week.  However we did band 7 species and 12 individuals.

Non-warbler birds were another Northern Cardinal and another Swainson's Thrush.  Glad to have these birds around.  There's always something to see on every bird.  The spectacle on the thrush is a great field mark for this species and is very different when seen up close.

Swainson's Thrush

We also banded our second ever Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  We photographed one last week but this one we got to band!  Compare the photos.  It looks like this one is a different bird.  This bird is also a young male.  Some of its black plumage was in.  The red/dark rose chest isn't too developed but the red underwing linings look quite bright.  Yes, the big bill is challenging but how many people can say they were bit by a Rose-breasted Grosbeak?  

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The rest of the birds banded were warblers.  We had two Common Yellowthroats, two Northern Parulas, one Magnolia Warbler, and four Black-throated Blue Warblers.  These birds will soon move on and most warblers will be Palm and Yellow-rumped.  

Black-throated Blue Warbler (male Appalachian subspecies)

Northern Parula

Magnolia Warbler

Common Yellowthroats
Photo by Pete Grannis

The photo Pete took of the Common Yellowthroats is a great comparison of an adult male and a young male born this past summer.  The young male's face mask is just a shadow of what it will be.  

Next Possum Long banding will be on Tuesday, October 25.  Nets go up at 7 am.  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

October 13 and 16, 2016

We did two more impromptu sessions this week and it was really worth it.  This fall has been spectacular for birds.  On Thursday we banded TWENTY-FIVE birds including our first Painted Buntings of the season.  We have dark green bands again so we adorned this green (born this summer, sex unknown) with one.  We also banded a second young green Painted Bunting.  (Only 79 to go to break the 1000 mark!)  On Sunday we added 11 more birds to the banded list (6 species).

Painted Bunting (young bird, sex unknown)

We banded a whopping 10 Gray Catbirds on Thursday and 2 on Sunday.  

Gray Catbird - one of twelve!!!

We had a one day high of 4 White-eyed Vireos.  Good comparison of the differences in the eye color. We did remember to check the "brown-eyed" young one in case in might possibly be a Thick-billed Vireo but it was clearly a young White-eyed. 

White-eyed Vireo (adult)

White-eyed Vireo - born this summer

Warblers were quite numerous but diversity is down somewhat.  We banded (adding both days) 14 birds of 5 species.  One Northern Parula, 5 American Redstarts, 6 Black-throated Blue Warblers, 1   Ovenbird and 1 Hooded Warbler.  We also saw Prairie, Pine, Black-and-white, and Yellow-throated Warblers.  

Northern Parula

Hooded Warbler - male

Black-throated Blue Warbler - young male

Ovenbird stare down

Other birds banded were a Veery, 1 Swainson's Thrush, 1 Blue Jay, and 1 Indigo Bunting.  Robin saw a banded Indigo Bunting by the pond on Sunday and observed a band.  She also found a great bird for the day. This Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a young male.  It was devouring some Beautyberry.  What a great food source this plant is.  We have seen so many species feeding on the fruit and insects.  Can you find the Grosbeak's companion?

young male Rose-breasted Grosbeak feasting on the Beautyberry

Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Beautyberry with a Gray Catbird

As in the last post the next scheduled banding is Tuesday, October 18.  Nets go up at 7:00 am.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

October 10, 2016

I got a text from Nancy Price saying that there were birds all over Possum Long on October 10.  Last minute we put up a few nets and banded for a short while until a light rain started.  It was amazing.  In a short time we had banded a Gray Catbird, an Indigo Bunting, three American Redstarts, a Black-and-white Warbler and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.   The American Redstarts were all male - 2 were born this summer and was was at least 2 years old.  You can see the tinge of darker orange of the young bird in the first photo and the darker red of the older bird in the second one.

Not only did we catch birds but we saw a host of other migrants.  There was a young male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, several Summer Tanagers, Cape May Warblers, and a few thrushes.  Best of all was a first for the property:  a Bay-breasted Warbler!!

American Redstart - hatch year male

American Redstart full adult 

Black-and-white Warbler

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting - tail with slight blue coloring

All was very promising for our regular Tuesday banding but after Hurricane Matthew there was some serious limb trimming that had to be done on the property.  So for safety, our session was cancelled.  We hope to be back to banding soon.

Next regularly scheduled banding will be October 18 with nets going up at 7 am.

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 9, 2016 and a bit from October 2

October 11 Banding cancelled  -See you on October 18

Last post I forgot to include some photos from our previous weekend session.  On October 2, we caught five birds.  Most exciting was our first Eastern Screech-Owl.  We had one in the net previously but did not have the proper band.  This time we were ready.  The bird was a red morph and was recently born.  It's feathers were still early ones, not downy but still fluffy.  This gave our bird a "stuffed animal" look.

Eastern Screech-Owl

Had it not been for the owl, our top bird would have been a Hooded Warbler.  Unfortunately we only got wing and tail shots of this species.  Other birds caught were a Veery, a Gray-cheeked Thrush and an Ovenbird.  The Veery was quite interesting with some white feathers in both wings and a lost tail.  We recaptured this same Veery on 10/9 and the tail was growing in.  The white feathers were on both wings so not from some type of injury.

Gray-cheeked Thrush


October 9 was quite exciting,  We recaptured a Painted Bunting that was banded as a young, green bird in March and now shows its male colors.  We also saw a banded green.  The buntings are returning!!!

We banded a total of 14 birds and had 4 recaptures (the Painted Bunting, the Veery, and 2 Ovenbirds).  

The Gray Catbirds are back!  We banded three.  We also banded 2 of their close relatives - Northern Mockingbirds.  The photo below is of a young mocker.  Its eyes are not yet intensely yellow.  We suspect the beautyberry near one net is now ripe.  We haven't had mockingbirds recently.  We also caught a third mockingbird but released it unbanded.  It was not a healthy bird, possibly having avian pox.  

Northern Mockingbird

Two White-eyed Vireos were exciting and a great comparison of eye color.  The young one was still more gray than white-eyed.  

White-eyed Vireo

We also had another Northern Cardinal, also young as were most of the recent birds.  They must have had a great nesting season.  

Northern Cardinal

In the warbler category we did quite well.  We banded two  Ovenbirds, a Common Yellowthroat, two Black-throated blue Warblers, and a first for the property, Blue-winged Warbler!

Blue-winged Warbler

Next banding session: To be determined, hopefully October 18.  Do not park on Hibiscus.  The dead pine tree has been dropping branches.  High winds may also cancel this session.

Friday, October 7, 2016

October 4, 2016

With Hurricane Matthew's progress delayed we were able to band on Tuesday.  (Matthew didn't hit until later on Thursday.)  Migrants were still fairly plentiful.  Nancy set a few extra nets to extend our coverage of the trails.  Good thing too!!

We caught and banded 5 birds.  We also had a recaptured Ovenbird.  A few migrants hung out high in the ficus tree.  First off was another Veery, this one was an adult.


We also caught three warbler species:  Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Northern Parula.  Not much new to say about the Ovenbird.  The Black-throated Blue was a young male.  The Northern Parula was male.


 Black-throated Blue Warbler

Northern Parula

So, the extra long net caught a new Florida bird for me, a new bird banded, and a new property bird.  Nancy extracted and I banded a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  This bird is rarely detected in Florida.  

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
both photos

So, the objective of our study is still being met with new species being documented for the property.  Migration is a strange phenomenon.  Last spring was dismal.  It is hard to persist when you put out a lot of effort and have low return.  This season might have just made up for last spring!

Painted Buntings are now returning.  I am getting reports of a few banded returns.  Soon we will be banding them again!

Next banding session will again depend on weather.  Matthew may circle back and depending on the path, if we get wind and rain, we will not band on Tuesday.  If the weather is fine, nets will go up at 7:00 am on October 11.  There is debris on the property so take no risks.  Avoid coming in the Hibiscus entrance unless you use the Woods trail.  Dead pine tree is dropping limbs.  

Saturday, October 1, 2016

October 1, 2016 Migration bliss

Due to approaching weather (Hurricane Matthew), multitudes of great migrant reports, and many good birds at Possum Long yesterday, I decided to run a session today.  Well worth it!  We saw 27 species (many migrants including a bunch of Cape May Warblers) and banded 14 birds (8 species) and recaptured 2 more.

Once again we banded Swainson's Thrush - three of them.  There were more unbanded ones viewed.

Swainson's Thrush

We also banded three more Ovenbirds.


One of the species banded early in the morning was a Northern Parula.  This is a young bird with the typical red and/or slate breast band are not developed.  The wing bars and yellow lower bill are visible.  

Northern Parula
Photo by Robin Potvin

A very big surprise was a Swainson's Warbler.  The previous ones (only 3!) we banded were in September.  Upon returning home I read that there was one banded in Georgia today so maybe more will be coming through.  

Swainson's Warbler
Photo by Robin Potvin

The Worm-eating Warbler we banded was a good species to compare with the Swainson's Warbler. The central crown stripe and bill size look quite different.

Worm-eating Warbler

Today was a "three species of thrushes" day.  In addition to the Swainson's Thrush above, we banded a Veery and a Gray-cheeked Thrush.  The Gray-cheeked measured beyond a doubt to be well out of the range of Bicknell's Thrush.  The Veery, below, shows the classic red/rufous color of this species.  

Gray-cheeked Thrush


The last species banded was Black-throated Blue Warbler.  Banding three of them made for nice age and subspecies comparisons.  Two of the birds were adult males, the other was a young bird.  Two were the Appalachian subspecies (black marking on the back) and one was from the non-Appalachian population.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Appalachian subspecies
Photos by Robin Potvin

Our recaptures were exciting.  Both had been banded in September, 2013 as hatch-year birds.  So both are three years old.

White-eyed Vireo

Blue Jay

Next banding:  Tuesday, October 4, but Hurricane Matthew may cancel this session.  Email if you want to be notified of session status.  If clear, nets go up at 6:45 am.