Banding summaries: 1999-2003

Spring 2000

Spring banding 2000 took place on 28 days from 8 April to 30 May.  It was a really soggy season, in which we lost 6 whole and 5 partial days to rain!  This is more down time than we have ever had.  All the rain meant part of our banding area was flooded, and several usually-productive nets could not be opened on most days due to high water.  Numbers of several species that usually forage on the ground (White-throated Sparrow, Swainson’s Thrush) were captured in lower numbers, while swamp-loving species were captured by RRBO higher than usual numbers.

Nets were open an average of 4.2 hours per day with average 16.5 nets (12 meter equivalent).

This was our first spring with nets in a grassy area adjacent to our usual set-up.  It helped us band record numbers of birds that favor this open habitat: White-crowned Sparrows, American Goldfinch, Eastern Kingbirds, and Indigo Buntings.  This was the first spring in a number of years that we were unable to open our lakeside nets for more than a couple days, due to logistical problems.  This resulted in much lower numbers of most warbler species.  Construction on our new Environmental Interpretive Center also caused some disruption. Despite all these problems, results were about average.

We banded 589 new birds and had 112 recaptures.  A total of  760 birds were netted (this includes birds released unbanded).  Our capture rate was 38.8 birds per 100 net-hours. Previous spring means are 520 new birds and 634 total, and  43.3 per 100 net-hours.  Thus, while our numbers were above average, it was due mostly to increased effort and not an actual increase in capture rate, which was below average.  We handled 61 species, plus 2 released unbanded (European Starling, Ruby-throated Hummingbird).

The most numerous species were:

# American Goldfinch — 85
# Gray Catbird — 73
# White-crowned Sparrow — 36
# Red-winged Blackbird — 33

The previous spring mean number of species is 63, so we were right on.  However, we missed a number of species we nearly always band (Black-throated Blue Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, Golden-crowned Kinglet), and instead caught some unusual ones (see below!).

While the banders had to wear knee-high boots and tramp through mud all season, some birds found conditions in the banding area to their liking.  Here are some species we banded in excellent numbers (total followed by previous spring mean), probably due to the wet conditions:

#  Northern Waterthrush (16, 16.7)
# Common Yellowthroat (19, 10.1)
# Swamp Sparrow (18, 14.0)
# Lincoln’s Sparrow (21, 8.0)
# Red-winged Blackbird (33, 13.0)
# Common Grackle (12, 2.0)

Highlights
American Woodcocks once again nested near our banding area.  We captured 2 new birds, and also recaptured a female from 1999.   A Black-billed Cuckoo in breeding condition was banded, only our 5th capture of this species.  Two new species were added to the RRBO list: Prothonotary Warbler and Orchard Oriole. Prothonotary Warbler is a bird we usually see annually around the lake.  Without our lake nets up, we didn’t have any expectation of catching one this year, but the waterlogged conditions in our regular banding area seemed to suit it fine!  This bird stayed around for several more days, singing and treating many people to nice looks.

We also did some Northern Saw-whet Owl banding, with 4 banded. Details here.

Old friends
A total of 51 birds banded in previous years were recaptured this spring.  Especially notable were several long-distance migrants first captured in 1995 (since 1992, 106 long-distance migrants have returned, as well as 67 short-distance migrants).

A couple of interesting resightings of banded birds occurred.  A banded American Woodcock was observed being eaten by a Red-tailed Hawk!  This could have been one of the two banded this year, or one of several others from previous years.  A Brown Creeper with a band was seen in late April.  While there is a slim possibility it could have been from another bander who bands on the left leg, it was probably one of ours, as they have nested in the area in recent years. However, we band very few creepers.  Single birds were banded in 1999 and 1998, and three were banded in 1997.

Long-distance migrants:
2 Red-eyed Vireos (1 from 1995 also returned last year, 1 from 1999)
3 Wood Thrush (2 color-banded males from 1995, 1 color-banded locally hatched bird from 1999)
16 Gray Catbirds (1 from 1996, 7 from 1998, 8 from 1999; total = 88 since 1992)
2 Yellow Warblers (1 from 1998, 1 from 1999)
1 Baltimore Oriole (1999)

Short-distance migrants:
1 American Woodcock (1999)
3 American Robins (all 1998)
1 Song Sparrow (1998)
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds (1 from 1998, 1 from 1999)
1 Red-winged Blackbird (1998)
6 American Goldfinch (1 from 1996, 1 from 1997, 2 from 1998, 2 from 1999)

Residents:
4 Blue Jays (1 from 1996, 2 from 1998, 1 from 1999)
3 Black-capped Chickadees (1 from 1996, 2 from 1999)
4 Northern Cardinals (1 from 1994, 1 from 1998, 2 from 1999)
2 House Sparrows (1 from 1993, 1 from 1994)

Observations
Between 1 April and 30 May, 144 species and 1 form were observed in Dearborn.  This included 33 warbler species plus “Brewster’s” Warbler.  The outstanding highlilght was the Tricolored Heron found on the campus lake on 19 April, a first for Dearborn and rare in Michigan.  About 10 lucky people saw it, and it was gone by late afternoon.  Two Ospreys visited this spring, a Bald Eagle was a flyover in April, two Peregrine Falcons were recorded, and two American Coots were somewhat unusual.  A pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers seen checking out holes in the swamp by the Rouge River would be our first nesting attempt in 20+ years!  Interesting “southern overshoots” included White-eyed Vireo, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Kentucky Warbler.  The Kentucky Warbler records may consist of up to 3 birds.  One was from 6-8 May, another 14 May, and the last 19 May.  Each of these events were in different locations on campus.  This was a good year for Orchard Orioles, with 4 different birds including the first banded by RRBO.  A Pine Siskin at a  Dearborn feeder on 8 May was unusual.

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