Friday, August 28, 2009

Fall 2009: Week #2 in review

This week was largely a washout. Even during dry periods, the generally damp weather has really encouraged the mosquitoes, which are worse this year than I can ever remember them being. Yuck!

The first boreal-nesting migrant was banded this week, a young female Canada Warbler on 25 August. A couple more Baltimore Orioles were in the nets, thus breaking our previous fall record of 14 banded; we now stand at 16. I've banded five Yellow-shafted Flickers so far, which is above-average. They are fairly heavy and so do not "stick" in the nets very well. But they seem to love digging around in the new wood chips, so I expect we may set a record for this species this year as well.

Young (hatching-year) female Canada Warblers can be pretty dull.

Most notable bird banded this week, in my opinion, was an adult Red-eyed Vireo netted on 25 August. It was a recapture, and had originally been banded, also as an adult, in August 2003. This means this bird is at least 7 years old. We've had returns of other Red-eyed Vireos before, but prior to this bird the longest period between recaptures was less than 5 years. You can take a look at RRBO's age records on this page. It lists a variety of species with at least two years between captures. According to the Bird Banding Lab's longevity records, the oldest Red-eyed Vireo is estimated at 10 years, 2 months old.

What makes this particularly remarkable is that Red-eyed Vireos winter in South America, making the minimum distance traveled between Dearborn and the northern coast of Colombia about 2200 miles one-way.

Range map for Red-eyed Vireo, from Cornell's All About Birds, a recommended resource.

This bird, then, has flown at least 36,000 miles on migratory flights!

Looks like the weather will be much improved next week. With reports of migrants in the region already trickling in, things should start to get interesting soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fall 2009: Week #1 in review

RRBO's 18th fall banding season began on 17 August. First, I must show you the fabulous results of our big net lane chipping project. It's like banding in a park!

The weather wasn't bad this week, so I did get to band every day. A drenching downpour cut things short on Thursday, as did gusty winds today. Things started out rather slowly, with mostly resident birds being captured. Of the 18 species banded, only two do not nest on site: Veery (one banded on Aug 17) and American Redstart (one banded on Aug 18).

Two species stood out. The first was Warbling Vireo. My fall average is 6 birds a season. I've already banded 10; I have only topped 10 birds in three years, and my record is 20. We'll see how that shakes out. Among those I banded this week was this individual, which had a deformed bill. The maxilla was about 2 mm too short, and curved to the left. This type of deformity isn't terribly uncommon. When it's minor like this, it doesn't seem to handicap the bird too much. If it's severe and interferes with feeding or feather care, the bird doesn't survive long. The bird below was a hatching-year bird of average fat and weight for this species at this time of year. You can read more about my compilations of bill deformities in this previous post.

The other notable species was Baltimore Oriole. Orioles are also common here, but they are early migrants. Some autumns, I catch none at all. My fall average is less than 3 birds a season, and my record is 14. I've tied that record already, with over half of them being captured yesterday -- six were in one net!

Same as last year, I will post a running total of the fall banding season in the right sidebar.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Getting ready for fall banding

You may recall when I first started writing this blog a year ago, some of my first posts were on the work involved getting the net lanes ready for the banding season. These past couple of weeks, we've been doing some work that will hopefully make the annual prep less of a chore.

On 1 July, I had a team of volunteers out to lay down weed barrier in the net lanes, after my co-worker Rick Simek had so kindly killed the earliest growth of vegetation and most recently mowed what re-sprouted. These people made fast work of this job! It took less than half a day to cut, lay down, and anchor about a thousand feet of landscape cloth!

Andy Dettling, Darrin O'Brien, Sheri Smith, Linda Patterson,
and Jerry Mitchell after a job well done!

Here's what the project looked like as we worked (from front
to back, Linda, me bustling around, and Andy).

On 6 July came the task of spreading a layer of wood chips on the cloth. The cloth is slightly translucent, and without some cover, weeds could still grow underneath. This is a HUGE job, but the soonest we could get a large group of volunteers was early August. So, a handful of people also turned up to at least get a layer spread. The wood chips were generously donated and delivered by the City of Dearborn's Scott Racer, in a very large truck.

No messing with dump trucks. Most of the loads came directly from the big chipper.

The City of Dearborn has a gem in Scott Racer, who delivered at least 10
loads of wood chips. Thanks also to his boss Bruce Yinger.

Darrin O'Brien, Jerry Mitchell, Mike Lapko, Karen Gref, Linda Patterson,
and Mike O'Leary still smiling after hauling at least 10 yards of wood chips.

In late July and early August, two more groups of students spread still more chips. This resulted in a shallow layer over all of the landscape cloth. Finally, on 3 August, an energetic and enthusiastic group of Ford Motor Co. volunteers finished up the job.

Part of the Ford crew. These guys were amazing! In this photo Noori
Bob Sawyer, Anatoli Dubovitskiy, Mario Iaquinta, Franco
Ragazzi and Joe Mantle. Photo by Steve Lake, who I appointed leader
because he and Noori showed up first!

This was an enormous undertaking, with about 170 hours of volunteer work contributed; I lost track of how many giant loads of chips were donated. All of this represents a donation of at least $3000 of time and materials. This is how the Rouge River Bird Observatory thrives, so to all who helped, my heartfelt appreciation!

In the next week, I'll be doing some pruning, checking and repairing the fencing that excludes the deer, and putting up the nets. Fall 2009 banding -- our 18th fall season -- begins on 17 August.