Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Bird Banding - Episode 2

28 August 2016

     It was barely light when Miriam and I arrived at SpruceHaven, but Kevin was already out setting the nets, along with John Lichty who had arrived earlier than us. It was not long before we were joined by Jim Huffman and Francine Gilbert, along with their friend Bashar, all keen to observe the operation, as well as to get to know SpruceHaven a little, and get brought up to speed on our Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica colony.
     The first haul from the mist nets was substantial, and we already had secured new species, a scenario destined to repeat itself in the weeks ahead as the pace of migration accelerates.
     We trapped two Magnolia Warblers Setophaga magnolia which provided a fine opportunity for everyone to examine their autumnal plumage close up. Anyone owning a field guide to North American birds will be familiar with the pages called "Confusing fall warblers" - indeed they can be!

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

     Kevin mentioned that he has banded Blackburnian Warblers Setophaga fusca relatively infrequently, so it was a great surprise when we retrieved six from our nets. Obviously SpruceHaven is a significant migratory pathway for this species.

Blackburnian Warbler

     Our first vireo to be caught and banded was a Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus - hardly surprising.

Red-eyed Vireo

     Last week we counted ourselves lucky when we captured a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Empidonax flaviventri, and this week we netted two Traill's Flycatchers - more to be expected over the nest few weeks. A word of explanation is in order about Traill's Flycatcher, which is a bit of misnomer these days. There are two species of Empidonax flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher Empidonax trailli and Alder Flycatcher Empidonax alnorum, which were formerly considered one species, Traill's Flycatcher. The two species are virtually identical morphologically but their song is distinctively different from one species to the other. In the spring when the males are singing it is easy to tell the two apart, and habitat also provides a clue, but in the fall it is impossible to know which is which, even in the hand. Thus, autumn bird banders still lump the two together as Traill's Flycatcher.

Traill's Flycatcher
      The other tyrant flycatcher we caught, Eastern Wood Pewee Contopus virens is shown below.

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

     Francine and Jim had brought coffee and croissants, and Miriam and I had coffee and an ample quantity of her delicious zucchini bread, so we were well provisioned that morning.
     In addition to birds there have been some other interesting sightings of late as the following pictures reveal.

Silver Spotted Skipper Epargyreus clarus:

     This individual kept returning to the bird droppings, so I assume it was obtaining some kind of mineral enrichment from it.

Eastern Tailed Blue Cupido comyntas:

 Northern Crescent Phyciodes cocyta:

Common Ringlet Coenonympha tullia:

Giant Swallowtail Papilo cresphontes:

Black Saddlebags Tramea lacerata:

     Stay tuned for other exciting species still to come.

All species banded: Eastern Wood Pewee (1), Traill's Flyycatcher (2), Red-eyed Vireo (1) Black-capped Chickadee (1), American Goldfinch (5), Magnolia Warbler (2), American yellow Warbler (1), Blackburnian Warbler (6), Chestnut-sided Warbler (2), Song Sparrow (9).  Total individuals: 30


  1. Nice job David with that excellent selection of birds. Coffee, croissants and zuchinni bread sounds a little upmarket for the average UK birder. Obviously we have a lot to learn from our Canadian banding friends.

    1. It's going to be home made muffins this weekend.

  2. Hi Both, you obviously had a wonderful time banding these birds, some super images of birds and Butterflies we never will see without your blog. The Black Saddlebags Dragonfly is a real stunner. Look forward to episode three. Regards John

  3. Hi. Thanks for the fantastic photos. Greetings.

  4. Hello David!:) Was the Eastern Wood Pewee really singing or crying for help as it was being held? I would like to think he was singing. Either way it's a lovely picture. I don't know any of the birds, and only some of the butterflies. The dragonfly is a beauty, and very different than the ones I do know. Thank you for sharing,... and now I'm going to see if we have any croissants left over from breakfast!:)

    1. I think it was just mad as hell (justifiably) and telling us to let it go - which we did.

  5. Like the sound of zucchini bread!

    Your photo's are a delight and the birds seem to sit so still ... amazing.

    I hope these last few days of August are good ones for you
    Take care

    All the best Jan

  6. You really have caught the banding bug, David! It must be very exciting to be able to get cole-up and personal to these wonderful creatures. I just hope that the data collected is more to the long-term benefit of the birds than it is to the human thirst for knowledge.

    Your butterflies are amazing and that Black Saddlebags is out of this world.

    Love to you both - - - Richard

    1. This is basically "my" banding station, Richard, so there will be more to come. It will continue until the end of September or into October if migrants are still numerous.

    2. I hadn't twigged that it was your enterprise, David. No wonder you are so enthusiastic! Whilst I still have mixed feelings about banding, I can see the benefit in gaining an understanding of the travels of migrating birds, especially when the environment is so fragile in some of their destinations. I take great comfort in knowing these birds will be in safe hands during the banding process, under your caring supervision!

  7. Must be great to see those birds up close, and you can hone your ID skills on all those tricky autumn plumages.........

  8. Nice to see the birds up close. Glad the banding is going well for you. Your Eastern Tailed Blue looks quite similar to our blue. Enjoy your day Diane

  9. Beautiful series, David. The Black Saddlebags is super, the Eastern Wood Peewee is adorable!! Great schots. Gr Jan W

  10. Hello David, wow that Black Saddlebag is something else. Great to read you and Miriam had a wonderful and interesting banding day with goodies and all that. What a beauties those birds are and a good oppertunaty to see them close by. The butterflies are interesting too. You took some nice photos of them.
    All the best from Belgium

  11. Hi David,
    Wonderful array of birds.
    You are doing a good job.
    Best regards, Irma

  12. Hi David.. Nice pictures.. :-)))
    About your comment: Hoopoe is easy to watch southern half Spain in Summer when come to Africa.. The rest of the year you can see it.. (Some times) The best time is summer… Regards from Madrid

  13. Good Morning David. You comment re heligoland traps certainly set me reminiscing about the ones at Long Point. They were highly effective due to the narowness of the isthmus of Long Point. At times we had to open the catching box to let birds through qas there were too many to cope with whn 2 or 3 banders. I remember one morning in particular with thousands of kinglets and alwats dozens of White-troated Sparrows. Take a look at these links. I met there at LP one of the authors - David Hussell.

  14. Hello David,
    Lovely butterfly photos, I won't comment about the banding!!
    The Black Saddlebag is a fantastic dragonfly, too bad we have nothing close to such a beauty!
    Warm hugs to share with Miriam :)

  15. Hello, it is awesome to see these birds up close. I love the butterflies too, great variety!
    Happy Friday, have a happy weekend!

  16. Beautiful birds David your rings.
    But also beautiful butterflies to see, pretty well the dragonfly.
    Fine Sunday greetings Tinie

  17. Hello David,
    I think it is very important to measure the pom birds and roads. We learn where they go and what they do. You let it beautiful pictures of view. They are all mala beautiful birds.

    The vlidners are wonderful to see. Beautiful kleruen and shapes. The dragonfly is really lovely view. I have this dragonfly never seen.

    Kind regards, Helma