April - July 2013
During the months of April and May, the banding station was open for a total of 50 days on which we banded a total of 2,381 birds of 94 different species. Our top ten species, representing 1,335 individuals (56% of banded birds) were: Ruby-crowned Kinglet (370), Cedar Waxwing (300), Gray Catbird (112), Magnolia Warbler (105), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (94), Swamp Sparrow (80), White-throated Sparrow (75), American Goldfinch (69), Common Yellowthroat (65) and Yellow Warbler (65).
In addition to new birds banded, we also collected data on 1,147 recaptured birds (individuals that were already banded), for a total of 3,528 birds processed over the two-month span.
We are always anxious to welcome back the migrants in the Spring. This year, as in the past two years, we again had a few individuals that set records for early arrivals, like this Northern Waterthrush caught on April 16, the earliest (by 3 days) of this species ever caught in the entire 52-year history of the banding program!
Northern Waterthrushes winter in the Caribbean, Central and South America and often cross the Gulf of Mexico in one non-stop flight (some might lay over in Cuba or another Caribbean island). By the time they reach Powdermill they've traveled thousands of miles trying to make their way back to the breeding grounds alongside bogs, ponds, and slow moving waters.
For comparison, here is a Louisiana Waterthrush banded a week earlier on April 11th. The light plumage of the LOWA is much more white whereas the NOWA (pictured above) is much more yellow. Other differences include the extent of the streaking under the chin (more extensive in the NOWA) and the color of the feet, which are quite pink in the Louisiana Waterthrush.
Another early recapture was this handsome adult male American Redstart, caught on April 20, which tied an individual banded on the same day last year for the earliest-ever arrival of this species.
Earlier that same week, we also banded this Hooded Warbler on the earliest arrival date for this species (caught April 17th in 2002 and 2013).
It is always hard to resist photographing the diminutive Golden-crowned Kinglets, like this pair caught on April 3rd. While some of this species winter in the area, many more spend the winter in the central or southern portions of the US.
Kinglets are sexually dimorphic; only the male Golden-crowned Kinglet has the orange in the crown. The photo at the top shows how the orange in the male's crown can often be almost completely hidden unless he chooses to display it as a means of aggression or attracting a mate.
Ruby- and Golden-Crowned Kinglets get their name from the colorful crown− the genus, Regulus is the diminutive form of the Latin word "rex" which means "a king". Weighing only a little more than two pennies, these little kings are one of the smallest birds we catch at Powdermill.
Two other small favorites that visitors and banders alike often end up photographing are the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (this one was banded on April 12th) and...
The Brown Creeper. This photo from April 13th shows the delicate build of this bird while the shot below illustrates how well its plumage acts as camouflage.
Other unusual birds banded this season included this Rusty Blackbird that we captured on April 10th.
Although most juvenile Rusty Blackbirds typically replace all feathers except some underwing coverts, some can retain a few secondary flight feathers as this one did. The presence of these worn, juvenile feathers at this time of year allowed us to age this individual as a Second-year bird.
Interestingly, the Rusty had also retained two juvenile feathers in its tail.
Tree Swallows can often be seen gracefully swooping and diving over our ponds and perching on top of our mist net poles or even on the mist net itself.
However, we did manage to catch this female on April 10th. Female Tree Swallows are more grey/green while males are bright iridescent blue/green but older females can also be completely iridescent. Tree Swallows are secondary cavity nesters like Eastern Bluebirds and will even use bluebird nest boxes if they can. Tree swallows will take their prey and drinks of water while flying ("on the wing") and are the earliest swallow to return to the northern US.
This view of the swallow shows off even more of her iridescence and gives a better perspective on the long wings of this species relative to their size.
This nice-looking Northern Rough-winged Swallow was caught on May 1st and was the first (and possibly the only) Northern Rough-winged Swallow of the year. It was cautiously aged as an After-hatch-year, sex unknown, though the long barbs could indicate that it was a male (if they were hooked we would be more certain).
Why is the wing rough? The leading edge of the outer primary has stiff barbs that feel like a file. Some have theorized that the barbs may produce a sound to attract mates. It certainly makes sense since the barbs on males are longer on other species (e.g. Common Nighthawks and some species of Manikins) which use their feathers to create sound during the mating season.
In both color and temperament, the White-Eyed Vireo is perhaps the most furious of vireos we band here at Powdermill. The thick hooked bill, white eye, and yellow "spectacles" are unmistakable. The eye is only completely white for the adults; in the fall, hatch year eyes are grey. The differences in eye color in the spring is much more subtle and takes a well trained ... eye.
Other pictorial highlights from the Spring include this colorful adult female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker banded on April 11th.
This Adult Brown Thrasher, banded on April 10, was one of five that we caught this Spring.
Note the bright yellow eye with an orange ring around the edge characteristic of the adults of this species. Juvenile Brown Thrashers will have a lighter yellow or grayish yellow iris in the Spring.
An adult male Orchard Oriole banded on May 15th. We caught only one other Orchard Oriole this Spring/Summer, a hatch-year bird (unknown sex) on July 26th.
This Blackpoll Warbler (Second-year female), banded on May 19th, was the only Blackpoll banded through July.
A male Blue-winged Warbler, one of seven that we encountered over the Spring and Summer.
A handsome adult male Nashville Warbler.
A very colorful male Yellow-breasted Chat, one of two banded this Spring.
And our highlights representative from the Sparrow family...this handsome light-morph White-throated Sparrow.
This sparrow was one of 75 White-throated Sparrows that we banded this Spring, earning this species the #7 spot in the top ten banded birds at Powdermill for the season.
And, as the migrating birds dwindled, we had our FIRST Hatch-year bird of the year, this Mourning Dove banded on May 17th. It was the only fledgling banded during our Spring migration season. It was ironic that this was our first fledgling of the year because the first bird banded at this lab in 2013 was also a Mourning Dove, banded back on January 9th.
The Mourning Dove gets it's name from it's mournful song. Since the oldest known individual lived to 31 1/3 years they could actually outlive many of their parents or progeny. Seed eaters, as many know from watching their feeders, Mourning Doves can eat as much as 12 to 20 percent of their body weight and as many as 17,200 bluegrass seeds in a sitting.
During the month of May, we held our beginner (above) and advanced banding workshops (below). Our beginner workshop focused on teaching safe and efficient techniques used to extract birds from mist-nets while our advanced workshop focused on ageing and sexing birds via plumage and molt limits. Once again, our workshops were attended by participants from all over the country including New Mexico, Montana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and right here in Pennsylvania.
A special thanks to Molly McDermott, former Powdermill bander, who helped us out for our workshops.
On Saturday, April 27, we hosted a Pledge 2 Fledge Family Day. Several families stopped by and got an up-close look at some feathered friends at the bird banding lab. After visiting the lab, our young visitors headed out to a special net to collect and band plush birds in our family-friendly activity.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” ~Baba Dioum
We hope we were able to impart understanding along with our own wonder of birds and, in the process, fledge some new birders.
Pledge 2 Fledge Family Day is part of Global Birding Initiative’s Pledge 2 Fledge Campaign: SEE birds. SHARE birds. SAVE birds.
The crew for Spring Banding, from top to bottom: Luke DeGroote, PARC Banding Coordinator, Matt Webb, Flight Tunnel Technician, and Banding Assistants, Mary Shidel, Kate Johnston and Jason Gleditsch. [Not pictured, Amy Tegeler, Bioacoustics Program Manager]
By the end of May, Spring migration had tapered off, and we started into our Summer Banding schedule. In the summer months we open a partial subset of our nets two to three times per week because more frequent banding at this time of the year could be disruptive for breeding pairs that are working hard to build nests, incubate eggs and feed their young.
For the months of June and July, we banded for a total of 21 days and caught 1250 birds in our nets, 809 of which were new, previously unbanded birds representing 57 different species. Our top five species were: American Redstart (101), Red-eyed Vireo (85), Gray Catbird (66), Eastern Phoebe (65) and Cedar Waxwing (56).
More than half (58%) of the birds banded over the two months were birds that had just hatched this year. The most common Hatch-year birds we banded this summer were Eastern Phoebes. This individual pictured left was one of 64 that we banded this summer. Amazingly, only ONE Eastern Phoebe banded in June and July was an adult!
We had a few captures this summer of some species that we average one or fewer per year, like this Chimney Swift banded on July 9th.
Their incredibly long wings and streamlined body shape give them a definite advantage for maneuverability and swiftness!
Always a nice surprise to find in the net, this Golden-winged Warbler (hatch-year male) was captured on
July 26th. It was also the only one of its species banded this season.
This handsome adult male Northern Parula caught on July 30 was one of three that we banded this Spring and Summer.
Another handsome adult male warbler, this American Redstart had an unusual amount of orange on its back and flight feathers.
This Second-year male Cerulean Warbler, caught on July 2nd was the only Cerulean we saw this year. It was in breeding condition when captured on the 2nd. This individual was later recaptured on July 23, by which time it was finished breeding and was already well into its prebasic molt.
And our highlights wouldn't be complete without the ever-photogenic Scarlet Tanager (adult male).
Although no one wants to see summer come to a close, Fall is always an exciting time of year at the Banding Lab.
By the beginning of August we had already started to ramp up the banding schedule, which would gradually be back to banding six days per week by the end of the month.
We look forward to all of the Fall migrants that the North winds will bring to Powdermill...check back towards the end of the year for those Highlights.