This fall migration is a curious one. Today was our biggest day so far in terms of birds banded, with 68 new and 2 recaptures. The season is somewhat similar to 2012, where we had a steady flow of birds with no huge days but also few completely dead days. A small but heavy thunderstorm interacted with a steady strong flow of migrants over Cape Florida last night to bring us more birds today than yesterday.
Despite the overall low numbers we have captured record numbers (or close to it) for a couple of species. The two Swainson’s warblers banded today bring the annual total to 30, breaking the high of 28 banded in 2012. We are also two Worm-eating warblers away from breaking the high of 132 banded in 2011. The influx of Common yellowthroats in the last two days is noteworthy, and it would be interesting if we can catch a bird banded by the Kiawah Island Banding Station near Charleston, SC. They have been up to their ears in Common yellowthroats for weeks and we are just now getting them in numbers. Some birds are in a hurry to go south and cross the Gulf of Mexico or parts of the Atlantic in one 24 hour period, while others make their way slowly, possibly only flying for a few hours a night.
The highlight for today was this Least flycatcher, only the second one we’ve ever caught (the first was in 2006). This Empidonax is identified by the small size, lack of green and yellow tones, and the distinct white eyering. The eyering can appear to be more like spectacles at times; a look associated more commonly with vireos. The short primaries and big head are more clues to this bird’s identity. Least flycatchers are uncommon winter visitors to south Florida and are often tallied on the Christmas Bird Counts in Dade County. Why this species is such a rare migrant at Cape Florida is a mystery to us.
Alright…here’s some eyeball candy. This is our fifth Painted bunting of the season and the second adult male. Every time we see these we are impressed by all the different colors just in the wings. The flight feathers actually alternate green with red, like what a 10 year old might come up with while coloring in a bird book.
These are female Black-throated blue warblers, and below is an adult male Black and white warbler. Today followed a pattern we often see during migration where we have days of one particular species, age and sex migrating. We had a rush of adult female Black-throated blue warblers and four of the five Black and white warblers were adult males.
Today’s banding totals: 68 birds of 16 species
Black-throated blue warbler: 19
Common yellowthroat: 13
American redstart: 6
Black & white warbler: 5
Western palm warbler: 3
Northern parula: 3
Gray catbird: 2
Painted bunting: 2
Prairie warbler: 2
Swainson’s warbler: 2
Worm-eating warbler: 1
Chuck-will’s widow: 1
Least flycatcher: 1
Magnolia warbler: 1