A burst of activity

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Birds were moving around the outer edges of the circulation of Hurricane Florence who was giving both Carolinas some problems over the weekend. You can see on the radar shot below how the migrants avoided the storm and were moving in big numbers through the Gulf states, down Florida and overwater on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides. The weather down here has been dry and hot so most of these migrants kept going, but some new species did show up such as this beautiful Yellow-throated warbler. Our busy days were only in the 30’s, but if we had had some nighttime showers our banding numbers would have been impressive. Oh well! Safe passage for millions of birds.

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Some of our birds are not migrating, including our friendly neighborhood Thick-billed vireo. Birders saw him singing the other day and he sounded pretty good for a juvenile.

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The species moving through right now are typical of mid-September, with Worm-eating warblers, Northern waterthrush and Ovenbirds prevalent. Squadrons of Blue-grey gnatcatchers have been all over the Cape, but they do a good job of avoiding the nets. This Ovenbird is about to be released from the weighing tube.

 
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And certain banders got old this week.

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Remembering Jim King

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We lost one of our longtime volunteers over the past weekend. Jim, we will miss you a lot at the banding station. Thank you for all that you gave; your inspiration and your laughs!

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Black-whiskered vireo, Sept 5 2018

September has continued steady, and daily banding totals over the weekend were in the 35 to 36 bird range due to rainy conditions. A lot of Worm-eating warblers were on the move, and this Black-whiskered vireo was a surprise. They are more commonly banded in spring, and, although they breed in Miami-Dade county, they mostly have left by the time the banding season starts.

Here are our totals so far, Aug. 15 to Sept. 10:

Total: 422 birds of 25 species

  1. Ovenbird- 105
  2. American redstart- 61
  3. Worm-eating warbler- 60
  4. Black & white warbler- 41
  5. Northern waterthrush- 37
  6. Red-eyed vireo- 21
  7. Prairie warbler- 16
  8. Northern cardinal- 15
  9. Swainson’s warbler- 13
  10. Blue-gray gnatcatcher- 8
  11. Northern parula- 8
  12. Black-throated blue warbler- 7
  13. Common yellowthroat- 5
  14. Hooded warbler- 5
  15. Louisiana waterthrush- 4
  16. Traill’s flycatcher- 2
  17. Great crested flycatcher- 2
  18. Cerulean warbler- 2
  19. Prothonotary warbler- 2
  20. Summer tanager- 2
  21. Common grackle- 2
  22. Red-bellied woodpecker- 1
  23. Thick-billed vireo- 1
  24. Black-whiskered vireo- 1
  25. Mourning warbler- 1
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Blue-gray gnatcatcher, the smallest bird we band

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The Hits Keep Coming

Neotropical migrants have been moving through steadily throughout the end of August and into the beginning of September. We have been catching about 20 birds a day of a nice variety, and the people that run the station over the weekend cannot keep from showing off the interesting species that have wandered into the nets. The August total is around 237 birds, which is a better start than most seasons. The rainy weather forecast for the next week should be good for making birds continue to pause in south Florida.

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Weekend crew flaunting another Cerulean warbler on Aug 26

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Weekend crew flaunting a Mourning warbler on Sept 1

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Weekend crew flaunting a Thick-billed vireo on Sept 1

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I looked about like this in the 7th grade

This is probably the same Thick-billed vireo that has been seen lurking around the mound for the past week or so. He is very young, and is molting out of a loose juvenile plumage. We have now banded three of these at CFBS: one in 2005, one in 2017 and this guy!

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Weekend crew flaunting first-of-season Black-throated blue warbler on Sept 2

What will be next?

 

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Quality then Quantity

After what felt like an excruciatingly slow start to the season (but was actually pretty typical for August) the birds got moving to the north of us and arrived in South Florida  overnight. A weak front in the mainland SE was motivating millions of birds to get going, and they pushed through the boundary, continuing down the peninsula to our great joy. It was nice to hear some flight calls at sunrise and see small flocks around all day. 

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Hatching-year female Cerulean warbler

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Side view of the subtle beauty

Why do we open so early if it is so slow? Because of Her^. Cerulean warblers are early migrants and our best chance of catching one is during the last couple of weeks of August into (maybe) the first week of September. It is also our best chance for Louisiana waterthrush, another extremely early migrant. Plus our volunteers get all back up to speed in time for when it gets busy again. While Thursday August 23 had the excitement of the Cerulean, the numbers came this morning. We caught nearly as many birds today as in the other nine days the station has been open. We actually had to do some work today and couldn’t just sit around talking about whatever (mostly birds. We have issues).

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Luis holds court to Joan, visiting from Barcelona

Aug 23/24
Totals: 13/42

  1. Ovenbird: 2/14
  2. American redstart: 3/9
  3. Northern waterthrush: 2/8
  4. Black & white warbler: 1/4
  5. Prairie warbler: 3/1
  6. Worm-eating warbler: 0/2
  7. Cerulean warbler: 1/0
  8. Northern cardinal: 1/0
  9. Red-eyed vireo: 0/1
  10. Northern parula: 0/1
  11. Swainson’s warbler: 0/1
  12. Louisiana waterthrush: 0/1
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El Premier Muchacho

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We opened again for the 2018 fall season on August 15, and the first bird captured was this Ovenbird. We also caught several Northern cardinals; two adults originally banded in 2009 and 2013 and some of their offspring born this spring or summer. Migration is just a trickle right now as the weather pattern is pretty dull. Winds are out of the southeast and there have been no overnight thunderstorms to make the birds land. Still, we did manage to capture a classic early migrant, the Louisiana waterthrush. These start showing up in the area in July and are mostly done moving through by the first week of September.

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End of the 2017 season

We have now completed the 2017 field season and closed down the station a little bit early this year, for a variety of reasons. In spite of missing 23 days due to Hurricane Irma, we had a decent season after all with 1572 birds captured of 62 species. Naturally the total numbers of some species normally captured in September were down this year, but we had a great October to compensate. Huge thanks as always go out to our dedicated volunteer assistants and Adopt-a-Net donors for another successful season!

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Adult male summer tanager; these are red in the fall unlike male scarlet tanagers.

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Tanager party on Oct 25: top left is the male Summer and the two right birds are young female Scarlet tanagers.

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People with clearly too much time on their hands created this art installation on the palm next to the tent.

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I am too fluffy for this world! (Eastern phoebe)

Season Total: 1572 birds of 62 species

  1. Black-throated blue warbler: 330
  2. American redstart: 198
  3. Ovenbird: 168
  4. Gray catbird: 149
  5. Common yellowthroat: 119
  6. Black & white warbler: 110
  7. Northern parula: 59
  8. Red-eyed vireo: 57
  9. Worm-eating warbler: 45
  10. Northern waterthrush: 41
  11. Western palm warbler: 32
  12. Painted bunting: 31
  13. Swainson’s thrush: 26
  14. Blue-gray gnatcatcher: 17
  15. Northern cardinal: 16
  16. Prairie warbler: 15
  17. Swainson’s warbler: 15
  18. Cape May warbler: 13
  19. Yellow-billed cuckoo: 12
  20. Chuck-will’s widow: 10
  21. White-eyed vireo: 10
  22. Eastern phoebe: 8
  23. Magnolia warbler: 7
  24. Gray-cheeked thrush: 6
  25. Veery: 5
  26. Tennessee warbler: 5
  27. Indigo bunting: 5
  28. Bay-breasted warbler: 4
  29. Louisiana waterthrush: 4
  30. Summer tanager: 4
  31. Eastern wood-pewee: 3
  32. Great crested flycatcher: 3
  33. Blackpoll warbler: 3
  34. Scarlet tanager: 3
  35. Common grackle: 3
  36. Sharp-shinned hawk: 2
  37. Common ground-dove: 2
  38. Red-bellied woodpecker: 2
  39. Yellow-throated vireo: 2
  40. Wood thrush: 2
  41. Chestnut-sided warbler: 2
  42. Prothonotary warbler: 2
  43. Kentucky warbler: 2
  44. Hooded warbler: 2
  45. Cooper’s hawk: 1
  46. Broad-winged hawk: 1
  47. Eastern whip-poor-will: 1
  48. Alder flycatcher: 1
  49. Blue jay: 1
  50. Thick-billed vireo: 1
  51. Blue-headed vireo: 1
  52. House wren: 1
  53. Ruby-crowned kinglet: 1
  54. Blue-winged warbler: 1
  55. Myrtle warbler: 1
  56. Black-throated green warbler: 1
  57. Yellow-throated warbler: 1
  58. Mourning warbler: 1
  59. Connecticut warbler: 1
  60. Wilson’s warbler: 1
  61. Canada warbler: 1
  62. Rose-breasted grosbeak: 1

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I’m baaaackkk! I’ve been hanging out here since at least the winter of 2013-14. (Blue-headed vireo)

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Thick-billed vireo!

Hi there!

The daily totals of birds banded have slowed down considerably since that big wave of Black-throated blue warblers moved through last week, but we anticipate something new coming in on this next front that hopefully arrives tomorrow. At least the weather will finally cool a bit!

TBVI looking at you

Sometimes we band our most unusual birds on otherwise ordinary days. A young White-eyed vireo caught yesterday proved to be a Thick-billed vireo upon closer inspection. This is a common species in the Bahamas that wanders to Florida occasionally, and there have been more records here than usual in the last year of Thick-billed vireos and other Bahamian species. One theory is that resident birds were displaced by the vegetation destruction Hurricane Matthew caused on some of the nearby islands in October 2016, and are wandering over to Florida in search of better habitat. Cape Florida’s hammocks and coastal scrub provide excellent habitat for these wanderers, and some of them that end up here stick around for awhile. In fact, a second unbanded Thick-billed vireo was sighted a few hundred meters away in the Park from our station on the same day!

Thick-billed vireos do look a lot like immature White-eyed vireos, but if you see them well they can be separated. Their song and calls are also different. In the photo above, the White-eye is on the left and the Thick-billed is on the right. Note the brighter yellow in the face and on the sides. White-eyes have distinct gray tones on their heads and necks, contrasting with a green back. The bright yellow sides of a White-eyed also contrast with the white belly, breast and throat. Thick-billed vireos are an even olive green above and yellow below, often appearing ‘dingy’. Thick-billed is also slightly larger, with, you guessed it, a thicker bill.

The face pattern is distinctive between the two species. (This time the Thick-billed vireo is on the left and the White-eyed vireo is on the right.) Note the break in the spectacles on the front top of the eye of the Thick-billed. In addition, there is a half-crescent under the eye of the Thick-billed that is often whitish. Subtle, but these birds can be readily separated if you get a good enough look!

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