(Nov 7) Since 2020 insists on continuing to be weird we are ending the season under a tropical storm warning. We were expecting to be taking the nets down in the pouring rain but it held off all morning, allowing us to band until we were ready to stop. The wind was up and the skies were overcast, layered and complex like they get when something tropical is coming. I heard a thrush call while I opened nets in the dark, and when I came back by the first net I had opened, she was captured already. A very small Catharus; she measured out as a pure Bicknell’s and was our second of the season, breaking records for yet another species that is usually migrating out over the open Atlantic.
And this is why we close when we do, since migration becomes a trickle again in November. The species lineup is still mostly long-distance migrants, although a lot of individuals of these species do spend the winter in the local area. Some nice portraits of our regulars to end the day on:
L: HY M Black-throated blue warbler; R top: Gray catbird, R bottom: Northern parula (photos by Marc Kramer)
We’re hoping the torrential rain that is forecast to start this weekend holds off long enough so we can enjoy our final day. Right now the air feels slightly drier and pleasant, but the moist tropical air is never too far away at our latitude and remnants of Eta are percolating to our south, possibly heading our way. We have had a lot of rain this fall, making it hard to run Net 20 which right now looks like it could be in the middle of the Everglades.
Today turned out to be a majority recapture day, with 9 recaps of 9 species comparing to only 6 new birds of 4 species. The birds are once again waiting for a weather window for a good passage to the Antilles and Central America. Perhaps they even sense the low pressure in the Caribbean, and know not to leave right now.
The theme of slow and windy yet diverse days continues as we pick up a few extra species right at the end. This young female Yellow-bellied sapsucker is the first one we have banded since 2013. Before then we used to catch them about every other year. This is a highly migratory woodpecker, unlike most other species that are residents year round. They are responsible for the neat rows of holes you can sometimes see in the trunks of trees and palms.
The strong east winds continue and they will be with us for the last 4 days we are open, with rain chances picking up by the weekend. This will likely keep us from having any more busy days, but we can always go for quality. And today delivered as the 19 new birds banded were of 11 species, including a Wilson’s warbler! This species is an extremely abundant migrant across the West but is rare in Florida. We have only banded 6 in the past 18 years. And it is too bad that the genus Wilsonia is no longer a thing, because otherwise we would’ve gotten a hat trick with Hooded, Canada and Wilson’s warblers this year. Here is a photo gallery of some of today’s beauties.
Left: Wilson’s warbler (Brian Cammarano); Middle top: Black & white warbler, Bottom: Painted bunting; Right: White-eyed vireo (all Steffanie Munguia)
It is getting really windy due to a strong gradient between high pressure in the Atlantic and low pressure in the Caribbean that also includes Hurricane Eta who is about to cause major problems for Nicaragua and Honduras. Our nets are protected by the trees so we were able to band today, although if it gets much windier we will have to close. Land areas are currently under a high wind warning while the ocean is under a gale warning. Today featured a little more than half of the numbers as yesterday but the species lineup was quite nice, including two first-of-the-seasons: Tennessee warbler and Myrtle warbler. The 2260 birds captured so far puts 2020 in third place for overall numbers: second place 2015 with 2324 captures is in reach but there is almost no way we will beat 2006’s 2561 captures.
Left: Tennessee warbler Right: Myrtle warbler (photos by Brian Cammarano)
Most banding stations along the Atlantic coast are swarmed with Myrtle warblers, AKA ‘butterbutts’, in fall migration. They are also abundant in South Florida, but they take so long to trickle down here that we often don’t catch any before closing.
This morning we at least heard and saw warblers dropping in right after sunrise, especially Northern parulas, Cape Mays, and a couple of first-of-season Myrtle warblers. The nets, however, seemed to only attract Gray catbirds and Black-throated blue warblers until the 1000 run, which contained all of the diversity for the day. Nearly all of the captures today were very fat, so they seem to be enjoying a good migration.
These two females are perfect examples of confusing fall warblers: whitish-yellowish streaky underneath, greenish on top, wing bars, tail spots, stripe through the eye. They actually are more different structurally than plumage-wise this time of year. The Cape May warbler on the left is a smaller bird with an overall stockier build and a slightly downcurved bill. The yellow rump patch can be diagnostic, but a third species (Myrtle warbler) pretty much looks the same as these two, has a much more obvious yellow rump, and is extremely abundant by December. The Blackpoll warbler on the right is a long-distance migrant, with some individuals traveling between Alaska and South America. They are large (by warbler standards) and have very long wing tips. Blackpoll legs and feet are at least slightly orange, while the other similar plumaged warblers all have black or grey legs.
No we’re not fooling. We really did catch this Northern yellow bat today: never mind new species for the station, this is a whole new Class (Mammalia)! Although we were very surprised to find him in the net first thing in the morning, he was untangled and immediately released.
The Front Pt. 1 passed last night, and migration was strong across the entire Southeast according to the radar. Needless to say we were disappointed that this didn’t translate into birds on the ground, and also it wasn’t especially cool. In fact the woods were even more quiet than before as most of the recaptures have finally moved on. We did hear a Yellow-bellied sapsucker near the tent, but that is it so far for winter species. But, we caught a bat! On Halloween!!
This Indigo bunting was the most photogenic capture in a day that featured more diversity with the recaptures. The front is passing today, but the net runs slowed down after a couple of decent rounds first thing in the morning. We have to be careful around the Net 7 beehive that has been steadily growing since the swarm moved in back during September.
(Oct 29) The bird of the day was definitely this female Connecticut warbler, our third for the season. We have only banded 6 other Connecticuts during the fall between 2002 and 2019, so to catch three in one year is quite notable and is probably an indicator of large-scale weather patterns shifting the offshore Atlantic migrants in to the coast. This could also explain the 10 Blackpolls we have also banded in 2020, and the fact that our species diversity is lower in spite of a respectable overall count of birds. Fewer species leave the Northeast and do the long flight straight through to the Antilles/South America, while far more species migrate west of us and cross the Gulf on their way to Central America.
two views of today’s Connecticut warbler (photos by Brian Cammarano)
Two more days until a cold(ish) front! It is still on schedule to pass Friday sometime.