300 birds for the season so far

The last few days have featured light westerly winds and the migrant birds have been slowly increasing in numbers, with a 41-bird high on Sept 4. Today we woke up to humid conditions and birds in the air. We caught nothing for the first couple of net runs, and then some birds finally settled into the woods. Bobolinks continued to flow overhead for a large part of the morning. On the ground we had diversity today, with 10 species represented among our 17 captures. Several of these birds were very fat, including a Louisiana Waterthrush weighing in at 27.5 grams! These guys usually weigh around 20 grams so he was carrying quite the fat load.

The birds of September: Ovenbird (photo by Miriam Avello)
Worm-eating Warbler (Photo by Miriam Avello)
Swainson’s Warbler (photo by Miriam Avello)

Birds are on the move to the north of us in Georgia due to a cold front that will fizzle as it works its way down the state. Hopefully it will encourage migrants to get a move on and continue down the peninsula this weekend! We are just starting to really get into the heart of migration season.

Today

SPECIESNEWRETURNRECAP
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher3
Black-throated Blue Warbler3
Prairie Warbler1
Black-and-white Warbler1
American Redstart4
Worm-eating Warbler1
Swainson’s Warbler1
Ovenbird12
Northern Waterthrush1
Louisiana Waterthrush1

Fall Season Total (from August 15)

SPECIESNEWRETURN
Cooper’s Hawk1
Common Ground-dove1
Chuck-will’s Widow2
Traill’s Flycatcher4
Great Crested Flycatcher1
Yellow-throated Vireo1
Red-eyed Vireo1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher15
Northern Parula7
Black-throated Blue Warbler11
Prairie Warbler12
Black-and-white Warbler34
American Redstart48
Prothonotary Warbler4
Worm-eating Warbler27
Swainson’s Warbler6
Ovenbird703
Northern Waterthrush38
Louisiana Waterthrush4
Common Yellowthroat7
Canada Warbler1
Northern Cardinal5
Common Grackle1
 # BIRDS CAPTURED# SPECIES# NETSNET HOURSCAPTURE RATE (BIRDS/100NH)
DAILY TOTAL171023134.515.61
SEASON TOTAL30423233229.2510.28
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Canada Warbler!

Hatching-year Canada Warbler (photo by Michelle Davis)

As August rolls into September our species diversity is slowly climbing. We have added Chuck-will’s Widow and Traill’s flycatcher to the roster, while the pace of the Caribbean-wintering warblers is picking up. Today we banded 19 new birds of 8 species and captured one returning Ovenbird, banded in Fall 2020. The weather was bright and hot but there were birds around anyways, and they stayed active all morning. Blue-gray gnatcatchers were up in the canopy evading capture, and a couple of them (plus a Prairie warbler) were singing a little bit. Not with the same enthusiasm as spring, of course, but any song is nice to hear!

Female Black-throated Blue Warbler (Photo by Michelle Davis)

We banded our first Black-throated Blue Warbler of the season on August 23, and there will be many more to come. There always are a few early individuals moving through already, but we don’t expect the bulk of the Blues until late September and October.

More close-ups of the Canada Warbler (photos by Michelle Davis)

The star of the day (OK the week) is this young Canada Warbler. We only have banded 11 others out of 40,000 birds so they are not very common here at all. These birds have a slender shape with large eyes, very similar in structure to Hooded Warblers but with a very different color pattern. The big eyes suit their lifestyle in the understory of thick boreal forests in the Northeast and, yes, Canada. They go all the way to northern South America to spend the winter.

Today

SPECIESNEWRETURNRECAP
Black-throated Blue Warbler1
Black-and-white Warbler4
American Redstart4
Worm-eating Warbler3
Swainson’s Warbler1
Ovenbird211
Northern Waterthrush3
Canada Warbler1

Fall Season Total (from August 15)

SPECIESNEWRETURN
Common Ground-dove1
Chuck-will’s Widow1
Traill’s Flycatcher1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher5
Northern Parula1
Black-throated Blue Warbler2
Prairie Warbler4
Black-and-white Warbler19
American Redstart25
Prothonotary Warbler3
Worm-eating Warbler13
Ovenbird211
Northern Waterthrush10
Louisiana Waterthrush3
Canada Warbler1
Northern Cardinal5
 # BIRDS CAPTURED# SPECIES# NETSNET HOURSCAPTURE RATE (BIRDS/100NH)
DAILY TOTAL20823134.515.61
SEASON TOTAL11817231818.257.15
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A trickle of migrants

Young female Northern Cardinal (photo by Steffanie Munguia)

The weather cleared up this week and the winds continued out of the east, making for a slow trickle of birds coming south. Most days we caught only between 2 to 5 birds, including young Northern Cardinals that are exploring the woods and stumbling into the nets that their savvy uncaptured parents know are there. A second Louisiana Waterthrush and two Prothonotary Warblers were nice captures, as these species are early migrants that will already be on their wintering grounds by September. In the old days the Prothonotary was known as the Golden Swamp Warbler, and they can be found breeding as close by as Big Cypress.

Prothonotary Warbler (photo by Alex Sharp)

Today we had a nice burst of activity and ended the day with 13 new captures. Despite the brilliant sunshine, August heat and quiet woods, multiple migrants found the nets throughout the morning. A minor invasion of Black-and-white Warblers took place late in the morning, and we banded 5 of them between 11 and 12.

Today

SPECIESNEWRETURNRECAP
Northern Parula1
Black-and-white Warbler5
American Redstart3
Worm-eating Warbler1
Ovenbird1
Northern Waterthrush2

Fall Season Total

SPECIESNEWRETURN
Common Ground-dove1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher2
Northern Parula1
Prairie Warbler2
Black-and-white Warbler10
American Redstart7
Prothonotary Warbler2
Worm-eating Warbler2
Ovenbird1
Northern Waterthrush2
Louisiana Waterthrush1
Northern Cardinal5
 # BIRDS CAPTURED# SPECIES# NETSNET HOURSCAPTURE RATE (BIRDS/100NH)
DAILY TOTAL136231349.70
SEASON TOTAL401223783.255.36
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Fall 2021 banding begins!

First bird banded Fall 2021! Adult male American Redstart (photo by Miriam Avello)

We were able to band most of the morning today under cloudy and drizzly conditions, and started the season with 9 birds of 6 species! Our first capture was an adult male American Redstart and # 2 was a Louisiana Waterthrush, a very early migrant that first arrives in our region in July. Migration seems to be well underway at this time, and interesting birds are being reported around South Florida. The pace of migration will accelerate, slowly at first and with more momentum in September, reaching a peak in numbers and diversity between late September and mid-October.

Louisiana Waterthrush (photo by Miriam Avello)
World’s cutest Black-and-white Warbler (photo by Miriam Avello)

It is always so exciting at the start of a new banding season, wondering what we will catch this year. The weather, proportions of regular species caught, any rare birds and the energy of the volunteer teams combine to make each banding season have its own ‘atmosphere’.

Today

SPECIESNEWRETURNRECAP
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher2
Prairie Warbler1
American Redstart2
Ovenbird1
Louisiana Waterthrush1
Black-and-white Warbler2

Fall Season Total

SPECIESNEWRETURNRECAP
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher2
Prairie Warbler1
American Redstart2
Ovenbird1
Louisiana Waterthrush1
Black-and-white Warbler2
 # BIRDS CAPTURED# SPECIES# NETSNET HOURSCAPTURE RATE (BIRDS/100NH)
DAILY TOTAL9622115.57.79
SEASON TOTAL9622115.57.79
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Fall banding 2021

Steffanie, Autumn, Michelle and Tori (photo by Autumn Kioti Horne)

Fall banding will start on August 15, 2021 and continue daily through Nov 7. We have a few slots open for new volunteers. If interested, please contact Michelle Davis at vireoojorojo@hotmail.com or text 305-582-4165.

Eddy and his first extraction, a Prairie warbler (photo by Miriam Avello)

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Final day of Spring banding

The last week of banding for the Spring 2021 season followed a similar pattern to the previous week. Banding was slow at the beginning of the week and picked up a little towards the end due to a brief wind shift to the west and then north. As has been the case all spring, the north and west winds didn’t last long so our biggest day was 42 birds. We had only one 100+ bird day the whole season, back on April 22. The biggest fruit crop we have seen in years from the native trees and shrubs largely fell to the ground uneaten.

Male Connecticut warbler (photo by Autumn Kioti Horne)

Where were the migrating birds this spring? Passing by our region to the west most likely, based on overnight weather radar images. Large numbers of spring migrants generally don’t put down in our area unless the winds are out of the west or north, causing them to pause their journey. Winds were east or southerly for the majority of the spring season, providing a tailwind for the birds. The bulk of spring migration generally is over the Gulf or around the western edge through Mexico and Texas. Fall migration is shifted east enabling us to catch more birds of a greater number of species and this is the main reason we have put our effort into maintaining a continuous fall banding presence since 2002.

Male Blackpoll warbler showing a very black poll (photo by Miriam Avello)

In spite of the lower numbers, we caught all of the species we expect to see more in spring than in fall. This last week added Bicknell’s thrush and Connecticut warbler to the roster, bringing the total to 963 birds banded of 33 species. 26 of these birds were banded in other seasons and were recaptured in 2021 either because they are residents (Northern cardinals) or wintering individuals that are using the restored habitat at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park year after year. The oldest of these was an Ovenbird that has been returning to spend the winter since 2012.

Young male (L) and female Blackpoll warblers (photo by Miram Avello)

Thanks to all of our fantastic volunteers new and returning! This project would not be possible without you.

Eddy, Miriam, Nico, Mario, Cinthia, Bianca and a Black-whiskered vireo

SEASON TOTALS, MAR 14 TO MAY 16 2021

SPECIESNEWRETURN
Yellow-billed cuckoo1
Chuck-will’s widow3
Blue-headed vireo1
Black-whiskered vireo1
Gray catbird954
Gray-cheeked thrush1
Bicknell’s thrush1
Hermit thrush1
Golden-winged warbler1
Northern parula15
Magnolia warbler1
Cape May warbler2
Black-throated blue warbler145
Western palm warbler7
Blackpoll warbler9
Black and white warbler634
American redstart217
Prothonotary warbler1
Prairie warbler442
Worm-eating warbler36
Swainson’s warbler4
Ovenbird584
Louisiana waterthrush2
Northern waterthrush76
Mourning warbler1
Connecticut warbler1
Common yellowthroat1361
Hooded warbler1
Summer tanager1
Northern cardinal311
Indigo bunting3
Painted bunting5
Common grackle1
  
TOTAL93726
 # BIRDS CAPTURED# SPECIES# NETSNET HOURSCAPTURE RATE (BIRDS/100NH)
SEASON TOTAL9633323781813.02
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Focus on Ficus

Ficus aurea, showing large red fleshy fruits that are the favorite for migrant thrush, vireos, warblers, tanagers, catbirds, etc… (photo by Michelle Davis)

One of the most important food trees for migrating songbirds is the Florida Strangler fig (Ficus aurea) and they are heavily in fruit right now on our site, although there aren’t too many birds around to take advantage of it and fruit is falling uneaten to the ground. These distinctive trees are known for sending tendrils around other trees that become roots in ornate patterns. They fruit year-round but seem to be especially prolific this spring. Watch for Black-throated blue warblers with the large fruit impaled on their bills while they eat it from the inside out, eventually dropping the husk on your head as you look up at them.

Park yourself under the canopy of a large fruiting ficus and watch the show as flocks of birds will collect in it on a good migration day (photo by Michelle Davis)

We had a burst of activity on Friday May 7 and Saturday May 8 associated with another brief westerly wind shift, and caught 40 then 35 birds each day. American redstarts in particular were abundant in this wave of birds, and we started to see more young males and females.

Young male American redstart with incoming black feathers around his eyes. He looked like he had huge cartoon eyes. These second-year birds will not get the classic black-and-orange plumage until the end of the summer. (Photo by Michelle Davis)

Southeasterly winds had returned by Monday and we were back down to an 8 bird day, despite passing showers overnight and during the morning. One was this beautiful female Blackpoll with an intricate black, yellow and white plumage.

Adult female Blackpoll warbler (photo by Marc Kramer)
One last Gray catbird. See y’all again next October! (photo by Michelle Davis)

TOTALS TO MAY 10 2021

SPECIESNEWRETURN
Yellow-billed cuckoo1
Chuck-will’s widow3
Blue-headed vireo1
Black-whiskered vireo1
Gray catbird954
Gray-cheeked thrush1
Hermit thrush1
Golden-winged warbler1
Northern parula14
Magnolia warbler1
Cape May warbler2
Black-throated blue warbler133
Western palm warbler7
Blackpoll warbler3
Black and white warbler624
American redstart158
Prothonotary warbler1
Prairie warbler442
Worm-eating warbler36
Swainson’s warbler4
Ovenbird494
Louisiana waterthrush2
Northern waterthrush50
Mourning warbler1
Common yellowthroat1111
Hooded warbler1
Summer tanager1
Northern cardinal311
Indigo bunting3
Painted bunting5
Common grackle1
  
TOTAL79626
 # BIRDS CAPTURED# SPECIES# NETSNET HOURSCAPTURE RATE (BIRDS/100NH)
SEASON TOTAL8223123700412.46

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Good Mourning!

Male Mourning warbler (photo by Miriam Avello)

The total number of migrants captured during the last week went back down but we had some highlights that added some interesting diversity. The most notable bird is this male Mourning warbler banded today; a very rare species in South Florida. We see them occasionally in the Fall but there are very few spring records. Mourning warblers almost entirely migrate around the Western Gulf up through Texas on their way to and from breeding grounds in Canada, so this guy is pretty far off course. They are somewhat similar to Common yellowthroats and also hang out in dense understory, but Mourning warblers are brighter yellow underneath and the adult male has a distinctive dark gray head with a black bib.

Same guy (photo by Miriam Avello)

Here are some of the other new species to come through in recent days:

Hooded warbler female (photo by Noah Frade)
Magnolia warbler female (photo by Noah Frade)
Golden-winged warbler female (photo by Michelle Davis)

Winds are forecast to be out of the south for the rest of this week with little rain, so we don’t expect any big numbers of migrants to settle in as the tailwind will likely carry them over us each night.

TOTALS TO MAY 2 2021

SPECIESNEWRETURN
Yellow-billed cuckoo1
Chuck-will’s widow3
Blue-headed vireo1
Black-whiskered vireo1
Gray catbird944
Gray-cheeked thrush1
Hermit thrush1
Golden-winged warbler1
Northern parula14
Magnolia warbler1
Cape May warbler2
Black-throated blue warbler121
Western palm warbler7
Blackpoll warbler2
Black and white warbler544
American redstart103
Prothonotary warbler1
Prairie warbler442
Worm-eating warbler36
Swainson’s warbler4
Ovenbird404
Louisiana waterthrush2
Northern waterthrush34
Mourning warbler1
Common yellowthroat861
Hooded warbler1
Summer tanager1
Northern cardinal211
Indigo bunting3
Painted bunting5
Common grackle1
  
TOTAL66826
 # BIRDS CAPTURED# SPECIES# NETSNET HOURSCAPTURE RATE (BIRDS/100NH)
SEASON TOTAL6943123601012.33

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Finally some decent movements!

Steffanie bands her first Yellow-billed cuckoo (photo by Miriam Avello)

This last week did prove to be much more active, and our overall total for the season jumped from 241 to 605 birds captured. We added Yellow-billed cuckoo, Gray-cheeked thrush, Blackpoll warbler and Summer tanager to the species list, and caught a lot more of species such as Black-and-white warbler, Black-throated blue warbler, American redstart and Common yellowthroat. Several fronts worked their way down Florida in the last week, causing brief windshifts to the west and bringing us birds. The overall volume of migration has been steadily increasing, with large pulses of birds coming up overnight from western Cuba or from the southeast through the Bahamas. There have been a lot of strong southerly winds this spring which have made for a quick passage through Florida; great for birds but less exciting for birders in deep South Florida. Still, we managed to have better days this last week and broke out of the 5 to 20 birds a day rut we were stuck in for the previous 5 weeks with 46 birds on the 21st, 142 on Earth Day, 60 on the 23rd and 72 birds today. All the new volunteers were finally able to practice their extraction skills and get up to speed.

Second-year male Summer tanager (photo by Miriam Avello)

Second-year male American redstart (photo by Miriam Avello). Both the tanager and redstart do not get their full adult male plumage until the end of their first summer breeding.

Sometimes excellent migration conditions take birds away from the Cape without replacing them. This happened over the weekend with the ripping southerly wind overnight on Saturday; all the singing Gray catbirds were gone as well as the lingering birds from the big movement on the previous Thursday. We caught 2 new birds on Sunday but were back up to 72 new birds today when the wind came around to the NW then W overnight. Flocks of warblers trickled in all morning, and they had collected in a couple patches of fruiting ficus and budding trees of other species by the afternoon. Black-and-white and Black-throated blue warblers as well as American redstarts were well-represented today. A Black-whiskered vireo sang his head off all day but never stumbled into a net. Blackpoll warblers have been noticeably absent so far this spring; I was expecting some to come in later today but nope! Usually they are moving through in good numbers by late April.

Left: male Black-throated blue warbler. Above: female Black-throated blue. This is the most sexually dimorphic warbler species. (photos by Miriam Avello)

TOTALS TO APR 26 2021

SPECIESNEWRETURN
Yellow-billed cuckoo1
Chuck-will’s widow3
Blue-headed vireo1
Black-whiskered vireo1
Gray catbird924
Gray-cheeked thrush1
Hermit thrush1
Northern parula14
Cape May warbler2
Black-throated blue warbler99
Western palm warbler7
Blackpoll warbler2
Black and white warbler494
American redstart86
Prothonotary warbler1
Prairie warbler442
Worm-eating warbler31
Swainson’s warbler4
Ovenbird304
Louisiana waterthrush2
Northern waterthrush32
Common yellowthroat671
Summer tanager1
Northern cardinal29
Indigo bunting3
Painted bunting5
  
TOTAL58124
 # BIRDS CAPTURED# SPECIES# NETSNET HOURSCAPTURE RATE (BIRDS/100NH)
SEASON TOTAL6052623525012.27

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New faces in town

We still are waiting for a big day of banding, but the weather remains mild. The winds have been mostly southerly all week and there has been little rain, so the conditions for migrating are excellent and birds are making as much distance as possible each night. Still, more are landing at Cape Florida and our daily captures are ranging from 10 to 24 birds instead of 2 to 7. Some new species are starting to show up:

male Cape May warbler (photo by Miriam Avello)
male Black-throated blue warbler (photo by Miriam Avello)
male Prothonotary warbler (photo by Miriam Avello)
Black-whiskered vireo (photo by Miriam Avello)

The Black-whiskered vireo is the tropical counterpart to the widespread Red-eyed vireo, and South Florida is close to the northernmost extent of its breeding range. This guy, unlike the other three warblers pictured, is probably going to stop in the area and set up a territory somewhere. They do breed on Cape Florida, but are mostly gone when we come back to band in the fall. One year we did have a male still singing on his territory around the banding station in August, so eventually we caught and banded him!

The forecast for next week calls for continued south to southwest winds and chances of rain most days. We will see if this weather interacts with the migrants to make more of them land at the Cape. The volume of birds passing over is increasing every night. Many of the ficus trees (strangler figs) have ripe fruit right now, so the buffet is set!

TOTALS TO APR 18 2021

SPECIESNEWRETURN
Chuck-will’s widow3
Blue-headed vireo1
Black-whiskered vireo1
Gray catbird664
Hermit thrush1
Northern parula2
Cape May warbler1
Black-throated blue warbler10
Western palm warbler4
Black and white warbler84
American redstart13
Prothonotary warbler1
Prairie warbler342
Worm-eating warbler19
Swainson’s warbler4
Ovenbird104
Louisiana waterthrush2
Northern waterthrush13
Common yellowthroat181
Northern cardinal29
Indigo bunting2
Painted bunting2
  
TOTAL21724
 # BIRDS CAPTURED# SPECIES# NETSNET HOURSCAPTURE RATE (BIRDS/100NH)
SEASON TOTAL241222341176.24

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