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!


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

tanager party 10-25-17

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

art installation 2

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


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

BHVI return_4_110117

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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Classic October Black-throated blue swarm


Donna and BWHA 10-18-17

I like hawks!

The rain to our south overnight put down birds by the hundreds in Cape Florida this morning. We could only run 11 nets for part of the day and we couldn’t open any nets in the outside section. Even with only 12 nets, we had to shut them all from 10-12:30 in order to catch up with the banding. 170 birds were banded; possibly one of the highest birds per net hour days that we have ever had in the fall! And of course nobody took any photos of the Black-throated blues, but got pics of these other guys:


Connecticut warbler (hatching year female)

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Wood thrush


Yellow-throated warbler

At least 85% of the birds were in great condition so if the rain lifts, they’re out of here tonight.

Bye bye_2010_101817

Which was the case!

Total: 170 birds of 17 species

  1. Black-throated blue warbler: 107
  2. Ovenbird: 24
  3. American redstart: 10
  4. Northern parula: 5
  5. Gray catbird: 5
  6. Cape May warbler: 3
  7. Black & white warbler: 3
  8. Yellow-billed cuckoo: 3
  9. Common yellowthroat: 2
  10. Prairie warbler: 1
  11. Yellow-throated warbler: 1
  12. Worm-eating warbler: 1
  13. Northern waterthrush: 1
  14. Blackpoll warbler: 1
  15. Connecticut warbler: 1
  16. Wood thrush: 1
  17. Broad-winged hawk: 1


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Three great days!


The middle of October has historically been our busiest time, and the 2017 season is not disappointing us. We have banded 286 birds of 24 species in the last three days, and according to radar, more are on their way.

PABU pair 1_101417_RD

Hatching-year (greenie) and adult male Painted buntings.

It is interesting to see how the proportion of different species changes from day to day. American redstarts ruled the day on Oct 12, with 38 captures of 99 total birds. Friday Oct 13 was a lucky day for us, with no one species dominating although Black-throated blue warblers, American redstarts, Common yellowthroats and Black & white warblers shared top billing. We also banded our first Mourning warbler since 2012 and our first Canada warbler since 2011 on Friday. The Black-throated blues invaded the site on Saturday the 14th with 61 captures out of 103 total birds banded.


The wind has been out of the east all week but we are still catching plenty of birds. There actually is some rumbling about a cold front getting to us on the long range weather models. It will be nice to cool off finally!

Oct 12/13/14

Totals: 99/84/103

  1. Black-throated blue warbler: 4/22/61
  2. American redstart: 38/9/10
  3. Common yellowthroat: 12/11/6
  4. Black & white warbler: 12/9/6
  5. Ovenbird: 4/12/3
  6. Northern parula: 9/4/0
  7. Prairie warbler: 3/4/1
  8. Gray catbird: 4/0/3
  9. Worm-eating warbler: 1/3/2
  10. Western palm warbler: 2/3/0
  11. Painted bunting: 2/1/2
  12. Swainson’s warbler: 1/1/2
  13. Caper May warbler: 0/1/2
  14. Northern waterthrush: 1/1/1
  15. Northern cardinal: 1/0/2
  16. Bay-breasted warbler: 0/0/2
  17. Sharp-shinned hawk: 1/0/0
  18. Chuck-will’s widow: 0/1/0
  19. Swainson’s thrush: 1/0/0
  20. Blue-gray gnatcatcher: 1/0/0
  21. Chestnut-sided warbler: 1/0/0
  22. Mourning warbler: 0/1/0
  23. Canada warbler: 0/1/0
  24. Summer tanager: 1/0/0


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Goatsucker Infestation

CWWI_100917_2_ALC crop

We had an exciting Monday morning when three Chuck-will’s widows and a Whip-poor-will were all captured on the first net run. Both species are strange-looking when compared to most birds. They are adapted to hunt while flying at night, and as a consequence they have very large eyes and a huge mouth. Don’t be fooled by the tiny beak; the gape extends behind the eye and the whole head seems to open up like Pacman when it wants to swallow something. Chucks (left) and Whips (right) are similar to each other, but the Whip-poor-will is smaller and we have captured far fewer of them. 


Adult males of both species have white in their tails: the top bird is the Whip-poor-will and the bottom is the Chuck-will’s widow. Both are named for their calls.

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Some other interesting captures include our second Summer tanager of the season, here looking around for fingers to nip.


A beautiful resident species of Cape Florida is the Common ground-dove.


We have continued to band a steady stream of birds this week; our daily totals are lower than usual since we have fewer nets up than before the hurricane, but the species diversity has been interesting. Red-eyed vireos, Ovenbirds and Black-throated blues remain our top captures for now. There is no sign of a cold front coming to our latitude in the long-range forecast and the easterly winds have been pushing most of the migrants inland, away from our banding site.

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CFBS is back!

We finally were able to return to the site on Friday Sept 29 and start the process of cleanup and setting the nets up again after Hurricane Irma’s pass over Florida on Sept 10. There was a lot of tree damage; most of the big ficus trees were still standing but they have shed a lot of branches. The nets are much sunnier now so we will have to be extra careful about closing many of them as the sun gets high towards midday. We have 17 nets back up of the original 26; most of the rest will have to be completely relocated.

There was some excellent migration movements through our part of the world in the days following the storm, and there was still a nice variety of species flitting about when we setup on Friday. We were rewarded with a diverse couple of days over the weekend; this is typical for late September and early October as we near the peak of migration.


Red-eyed vireos were our number one capture; an indication of the lack of canopy in the woods since they normally stay high in the trees above our nets. A burst of Cape May warblers flew in right after sunrise on Sunday and we banded 7 of them; this is a season total in some years.

12 year olds (crop)

The Northern cardinal who is the same age as one of our volunteers was recaptured on Saturday. They are both 12 now! This cardinal has now survived three hurricanes at Cape Florida; Katrina and Wilma in 2005 and Irma in 2017.

Here are our totals for the weekend:

Sept 30/Oct 1

Totals: 32/47

  1. Red-eyed vireo: 11/13
  2. Black-throated blue warbler: 3/8
  3. Cape May warbler: 0/7
  4. American redstart: 2/3
  5. White-eyed vireo: 2/2
  6. Black & white warbler: 2/2
  7. Swainson’s thrush: 1/3
  8. Ovenbird: 1/3
  9. Veery: 2/0
  10. Common yellowthroat: 2/0
  11. Northern cardinal: 2/0
  12. Worm-eating warbler: 1/1
  13. Yellow-throated vireo: 1/0
  14. Northern parula: 1/0
  15. Painted bunting: 1/0
  16. Alder flycatcher: 0/1
  17. Blue jay: 0/1
  18. Magnolia warbler: 0/1
  19. Wilson’s warbler: 0/1
  20. Summer tanager: 0/1


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Hurricane Irma and CFBS

As everybody has probably already heard, Hurricane Irma engulfed a majority of Florida and several other states in the Southeast US after leaving a swath of damage through the Caribbean. The closest approach of the eye to Cape Florida was in the lower Keys, but the storm was so massive that there was storm surge in Biscayne Bay, nearly 200 miles away. At this time the banding station is broken down and all of our volunteers are cleaning up the messes at our homes. Still, Irma could have been a lot worse. Facing down a Category 5 for days on end was, um, unpleasant, so I personally am very relieved that things weren’t worse for us. The site is probably still there and we should be able to get out there before the field season ends and start banding again, but we don’t know when that will be. The damage is probably similar to Hurricane Wilma from 2005, when we had to almost completely re-do the net lanes. But at least there should not be a complete overwash of the Cape. We will see.

We were having a slow but steady season up until we closed and broke down the station on Sept 6. Ovenbirds (above) and Worm-eating warblers were the most abundant captures, as is typical for early September. A couple of Louisiana waterthrush were also lingering. A Chestnut-sided warbler (below, left) banded on Sept 4 was a treat! Hooded (below, right), Prothonotary and Swainson’s  warblers added some diversity.


The trickle of birds in August was becoming a steady stream, and now in the days following Irma there are lots of warblers moving through Florida. We can hear them calling while we clean up debris. Local birds seem to have survived the storm well, which is surprising since there were winds of at least 40 mph for 48 hours with a few hours of gusts in the 90’s.

Irma breakdown crew on Sept 6. Note the sweatkini.

Pre-Irma Total (Aug 15 to Sept 6): 184 birds of 18 species

  1. Ovenbird: 47
  2. Worm-eating warbler: 26
  3. Black & white warbler: 25
  4. American redstart: 24
  5. Northern waterthrush: 24
  6. Blue-gray gnatcatcher: 7
  7. Northern cardinal: 5
  8. Swainson’s warbler: 4
  9. Louisiana waterthrush: 4
  10. Northern parula: 3
  11. Common grackle: 3
  12. Red-eyed vireo: 2
  13. Prairie warbler: 2
  14. Prothonotary warbler: 2
  15. Kentucky warbler: 2
  16. Hooded warbler: 2
  17. Chestnut-sided warbler: 1
  18. Black-throated blue warbler: 1


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