Opening Weekend

The Fall 2019 banding season was off to a decent start with 31 birds of 11 species captured this weekend:

American redstart -7
Ovenbird -4
Northern waterthrush -4
Worm-eating warbler -3
Blue-gray gnatcatcher -3
Northern cardinal -3 
Black & white warbler -2
Common ground-dove -2
Chuck-will’s-widow -1
Northern parula -1
Swainson’s warbler -1

Classic early season Caribbean migrants are on the move! Species seen around the site but not banded include Red-eyed and Black-whiskered vireos, Prothonotary warbler and Black-throated blue warbler. Swallows were also coming through in large numbers, skimming the canopy. Most of these were Barn swallows but there were a few flocks of Cave swallows mixed in and single Bank, Cliff and Rough-winged swallows. Winds were out of the southwest this morning as a low pressure moved away from us out into the Atlantic.

We are running a reduced effort in 2019 due to work constraints, and will only be open on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. This should be enough to get a good sample of this fall’s migration season.

First bird banded: Ovenbird!



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El Chico Ultimo



El chico ultimo

We ended the season on Nov 7 with this young male Black-throated blue warbler as our final capture. Long-distance migrants were still trickling through in small numbers and the wintering species such as House wren and Myrtle warbler are barely beginning to arrive. We never did get a huge swarm of Black-throated blue warblers this October like we have seen in the past, and they were beat out by Ovenbirds and Gray catbirds for the top captures.


Adult male Myrtle warbler

In general it ended up being an interesting season. The relentless east winds and lack of rainfall were a strike against Cape Florida seeing a lot of migration, but the ragged broken-up tree canopy and thicker understory courtesy of Hurricane Irma meant that we likely captured a slightly greater percentage of the birds that were present. We ended up with an average year, numbers-wise. We did manage to capture record numbers of several species in 2018: this season’s 209 Common yellowthroats beat out the 198 banded in 2006, 63 Painted buntings topped the 55 from 2015, and the 32 Cape May warblers eclipsed the previous high of 24 from 2008. And, on our last day open we recaptured the male Northern cardinal originally banded in 2005. Good to see he has lived to be 13!


Adult White-eyed vireo

We also banded our first ever Key West quail-dove on Oct. 7, a species that has been seen more and more frequently in South Florida in the last few years. We had to keep quiet about ours due to the disruption to banding activities and our data collection season that would have ensued if it had become public knowledge. Our bird was a one-day wonder, and we hope everybody who really wanted to see this beautiful species was able to catch the cooperative birds up at Lantana Nature Park in PBC or at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson SP in Broward.

Mickey crop with watermark

Adult male Key West quail-dove

As always, a huge thanks goes out to our volunteers for another great season!

what next people

Weekend Crew 2019

Season total: 2075 birds of 61 species

  1. Ovenbird: 265
  2. Gray catbird: 249
  3. Black-throated blue warbler: 232
  4. American redstart: 230
  5. Common yellowthroat: 209
  6. Worm-eating warbler: 126
  7. Black & white warbler: 125
  8. Red-eyed vireo: 74
  9. Northern waterthrush: 73
  10. Painted bunting: 63
  11. Northern parula: 63
  12. Prairie warbler: 36
  13. Swainson’s warbler: 36
  14. White-eyed vireo: 34
  15. Cape May warbler: 32
  16. Blue-gray gnatcatcher: 25
  17. Northern cardinal: 25
  18. Magnolia warbler: 21
  19. Western palm warbler: 21
  20. Swainson’s thrush: 17
  21. Indigo bunting: 12
  22. Chuck-will’s widow: 10
  23. Hooded warbler: 9
  24. Great crested flycatcher: 8
  25. Gray-cheeked thrush: 7
  26. Traill’s flycatcher: 6
  27. Prothonotary warbler: 6
  28. Veery: 5
  29. Eastern phoebe: 4
  30. Louisiana waterthrush: 4
  31. Scarlet tanager: 4
  32. Tennessee warbler: 3
  33. Blackpoll warbler: 3
  34. Summer tanager: 3
  35. Yellow-billed cuckoo: 2
  36. Red-bellied woodpecker: 2
  37. Acadian flycatcher: 2
  38. Golden-winged warbler: 2
  39. Blue-winged warbler: 2
  40. Cerulean warbler: 2
  41. Wilson’s warbler: 2
  42. Common grackle: 2
  43. Green heron: 1
  44. Cooper’s hawk: 1
  45. Broad-winged hawk: 1
  46. Common ground-dove: 1
  47. Key West quail-dove: 1
  48. Eastern wood-pewee: 1
  49. Least flycatcher: 1
  50. Blue jay: 1
  51. Thick-billed vireo: 1
  52. Yellow-throated vireo: 1
  53. Black-whiskered vireo: 1
  54. Wood thrush: 1
  55. Chestnut-sided warbler: 1
  56. Myrtle warbler: 1
  57. Yellow-throated warbler: 1
  58. Mourning warbler: 1
  59. Yellow-breasted chat: 1
  60. Blue grosbeak: 1
  61. Rose-breasted grosbeak: 1


-Michelle Davis



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2,000th bird of the season


We finally banded our 2,000th bird of the season, a beautiful adult Black-throated blue warbler. Some years we band hundreds of this species, but they have not yet swarmed our site this year and it is looking like they won’t since it is November already.

Cool fronts have finally arrived and the humidity has dropped so we are thankful for that. The main bulk of the Neotropical migrants have moved through already, and we are waiting to see if we can catch any wintering species in our last few days of banding. It was a good season for buntings, and this adult male Indigo is showing off his turquoise shoulders. Unlike the male Painted buntings that stay bright year round, the Indigo bunting males tone it down for the winter.


Hawk migration is happening right now over us, and two raptors found their way into our nets this week. Above is a young Broad-winged hawk and we have also captured a female Cooper’s hawk. Hawks tend to escape from the nets since the mesh is designed to capture smaller species, so we are always excited to catch one.


This Ovenbird is trying to be a Golden-winged warbler for Halloween. We have seen faint wingbars on this species before, but these are quite extreme.

October total: 1,247 birds of 46 species

Top ten:

  1. Gray Catbird: 225
  2. Black-throated blue warbler: 192
  3. Common yellowthroat: 164
  4. American redstart: 128
  5. Ovenbird: 84
  6. Painted bunting: 59
  7. Black & white warbler: 54
  8. Northern parula: 45
  9. Red-eyed vireo: 34
  10. White-eyed vireo: 33

IMG-20181031-WA0003 (2)

The horror of huge face spiders and Gray catbirds. Scary stuff!

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Diverse weekend

Over the weekend the wind shifted briefly to the southwest then west then northwest for about 10 minutes before swinging back east. That was enough to dump a lot of migrants all over south Florida since the birds do seem to be bottlenecked to the north of us and are wanting to continue their migration.


Male Golden-winged warbler

We have some September species (Worm-eating warbler, Red-eyed vireo, etc.) mixed in with October migrants (White-eyed vireo, Gray catbird, buntings, etc.) so our days were quite diverse. Common yellowthroats continued to be common, and the Gray catbirds arrived. Magnolia warblers and White-eyed vireos were well-represented in this wave.


Adult male Magnolia warbler

Below are a Yellow-throated vireo, a sharp-looking bird. The brown bird is a Blue grosbeak, only the third one we have banded at Cape Florida since 2002!

Oct 13: 133 birds of 23 species
Oct 14: 88 birds of 19 species

  1. Common yellowthroat: 45/11
  2. American redstart: 27/7
  3. Black-throated blue warbler: 22/2
  4. Gray catbird: 5/17
  5. White-eyed vireo: 0/13
  6. Ovenbird: 6/4
  7. Northern parula: 4/5
  8. Black & white warbler: 3/6
  9. Magnolia warbler: 4/4
  10. Painted bunting: 1/6
  11. Red-eyed vireo: 2/2
  12. Scarlet tanager: 1/2
  13. Indigo bunting: 0/3
  14. Northern waterthrush: 2/0
  15. Swainson’s thrush: 1/1
  16. Worm-eating warbler: 1/1
  17. Gray-cheeked thrush: 0/2
  18. Acadian flycatcher:1/0
  19. Traill’s flycatcher: 1/0
  20. Great crested flycatcher: 1/0
  21. Yellow-throated vireo: 1/0
  22. Wood thrush: 1/0
  23. Golden-winged warbler: 1/0
  24. Tennessee warbler: 1/0
  25. Western palm warbler: 1/0
  26. Swainson’s warbler: 1/0
  27. Red-bellied woodpecker: 0/1
  28. Veery: 0/1
  29. Summer tanager: 0/1
  30. IMG-20181013-WA0026

    Weekend crew looking at Wood thrush looking at weekend crew

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They’re on the move anyways

In spite of the persistent easterly and northeasterly winds, birds have been moving through the area during these first few days of October. Daily capture rates have picked up and the diversity has been interesting. We have finally seen some species that we normally capture in mid-September, such as this First-of-Season Chestnut-sided warbler banded today.


Chestnut-sided warbler

We have not banded a Golden-winged warbler for several years so this female was a treat. She is also trending towards the Lawrence’s warbler type; the recessive color pattern  created when Blue-winged and Golden-winged warblers hybridize.


In keeping with the theme of yellow, we had an influx of Common yellowthroats and Cape May warblers this week. The 15 Cape Mays banded since Oct 4 exceed the season total for most years. Below are adult males of both species.

Here is an example of the species composition we have been seeing lately. There are still good numbers of birds typically associated with September (Worm-eating warbler, Red-eyed vireo, etc.) with a few of the later migrants just beginning to trickle down. Gray catbirds have been scarce up to this point.

Oct 8 Total:  59 birds of 14 species

  1. Common yellowthroat: 14
  2. American redstart: 9
  3. Black-throated blue warbler: 8
  4. Ovenbird: 5
  5. Red-eyed vireo: 4
  6. Northern parula: 4
  7. Cape May warbler: 4
  8. Black and white warbler: 4
  9. Blue-gray gnatcatcher: 2
  10. White-eyed vireo: 1
  11. Golden-winged warbler: 1
  12. Magnolia warbler: 1
  13. Blackpoll warbler: 1
  14. Painted bunting: 1

Wilson’s warbler

There has finally been a change in the weather of sorts as this week’s Hurricane Michael passes by us in the Gulf today, intensifying on his way to the Florida Panhandle. Winds have come around to the southeast and south, and a lot of the migration along the Atlantic coast seems to have paused for the moment. We have had 20 to 30% recaptured birds for the last several days, an indication that they are waiting for better conditions to continue south. New arrivals are joining them to wait for the rain south of us to move away. There may be a front coming into the northern to central part of the state later this week as Michael rolls off to the northeast, and there could be a big push of birds coming down the peninsula by next weekend. Or the high pressure over the Atlantic coast will re-assert itself. We will see!

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Quiet September

Entrenched high pressure over the mid-Atlantic region for the entire month of September made for slow banding. Winds were constantly out of the east or northeast, but despite only banding 530 birds we had some interesting species from time to time. Below is an adult male Blue-winged warbler banded on Sept. 20.20180920_111053.jpgMigrants are likely getting impatient waiting for a cold front to pass so they are moving anyways, although not as many as would get going if there were northerly winds. This Least flycatcher was an unusual capture as we have only banded two others since 2002. Odd, because this is the most likely Empidonax flycatcher to be seen in south Florida during the winter. They are very similar to Traill’s flycatchers, but have smaller bills, shorter wingtips, and a distinct eye-ring.
20180926_095441Black-throated blue warblers are increasing in abundance as we move into October, with 34 banded on Oct. 1. Males of the race that breeds in the Appalachians generally are a darker purple-blue above than males from other areas of the Northeast, and can have black streaks on their backs. Occasionally we get one with an entirely black back, like this guy here.
20181001_113414We heard some Western palm warblers and a Gray catbird today. Winter is right around the corner….right? Riiiight????


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A burst of activity


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.

Florence landfall 091418

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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