Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another 2005 Northern Parula Recap!

On Wednesday, a sixth recap Northern Parula was netted. The bird was an after-second -year male when banded by Jethro Runco at FLSP on April 20, 2005. The individual was recaptured in April 11, 2006 at First Landing and again at the station on May 11, 2007. Thus, the bird was hatched during the 2003 breeding season or earlier. Further, the bird has undertaken and completed at least 5 round trips from FLSP to its wintering grounds in the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America.

A Yellow-throated Vireo Hits an Aerial Net.

A Yellow-throated Vireo became the first ever captured and banded at FLSP today. The species was the eighth new species to be caught at FLSP this year when the bird was extracted from the sixth pocket at Bob's Net by Dr. Scoville. Three aerial nets (where two mist nets are stacked one above the other on a single pair of poles) were built at FLSP this year in an effort to capture migrants which prefer higher habitat (see pic with white bird bags in pockets 2 and 8). The boardwalk below Bob's Net was also added this year along with direct electronic data entry via a Panasonic model CF-28 Toughbook. Things are looking up at the station!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Brown-headed Nuthatch Project Underway.

The Brown-headed Nuthatch ("BHNU") is a year-around, cavity-nesting resident of the pine and oak forest at First Landing. This little bird, which frequently excavates its own cavity, is overlooked by most visitors as it spends much of its time high in the forest canopy, usually among pine cones searching for seeds. The birds are more often heard than seen as their "squeaky toy" contact calls are distinctive. At First Landing the Brown-headed is near the northern extreme of its range, which extends south to Florida and east to Arkansas and east Texas. As such, many birders from Canada and northern tier states come to FLSP to see their first BHNU. To see a range map and listen to the call go to:

The BHNU is also a frequent, cooperative breeder. This breeding system is not uncommon among birds world-wide, but is unusual among species in temperate climates. Fundamentally, offspring of cooperative breeders receive forage from helpers as well as parents. The helpers are usually closely related to the breeding pair. The group of BHNU and other cooperative breeding groups are known as "clusters."

With financial assistance from and the Virginia Beach Audubon Society through the National Audubon Society, Dr. Sheila Scoville and I commenced a long-term project during January 2008 to study the BHNU at First Landing. The study will seek to discover the breeding preferences and other aspects of BHNU living at the northern edge of its range in pine/oak habitat in which fire is surpressed. To date 21 BHNU have been captured, banded, color-marked and released unharmed at various locations within the park. Feathers and small blood samples have been taken from each bird to aid in sexing the individuals, to determine the relationship between individuals within the clusters and to evaluate and compare the DNA of Virginia BHNU with those of Florida and Georgia.

Since January many marked individuals have been re-spotted and several have been recaptured and released. At the present time, five active nesting cavities are being watched by three volunteers and by video tape on a regular basis. New breeding cavities are being searched for by the volunteers and others. Progress with the BHNU study will be reported here from time-to-time. Should you wish to assist with this effort, post a comment.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Returning Parulas in the Majority.

First, a few words about banding terminology. A bird which is caught in our nets and does not have an aluminum band on one of its legs is an unbanded bird. Unless it is a hummingbird and as long as we are able to identify the species of the individual bird, we place a uniquely numbered band on the leg of the bird. Such a bird is known a a newly-banded bird or "new" bird. If this new bird is caught again during the same banding season at FLSP, it is known as a "retrapped" bird. If more than 24 hours has passed since it was banded or last captured, a notation of this retrapping is made in our data records and some additional information is usually taken about the bird, such as its weight. If a FLSP banded bird is again caught at First Landing during any subsequent spring season, it is known a local recapture or a "recap." [A bird banded elsewhere and caught at FLSP at any time is known as a "foreign recapture." So far there have been only two such recaptures at FLSP.]

The Northern Parula is a small, neo-tropical warbler which enjoys nesting in areas with Spanish moss (i.e. in FLSPark) and, farther north, in areas with old man's beard lichen. (Must be comfy as they use the material in their nests.) The parula winters in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, a few in south Florida. You may read about the Northern Parula, hear its song and see its range map at:

During the initial 2005 spring, 26 parulas were banded at First Landing. During the second season 11 new were ringed, and last year there were 16 more. So far this spring only four new parulas have been banded. Remarkably, however, we have recaptured five FLSP parulas this spring! Indeed, the first two parulas caught this season were recaptures. (And there were parulas singing around the station for a week before the first was netted.)

Three of the birds were new in 2007-two females and one male. The fourth bird is a female from 2006 who was not recaptured in 2007. The fifth bird is a male from 2005 who was recaptured at FLSP in 2006 and 2007. Each individual was captured within a week of the date of its initial capture and was extracted from nets which are within yards of the nets in which the birds were first caught. (Think of the miles each bird has flown to return to FLSP.)

It would seem First Landing's Northern Parulas like and depend upon the park as much as the people who visit and enjoy the park! Thanks to President Brian Taber for the photo of the banded parula taken this past Saturday at the station. If you have the opportunity, come visit the station to hear and see a FLSP Northern Parula.

The Week in Review.

The week of April 12th thru the 18th saw 13 new of the year species banded at FLSP, including two species, Seaside Sparrow and Cedar Waxwing, not previously banded at the station.
Numbers were also up for the week, with 108 individuals banded along with 38 recaptures. The first two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds of the season were netted, processed and released without banding. The weekly tallies for the 2008 season may be seen on sheet 3:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

An Influx of Migrants.

Today and Saturday saw a new and more diverse flight of migrants arrive at First Landing. Two brilliant male Prothonotary Warblers, a male Blue-winged Warbler and a second-year White-eyed Vireo joined the gnatcatchers, Palm Warblers, Prairie Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, a Gray Catbird and a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Dr. Lesley Bulluck and a group of her undergraduate students from the Ornithology Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University visited the station on Saturday. The migrants gave them a colorful glimpse of the beginning of the 2008 spring migration in coastal Virginia.

Last Week at First Landing.

The weather slowed matters down a bit at the Station last week. Overall, numbers of new birds banded and birds recaptured were down from the previous two weeks and from the same week last year. However, the species list continued to grow and yesterday, Saturday, the first day of the next banding week, was the best day of the 2008 season so far. Click on the link which follows to see our weekly totals. Go to sheet 2.


About the male Belted Kingfisher pictured above: he lost his fish when he hit the net. The net caught the fish, too. I reunited the bird with his fish. And after banding, measuring, etc., he flew off with the fish!

New Sparrows.

Three new sparrows were banded at First Landing over the past three days. One was simply lost, the Field Sparrow. The other two were always there, but our nets were not.

The extreme high water of last week flooded out a number of our net lanes for several days. Although the high water also flooded the saltmarshes which adjoin the station, the water came and went with each tidal cycle. Not so with the water in our net lanes. Thus, after cutting off a ripped trammel from each, I set out two old mist nets in the saltmarsh. Success in the form of a Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow and a Seaside Sparrow came quickly. No doubt there will be more, as the Lynnhaven seems to be an attractive estuary to each species. Perhaps a Nelson's Sharp-tail will soon appear.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Nice Weather for Peas, Herons and Picidae.

Since Saturday last the weather has been in a rut. Drizzle, light rain, fog, a NE wind and temperatures, day and night, between 46 and 49. The station was closed on Sunday; Monday and today, Wednesday, were short and disappointing banding days. Tuesday was long and disappointing.

Of course there was much activity in the Park. Extreme high water in the Lynnhaven Inlet caused by the lunar cycle and the storm offshore brought out the fish-eaters. Osprey were fishing from perches everywhere along the tidal creek which feeds White Hill Lake. Belted Kingfishers were flying, calling, perching, diving and chasing. Tri-colored (Louisiana) Herons, Great Blue Herons and White (American) Egrets were wading and foraging in pools which appear in the marshes only during high water events. (Indeed, a pair of egrets were seen feeding from the edge of Long Creek Trail near Fox Run!) And Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Double-crested Cormorants and Common Loons were fishing in the bays and creeks.

A fine after-second-year male Eastern Towhee with brilliant red eyes showed up during one dry, damp stretch when a few of the nets were open. And the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker female together with the Red-bellied Woodpecker male moved the station closer to a mid-atlantic Picidae sweep. Only the Pileated and Red-headed Woodpeckers remain to be caught during the 2008 season.

Nevertheless the breeding feathers of the Tri-color confirm that some warm, dry and sunny days lie ahead. As do the continuing songs of Northern Parula from the soggy spanish moss.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

First Foreign Recovery of FLSP Banded Bird

Last week CVWO master bander Dr. Robert Reilly was notified that a White-throated Sparrow banded on April 26, 2007 at CVWO's First Landing State Park passerine banding station was recovered dead near Wells, Maine. At the present time the date and exact place of recovery are unknown. The sparrow was brought to the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. On February 5, 2008 the band was discovered when a staffperson was preparing a study skin of the bird. More details will be provided as available.

Wells, Maine is located along the southern Maine coast. Wells lies some 572 straight line miles NE of the First Landing station. The sprawling metro areas of New York and Boston lie between Wells and First Landing.

A total of seventy White-throats were banded at First Landing last spring; the species was the fourth most numerous passerine banded in 2007. Thirty-four were banded on April 26, 2007. When banded this sparrow weighed 23.1 grams, had a modest fat score and was aged as an after-second-year individual. The age designation means that the bird was hatched during the summer of 2005 or earlier. The age of adult, small passerines cannot be fixed more precisely. The bird was a male.

White-throated Sparrows breed across Canada and the northern tier of the United States to the tundra. It is not likely that the bird nested near Wells. For a range map see:

Thus, the bird would have at least migrated south from its natal grounds during the fall of 2005 and north in the spring of 2006 to breed. The bird would have migrated south during the fall of 2006 and north again in the 2007 spring before dying in Wells, possibly when south-bound following the 2007 breeding season.

Band 1791-75615 was apparently not noticed at the point of initial recovery. Its "belated" discovery demonstrates the importance of examining in some manner any bird found dead in the wild. A stick or other simple tool will do the trick should one do not wish to handle the bird. A quick visual examination of the bird's legs will suffice. If a band is observed, it may be removed, the number may be carefully and exactly noted or the bird may be placed in a plastic bag for later inspection by a third-party. The place and time of discovery should be recorded. The band number may be reported by telephone, 1-800-327-BAND (2263), or electronically,

Banding Totals: Weekly, March 15 thru April 4, 2008.

Greetings. By clicking on the hyperlink which follows, the CVWO First Landing State Park spring banding station results for the first three weeks of the 2008 spring season may be viewed.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cool Weather Fly Catchers

Over the past two weeks the weather has been on a March, now April, roller coaster. Such has not deterred the early season fly catchers including: Eastern Phoebe, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow Palm Warbler and an early Prairie Warbler (today, April 3). In this fourth spring season at First Landing, the season record for phoebes has been shattered by a factor of three (a record 6 netted in 2006; 16 this year and counting). The gnatcatchers arrived two weeks earlier than last year (the first BGGN was not banded until 4 April 2007), are arriving daily and will likely eclipse the 2007 standard of 35 (23 to date). Three days ago the first palm warblers were banded, although individuals had been seen/heard within the park for almost a week. The Prairie Warbler was a bit of a shock. Last season a record 22 were banded, but the first did not arrive until 20 April. The Northern Parula will be next. Several have been heard since Monday at the station and along Long Creek Trail to the west.