Monday, May 18, 2009

An Interior Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow

The marsh nets continue to yield marsh wrens and sparrows along with an occasional Common Yellowthroat. On May 9th a Nelson's appeared early in the morning. Given the bright white markings on its back and bright, buffy orange breast, it is likely of the nelsoni subspecies which breed from the Canadian prairie to South Dakota. Quite a nice bird.

Mystery Bird: Eastern Kingbird

Many of the early field guides (I am looking at the a 1966 Golden Field Guide of Birds of North America just now) mention and show crown patches on kingbirds. I have looked for such a patch through binoculars and spotting scopes since I was a young lad without success! Thus, after extracting the Eastern Kingbird from net A2 on April 30th, I immediately examined the crown. The color was beyond belief. The outer primary tips were also remarkable. The feathers were notched and emarginated. The white terminal tail band, of course, confirms the ID.

While we have not caught another kingbird this season, there are a number of them moving about the station daily. Two were seen chasing an Osprey over the salt marsh just the other day. A single bird was seen on a perch near one of the marsh nets over the weekend. It seems as if they may be nesting in the Park this year.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


The First Landing State Park banding station is a constant effort, spring migration banding station intended to capture and band passerines and near-passerines--songbirds. Essentially the same nets are placed in the same location each year during the same period of time and are opened daily during the same hours, weather permitting. This week we made an exception---and banded a small shorebird with yellow legs, a small hind toe and a long wing.
The Least Sandpiper is a common shorebird which can be found across the United States during migration. The species nests in Alaska and northern Canada. We see and hear the Least along with other shorebirds, such as Greater Yellowlegs and Spotted Sandpiper, at the station from time-to-time during the spring.
On May 5th the pictured Least was foraging in the mud path between two nets across the saltmarsh at the station. I saw the bird and herded, or "twinkled" as the British call it, the bird to the net. The bird weighed just 15 grams (1/2 oz), about the weight of a Swamp Sparrow.

Warblers in the Rain

This week has been warm and wet and, at times, very windy. Yet the station has been open each day for at least part of the morning, although some of our nets have been closed at times. Gray Catbirds have arrived in good numbers along with the first wave of Common Yellowthroats. The pictured warblers have also been banded. The species shown are: American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, Magnolia Warbler and Blue-winged Warbler. Are you able to match the name with each species pictured?

Can You ID This Bird?

This fine bird was netted on April 30th. Two clues, the pictures show (1) remarkable crown feathers and (2) shape of outer primariy feather tips; one hint, the only previous example of this species banded at the station was captured in 2006. So it is not a kinglet!! Answer will follow.