Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Nice Start to the 2011 Season.

Events at a migratory bird banding station are always interesting. Take March 2010: talk about slow, only 140 birds of 31 species were marked in 19 days. Forty-four Myrtle Warblers led the way followed by twenty-one Swamp Sparrows, three Song Sparrows.

Now consider March 2011 (given the weather forecast for tomorrow, banding for the month is over): talk about a nice pace, in 20 days 309 birds of 32 species were banded (including two new species for the season, more soon). One hundred seventy-two Myrtle Warblers have been marked (already breaking the season record of 137 established in 2006) and twenty-eight Song Sparrows have been marked (exceeding the season record of 23 in 2007 and following a season low of 3 in 2010). Also 41 Swamp Sparrows have been marked to date, a record pace.

What does this all mean? Our working hypothesis is this: last summer was a successful breeding year for Myrtles, Swamps and Songs--given that a coastal station like First Landing captures mostly birds which were hatched last summer--called second-year birds by banders because all birds celebrate a birthday on January regardless of their hatching date! And those birds which hatched last summer, survived the 2010-11 winter thanks to the habitat provided by First Landing State Park and other undeveloped habitats in coastal Virginia.

Now, let us see what April brings. Pictures above, top to bottom, Song, Swamp and Myrtle.

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