Thursday April 23, 2020:  27 new birds of 11 species, 38 recaptures.  New species:  Eastern Phoebe, Swamp Sparrow, and Pine Warbler.  Bird of the day was Ruby-crowned Kinglet with 13 new bands.

After two days of wind, rain and snow, we were due for a pleasant morning and fate delivered!  It wasn’t an especially birdy day, but it was at least sunny with just a hint of breeze.  The chart below shows a comparison of our newly banded birds v. recaptures throughout the day.  The blue area shows how many new birds were banded at each hour – notice how the number declines after the first hour or so. The difference between the orange line and the blue line, shows how many recaps were processed.  So, early in the day we banded a lot of new birds and just a couple recaps, but as the day wore on, the number of new birds declined sharply and almost every bird we encountered was previously banded.  When you’ve banded all the birds, it’s time to close shop!

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Our first net run of the morning yielded the star bird of the day and our first warbler of spring – a handsome male Pine Warbler.  We don’t catch Pines very often; we’ve only banded 26 of them since 1986.  All but three were captured in spring, with two captured in the summer and one in the fall.   Pine Warblers are not uncommon along the lakeshore in Monroe County, but – as their name suggests – they do prefer pine trees and our station has just one small stand of about 6 or 7 conifers.  They will apparently use deciduous forest during migration (more so in the spring than in the fall), but a quick look at our database shows we captured most of them near our piney nets.

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Pine Warblers are unusual in a couple of ways.  They are the only warbler to eat seeds; you might even find one picking at your suet or your platform feeder.  They are also unusual in that unlike most warblers, they spend their entire life cycle in North America.  Most of our warblers migrate to Central or South America for the winter, but Pines head to the southeastern US.  If you’ve birded Florida in in the winter, you’ve likely seen them at the very tops of trees.  Finally, Pine Warblers replace feathers only once a year – they do not have an alternate molt in the spring.  They do, however, appear brighter yellow in the summer months, because the greyish tips to their feathers wear off over the winter months, revealing the sunny yellow beneath.

Hope you see some at your feeders this spring!

– Andrea Patterson