Sunday, September 23, 2007

9-23 update

Hi Folks

Just a quick update. Friday (Sept 21) was a great migration day at Lucky Peak: the highest one-day totals for songbirds (165 banded) and raptors (522 counted) of the season. Probably this was a big movement in front of our recent rain event but this is also traditionally a peak time for abundance of migrants in this area.

10 Broad-winged Hawks were seen on Friday alone, bringing the season
total to 16. Sept 10-25 (especially the 20th-25th) are usually the
best dates for this species (with some continuing into early October) so I
expect more to pass by in the coming week as high pressure weather
resumes. Also, though far rarer (not annual), Red-shouldered Hawks
seem to appear most often in the last 10 days of September.

Songbirds are now dominated by RC Kinglets, WC Sparrows, and DE Juncos
and we are seeing an earlier than usual push for juncos (who seem to
have the most variable timing of all species we catch but often peak
in October). But, we are still seeing a some warblers, Cassin's
Vireos, Hammond's Flycatchers, & others in the mix. Pine Grosbeaks
were around for a few days late last week & I'm hoping for more ....

Happy birding,


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

9-19 update (GC Sparrow, Pine Grosbeak, & more)

Hi Birders

After a week visiting family in CT (and seeing some great eastern birds like Philadelphia Vireo and many warblers), I returned to Lucky Peak Monday AM. Since then we've had variable success due to the weather but we had our first big push of Ruby-crowned Kinglets (53 banded) yesterday. Several songbird highlights from the last few days include:

- an adult Golden-crowned Sparrow banded on Monday, 9/17 (our first of the season & we usually catch immatures);

- an adult male Pine Grosbeak seen/heard over camp yesterday (these are not annual and, when they do occur, tend to appear in October ... I hope this means more are on the way but I have no idea);

- 1 or more Winter Wrens calling the last couple days.

Diurnal raptor numbers seem to be up from last year (so far anyway) and in the last week or so we've seen the first N Goshawks & Merlins. Also, adults of both Sharp-shinned & Cooper's Hawks are building in #.

Lastly, small forest owls (Flammulated & Northern Saw-whet) have started moving in the last week - albeit in small numbers so far.



Friday, September 07, 2007

Blackpoll Warbler & more

The last 2 days have been pretty 'happening' on Lucky Peak. Thurs, Sep 6 was a busy day for both songbirds (~ 95 banded, including 30 WC Sparrows) and raptors (244 counted - busiest of the season so far). We followed that up today with our first Blackpoll Warbler in the nets at Lucky Peak since 2002 (8th in 11 years; pics below) as well as our first GC Kinglets of the season; since I left at lunchtime, I don't know how the hawk flight was going yet but I have to imagine it's another great day up there ....

Here is a series of shots showing the immature Blackpoll Warbler captured & banded today. For separation from autumn-plumaged Bay-breasted & Pine Warblers, notice especially the foot color, the long wings and short tail, the white undertail coverts, and the relatively short extension of the tail beyond the undertail coverts.

Due to the poor lighting shortly after sunrise, we struggled to get decent pictures of the GC Kinglets but here's a slightly blurry one just to get a sense of how small these guys really are (female left, male right) ...

Here is a shot of an adult Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow (on left; pale lores) for comparison with the shots of the Mountain subspecies I posted 2 days ago (and 1 re-posted here - on right; dark lores & slightly pinker bill) ....

All for now,


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A note on the Ferruginous ...

Not to beat a dead horse but I realized that some folks might be wondering why all the excitement about the Ferruginous Hawk. Though we count/monitor raptors every fall at Lucky Peak (since 1994) and we know that Ferruginous Hawks breed within 20 miles or less (out in the desert), we see them very infrequently during our migration counts - to the tune of between 0 - 7 individuals seen in a given year. Thus, we see fewer Ferruginous Hawks than we do Broad-winged Hawks (average of over 17 per year)!

Also, though not federally listed, there is concern in many areas of the species range due to conversion of native grasslands to agriculture, development, etc. (for more info, check out: Thus, in addition to being one of the most beautiful birds of prey, it's also one of those most threatened by humans and can be considered an indicator species - hinting at the condition of its habitat. As Deniz mentioned in the first post, I noticed that the muscle condition of this bird was quite poor - indicating that it has not been eating enough. Though we know that something on the order of 50% or more of immature birds die before reaching the age of 1, it was a little more real to see a bird that may be below the 50th percentile - so to speak (though we sent it on its way again with wishes of success ...).

Lastly, as you can see by checking out the satellite tracking links on the website, this species seems to be more of a nomad than many of our other migratory raptors ... which may be why we see so few from our site that are migrating in a traditional N-S direction during autumn.

Anyway, just some FYI about a cool bird!


9-5 update

Hi Folks

Thanks to Deniz for posting and to Geoff for sending his photos of the immature Ferruginous .... watching this bird approach the trapping station and slowly walk/hop (not fly) its way into the trap was pretty cool! I just wanted to add one more picture (also by Geoff) - this one of Kyle (a hawkwatcher) holding its wings open:

In other news, songbird #s have been moderate but diverse and today (9/5) was our best day of the month so far (64 new, 8 recaptures). We're getting more adults of the Neotropical migrants and are also starting to catch increasing #s of WC Sparrows and RC Kinglets. The vast majority (> 99%) of the White-crowned Sparrows that we capture at Lucky Peak are of the Gambel's subspecies ('West Taiga' in Sibley) but today we banded an adult of the Mountain subspecies ('Interior West' in Sibley) - differentiated by the darker, pinker bill and the dark feathers on the lores (just behind the bill). Here are 2 shots:

Another capture worth highlighting today was an adult Cassin's Vireo looking very bright & fresh. As this is the time of year when vagrant Blue-headed Vireos are most likely, I thought I'd post a couple shots of this sharp Cassin's as a basis for comparison with any potential Blue-headeds. Notice that although this bird is quite bright, especially on the flanks, there is not a sharp contrast between the head and back and that there is a green infusion in the otherwise grayish head feathers seen from all angles.

Raptor #s are starting to pick up and the next month promises to be awesome (unless its raining). I saw an immature N Goshawk on Monday and Merlins are due any day now ....

OK, all for now - happy birding,


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ferruginous Hawk

Yesterday Jay was fortunate to capture a young Ferruginous Hawk at the Lucky Peak West blind. I don't know all the measurements of the bird, but what I do know is that the bird had a sharp keel. After banding, measurements, and photos, the bird was released.

(All photos are courtesy of Geoff Urwin)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sept 2 update

First, let me apologize for the long delay between posts ... With several new crewmembers coming on board and both raptor projects starting in the last week, things have been busier than usual of late.

That said, it's been a pretty exciting 10 days up on Lucky Peak as bird migration study is now occurring 24-7! Songbirds have been moderately busy but very diverse over the last 10 days (see season totals below).

The hawk migration count began Sat, Aug 25 and hawk trapping began the next day. The hawk count has been relatively slow so far but is starting to gain momentum; meanwhile, hawk trapping has been quite successful - especially considering that no big flights have occurred yet. The 2006 hawk flight was the lowest in the 12 years of standardized monitoring at Lucky Peak (a pattern also observed at most other count sites in the West last year but we don't really have a sense for what caused the dip in #s); thus, it will be interesting to see whether 2007 brings some recovery.

The owl study began on night of Tues, Aug 28 and a Flammulated Owl was captured in the 1st net run of the season (we hoped this would be a good omen) but we haven't caught another owl since. Owl banding is usually best after Sept 15 .... We did catch a Pallid Bat on the 29th and, knock on wood, we haven't captured a flying squirrel yet!

Now for the songbird #s. From July 16 through August 31, we captured 2,885 birds of 52 species. Since the year 2000 (when we standardized our start date at mid-July), this is the 2nd highest mid-season total - 2nd only to 2,893 birds captured by Aug 31 in 2006. Thus, we are only 8 birds off the record 2006 pace - most mid-season totals have been between 2,100 to 2,300 birds. A Green-tailed Towhee (our 4th in 11 years at Lucky Peak) was new for the season on 31 Aug and we caught our first 2 White-crowned Sparrows on 1 Sep.

I didn't bring all of the exact #s with me but the top ten species through Aug 31 were:

1) Dusky Flycatcher (312)
2) Yellow Warbler (278 - a single-season record)
3) MacGillivray's Warbler (~ 250)
4) Yellow-rumped Warbler (~230)
5) Western Tanager (190)
6) Spotted Towhee (~140)
7) Chipping Sparrow (~130)
8) Warbling Vireo (~120)
9) Nashville Warbler (~120)
10) Brewer's Sparrow (80 - a single-season record)

Though less impressive (it seems that this species is more common as a spring migrant in southern Idaho), we are also at a single-season record for Swainson's Thrushes (22; previous record was 20). Also, we are now starting to transition from Neotropical migrants to temperate migrants - juncos, kinglets, and WC Sparrows will all become more common in the next couple weeks while most longer-distance migrants will start to diminish in #s.

Now, a few pics:
Spotted (adult) and Green-tailed (immature) Towhees; Aug 31, 2007. This is the 4th Green-tailed we've captured in 11 seasons - all since 2004. Note the difference in eye color.

A closer view of the same adult Spotted Towhee.

(Apologies for the terrible photo quality, especially to John ;-) ... in the last week, we were excited to get a visit from Caroline and John ... our Lucky Peak MVPs over the last 2 seasons while I was away working at Camas NWR. They enjoyed some songbird banding (& the 2007 crew enjoyed working with them as well), some hawk trapping, and ....

.... a visit from their pal, Gary Robinson (center) - our songbird MVP volunteer over the last few seasons (also shown here with Craters of the Moon biologist Mike Munts).

Cheers & happy September,

Mission: to contribute to the conservation of western migratory landbirds through cooperative research and public education