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Pictorial Highlights, Fall 2008

August - Mid September 2008

Ominous Sky from Powdermill Banding Lab An ominous sky as seen from the Powdermill banding lab. The black bucket at the top of the tower is a microphone to record flight calls from migrating birds.
Gerardo Rodriguez Ramos holding a Sharp-shinned Hawk We had lots of help during the first portion of fall migration. During this period, assistance was provided by Gerardo Rodríguez Ramos, Marja Bakermans, Alice Van Zoeren, Mary Shidel, Alex Shidel, Bob and Margaret Vitz, Anna Marie Bakermans, Rob Slebodnik, and last but not least Phoebe Lanzone. Additional help was given by Powdermill staff members including Bob Mulvihill, Bob Leberman, Mike Lanzone, Cokie Lindsay, Andy Mack, and Powdermill’s Director Dave Smith.

We thank all of these people for their time, and without their help our banding effort would be greatly compromised.

To the left is Gerardo Rodriguez Ramos holding a Sharp-shinned Hawk (“a good bird”) 

Phoebe Lanzone Phoebe Lanzone transporting warblers to the bioacoustics lab 
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Although many species are in the middle of migration during August (especially the Empidonax flycatchers and several species of warblers), others have just recently finished or continue to breed.

Pictured to the left is a young Blue-gray Gnatcatcher retaining much of its juvenile plumage (captured on August 17). 
Young Dark-eyed Junco Young Dark-eyed Junco before it has completed its first prebasic molt (Appalachian race – carolinensis) captured on August 26.
Black-billed Cuckoo This young Black-billed Cuckoo was undergoing its first prebasic molt and was probably still dependant on its parents when it was captured and banded on August 27. 
A Robin Nest A Robin nest just outside of the banding office successfully fledged young on September 4. 
Female Cerulean Warbler On August 8 we captured a HY female Cerulean Warbler (CERW), which was the only one captured during 2008. Although CERWs often breed in the mature forest around the banding area, they are seldom captured at Powdermill.

The CERW is a species experiencing steep population declines and was recently petitioned to be listed under threatened status on the federal Endangered Species Act. After years of deliberation the CERW was declined status under the ESA, but it was recognized as a species that warrants further attention.

Similarly, the National Audubon Society has added the CERW as a species of the highest concern.  Marja Bakermans(a researcher associated with Powdermill) has recently completed her Ph.D. research on Cerulean Warblers. One of her findings was that CERWs were more abundant in shade coffee plantations compared to native forest on their wintering grounds in the Andes Mountains of Venezuela.

In fact, CERWs were one of the most common Neotropical migrants within the shade coffee plantations, and she found that a single mixed species flock can have up to 10-12 of these birds. To learn more about the benefits of shade coffee plantations for migratory birds go to the website of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Adrienne with a Black-and White Warbler On August 20 we were visited by Adrienne Leppold, a previous Banding Coordinator at Powdermill. It was wonderful to see her and hear about the projects that she is currently involved with at the University of Maine-Orono. Here she is pictured with a Black-and-white Warbler.

To the left is Adrienne with a Black-and White Warbler.
Olive-sided Flycatcher On August 27 we were surprised to find an Olive-sided Flycatcher (OSFL) in one of our mist-nets. The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a large flycatcher that breeds in the coniferous forests of New England, Canada, and the mountain region of the West.

This species can be readily identified in the field by its dark “vest”, its distinctive “quick three beers” vocalization, and its foraging behavior of darting out from, and returning to, a canopy snag as it forages for insects (a behavior shared with its close relatives the Wood Pewees). This species also has exhibited precipitous population declines across its range (BBA data reveal an annual decline of 3.5% since 1966), and capture data from Powdermill supports this assertion.

In fact, Olive-sided Flycatchers have become somewhat of a rarity at Powdermill, and this species had not been captured for several years.

Pictured to the left is an Olive-sided Flycatcher and a Least Flycatcher (LEFL, the smallest flycatcher in eastern North America) – what a size difference! The OSFL weighs 3x as much as the LEFL and its bill is much larger. 
Black-throated Blue Warblers This fall we have enjoyed an above average number of captures of Black-throated Blue Warblers (BTBW). The majority of these have been hatching year (HY) birds. Male BTBWs can be easily aged using molt limits in the feathers of the wing.

Pictured to the left is a HY and an after-hatching year (AHY) male BTBW. Notice the blue edging on all three alula feathers and primary coverts on the adult bird (top), and the green edged outer 2 alula feathers and primary coverts on the young bird.

In addition, notice the extent of the white wing patch in both of the wings (adults generally have a larger white patch). Although female BTBWs show the same molt patterns as males, the molt limits are less obvious. 
Cape May Warblers Thus far, we have captured a number of Cape May Warblers (CMWAs). Hatching-year female Cape May Warblers can be very drab and may be difficult to identify in the field for many birders. If you see a grayish warbler with blurry streaking in the breast and a greenish-yellow rump patch there is a good chance it is a CMWA. Young males generally have much more yellow, distinct breast streaking, and often show some rufous in the auricular.

Pictured to the left are HY male (left) and female (right) Cape-may Warblers. 
Catbird being released Gray Catbirds are one of the most commonly captured birds during the first half of fall migration. The majority of “our” catbirds are hatching year birds as they are common breeders at the banding station (and many of them produce multiple clutches). In the picture to your left is a catbird taking flight after being released following banding and processing.

Photo by Alice Van Zoeren

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