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Pictorial Highlights, Spring 2009

May 2009

Participants of The Beginner Banding Workshop We banded 2,175 birds (21 birds per 100 net-hours) of 60 species and processed 803 recaptures. The highest number of captures on a single day was on May 10, with 128 birds of 34 species banded, plus an additional 22 recaptures. The top five species banded during the spring season were Cedar Waxwing (215), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (147), Magnolia Warbler (132), American Goldfinch (121), and Dark-eyed Junco (101).


We successfully conducted two banding workshops this spring. The beginner banding workshop was during the first week in May and the advanced workshop coincided with the peak of spring migration in mid May.

Participants of the beginner workshop are pictured below from left to right in the front row Andrew Vitz (Banding Coordinator), Phil Witmer (workshopper), Jeff Territo (workshopper), and Janet Kuehl (workshopper). Pictured in the back row is Amy Amones (field ornithologist), Emma Deleon (bioacoustics technician), Marja Bakermans (avian ecologist), Doug Miller (workshopper), Bob Adams (workshopper), and Bob Leberman (bird bander emeritus).
Bob and Janet checking out a Veery Bob and Janet checking out a Veery.
Jeff banding a Mourning Warbler Jeff lives nearby and has decided to become a regular volunteer at the banding lab. Here he is photographed banding a Mourning Warbler at the end of May. We always enjoy his visits as he shares his tales of birds and snakes.
Advanced Banding Workshop The advanced workshop included 2 banders from Wisconsin, 1 from Texas, and another from Philadelphia.

Pictured from left to right in the front row is Amy Amones (field ornithologist at Powdermill), Andrew Vitz, Stacy Taeuber (workshopper), and Emma Deleon. The back row includes Jerry Simmons (workshopper), Bob Leberman, Lois Balin (workshopper), and Lisa Rubin (workshoper).
Lisa with Black-billed Cuckoo Lisa was hoping for a cuckoo, and much to her delight, on the last day of the workshop we captured our only one of the spring, a Black-billed Cuckoo.
Pileated Woodpecker This May we banded a Pileated Woodpecker, which is relatively common in the area but seldom captured.
Male Canada Warbler Most warblers captured in the spring are not difficult to identify because they are in their breeding plumage. For example, this male Canada Warbler is unmistakable.
Male Golden-winged Warbler Again, this male Golden-winged Warbler is hard to confuse with anything else. However, genetic work on this species has revealed that many seemingly pure GWWAs have been integrated with Blue-winged Warblers.
Male Brewster's Warbler This male Brewster's Warbler is a second generation backcross, and is the result of a first generation Brewster's Warbler mating with a Blue- or Golden-winged Warbler.
SY female Prairie Warbler Confusing warblers are more typical of fall migration, but can occur during spring. This bird (a little more difficult) is a SY female Prairie Warbler, the only capture of this species all spring.
SY female Pine Warbler in Fall This SY female Pine Warbler is in a very drab plumage reminiscent of a HY female in the fall (pre-alternate molt is absent in this species).
SY Female Pine Warbler The best way to age songbirds in the spring is by examining the wing for molt limits between worn juvenile feathers and feathers grown during the first pre-basic molt. The following pictures are of SY individuals with relatively clear molt limits or ASY individuals lacking molt limits from the pre-basic molt as they underwent a complete pre-basic molt the previous summer.

On the SY female Pine Warbler (same bird as pictured above) notice the outermost greater covert and all the primary coverts are retained juvenile feathers.
Brewster's Warbler This Brewster's Warbler can be identified as an SY from the clear molt limit within the alula feathers (A1 is fresher) and the molt limit within the primary coverts (inner 2 replaced and the rest are retained juvenile feathers)
Male Blue-winged Warbler This SY male Blue-winged Warbler is showing the same molt pattern as the Brewster's pictured above. It is very unusual for warblers to have molt limits among the primary coverts (typically they are all retained or all replaced during the pre-basic molt). In fact, I don't remember seeing such a pattern in any other warblers throughout this spring.
Yellow-rumped Warbler Here is an ASY Yellow-rumped Warbler. Notice that all 3 alula feathers have very dark centers and fresh gray edging as do the primary coverts (all were replaced in the pre-basic molt). The lack of a molt limit within these feathers identifies this individual as an ASY.
Baltimore Oriole The black and orange plumage of this individual reveals it as an ASY Baltimore Oriole.
ASY Baltimore Oriole However, the very dark alula feathers and primary coverts (no molt limit) also identify it as an ASY individual.
Black-throated Green Warbler This Black-throated Green Warbler has replaced the A1 and carpal covert feathers (and all greater coverts) during its first pre-basic molt, and A2, A3, and all primary coverts are retained juvenile feathers. As a result, we were able to classify it as an SY male.
SY Male Blackpoll Warblers Look for limited amounts of black on the back of SY male Blackpoll Warblers - like this one.
SY Male Blackpoll Warblers This same bird has replaced the A1 and carpal covert feathers, but retained A2, A3, and the primary coverts revealing it to be an SY male.
Male Indigo Bunting Notice the dark and blue edged nature of all of the feathers on the wing of this male Indigo Bunting (including all of the primary coverts). Given that, it can easily be identified as an ASY male.
Male Indigo Bunting On the other hand, notice the brown edged primary coverts on this male Indigo Bunting. These represent juvenile feathers and it indicates an SY male. SY Indigo Buntings generally show an eccentric molt pattern, which is when a bird replaced the outer primaries and inner secondaries. In this individual the outer 6 primaries and inner 5 secondaries were replaced during the first pre-basic molt.
ASY Male Mourning Warbler Here is an ASY male Mourning Warbler that underwent a complete pre-basic molt the previous summer (no molt limit within alula).
SY male Mourning Warblers In contrast, here is an SY male Mourning Warbler. Notice the replaced A1 and carpal covert and the retained A2, A3, and primary coverts.

Also, SY male Mourning Warblers often have some green flecking on their head feathers.
SY Male Scarlet Tanager This SY male Scarlet Tanager has very obvious molt limits within its wing feathers (green edged feathers are retained juvenile).
ASY male Scarlet Tanager This ASY male reveals no such molt limits.
Female Tanagers It is more difficult to see molt limits in female tanagers, but this individual has clearly replaced A1 and the carpal covert (and greater coverts) and retained A2, A3, and the primary coverts.
ASY Male Yellow Warbler In this ASY male Yellow Warbler all alula feather, carpal covert, and primary coverts were replaced during the pre-basic molt.
SY Male Yellow Warbler

Male Yellow Warbler
This SY male Yellow Warbler demonstrates strong limits with A1 and the carpal covert being replaced (first pre-basic molt) and A2, A3, and primary coverts are retained juvenile feathers.

Can you identify which wing represents the SY and ASY individual?
SY Swamp Sparrow Molt limits are much more difficult to see in the sparrows. Still, this SY Swamp Sparrow has the same pattern as the warblers with a replaced A1 and carpoal covert.
Traill's Flycatchers Traill's Flycatchers are often difficult to age using molt limits, but a close examination of the primary coverts can be useful in this species. This individual has replaced 2 primary coverts and the remaining have a very washed out appearance and represent juvenile feathers. As a result, this individual was identified as an SY bird.
Bob Leberman with Worm-eating Warblers We captured a total of 3 Worm-eating Warblers this spring, and Bob Leberman is photographed holding one of them (his favorite species of eastern warbler).
Cedar Waxwings By the end of May the migrating warblers were replaced by Cedar Waxwings, which moved through in large numbers. It wasn't uncommon to find numerous birds in a single net.
The Valley School of Ligonier Finally, we had hundreds of people visit the banding lab this spring to learn about bird banding and avian conservation. Most notably, our Director of Education (Linda Farley) spearheaded an effort to bring in local schools to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day (always the second Saturday in May).

Participating schools included Holy Trinity, The Valley School of Ligonier, Donegal Elementary, St Edmonds Academy, and Latrobe Elementary. Pictured below are students from the Valley School admiring a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird just before it realized it was free and took flight.





Many thanks to Bob Leberman, Mike Lanzone, Trish Miller, Linda Farley, Mary Shidel, Molly McDermott, Matthew Shumar, Adrienne Leppold, Danilo Mejía, Marisabel Paulino, Jeff Territo, Joe Schreiber, Robert Vitz, and Cokie Lindsay, for their help with banding this spring.

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