Mad Island Banding

April 4, 2014 by Emily Cohen

The nets at Mad Island have been a bit quiet the last week or so. Winds have been blowing strongly from the south, and most birds crossing the Gulf have probably rocketed right over us to more wooded areas to the north. Furthermore, the birds which winter here are finding favorable conditions to begin their own departure northwards. We have noticed a drop in the number of wintering species such as Orange-crowned Warblers and Swamp Sparrows in our nets.

We have also seen the departure of some of the wintering waterbirds we see from the station as well. Bonaparte's Gulls were seen by the dozen following barges in the intercoastal canal when we arrived, but now only a few remain. Also, in a spectacular display of migration, American White Pelicans have been seen climbing high on thermals and heading north, and the numbers of them lounging on the sandbars has dropped.

Its not all departures however, and we do continue to see newly arriving species. The last week has seen the first captures of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Wood Thrush, and Yellow-throated Vireo. Also a new batch of arriving warblers species, including Kentucky, Nashville, Worm-eating, and Prothonotary. The refuge is also buzzing with newly arrived Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, which are always a welcome sight as we work.

Top row, left to right: Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated Vireo; middle row, left to right: Worm-eating Warbler, Prothonoary Warbler; bottom row, left to right, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Grasshopper Sparrow

For those birds that call Mad Island home year round, we are beginning to see signs of breeding. The first brood patch of the year was seen on a White-eyed Vireo, and male Northern Cardinals and Northern Mockingbirds are vocally proclaiming their territorial claims. Overall the sense is that we are in a period of transition, and that the peak of migration is just around the corner. We are ready for it!

Birds captured: 310
Species captured: 38
Species observed: 158
Ticks collected: 9