Mad Island Banding

May 7, 2014 by Tim Guida

Banding station viewed from boat.

It is still peak migration here in Texas and we continue to have interesting days at the banding station. Weather last week looked promising for catching migrants, with north winds and some storms in the area, both of which can cause birds to drop out and make landfall here on the coast. For several days we captured a trickle of migrants. Among these were our first Blackburnian Warblers and Least Flycatchers, birds we had expected to catch but had eluded us. But still we were not able to catch any large numbers of birds. But then sometime between leaving the station at 6 p.m. on Thursday May 1st, and reopening at 7 a.m. on the 2nd, our site received an influx. We opened to find we had full nets and lots of diversity.

From left to right: mourning warbler, bay-breasted warbler.

In total we banded 153 birds of 40 species during the course of the day. Highlights including species which we had not yet captured this season, like Mourning and Bay-breasted Warblers. We also banded 13 Blue-headed Vireos, which is more than the total number of this species banded at this site in the three previous seasons combined! But by far the most unexpected bird of the day was a Lazuli Bunting, a stunning bird which breeds in the western US. This is a first for the banding station, and maybe only one of a handful of records for Matagorda County.

Blackburnian warbler.

Also this week, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center scientists Pete Marra and Scott Sillett made a visit to Mad Island along with Smithsonian's Ruth Stolk and friends Helen DuBois, Rick Bowe and Karen Nemeth. The banding station was a bit slow while they were here. We did catch some stand outs for them including Gray-cheeked Thrush and Painted Bunting. Nearby on the Preserve, they were dazzled by flocks of literally thousands of Dickcissels resting in fields and hedgerows.

Some species come through all at once while other move through gradually from early to late spring. Two of those are Black-and-White and Hooded Warblers. This week we caught a few Black-and-white and a lone Hooded Warbler, both species we captured on our first day here in March.

Things have now returned to a steady trickle at the banding station, but we have high hopes for a big finish this week. The diversity of migrant shorebirds is peaking on the mudflats here, and we have been treated to migration spectacles like seeing 250 Eastern Kingbirds on the refuge, vivid reminders that we are in the heart of a migratory hotspot at the peak of migration.

Birds captured: 1939
Species captured: 88
Species observed: 230
Ticks collected: 75