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June 2, 2014 / stephanie

UWGB Birdathon and Bandathon 2014

TEWA_05242014

Tennessee Warbler

On May 24th, 2014 the UWGB Birders birded all over Brown County, Wisconsin to tally as many migrating and breeding birds as we could find. Dozens of birdathon teams throughout the state participated in this year’s birdathon. Our team’s birdathon was a little different though, since we also incorporated a “bandathon” into the main event.  That meant that not only would we be out checking the major birding hotspots in our area, but we’d also be banding and collecting detailed data and measurements on migratory songbirds. So for the bandathon portion of the day, anything that happened to land in our mist nets would also be tallied in our final total of bird observations.

We started out with the goal to see over 130 birds and band over 50 individuals, since those were approximately the numbers we reached last year during the 2013 birdathon. However, we had to push back the date for our birdathon until late May and that changed the species composition quite drastically. Since migration was a little late this year though, we just hoped for the best! Our team was composed of Erin G., Lindsey B., Janalee N., and me (Stephanie B.)  A few family and friends also joined in for part of the festivities throughout the day, including Erin’s husband Scott, her parents, and volunteers Mia S., Diann H., and Mike P.

Erin and I started counting birds at 4:45 AM at Point au Sable. We weren’t starting at midnight since we had an intense morning of banding ahead of us and we needed to be fully awake. At first morning’s light, we tallied Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Chipping Sparrows, and Song Sparrows singing at the entrance to the nature preserve. As we marched toward our banding location along the eastern shore of Green Bay, many of the birds were in full chorus. American Robin, Yellow Warbler, Gray Catbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Common Yellowthroat, and Baltimore Oriole were some of the common breeding birds heard on our hike. As we expected, a Sora called its whinnying song from the lagoon. Late migrating songbirds were also singing: Canada Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, and Swainson’s Thrush.

We set up five mist nets and waited for the migrants to arrive.  We check the nets every thirty minutes until noon. During our first net check, a beautiful male Connecticut Warbler flew into the net. This was only the second Connecticut we have captured and the first of the year. As the morning wore on, more warblers floated into our nets including Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Tennessee Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler. We also caught several birds that we had already captured earlier in the year so they were already banded, including Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles.


CONW_05242014

Connecticut Warbler

YRWA_05242014Yellow-rumped Warbler

A final tally of banded birds and recaptures for May 24th:

  • Common Yellowthroat (4)
  • Yellow Warbler (4 new, 2 recaptures)
  • Wilson’s Warbler (5)
  • Blackpoll Warbler (2)
  • Traill’s Flycatcher (Alder or Willow) (1)
  • American Redstart (3)
  • Tennessee Warbler (1)
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (1)
  • Connecticut Warbler (1)
  • Ovenbird (1)
  • Gray Catbird (5 new, 1 recapture)
  • Red-winged Blackbird (8)
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak (4)
  • Common Grackle (1)
  • Northern Cardinal (1 recapture)
  • House Wren (1 recapture)
  • Baltimore Oriole (3 recaptures)
  • American Robin (1 recapture)

Totals: 18 species were represented. 41 new individuals were banded and 9 were recaptured (banded on a previous occasion).AMRE_05242014

American Redstart

By noon we had to close up our banding operation and head out so we could see more birds. We were currently at 55 species. A quick trip to the other side of the preserve did not yield the expected Red-headed Woodpecker that breeds in the area, though we did find a singing Brown Creeper and an unexpected late Hermit Thrush. The birds had quieted down immensely and we needed a rest so our group of banders and birders headed to the closest fast food establishment for a sandwich break.

After refueling, we headed to the nearby Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary.  Since it was Saturday and it was a beautiful day, the place was absolutely packed with families feeding ducks and fishing.  Despite the commotion, we were able to add some lingering waterfowl to our list including American Coot, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, and American Black Duck. We also checked out the mouth of the Fox River, where it meets the bay, and Erin was able to spot the nesting Peregrine Falcon atop the power plant with her spotting scope.

In the heat of the day, our team thought maybe we’d give up for now on finding more warblers and check out some shorebird spots. Lindsey, Janalee and I headed to the hotspot known as the Highway 29 ponds, a flooded agricultural field that can typically harbor some rare finds. Unfortunately, we didn’t find much at this location except for a lone Greater Yellowlegs, though it would be the only one we would find all day.

We were adding species more slowly now, but we knew there were definite new species to be added by visiting Green Bay’s west shore. First stop on the west side was at Resort Road, another flooded field. Though just a few weeks ago the ponds at Resort Road had hosted hundreds of migrating waterfowl, the majority of those birds had now left. As we scanned the field for migrating shorebirds, a small flock made landfall not far from the road and started strutting through the shallow water. The first individual we observed was not very colorful, but luckily some of its companions were in full breeding plumage: Wilson’s Phalarope! A striking shorebird with a long bill and a beautiful contrasting black, rusty-red, and white pattern along the neck. As we were driving off to the next location, I stopped and checked out one of the blackbirds perched in the middle of the field. A Brewer’s Blackbird put us at 92 species for the day! It was 4:00 PM and we only had a few more species to add to get to 100, which we deemed to be a reachable goal.

Our next stop was Sensiba State Wildlife Area, where we easily picked up the stunning and raucous Yellow-headed Blackbird as well as the expected Swamp Sparrow and Marsh Wren. The evening was wearing on and we were so close to 100. We decided to check out the south side of Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve and picked up several more species. We had great looks at Caspian and Forster’s Terns cruising over the bay. Then stopping to rescue a baby Snapping Turtle in the road, we heard a Sedge Wren and a Yellow-throated Vireo. After an unsuccessful last attempt to hear a Virginia Rail at Atkinson Marsh, we drove back to the east side. With fewer options left, we returned to the Wildlife Sanctuary, with 99 species on our list. By this time, the activity of people had quieted and the air had cooled. The birds were still relatively quiet too though. I put my binoculars up to look at a mid-sized bird shape high up in a tree next to the water. Green Heron for number 100! After celebrating reaching 100, we continued to walk along the path a ways and picked up a calling Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and a Wood Duck. Content with our achievement, we decided to call it a night as the sky was growing darker and I had another early morning ahead of me on Sunday. I drove Lindsey back to her car and luckily we were able to add one more bird, Eastern Bluebird, at UW Green Bay campus.

Final tally: 103 species.

We didn’t break any records, but we saw a lot of birds and had some great fun birding in the Green Bay area. With the huge, awesome help of our supporters our team also raised over $400 that will fund projects that protect and conserve Wisconsin’s birds!

Thanks so much for your support! 

For more information the Great Wisconsin Birdathon, visit: http://www.wibirdathon.org/

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