April 26th – Taking Advantage of a Lull

The first Yellow Warbler of the year - an ASY female.

You tend to approach the end of April with anticipatory excitement. Not only should the short-distance migrants be in full swing (lots of White-throated Sparrows around this morning) but the exciting long-distance neotropical migrants should be just starting to arrive. It was hard for Loretta and I to get excited though when we arrived shortly before 6:00 because 12.5 mm of rain had fallen through the night and was still falling. Man we’ve had a LOT of rain this month! The problem was that we were expecting a class of kids from the local highschool later in the morning and we were wondering what we would be able to show them. Waterbirds I guess….but they’re harder to catch.

The female Yellow Warbler - unusual in that the first ones we get are males.

Fortunately the rain stopped about 6:45 so we quickly set out and baited some ground traps and opened a few nets (just some, though, so that, if it should start to rain again, we could close them quickly). We hoped to take advantage of this lull – Loretta had checked the weather radar and knew that more rain was on the way. Things worked out perfectly: we caught 49 birds of 15 species (30 new ones and 19 retraps) so the kids got lots to see. Ironically, no sooner had they driven off back to the school around 10:30 then a flash of lightening and a crack of thunder right overhead signalled the start of a downpour. We got the nets down quickly but it cost us a good soaking (no birds were in the nets, fortunately).

A male and female Purple Finch.

Mystery Purple Finch - ASY-F or SY-M?

Several people reported Rose-breasted Grosbreaks in the area today but we didn’t see any. However, we did catch and band our first Yellow Warbler of the year. This was an unusual catch as it was a female; usually the first returnees are males. This bird had no fat left suggesting that this was its destination (birds continuing farther north maintain a good fat load to fuel the trip). I also saw the first Bobolink of the year – amazing when you think it has travelled all the way from its Winter home on the Pampas of Argentina. We also caught and banded 3 very different Purple Finches: a bright red male, a brown female, and an in-between bird. (Is it a young male or an older female? There’s a light wash of raspberry on the head, rump, and breast. Check the picture and let me know what you think.) I think today marks the beginning of the big push – the long-distance migrants are about to move through. We’ll see some amazing birds over the next month. Get ready!

Banded 30:
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Hermit Thrush
1 Yellow Warbler
3 Chipping Sparrows
8 White-throated Sparrows
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
3 Purple Finches
4 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 19:
1 Mourning Dove
1 American Robin
3 American Tree Sparrows (there are still a bunch hanging around!)
2 Chipping Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 47 spp.


Leave a Reply