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Monday, November 14, 2011

Rufous Hummingbird Recaptured in Northampton County, Pa

Male Rufous Hummingbird
      Scott Weidensaul, who is one of Pennsylvania's most renowned hummingbird banders, was fortunate to recapture a male Rufous Hummingbird in Northhampton County on Monday November 14, 2011. To his surprise the bird was already banded. Read his story below.

     Thanks to Rick Wiltraut, I was able to capture the adult male rufous hummingbird coming to a feeder at Jacobsburg State Park this afternoon. The bird was already banded - and it wasn't one of the bands that I or my subs (Sandy Lockerman and Ember Jandebeur) use. A foreign recovery of a hummingbird is a first for me in 10 years and several thousand hummingbirds, so I'm pretty psyched. Despite missing some feathers from the back right side of his head (somewhere there's a hungry but unlucky sharp-shinned hawk), the bird was in good shape, and it was my pleasure to release it from the palm of Rick's lovely mother, who was there for the fun.

  I just reported the band to the Bird Banding Lab's website, something I do dozens of times a year for saw-whet owls but rarely with such anticipation. Unfortunately, the BBL does not have any information on the bird, meaning that the original bander hasn't yet reported the banding. That tells me he was probably only banded in the past couple of months.
  I'm also going to report the band number to the hummingbird banding listserve, which most of the hummer banders belong to - hopefully the bander will get in touch with me about it, and we'll figure out where this little guy came from.

The story continues:

  I just learned that the rufous hummer reported by Rick Wiltraut, and which I caught today at Jacobsburg State Park in Northampton County, was banded Jan. 9, 2011 in River Ridge, Louisiana by famed hummingbird bander Nancy Newfield. Although he's now in full adult plumage, he was an immature male at the time, so we know he was born in the summer of 2010, and is on his second migration.

  Nancy is the one who really started banding and studying these western vagrant hummingbirds back in the 1970s, and she's been a friend and colleague since I got into hummer-banding in 2001. To catch one of Nan's birds up here is a particular treat.

  My guess is this male spent the summer on his breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies or Alaska, and is on his way back to the Gulf region, taking this circuitous eastern route that more and more of them appear to be using. Nancy said she caught him last winter in one of her best yards (some of these properties get nine or 10 western hummers of several species), and I hope he checks in with her when he arrives back in Lousee-anna.
     Posted with permission from Scott Weidensaul.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cape May Weekend Extravaganza

     Gary Becker and I enjoyed a two day stay at Cape May on Friday and Saturday. We started in Brigantine on Friday morning and were treated to quite a display of hunting by a family of three Peregrine Falcons. They would dive down of flocks of Green-winged Teals which were in flight and the teals would go head first out of the air and into the water with a big splash. Dunlin, Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Black-bellied Plovers padded the trip list and along with thousands of Brant and a few Snow Geese and Hooded Mergansers. But the fun didn't start until we arrived in Cape May. 
Western Kingbird (Click to Enlarge)
     Almost as soon as we arrived we noticed people stopped on the side of Sunset Blvd. It turns out that they had spotted a Western Kingbird. The bird was real cooperative and allowed for photos as it would propel itself into the air and retrieve a delicious insect for a snack. We then head to the bunker pond and the hawk watch. The pond was filled with Am Wigeon, Gadwall, Am Coots and many Tree Swallow circling above.
American Coots
Gadwall and American Wigeon
     We went over to Lily Lake next and as luck was with us I picked up a new state bird, a Cackling Goose. At this point we retired for the day because the lighting was disappearing quickly. Plans for tomorrow were to catch the first ferry to Lewes, Delaware to do a poor man's pelagic trip crossing the Delaware Bay.

Gary Becker waiting for a Lifer
      We boarded the ferry for the first crossing of the day at 7:30AM. Almost immediately we spotted dozens of Gannets. We were lucky to find a few Bonaparte's Gulls also. We would end the day with a total of seven species of gulls. 
Northern Gannet getting ready to attack Gary
      As we were crossing the bay we would add all three species of Scoters, Common Loon, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Long-tailed Ducks. As we were approaching the jetties outside of the Lewes docking area I noticed a small gull coming towards the ferry. I told Gary to get on this bird because it was probably another Bonaparte's. But as it zipped by I saw the "M" shape black markings on the upperwings and yelled to Gary that it was an immature Black-legged Kittiwake. We could also see the black necklace across the top of the nape. This was Gary's lifer and only the second one I have in Delaware.
      After we docked again in Cape May we finished up birding and didn't really add too much in the way of new birds so we headed home. It was a delightful two days.