McChord Air Force Base: June 28th, 2011
By Emma White
In attendance: Daniel Froehlich, Don Norman (driver), Emma White.
Rufous Hummingbird 5
Willow Flycatcher 2
Bewick’s Wren 1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
American Robin 1
Swainson’s Thrush 11
Orange-crowned Warbler 3
Yellow Warbler 6
Common Yellowthroat 3
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Song Sparrow 7
Oregon Junco 1
Black-headed Grosbeak 2
Today was a busy day for the three of us at McChord Air Force Base, catching the most number of birds yet this year at this site!
Our morning began as we started to set up the ten nets on site. After we had all returned to where we band the birds, we learned that net 16 hadn’t been able to be set up. The area we band on at McChord is very close to a wetlands. Net number 16 is the net that gets set up so close to the wetland that at certain times of year, it is part of the wetland! Every year in past years PSBO has had to wait a couple weeks for all of the water to dry out where net 16 goes. This year the water hadn’t dried yet by June 28th, which is the latest in the year that PSBO has ever had to wait to set up the net. We had a long, wet spring with a very late summer this year, so that probably contributed to the late presence of the water.
Another interesting thing happened: we caught a Chestnut-backed Chickadee, a Black-capped Chickadee, and an Oregon Junco. While these birds, especially chickadees, are extremely common birds to catch and band at Morse, they are much less common at McChord, which is why it was so surprising that we got one of all three of these species. The Oregon Junco was also a recapture, allowing us to research and find that he had been originally banded on June 8th, 2010. Based on our estimated age for him these past two years, we can guess that he was born in 2009.
We also caught two Willow Flycatchers today. Flycatchers are interesting birds to get caught in a net. Either the bander immediately knows which flycathcher species they are holding, or if they’re not sure, they have to take many measurements to try to determine the species. These measurements include wing length, tail length, one feather’s length subtracted from a different feather’s length, bill length, and more. All of these measurements can then be taken to a chart that Pyle has in his book where he shows the different flycatchers and what their measurements should be for all of these different things. Sometimes, taking all of these measurements is the only way to be sure of what type of flycatcher you’re holding in your hand.
Another place where many of our numbers for the day came from were from warblers. We caught three Orange-crowned Warblers, six Yellow Warblers, three Common Yellowthroats, and one MacGillivray’s Warbler, giving us a grand total of thirteen warblers in one day, almost a third of our total bird count! For the Yellow Warblers, we caught three SY birds, and three ASY birds. All of these birds showed signs of breeding, the females having brood patches and the males exhibiting cloacal protrusions. Hopefully the sign of all these breeding Yellow Warblers at McChord means just that, that they’re
breeding at McChord! Unlike the Yellow Warblers, one of the three Common Yellowthroats that we caught was actually a juvenile, HY bird. It’s always nice to see direct evidence of breeding at McChord, such as the presence of this juvenile!
A couple of our recaptures were also really exciting catches. Two of the male Swainson’s Thrushes that we caught were originally banded in June 2008. Our age estimates for them put their births in 2007 and 2006. They’ve both come back every year (excluding one) since they were originally banded. This is really fantastic news, because it is solid evidence that these Swainson’s Thrushes believe that McChord is good habitat to live and breed in.
Another exciting recapture was that of a Song Sparrow. Originally banded on June 7, 2005, this male bird has returned every year, without fail, to McChord. Estimated to be at least seven years old, this is a really incredible bird to have in our records. Every time we’ve caught and processed this bird, he has had a cloacal protrusion. This is a great indication that this Song Sparrow believes that McChord is a good habitat to live and breed in, and has felt this way for the past six years!
Overall, we had a really good day today. We had a nice bird turn out, with weather that wasn’t too hot or too cold. I can’t wait to explore McChord more in the future!