Morse Field Report: Banding on July 14, 2013

Field report by Don Norman, PSBO Board Member

Well it was like “old times” with Clarice Clark and I the only ones at Morse on a still, sunny day.  We still had a nice steady day with 37 captures of 12 species.  There wasn’t much time to gab and visit the tower, as we always were late to start net runs.

Having set up the Morse MAPS in 1996, it holds a very special place in my heart and my feet, having tromped the net runs many many times over the years.  I ran the station until around 2002 when Ilon Logan and Tom Rohrer began running it. I do not remember when we transitioned the bands over to Dan Froehlich, under which Ilon and Tom were sub-permitted, as I continued to run the Fort Lewis Station and worked on trying to set up a station at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island.  Suzanne Tomassi took over from them and now runs the station at Morse.

So why are we banding there?  Well, the MAPS program is the longest standardized “vital rates” constant effort banding being run in the US.  I really like Dave DeSante’s story about what really made him realize that such a project was critical to understanding changes in bird populations.  Dave was running the nets at the Palomarin station as they had been for many years, and he witnessed an amazing reduction in the foliage gleaning bird productivity at the time when the radioactive I-131 cloud from Chernoble came over the area.  I don’t really know if anyone ever figured out what the actual levels of I-131 were in the caterpillars on the leaves that received a dusting of fallout, and whether it was a lethal dose to baby vireos and not adults (which makes sense from Iodine toxicity), but the point was that Dave realized that there needed to be a way to monitor birds across the landscape to capture such events, and to do it all the same way.  That was in the mid-1980’s and now there are some 500 stations across the landscape in the US.

So back to our day of monitoring…

The most interesting bird of the day is a ‘mystery bird’ that had us stumped for a while!  Here is a series of 4 photos, with the 3rd giving away the species and the 4th the age.

Photo 1

The 1st photo makes one think of a hatch year (HY) flycatcher, which at Morse would be willow flycatcher (WIFL) or Pacific slope flycatcher (PSFL).

Photo 2

The 2nd photo can fool you into thinking it is a HY bird, except both species have really buffy wingbars.

Photo 3

The 3rd photo shows a faint eye-ring, and without looking at the wide bill and P6 emargination, one could think a Hammond’s flycatcher (HAFL). However, a careful examination of the eyering finds it to be tear-shaped, and thus a PSFL.

Photo 4

The 4th photo surprised me, as I was still leaning HY, but the full brood patch made me look at the feathers more closely and saw too much wear in the primaries and retrices for a newly fledged HY.

This Swainson’s thrush also had us scratching our heads a bit.

Swainson's thrush

Some very visible retained lesser coverts on this Swainson’s Thrush confirm that this bird is a SY.  Most of the tips on the greater and lesser coverts are worn off, but this situation was not that visible on this bird; however, the lesser coverts were.

Finally, the mystery finch.

Mystery solved for this PUFI

Gape and 2 wispy juveniles feathers on the skull indicate a HY bird, but the face pattern is clearly a purple finch (PUFI).  Several checks of the bill and tail indicated that it was indeed a PUFI.  We had 8 captures, possibly an all time high for the site.

Other species:

SPTO (3)
AMRO (5)
RUHU (2)
BEWR (2)
COYE (!)
CBCH (2)
BCCH (1)
SOSP (2)
OCWA (1)
SWTH (7 recaps)
1 Mystery Bird

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