flbs logo
New Jersey Catbird
- leaf

Sommer Park Preserve, Hopewell, New Jersey


Breeding Season 2010
Hannah Suthers

In contrast to last summer's ample rain, this nesting season was dryer than normal with unprecedented heat, June being the driest and warmest on record (starting in 1895). Forbs, shrubs and saplings were wilting in June. The heavy spring fruit sets on shrubs started shriveling or dropping off. Stressed trees started to drop leaves by July.

The singing male census held its own with 64 nesting species, missing being the Willow Flycatcher, both Cuckoos, and Yellow-breasted Chat. Neotropical migrant species on territory dropped again to 38% of all species from the high of nearly 47% in 1985. Neotropical migrant numbers are slowly drifting down from the peak of 57% of singing males censused in 1995 to 40%. Effects of the rained out nesting season of last year are showing. Our big February snow reduced Carolina Wrens, Nuthatches. And I can't help but wonder if two weather events didn't have something to do with this decline: a recent-year spring storm that blew off-land at the Gulf during spring migration and resulted in drowned songbirds washing up on the beaches; and an October tropical storm up the Atlantic coast that blew 11 species of our migrant songbirds, plus 2 sandpiper species, an egret and a teal to the small island Corvo in the Azores on 17 Oct 2009. These events imply large flocks of birds lost at sea.

Constant effort mist-netting and banding for the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship program resulted in 186 new birds of 30 species, a 22-year low. 2008 had 341new birds of 43 species. Returns of birds banded in previous years held up at 18%, or 40 birds of the 226 individuals captured. Of these 40, 15 birds were banded as fledglings last year: 6 Catbirds and 9 other birds. Individual high ages were: Catbird 9 years old, three 6 years, two 5 years; Wood Thrush after 6 years; Hybrid Chickadee 7 years, Tufted Titmouse 5 years.

The young of all species took a hit again this year. Among the ground nesters there were only 7 Ovenbird fledglings compared to 15 in the last good nesting season of 2008, no Towhee fledgling and 1 Blue-winged Warbler fledgling. Other target fledglings banded were only 2 Wood Thrushes compared to 15 in 2008 and only 21 Catbird compared to 69 in 2008. The first Catbird fledgling appeared in the nets at the usual time, end June, and three waves of fledglings were evident.

As cooperators with the University of California LA Center for Tropical Research and The Conservation Genetics Resource Center, we pulled two tail feathers from each of 121 birds. The DNA in skin cells attached to the quill is used to determine the population origin of an individual bird, and stable isotope analysis of a portion of the feather is used to determine the latitude where the feather was grown. Researchers are trying to determine migratory connectivity, that is, the wintering grounds for specific populations of breeding birds and vice versa. The conservation implications are tremendous. Another researcher is looking for traces of West Nile Virus RNA that can be extracted from the feather calamus of previously exposed birds. For more information on these and other fascinating projects click here.

The species list follows, the numbers being singing/displaying males on territory throughout unless specified by dates.

Common NameCount & Comments
Great Blue Heronfrogging in pond 2x, July 11 week
Wild Turkey2
Canada Goose2 pr, nests predated
Mourning Dove8
Black Vulture2 flyover June 13
Turkey Vulture3 pairs
Cooper's Hawk1, calling fledgling Aug 8, 26, 29
Red-tailed Hawk2 pair, routinely mobbed. Calling fledgling Aug 1-3, 15
Screech Owl3, Aug 15, 22
Great-horned Owl1 + pair, Aug 8, 15
Chimney Swift flyoverJune 6, July 25, 31, Aug 7
Ruby-throated Hummingbird1
Red-bellied Woodpecker20
Downy Woodpecker9
Yellow-shafted Flicker7
Pileated Woodpecker2
Eastern Wood Pewee5
Eastern Phoebe3
Great-crested Flycatcher4
Tree Swallowpair
Barn Swallow4 pairs, 21 fledglings
Blue Jay20
American Crow3
Carolina Chickadee9
Black-capped Chickadee2
Hybrid Chickadee3
Tufted Titmouse19
White-breasted Nuthatch4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher2
House Wren4
Carolina Wren4
House Finch4
American Goldfinch4
Chipping Sparrow5
Song Sparrow8
Field Sparrow2
Eastern Towhee20
Northern Cardinal30
Rose-breasted Grosbeak11
House Sparrow7
Red-eyed Vireo13
Black-and-white Warbler2
Blue-winged Warbler2
Yellow Warbler1
Common Yellowthroat20
Brown-headed Cowbird6
Red-winged Blackbird3
Baltimore Oriole10
Common Grackle7
European Starling2
Scarlet Tanager8
Northern Mockingbird1
Gray Catbird48
Eastern Bluebird2, 2 broods each
Wood Thrush18
American Robin47
Hannah Suthers and the Featherbed Lane Banding Station Crew


Last revision: Friday, February 11, 2011