BIRD BANDING STATIONS

at Farm island and Fisherman Point near Pierre, South Dakota

hoodedIntroduction

Since the impoundment of the Missouri River, there have been many changes to the habitats of Farm Island and, of course, to the entire Missouri River floodplain. Once a dynamic mosaic of cottonwood/willow forest, oxbow lakes, sand bars, silver sagebrush/grassland and late succession forest of oak, hackberry, elm and other trees, most of the Missouri River floodplain is now under water. Farm Island is one of the few forested areas left remaining. Unfortunately, the habitats on Farm Island are proceeding to succession under an unnatural regime of erratic winter flooding and invasion by monocultures of red cedar, Russian olive, cattails and other plants. Lake Sharpe, impounded by the Big Bend Dam, first flooded the lower portions of Farm Island in 1963. The Oahe Dam, impounding Lake Oahe in 1958 just a few miles upstream of Farm Island, has had profound effects on the island. As sediment from the Bad River accumulated in the upper portions of Lake Sharpe, releases from Oahe Dam created water elevations higher than the lake level of Lake Sharpe, periodically flooding portions of the island. Bank erosion is gradually eliminating the highest portions of the island and will result in even more drastic changes. High releases in winter months, combined with ice jams, have resulted in flooding of portions of the upper island and many changes in vegetation, primarily invasion by cattails and reedgrass. In other areas where cottonwoods once dominated, the old cottonwoods are dying out and without the disturbance of natural spring flooding, no new cottonwoods are replacing them. A dense growth of eastern red cedar and an invasive exotic tree, the Russian olive, are replacing the diverse vegetation once present on the island.

The effects of these changes on the bird fauna of the island can be determined, thanks to the efforts of Nelda Holden, Gladyce and Charles Rogge, and other members of the South Dakota Ornithologists' Union, who banded birds on Farm Island in the 1960's and into the 1980's. The results of this banding can be compared to our banding data, collected since 1993 and hopefully continuing into the future.

In the spring of 2004 we opened a second banding station at Fisherman Point (also called Diver's Point) near Oahe Dam, Stanley County. Habitat at this banding station consists of a remnant cottonwood forest that lacks the long-term flooding issues present at Farm Island. However, both sites were impacted by flooding from record-level releases from Missouri River dams in 2011. Farm Island Nature Area, in particular, was subjected to months of flooding during the summer and early fall of 2011, which resulted in the loss of much of the lower habitat structure. Banding was abbreviated in the spring of 2011 because of rising water levels, and neither site could be sampled during the fall of 2011. Banding at Farm Island was relocated to a temporary site during the spring of 2012 because of trail reconstruction.

Methods
Since 1993, we have banded each spring and fall on Farm Island, with the exception of 2011. Farm Island is located about 3 miles east of Pierre, Hughes County, South Dakota. The banding site is located at the entrance to the hiking trail. The USGS Bird Banding Lab 10-minute block is 442-1001. Our banding period ranges from late April to early June in the spring and from late August to mid-October. A typical banding day is from 8 am to 12 noon, using ten 30-mm mesh, 12x2.6 m, 4-shelf mist nets, supplemented with some use of 60-mm mesh nets. Nets are attended continuously and birds removed as quickly as possible. Spring banding is concentrated in May and fall banding in September. We have collected a large data set of tarsus length, exposed culmen, bill length, and tail length. We record wing chord, weight, and a visual score of subcutaneous fat deposits of all birds that are banded. When possible fall birds are aged by skulling.
Map of the Banding Sitesbird banding location map
Results

As of the summer of 2012 we have banded 14,707 individual birds of 112 species (Table 1). Orange-crowned Warbler is the most commonly captured bird species. A Black-headed Grosbeak banded on 26 May 2004 was recaptured on 23 May 2011, making this individual at least seven years old and the oldest known bird we've captured. Table 2 lists additional local recaptures of our banded birds.

When a banded bird is reported or recovered from another location, it is called a foreign band recovery. We have had two foreign band recoveries of birds we have banded. On 8 May 2001, a Swainson's Thrush was banded on Farm Island. It was found dead two years later on 20 May 2003 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. A Blackpoll Warbler that was banded on Farm Island on 25 May 2005 was recaptured that fall (15 September) at the Allegheny Front Bird Observatory in West Virginia, providing important information on the migratory pathway of that species. The Pierre-area station captured a banded Alder Flycatcher on 23 May 2007 that was originally banded at Mugaha Creek in British Columbia, Canada on 19 August 2004.

Discussion

Our recent banding effort has far exceeded the banding effort in the 1960's to the 1980's (see Table 3). Comparison of the results is impaired without quantitative data of the net/hour effort of the early banders, but these data are not available. Species that we have not captured or captured in low numbers compared to the early banders are may be declining or may no longer occur in the remaining cottonwood forest habitat. Species that stand out as declining or missing are Wood Thrush, Great Crested Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Bell's Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orchard Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak, and American Redstart. These are all neotropical migrant species that once nested or still nest in the floodplain forest of the Missouri River. Other neotropical migrant breeding species such as Yellow Warbler and Common Yellowthroat are present in high abundance. Common Yellowthroat are obviously responding to the increasing cattail habitats on Farm Island. Yellow Warblers are a generalist breeding species, nesting in many woodland habitat types. This species is common statewide.

We have captured a number of migrant warbler species not reported by the early banders, such as the Hooded Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Canada Warbler and Northern Parula. Some non-breeding neotropical migrants occur in high abundance during migration, including Myrtle's Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Swainson's Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Wilson's Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Banders and Assistants

Over the years many people have assisted and visited our banding stations. Listed below are the people who have contributed significant time. Doug Backlund and Eileen Dowd Stukel initiated the banding station at Farm Island in 1993. In 2004, we established the Fisherman Point station. Eileen stayed with the Farm Island station and Doug Backlund moved to the Fisherman Point station. Following Doug's retirement, Silka Kempema assumed primary responsibility for the Fisherman Point site. Wildlife Biologist Casey Mehls assists at both sites. Ricky Olson has volunteered hundreds of hours at both stations. Alyssa Kiesow, Carol Aron, Corey Huxoll, Jeff Shearer, Andy Burgess, Scott Stolz, and Erin Moehring, present or previous employees with South Dakota of Game, Fish and Parks, have contributed many hours to the banding effort. 

Table 2. Some interesting recapture records of birds banded
and recaptured at our banding sites or recovered in Pierre

Species
Sex
First Capture
Last Recapture
Baltimore Oriole
Female
05/26/2004
05/21/2007
Black-capped Chickadee
unknown
05/14/1996
09/26/2000
Black-capped Chickadee
unknown
09/16/1998
05/06/2003
Black-capped Chickadee
unknown
04/29/1997
09/26/2002
Black-capped Chickadee
unknown
09/21/2007
05/06/2011
Black-headed Grosbeak
Male
05/14/1996
Found dead in Pierre 5/17/2001
Black-headed Grosbeak
Male
05/17/1999
Found dead in Pierre 6/21/2000
Black-headed Grosbeak
Male
05/20/1999
05/16/2001
Black-headed Grosbeak
Female
05/22/2001
05/23/2006
Black-headed Grosbeak
Female
05/26/2004
05/23/2011
Brown Thrasher
unknown
05/28/2004
05/06/2008
Brown Thrasher
unknown
05/10/2004
05/14/2008
Brown Thrasher
unknown
05/05/2005
05/26/2009
Common Yellowthroat
Male
09/17/1999
5/17/2003 (recaptured 11 times)
Common Yellowthroat
Male
09/17/1997
05/22/2003
Common Yellowthroat
Female
09/25/2002
9/9/2005 (also recap. 5/27/2004)
Common Yellowthroat
Male
09/07/2001
05/15/2007
Common Yellowthroat
Male
09/04/2003
05/28/2008
Common Yellowthroat
Male
09/04/2003
05/22/2009
Common Yellowthroat
Male
09/04/2003
05/27/2009
Common Yellowthroat
Male
09/04/2003
05/22/2009
Downy Woodpecker
Male
09/15/1997
05/03/2001
Gray Catbird
unknown
05/25/2001
05/24/2002
House Wren
unknown
05/10/1999
05/14/2001
House Wren
unknown
05/06/1993
05/30/1996
Northern Cardinal
Male
09/12/2007
found dead in Pierre 11/21/2008
Northern Cardinal
Male
05/02/2006
09/01/2010
Red-eyed Vireo
unknown
05/26/2011
05/14/2012
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Male
05/20/1994
05/18/1995
Song Sparrow
unknown
09/27/1999
8/28/2001 (also recap. 9/14/2000)
Song Sparrow
unknown
05/09/2003
05/11/2009
Spotted Towhee
Male
10/05/2001
05/19/2004
Spotted Towhee
Female
10/03/2002
09/26/2006
Warbling Vireo
unknown
05/17/2005
05/18/2006
Warbling Vireo
unknown
05/30/2008
05/14/2012
White-breasted Nuthatch
Female
8/31/1005
05/20/2009
White-breasted Nuthatch
Male
05/07/2009
05/11/2011
Yellow Warbler
Female
05/27/2004
05/27/2009
Yellow Warbler
Female
05/20/2004
05/18/2010
Yellow Warbler
Female
05/22/2009
05/29/2012
Yellow Warbler
Male
05/17/2004
05/16/2006
Yellow Warbler
Female
05/27/2004
05/27/2009
Yellow Warbler
Male
05/25/2009
05/27/2011

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