Or so it seemed for half of the morning today! For 3 hours, the nets didn’t catch any single bird; the one-hour census yielded only 8 species and very few individuals of each. A notable exception was the first flock of Common Redpolls, 30 strong! A few Snow Buntings were seen and heard around the basin. But really, nothing much.
Then, it all changed! Was it the sun poking through the clouds, enticing birds to move more? Suddenly, our nets got filled up and kept being filled up throughout the rest of the morning! More surprising was that it was by American Tree Sparrows and barely anything else (a few Juncos, one Myrtle Warbler, and one Red-breasted Nuthatch). But the biggest surprise came from the first birds to be captured today, at 10:30am: 3 Snow Buntings! It is only the second time that Snow Buntings have been banded at Cabot Head. The first time was on October 30, 2006, with a single individual!
The final tally was 52 birds banded, of which 41 were American Tree Sparrows. It beats the previous one-day record of 38 ATSP, established on October 26, 2004… In 2004, a total of 56 American Tree Sparrows was banded for the entire year. This year, with still 2 days to go, we already have 85 of them banded!!!
At the very end of the monitoring time (2:30pm), a Northern Shrike flew on top of the dead birch in front of the station. It quickly flew to some small bushes. At the same time, a somewhat familiar but different song was heard… A ringing bell went off in my brain, as my mind screamed: “boreal chickadee”. It sang once again and as I located the bird, indeed a chickadee, on the shrike-vacated birch, it took off and proceeded on crossing the basin. Despite my imploring prayers, it never turned back. I definitively saw it was a chickadee but never got a perfect look. However, I could see a faint contrast between the cap and the cheek, very much more subdued than the obvious black-and-white contrast a Black-capped Chickadee would have. I am 99% confident it was a Boreal Chickadee, based on the song and the quick look I had. It is a new species for Cabot Head!
A very unexpected busy morning indeed!