The windfall continued throughout the week, with busy day following busy day, reaping a rich collection of kinglets, juncos and sparrows. From October 3 to 8, a total of 499 birds were banded, quite a good number in a 6-day period of fall migration. The highest daily total was on October 4, with 130 birds banded: mostly kinglets (35 Golden-crowned Kinglets and 13 Ruby-crowned Kinglets), quite a few Brown Creepers (16 birds banded), and 17 Slate-coloured Juncos. The following days were not quite as busy but totals were still quite good, with another spike of 87 birds banded on October 7. It was certainly a change from the previous, more relaxed weeks and I was glad to have help from Tim, an experienced bander from Scotland, who’s volunteering for a month at Cabot Head.
The first week of October is usually the busiest time in the fall season. There are an average of 277 birds banded during the week from October 4 to 10, based on data from 2002 to 2015. This year, the weekly total is 456 birds banded, which is the second highest total in 15 years! The highest total for that particular week is 574 birds, achieved in 2014.
We also had a few surprises in our nets over the last week. We caught a Northern Saw-whet Owl on the morning of October 8. It is rare but not unusual to catch these wonderful, little owls during the regular, morning banding. It is such a treat to hold these fierce creatures of the night!
We also caught a White-breasted Nuthatch on October 9, only the fifth one ever caught in the fall. There was only one White-breasted Nuthatch caught and banded in the spring. It is quite an uncommon bird at Cabot Head, rarely observed and even more rarely captured. Another species rarely caught in fall (but more common in spring) is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. We caught the third one of the season on October 8, a nice-looking adult male, with a beautiful pearl gray back.
The bulk of warbler diversity is behind us now, but there are still some species moving through: Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers are the most common, but there are also Palm and Tennessee Warblers, and some straggles of Nashville and Magnolia Warblers. And even one Bay-breasted Warbler on October 3.
Speaking of stragglers, we had two Red-eyed Vireos, on October 4 and 7. On the other hand, the early birds of late migrant species have just started to show up: the first Fox Sparrow of the season was caught on October 5, and the first American Tree Sparrows were observed on October 9.
As much as the changing colours of the leaves and the arrival of these two species of sparrows mark the beginning of the end for the fall migration here at Cabot Head. There are still three weeks of banding before we close for the year but we are reminded that the end is – sadly – in sight!