It is this time of year when we really start to feel the end of season: almost all the trees have changed their colours (except, of course, the evergreens), the days are getting shorter and colder, and most of the migrants have now passed through on their journey South!
That said, our banding efforts are now even slower than before, and it was already an especially quiet Fall season. It is simply the same refrain that I’ve been singing throughout this Fall. Nonetheless, there are always moments, and some birds, to lift our spirits.
On October 18, it was two species that enlivened the day, the last Red-eyed Vireo and the first Northern Shrike of the season. It is possible that we’ll have another Red-eyed Vireo later in the season, as the latest one ever recorded at Cabot Head was on October 28, 2004, however, in the past 17 years, there have been only five Red-eyed Vireos detected after October 15, out of 3,863 total individuals counted these same Fall seasons. On the other end of the spectrum, Northern Shrikes are late migrants, and occur in very small numbers. Absent entirely in six Fall seasons, there was a total of only 38 Northern Shrikes counted in the other 11 seasons, with five before or on October 18.
On the first net round, early in the morning on October 19, we were surprised and delighted to see a Northern Saw-whet Owl in one of our nets! It is always such a treat to handle that little cute owl species. We don’t do owl banding, unlike many other stations, but it is actually not impossible to catch one in the early hour of the “normal” banding, with one to a few owls seasonally (but none in five Fall seasons).
On October 20, I watched a young Peregrine Falcon come in low over the bay with purposeful wingbeats. It arrived at the shoreline so close that it fully filled my field of vision through my binoculars. I was delighted, as Peregrine Falcons are among my favourite birds.
Before the wind increased to gale-force and obliged us to close the nets, we captured a handful of birds on the morning of October 22, including the first American Tree Sparrow of the season. A late migrant, it is seen in numbers only in late October, with only a few individuals detected in early October. October 22 marks the latest first detection across the years, in 2019, but also in 2018.
We may still potentially welcome a few more late migrant species (Snow Bunting, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, or Bohemian Waxwing), so we will keep our ears and eyes sharp and alert even in the waning days of monitoring.
And there is still time to get your tickets for our Annual Fundraising Dinner and Auction on November 16!