Summer is over (October 3)
Since last post on September 26th, we have said good-bye to summer for
good. There were a couple more days of warmth, but everything always
comes to an end. On Wednesday 30th, a strong NE wind greeted us at
dawn and has been with us, relentlessly, up to the time of this
writing! It has been 4 continuous days of this strong NE wind,
bringing down the temperature and the numbers of captures too (no less
because so many nets must be closed).
In the last days of warmth, we saw the last Monarchs, stragglers late
for their migration. The very last one that we observed was on Monday
28. Two days later, it was a Common Green Darner, a species of
dragonfly that migrates too, with the individuals hatching in late
summer migrating to Florida.
There has been a sharp decline, both in numbers and diversity, of
warblers. However, in the early hours of Tuesday 29, we were surprised
by a very rare treat: a young female Hooded Warbler got captured! It
is only the 6th Hooded Warbler ever banded at Cabot Head in 15 years!
There were 4 banded in spring of 2002 and one individual in fall 2010,
with observations of a male adult in spring 2004 (during 2 days).
During the second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, there was a possible
breeding pair at Cape Croker at the base of the Bruce Peninsula. The
entire province contains an estimated 300 Hooded Warbler territories,
with the largest concentration in Norfolk County.
We had another major surprise on the 30th as well, with the capture of
an American Pipit! It is only the third pipit ever banded at Cabot
Head (one in fall 2002; one in fall 2004): this species is easily
detected with its fluty flight call but, as a denizen of open grounds,
it shuns the shrubs and trees where our nets are located. It is a
northern breeder, in tundra like on the Hudson’s Bay Lowlands. As
such, the closest breeding pairs are at least 1,000 km from Cabot
Head. On the peninsula, one will find them feeding on the shores or in
pastures, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. The Bruce Peninsula is
but a staging area for them, as they will continue their fall
migration to spend the winter in the southern States.
Another sign of the arrival of fall is the Juncos and sparrows feeding
on the driveway and on the forest floor, in increasing numbers.
Indeed, on the same day of the Pipit, we also caught 14 Dark-eyed
Juncos! Although observed in the afternoon and in the forest near
Middle Bluff, a Fox Sparrow on September 30th is noteworthy, as it is
the earliest record. The previous early arrival was on October 6th,
2010. Likewise, an American Tree Sparrow observed on October 1st was
also quite early. Only 6 American Tree Sparrows were detected in
September over the years, out of a total of 1,934 birds!
The warblers of the fall, the Orange-crowned and the Yellow-rumped
Warblers, are also showing up in greater numbers: 5 Orange-crowned
Warblers were banded on October 2nd. Other species are still seen in
October too, but always in small numbers, like the Black-throated
Green Warbler detected on October 1st. A young female American
Redstart was banded on October 2nd and recaptured on the 3rd. This
species is usually an early migrant, leaving in late August and early
September. In fact, in 13 fall season, only 15 American Redstarts were
ever detected in October, a very, very meager 0.2% of the total of
6,186 American Redstarts compiled during this time! We always hope for
the best when we see stragglers, but the odds are stacked against them
most of the time.
Hermit Thrushes are another species of short-distance, late migrant
and they have just started their migration. They winter a “short”
distance away, in the southern States of the USA, as opposed to South
America for their cousins, the Gray-cheeked and Swainson’s Thrushes.
On the 2nd of October, we were lucky enough to capture all 3 species.
Quite interesting to think that these similar-looking birds have very
different life histories!
Fall also brings dispersing young Bald Eagles, adding to our local
adult birds: we got to see 5 eagles on Wednesday (September 30). An
adult male Peregrine Falcon was seen on the afternoon of September 30
and also on the morning of October 1(assuming it is the same bird).
The one seen in the afternoon was going back and forth over Compass
Lake (the big, shallow lake between Middle and West Bluffs).
So, we are definitively saying good bye to summer and welcoming the
new birds of the fall.