And the rain finally came.
A strong, warm, South wind greeted us as we opened the nets at dawn on the morning of May 7. Ominous clouds darkened the sky, heavy with a promise of rain. We started the monitoring process nonetheless, even though I suspected we would have to prematurely close the nets. The warmth and the tailwind wind had definitively helped propel migrant birds on their journey toward us, and the nets were being steadily filled with an assortment of species. A few days prior, it was White-throated Sparrows that dominated the captures but, this time, it was its Northern cousin, the White-crowned. But it was not just sparrows that were momentarily entangled in our nets: at the end of the day, we had banded a total of 17 species. It turned out to be one of the busiest days at the station, and certainly, the busiest for May 2016 thus far, with a tally of 114 birds banded in just four hours.
But as expected, the rain finally came during the late-morning and we had to close the nets for the safety of birds. Besides the sparrows, there was a good push of warblers, notably Palm Warblers, with 22 banded. It is one of the highest one day totals ever. This species has been banded in good numbers only in a few years, 2002, 2007, & 2012, with, for example, daily highs of 29 and 30 on May 7 and 14, 2002, respectively. There was also a good number of Nashville Warblers banded, as well as a few Ovenbirds. On such a busy day, with only Alex, the volunteer from New Jersey and myself, there was little time for observation. So, the FOY detected that day were from captures only: FOY Least Flycatcher (with one bird banded), Orange-crowned Warbler (two individuals banded), and one Magnolia Warbler banded too. To complete the day, there was also quite a good number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets in our nets, most of them females, as the males had passed through earlier, to secure territories on the breeding grounds to the North of us.
It was an exhilarating day, cut short by the rain, but also brought about by the rain! It cleared in the evening on that day and the following two days were relatively calm at the station, under a bright blue sky but with cold temperatures. Some frost was even noted on the morning of May 9.
May 10th started as usual, with nets being open before sunrise, under another clear, blue sky. This time, the light wind was from the Southeast, another favourable direction for migrating birds. Throughout the day, and helped by the sharp eyes and ears of a local birder, Michael Butler, we detected a steady stream of migrants, with a great diversity of warblers. Not many of them landed in our nets, as they tended to stay high in the trees or simply flew past us on their journey. But, in the end, we detected a grand total of 65 species, including nine FOY and 17 species of warblers. Just for fun, I looked at previous years and it is the highest one day count for species of warbler for a May 10th.
The FOY were, in no specific order but taxonomic, Spotted Sandpiper (with one bird at the very end of the monitoring period!), not one, but three, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds inspecting the feeder dutifully cleaned and filled by Michael in the nick of time, Northern Parula (such a delicate beauty!), Chestnut-sided Warbler (one adult male caught), Blackburnian Warbler (with a burning name fitting of the orange and black of its plumage), American Redstart (two flashy males, of course), the witchedy-witchedy-witchedy song of a Common yellowthroat, the fluty song of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, which let himself be admired atop a maple tree, and, last but not least, the brilliance of a Baltimore Oriole, a male smartly strapped in black and orange.
I usually refrain from long lists of birds but here comes another one, since it is not every day that one gets to see 17 species of warblers. Again in taxonomic order, with some repetition from the previous one: Orange-crowned, Nashville, Northern Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Pine, Palm, Black & White, American Redstart, Ovenbird, and Common Yellowthroat!
Also of interest were the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and the big flocks of Blue Jays. It was definitively a fantastic day of bird migration, with so many new arrivals. The rate of FOY will inexorably decline as more and more species have arrived or passed through but there are still a number of birds that typically find their way to Cabot Head later in the season, the so-called “late migrants”. Not that they’re late to anything, it is simply their own schedule, which makes them pass through here from mid-May to early June. You will be duly informed of their arrivals.
Another visitor of the station this morning was four-legged and had a beautiful red furry coat. A red fox came and went, responding with curiosity to my mouse squeaking noises by approaching us and letting us admire its sleek forms and yellow eyes.