It was a black and stormy… well, week! Windstorms have pounded the Bruce Peninsula for several days over the last week, impeding migration and banding alike. From October 4 to 11, there were four days with winds too strong to open nets safely, which meant that half the days of banding were lost to bad weather.
The fierce winds came from all directions (East, South, and West), except from the North; the latter typically being the favoured wind for birds migrating southward. As a consequence, there were no significant movements through Cabot Head over the last week. Thanks to the kinglets, we did have some busy net runs but the overall total was meagre.
There were, however, a few noteworthy observations throughout the week. An American Pipit was heard and seen on October 5, two American Black Ducks were flying with two Mallards on October 6, and a lone American Green-winged Teal was seen flying across Wingfield Basin on October 7 (it is a rarely seen species of duck at Cabot Head, like the Black Duck). A small flock of five Horned Larks flew over on October 9. A distinctive call alerted us to a high-flying Evening Grosbeak on October, and on October 11 the first Gray Catbird of the season was banded. This species has almost eluded us completely this season so far, with only one prior observation on September 23. Despite its secretive habits, Gray Catbirds tend to be quite vocal, which permits ready detection. This species is never banded in large numbers in the Fall, from two to 12 individuals, but it is usually detected regularly throughout the season, with observation from August to late-October.
We captured, and marked with a nanotag, one very late Swainson’s Thrush on October 10. It is almost the latest date for this species: there was one observation on October 12, 2008, and one on October 15, 2016, while Swainson’s Thrushes have only been captured on October 10 in three previous Fall banding seasons. It would be very interesting to compare the migration strategy of that late individual with earlier ones – if their signals get detected enough over the network of Motus towers.
It is so exciting to be able to pry open – ever so slightly – the mystery of migration routes and their timing!