The defining characteristic of the last week has been the very unsettled weather. The Fall Equinox, September 21, was marked by an intense windstorm. Very strong winds from the South, at first, later shifting to West and increasing, blew all day, making the trees dance and shake. Damages were not as bad as what happened in the national capital but there were several trees broken or uprooted, with quite a few falling on the power line.
Since we have solar panels, we did not lose power right away. Eventually, the sun didn’t shine long enough and the batteries ran out. We then had to walk the line and cleared the trees to restore power. The long story short being that the last 7-km of the line feeding us is considered private, meaning BPBO in the end is responsible for it. Luckily, it was a “simple” matter of clearing the trees: there was no broken line or pole this time. We certainly want to expand our solar array to generate more power and become fully off-grid.
Strong wind returned after a short lull, although, thankfully, not as intense. We were able to run the nets for two days (September 22 and 23) and for barely an hour at dawn on September 24 before the strong East wind forced us to close them again. Wind and rain kept them closed on the morning of September 25.
Nonetheless, we’ve had interesting observations and captures. On September 22, it was a trio of captured woodpeckers that provided the excitement: a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Hairy Woodpecker, and last but certainly not least, a Pileated Woodpecker! On September 23, we banded an impressive 15 Red-breasted Nuthatches. As I mentioned previously, we are witnessing a strong migration of this species this fall, with numerous sightings and already 72 individuals banded. On that same morning, we were all lucky enough to observe a young Northern Goshawk as it soared low over the station for several minutes. A shy and reclusive denizen of the deep wood, this largest of the Accipiter tribe is rarely seen so well.
Leaves are turning, nights are cooling, days are shortening. Autumn is on its way, marked also by the arrival of certain bird species: the first Golden-crowned Kinglet and White-crowned Sparrow were seen on September 22, with FOF Brown Creepers the following day. We are in that particular moment in time, seeing the last of the early migrants like the warblers, while welcoming the first birds of the late migrants (sparrows, kinglets, creeper). However, it is difficult to talk of LOF, Last of Fall: it takes a few days to suddenly realize, for example, that Hummingbirds are not buzzing around the feeder anymore. The last ones were seen on September 16 this year, for now. But a straggler is always a possibility, like the one that appeared on the cold morning of October 7, 20005! Of the past 16 years, nine had observations of hummingbirds after September 16.
So, we are – as always – keeping our eyes and ears sharp and open!
Extra! Extra! Last minute: another windstorm for September 26!
No nets open but census and observation were done, crucial parts of the monitoring effort. It was during census that I observed an American Golden-Plover and a Sanderling on the shore near the entrance to Wingfield Basin. Cabot Head does not have good habitats for shorebirds, except for the occasional Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper. The rare sightings of shorebirds are usually of birds in flight. It was thus a very rare treat to be able to observe at length these two species. Both were juveniles. American Golden Plover has been seen previously only twice: on May 24, 2012; and in the flock of Canada Goose some days ago this fall (as mentioned in a previous blog). Sanderling was detected only once, with four birds flying fast on September 2, 2005. It is thus quite extraordinary to have one bird of each species on the shore together. It is possible that the fierce thunderstorm during the night, followed by strong wind, grounded the birds for a while, much to our delight!