A constant stream of new Arrivals: FOY joy of Spring

by Stephane Menu, May 8th, 2024

Another Wednesday, another rainy morning: time to write a new blog entry! The past week was a time of classic boom-and-bust in our mist netting effort, but more bust than boom unfortunately. It was also a time of a steady stream of new species arriving on our shores, whom we happily welcomed back after such a long absence! (And yes, “whom”: why denied “livinghood” to these other-than-human beings?)

In the past week, every day but one was very quiet in terms of capture, regardless of weather: clear and calm or windy with incoming rain. The major exception was on May 5 when we managed to open nets for the first two hours and banded 42 birds, 20 of them being Ovenbirds! It was like a mini fall-out: there were also lots of White-crowned Sparrows suddenly arrived that day. There was a massive downpour as dawn approached, which likely brought to the ground all the birds aloft at that time: apparently there were many Ovenbirds flying. As we were pulling ovenbird after ovenbird from the nets, I knew we were living a unique experience. But memories can fail, so I pulled out the Excel file in the afternoon to put mathematical weight to my feelings. And sure enough, from 2002 to 2023, Ovenbirds were captured for a total of 296 days and only two of them have totals in double digits (10 birds on May 13, 2023 and 12 birds on May 21, 2014)! Another nine days have totals of more than five birds (and less than ten). Catching 20 Ovenbirds, and so early in May, is indeed exceptional!

On that fateful day, May 5, as mentioned, there were lots of sparrows hopping around, many of them newly-arrived White-crowned Sparrows. After seeing just one or two since the first sighting on April 29, we estimated about 80 of them on May 5 (only two got banded), alongside over 50 White-throated Sparrows and the FOY Lincoln’s Sparrows. It is typical for White-crowned Sparrows to suddenly arrive in large numbers, which last a few days before returning to single-digits. May 5 certainly was a day of arrival, with additional FOY joy from: Ruby-throated Hummingbird; Common Yellowthroat; American Redstart (the third earliest date); Least Flycatcher; and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Spring, and notably May, is the exciting time of returning feathered friends from their long southern “vacation”, and we experienced new FOY every day of the last week, most notably warblers. On May 2, it was Orange-crowned and Nashville Warblers, two closely related species. On May 3, before the rain and wind, it was Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, and (the always incredibly handsome, stop-in-your-tracks) Blackburnian Warblers. On May the 4th, the force was not with FOY warblers but the first Veery arrived as well as Solitary Sandpiper. On May 5, it is worth noting the early arrival of one singing American Redstart, the third earliest date (May 2, 2013 is the earliest). On May 6, a very slow day, a Chestnut-sided Warbler was seen chasing bugs in cedars and the non-warbler FOY Baltimore Oriole graced another cedar with its Halloween costume. On May 7, the FOY Yellow Warbler was among the 15 species of warblers detected that day, while large flocks of Blue Jays swirled in the clear blue sky. On May 8, under pouring rain, a stream of birds appeared at the end of the morning, flying fast and disappearing faster into cedars and shrubs: there was at least a hundred White-throated Sparrows with a few other birds mixed in, notably a late American Tree Sparrow and an early Bay-breasted Warbler, the 19th species of warbler detected so far. The earliest detection for that latter species was May 3, 2013, with second earliest on May 8, in 2012 and 2015. This burst of excitement and activity was gone as quickly as it appeared. We also watched, in awe, as another flock of over one hundred American Pipits arrived and descended on the beach before taking off again and disappearing around the corner along the other shoreline.

Common Yellow Throat