A feathered wave of green little kings!
I have used the word “tsunami” before in the search of an image to describe how it feels to be hit (metaphorically) by incredible numbers of kinglets. Well, it happened again! On October 18, kinglets were everywhere and flew in our nets in droves! It was a mad rush to extract and band them as there were only two of us to bear the heavy brunt of their impact, even though one kinglet weighs less than 7 grams. But together they stand! Oh yes, they do! It was a serious non-stop banding day with no time for breaks from opening time at 7:15 am to letting go of the last banded bird of the day at 4:15pm! Closing time should be 6 hours after opening but it took us a while to extract the birds from the last few nets.
The daily total on that historic day stands at 290 birds banded of 12 species, with 185 Golden-crowned Kinglets and 37 Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The previous one-day record was 257 birds on October 8, 2013 with 216 Golden-crowned Kinglets. So that date still has the fall record of the most GCKI banded in a day.
The following day, October 19, was thankfully not as crazy busy, simply good busy: we banded 98 birds of 16 species but with many more recaptures (25 birds of 9 species). It did not feel that busy or rushed even though it is the fourth highest daily total for the 2022 fall season. The 44 Black-capped Chickadees did give us some fun challenges with their fighting spirit: they may be all tangled in blue and in the net, they will peck at your fingers with gusto.
The 2022 fall season, with 12 more days to go, is already a season of records. It is the first time that the banding total in the fall passes the mark of 2500 banded birds. The current total, as of October 19, stands at 2564, shattering the 17-year old previous record of 2477 banded birds in the fall 2005! In 21 years of monitoring, only five fall seasons (including 2022) have banding totals over 2000 birds. It will be interesting to compare species totals between these years but that will be for the seasonal report or the 25-year report.
What is certain is that Golden-crowned Kinglet is (almost) always the most banded species in the fall, with totals ranging from 113 birds in 2005 (interestingly enough) to 758 birds in 2013. The 2022 total stands at 653 banded birds, the second highest for now. But what is 95 Golden-crowned Kinglets to add in this most unusual season? The little green king lost its crown only in 3 fall seasons to the humble but resilient Black-capped Chickadee, including the fall of a massive irruption when 717 of them were banded. That was in 2005, and how that season got such a high total. That and the abundant crop of chokecherries which attracted a plethora of berry-eating birds like Red-eyed Vireo and Yellow-rumped Warbler.
The other days of the past week seem to pale in comparison to the ones just described but they were still very good in terms of banding numbers or birds observed. The first American Tree Sparrow of the season was observed on October 17 during a short break in the incessant downpour of the day. On October 16, an always dazzling male adult Eastern Bluebird was captured and banded, the fourth overall and the first in the fall (see pics on Instagram and Facebook). A Greater Yellowlegs was heard on October 14, which is a shorebird species with a very extended migration period since it can be moving through as early as August if not July.
A sure sign of the coming winter, besides the dropping temperatures and the cold North wind, was the large flock of Long-tailed Ducks (about 50 birds) seen over Georgian Bay on October 19, followed shortly by the first Bufflehead of the season as well. I am expecting Snow Buntings anytime soon. Maybe tomorrow: they will go well with the forecasted flurries!