A green tsunami of little fluffballs!
If you recall, I left my story in mid-morning of April 28. Well, that day was not over yet and we did see many more birds moving and feeding under a grey sky at Cabot Head. In the afternoon, there was even the FOY Nashville Warbler, the eighth species of warblers for the day. Now if it were mid-May, seeing eight species of warblers would not be that difficult, however April is a different story: this is when the earliest warblers start to arrive and bring joy to the hearts of birders after a long winter. Of course, sparrows are alright, but for many, the “forest gems” (aka wood warblers) are the true gifts of a spring migration, bringing the colourful tropics in their feathers. Their arrival is long awaited and duly celebrated.
So, it is only fair to list again these eight species seen on April 28, 2021, not the least because there was never before that many species of warblers seen in one day in April at Cabot Head! Seven was the highest on the very last day of April in 2010. And more often than not only two or three species of warblers are seen in April. On April 28, 2021 we had Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Cape May, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Pine, Palm, and Black&White Warblers. It will not be until May 5 that we will detect more warblers. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
During the past week we experienced a see-saw of extremely busy banding days and stormy and rainy days when nets stayed closed. It is more than likely that the unsettled weather concentrated and kept birds around. What took us by surprise though, were the waves upon waves of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, which were everywhere in the cedars and the birches, chittering away and hungrily devouring midges. They also hit our nets like a gentle green tsunami of little fluffballs. Between April 29 and May 5, we banded an amazing total of 419 Ruby-crowned Kinglets! (With a season total, so far, of a cool round 500 birds) Now for some perspective on that number, the highest season total is 268 RCKI in 2014. The three main waves this week were on April 29, with 132 banded kinglets, May 2 with 77 and May 5 with 149 RCKI! (The previous highest daily total was 83 birds on April 24, 2006
Needless to say, these high kinglet numbers pushed daily totals to record high: 278 birds of 14 species on April 29 (second highest daily total ever); 164 birds of 12 species on May 2; 205 birds of 18 species on May 5. Among the birds captured on that last day there was a stunning male Northern Parula as well as a beautiful male Blackburnian Warbler (First of Year): both are actually stunningly beautiful or beautifully stunning! We also banded our FOY Northern Waterthrush, a species often detected through its loud song, which brought a total of 9 species of warblers on May 5.
Other new arrivals include one Barn and one Cliff Swallows among a dozen Tree Swallows on May 3, two White-crowned Sparrows in a sea of White-throated Sparrows in the afternoon of May 4, as well as an eastern Towhee first detected by its call and then seen kicking the leaf litter with both feet looking for food.
I am lucky to have two enthusiastic volunteers, quick of feet and nimble of fingers, to check nets and extract kinglets. After so many little ones, it was wonderful to have a majestic king to admire tonight: two immature Golden Eagles were playing in the wind in the perfect evening light.