A little bit of kinglet madness!

Despite the calendar saying that it is October, the temperatures still feel very summer-like with daytime high around 20C. It is both pleasant and concerning. Leaves are changing colours and nights are certainly longer, so it must be autumn.

Another mark of autumn is the changing cast of bird species: for example, the first Fox Sparrow of the season was detected on October 3. A large, colourful sparrow of the northern Boreal Forest with a beautiful song, it arrives relatively late on our shores, on its way to the wintering grounds in the southern United States.

A Northern Saw-whet Owl was maybe as surprised as us to be found in a net during the first net round on October 4. These tiny and oh! so very cute owls inevitably bring excitement and smiles in everyone: please go to @brucepeninsulabirds on Instagram to see for yourselves. Except in a few fall seasons, there is no regular owl banding at Cabot Head, so it is always a treat to get one during daytime banding. Over the years, there has been a total of nine Saw-whet Owls captured in 8 fall seasons, the latest in 2019.

And then the kinglets arrived! We experienced a little bit of kinglet madness from October 6 to 9, when a soft deluge of tiny green birds flocked into our nets. On October 6 we banded 103 Golden-crowned Kinglets and 11 Ruby-crowned Kinglets making it the busiest day of the season by far with a total of 139 birds of 14 species. It is also the second highest daily total for Golden-crowned Kinglets since 2002: with 213 birds, October 8, 2013 is the only other day with more than a hundred Golden-crowned Kinglets banded. The following day there were still a lot of kinglets around with 56 Golden-crowned Kinglets banded. Among the other 35 birds banded that day there were seven Hermit Thrushes and one Rusty Blackbird. The latter is a poorly known blackbird (it is member of the Icterid family, which includes well-loved Baltimore Orioles and not-so-well-loved Common Grackles) which breeds in remote boreal forests and winters “somewhere” in the United States. Because it possibly mixes in winter with other Icterids, like Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles, the Rusty Blackbird has been long overlooked and little studied. It is in sharp decline and is finally receiving some attention. It is seen in small numbers at Cabot Head both in spring and fall but it is almost never captured: one bird in spring 2008 and one bird each in falls of 2007 and 2016. I think it is a beautiful bird on its own: see pictures on Instagram!

Finally, on October 8, there were only 14 Golden-crowned Kinglets in the 59 birds banded. It is the end of kinglet madness for now!