A very, very busy week!
We have banded an impressive total of 375 birds during the past week (October 18-24). It was a busy week with two days over 90 birds and three days over 40 birds banded, mostly Golden-crowned Kinglets and Dark-eyed Juncos. The 2002-2020 average for this particular week is 136 birds but with very large variations including a low of 23 (!!) birds in fall 2017 and a (previous) high of 193 birds in 2005. So this week we banded almost twice as many birds as the previous record of 16 years ago!
Among all the kinglets and juncos we also had a rare Common Redpoll on October 22 (see pictures on IG and FB). It is only the sixth fall season with captures of this species. A total of 17 Common Redpolls were banded in five previous fall seasons.
The first Common Redpoll this year was seen on October 17, the same day a young Northern Shrike was also briefly observed. Redpolls were then seen every day except on October 20. At first, we saw just one or a few birds, and then a larger flock of up to 45 birds in the last few days.
White-winged Crossbills were first seen on August 20 this fall with one bird. Observations of one or a few birds happened irregularly throughout the season until this week when white-winged crossbills became a daily occurrence in big noisy, chattering flocks. It is not always easy to get a precise count of these fast flyers who have the uncanny ability to disappear into trees as soon as they land. Approximately 130 birds were counted on October 23 however, when three large groups were observed spread out in the sky. It is amazing to watch them up close as they devour cone seeds with agility and speed, holding cones in their feet and using their specialized crossed bill to get at the fat-rich seeds. They look like northern parrots! I was watching several of them in a spruce top busy feeding with one adult male perched at the very top emitting a very specific tik-tik call that seemed to attract more crossbills to the feeding frenzy. It appears that such a social species feeding on localized food have ways of communicating where food is or if predators are around.
The fall 2021 fall migration monitoring is nearing the end with only one week left. I am very curious to see if we will keep on catching record numbers of birds or if it will eventually slow down. Stay tuned!