Autumn has arrived!

There is definitely a shift in temperatures, birds, and mood: autumn has arrived. The days are shorter, the skies often obscured by clouds, cooler temperatures prevail. And the assemblage of bird species has shifted from long-distance, early migrants to short-distance, late migrants. We are now seeing and catching mostly kinglets, juncos, sparrows, and yellow-rumped warblers, with a few Brown Creepers here and there, their migration having just started.

In fact, during the last week, September 20-26, we banded a total of 302 birds, the highest total for that given week across the years (despite missing two days of banding due to high wind and/or rain)! We banded 76 Yellow-rumped Warblers during that week, more in a week than in 12 previous whole seasons. Likewise, on September 21, 41 Bay-breasted Warblers were banded. An astonishing number: the previous record for a whole season was 25 birds in 2021! So far this fall, 92 Bay-breasted Warblers have been banded, a remarkable number and a clear indication of an upswing in their population likely due to spruce budworm outbreaks. I would be surprised if we will get many more, but it is obviously a unique year for them, so who knows? The 2022 season total for Yellow-rumped Warblers is 104 birds so far, which is the fourth highest season total, while their migration is far from over, as opposed to Bay-breasted Warbler as their migration will be almost over at the end of September. 

Other abundant species at the nets during that week were the two kinglets species, with 44 Golden-crowned and 28 Ruby-crowned Kinglets banded. Late September is when the migration of kinglets begins but the exact timing and abundance are quite variable between years. It is still too early to tell if it will be an earlier movement this year at Cabot Head. 

The first of the season Orange-crowned Warbler and White-crowned Sparrow were both seen on September 20. This warbler is among the last of the warblers to move through, if not the last. It has been a good fall for observation and banding of Red-eyed Vireos, with 119 birds banded. Their migration is almost over but we are still catching a few birds here and there, with the latest one on September 27.

On September 24, a surprise arrived in our net: an adult male Black-backed Woodpecker! It is the first ever to be banded at Cabot Head and the third record in 21 years (see pic on Facebook and Instagram). One bird was seen on September 26, 2010 and another one on May 12 and 13, 2012. This Black-backed Woodpecker is far from its boreal forest where it is a resident, however they do explore the land in search of recent burns, their favourite habitat. It is present on Manitoulin Island, so maybe one intrepid explorer decided to see what was across the channel, island-hopping all the way (although there is still an 8-km crossing fully over water). It was a fantastic bird to have in hand! After release, it stayed hidden in a cedar for a while but was not seen afterward.