Busy, busy, busy!

After a seemingly long stretch of five days of overcast conditions, clear skies and bright sun returned on September 29 and have been with us ever since. The return of good weather brought a lot – and I mean, A LOT – of birds at Cabot Head and they were not shy about flying into our nets. With the exception of October 2, when nets were closed due to a windstorm, daily captures from September 29 to October 4 have been the highest of the season, from 84 to 164 banded birds per day of a wide diversity of species. The most abundant species captured was Golden-crowned Kinglets, notably with a cool 100 birds on October 4. 164 birds of 22 species banded on October 2 is the second-highest daily total for any fall seasons but still far from the 257 birds banded on October 8, in 2013 (the vast majority being Golden-crowned Kinglets). A lot of Dark-eyed Juncos have been captured during the past few days as well, alongside a few White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows. 

Hermit Thrushes have started their migration in earnest, reflected in good captures since September 30, notably with 7 birds on October 4. There are still a few Gray-cheeked and Swainson’s Thrushes captured but their passage through Cabot Head is almost over now. Red-eyed Vireo is also slowly being replaced by Blue-headed Vireo but there are still a few individuals detected these last few days. Quite a few birds of the latter species have been banded already this fall: 24 Blue-headed Vireos while the previous record season total is 13 birds (in 2015 and 2018). 

A late season fun challenge is to detect warblers in October. Sometimes it is easy when they fly into the nets, sometimes it requires binoculars and patience. Over the years (2002 – 2021), between 5 and 15 species of warblers have been detected in October with an average of 8 species. This year, we have detected 10 species: Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, and Nashville Warblers (species detected every October); Palm Warbler, seen this year only one afternoon outside regular monitoring (a species missed only in one fall season); Common Yellowthroat, Tennessee and Black-throated Blue Warblers (species in October seen at least in 10 fall seasons); and a few rarer species: Northern Parula, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Black-and-white Warbler. The last one was an adult female banded in August 2021 and recaptured for the first time on October 1 this year. 

The first Fox Sparrow of the season was banded on October 1. On that day, we also captured a loud and sharp-billed young female Pileated Woodpecker! (see pics on Facebook and Instagram)

It was a busy and fun and exciting week!