So. Many. Birds! A very busy start of monitoring.
It has been a very busy first 10 days of the fall monitoring with high banding totals almost every day. Usually banding is relatively relaxed in mid-August when a big day would be about 40 birds captured. This summer though, we have been kept busy with waves of birds moving through, sometimes continually during the morning, sometimes in one or two big waves filling up a handful of nets (for example, 13 birds in C13!). In fact, we’ve had the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and tied 6th highest daily totals for August of all years, with totals from 48 to 73 birds. Consequently, the weekly total for the first week is the highest ever with 323 birds, compared to an average of 123 birds (range: 67 in 2017 – 233 in 2021). The mathematically inclined among you would have noticed that more birds were banded during the highest day in 2022 (73 birds banded of 22 species on August 22) than during the entire first week of fall monitoring in 2017 (67 birds).
Among birds captured there were many Cape May, Bay-breasted, and Blackburnian Warblers, the so-called spruce budworm specialists. Breeding in the boreal forest, they take advantage of spruce budworm outbreaks, which boost their populations. This is possibly what we’re experiencing this fall. A budworm outbreak has been reported for Northeast Ontario, as well as good numbers of these species at a banding station in that area.
Red-eyed Vireos are also caught in large numbers this fall, mostly young birds but with the occasional adults. We even caught two very young Red-eyed Vireos still moulting out of their juvenile plumage (see pictures on Instagram or Facebook), likely coming from the common local population. The many Common Yellowthroats, Black-throated Green Warblers, and American Redstarts captured these days are also most likely from the local populations.
A moulting adult female Rose-breasted Grosbeak was captured on the 24th, the first and only detection of this species so far. On that same day, a young White-throated Sparrow was banded, still mostly into its very streaky juvenile plumage. A Philadelphia Vireo was banded on the 25th after visual detections of one bird on the 17th and 24th. This species is never seen in big numbers at Cabot Head despite being quite common in the boreal forest.
Away from the nets, we heard and even saw one White-winged Crossbill on 3 occasions (on the 15th, 23rd, 24th). Bald Eagles are naturally a daily presence with our local pair, quite often augmented with young or immature birds. On the 20th there were two young (hatch-year) and two immature Bald Eagles soaring together, briefly joined by a young Peregrine Falcon. The latter species was seen during 3 other days: on the 17th, an adult was seen carrying a prey in its talons which it endeavored to devour on the wing. It was amazing to watch it soar on thermals with stiff wings and effortlessly pluck feathers then take bite after bite.
The first (small) flocks of Canada Geese were seen on the 25th. Alas, there is no escape: Summer will end, the Earth will keep spinning and bring us into autumn. Meanwhile we have been blessed with beautiful weather until this Thursday (the 25th) when some showers arrived just at closing time. Rain makes the Earth green.