The return of the buzzing 

The few chokecherry trees that the beavers have left standing in the shrubby area leading to the first two nets are now in full bloom. As soon as the sun is high and warm enough, the place is buzzing! Bees, hover flies, and several other species of flies are happily visiting the large white flowers, filling the air with their buzzing sound as we walk by every 30 minutes to check the nets. It is another sure sign that the season (of migration monitoring, that it) is almost over for us.

But there are still migrants moving through, even though numbers and diversity are not as high as earlier in the season. Nonetheless, on May 30, we banded a good number of birds: 83 individuals of 21 species, including 21 American Redstarts (locally very abundant) and, most notably, three gray-cheeked Thrushes and 15 Swainson’s Thrushes. The latter species has been captured on 207 days in the last 21 Spring seasons, with only five days in double-digit numbers (a range from 12 to 26 birds banded) from May 20 to 29. On that day of May 30, there were also quite a few flycatchers around, many from the Empidonax group (Yellow-bellied, Alder, and Least), a few Eastern Wood-pewees, as well as Great Crested Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds.

In late afternoon of that fateful day, we were treated by a sailor’s tall tale: a sailboat came into Wingfield Basin to moor. The (American) captain and his mate came ashore for a chat: a bird landed on their solar panels about 30 nautical miles (about 60km) from Wingfield and rode with them until they dropped anchor. Or so they said. Right! Well, they had pics… and we could determine that it was a Ruddy Turnstone. I dropped not anchor, but whatever I was doing, to go search the shoreline with bins and scopes to no avail. Later in the evening, with a kinder light, I scanned the basin shoreline slowly and methodically with the spotting scope and, sure enough, there they were: not one, but two Ruddy Turnstones, grooming and preening on the rocks. As mentioned earlier in an earlier blog, this species was seen in flight this Spring but it otherwise extremely rare: the sailing turnstones are the third record. Now the mystery is: where was the second bird? A castaway below deck?

The week continued to bring good daily totals of banded and recaptured birds, not as high as May 30, of course. Recaptures are overwhelmingly American Redstarts banded in previous seasons and years. One adult female American Redstart seems to “like” being in the nets: number 2950-68157 was originally banded on August 16, 2022, as an adult (so, we don’t know its exact age) and recaptured for the first time this spring on May 22. In the following 13 days (up to June 4), it has been recaptured eight times! Definitely a local bird on territory now! 

Among the late-season migrants, it is always quite a surprise to have Blue Jays in this category! Most of the Blue Jays are sedentary except for the sliver of the population at the very north of their breeding range. A sliver maybe but that is still a lot of birds: on June 4, there was a flock of about 400 Blue Jays rising up over the trees in the eastern horizon. As they rose and dipped, turned and mingled, it was extremely difficult to precisely count them: it was a 10-bird by 10-bird count done very quickly before they dove down into the woods again. If you ever happen to be in said wood as a large group of jays fall from the sky, the ‘whoosh’ sound they make would have you crouching in sudden fear! At least the first time you hear it. Quite remarkable!

We are now entering the final countdown of the Spring season, with the last day on June 10 fast approaching. Stay tuned for a quick summary next week!