What’s in a name? Or how the misnamed Connecticut Warbler does not breed there…

The frenetic banding pace of the first 10 days of the season has slowed down, albeit with still good numbers in our nets from time to time. It is becoming more and more clear that we have a Red-breasted Nuthatch irruption in the making this fall. With already 74 birds banded (notably 10 birds on August 30), it is more Red-breasted Nuthatches banded than 14 of the past 20 fall seasons, and September has just begun. This species tends to have somewhat cyclical irruptions, although this is not quite the case at Cabot Head. For example, banding numbers were relatively high in 5 of 6 consecutive fall seasons (from 2016 to 2021) with totals ranging from 44 to 118 banded birds but only 2 (two!) in 2019.

On August 28, we banded 9 Bay-breasted Warblers, more birds in a day than the season total of 12 previous fall seasons. This fall, it is already a record 31 Bay-breasted Warblers banded, beating the previous one of 25 banded birds of fall 2021. 

We are also getting very good numbers of Red-eyed Vireos (82 birds banded so far), Common Yellowthroat (39 birds banded) and Black-throated Green Warblers (84 birds banded). For that last species, it is already the 4th highest banding total for a fall season. This species has shown tremendous variations in numbers banded: the first 3 years of monitoring, banding totals were 115 (in 2003 and 2004) and 116 (in 2002) birds, whereas it was always below 80 birds after 2005, dropping to a low of 14 birds banded in 2016.

On August 27, we were treated to a very rare visitor in our nets: a young Connecticut Warbler! Despite its name, it is a summer denizen of large bogs of the boreal forest but very rarely seen or heard during migration. In 21 years of monitoring, we banded a grand total of 5 Connecticut Warblers (including this one), with one in spring 2006, the other ones in fall (2003, 2005, and 2020, with one each).

Another morning, about one hour after sunrise, I was scanning the bay with my binoculars during census (the one-hour standardized bird count) when I saw a bat flying over the water towards the shoreline. Interesting, I thought, and kept swiping left (with my binoculars). But I quickly returned to where the bat was, thinking it was too interesting to just dismiss it so quickly. Instead, I saw a Merlin in full attack mode! It very soon disappeared behind the point of land but I would guess that it was after the bat. The outcome of their encounter would remain a mystery. 

Another day, another raptor: on August 27, I was lucky enough to watch for several minutes an adult Northern Goshawk slowly soaring in the sky until it reached the clouds. I watched it slowly disappearing into the base of a cloud before it started gliding in a southerly direction.

On September 1, the sharp eyes of volunteer Jake, back for a third stay, spotted a Green heron flying along the basin and perching in a dead tree. It is only the third fall season with sightings, even though this species is seen every second spring or so. On that first day of September, we also banded the first Blackpoll Warbler of the season. Another spruce budworm specialist like Bay-breasted, Cape May, and Blackburnian Warblers, this species tends to breed a little farther north, which could explain why we usually detect it later than the other ones.