Week 1:  August 1-7, 2009

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Last fall marked the first time that we banded three flickers in a season; this year we've
already managed to reach that total just in our first week of operation!   We caught three
apparent brothers, all at pretty much the same stage of moulting their primaries,
scattered across three different nets on Tuesday and Thursday this week.

(Photo by
Marcel Gahbauer)

MBO gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided for the 2009 Fall Migration Monitoring Program by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation





2009 TOTAL


# birds (and species) banded

228 (39)

228 (39)

1232 (72)

20153 (105)

# birds (and species) repeat

29 (12)

29 (12)

308 (35)

3655 (66)

# birds (and species) return

6 (5)

6 (5)

124 (29)

578 (35)

# species observed





# net hours





# birds banded / 100 net hours





Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Simon Duval, Marcel Gahbauer, Gay Gruner
Christine Barrie, Mike Beaupré, Gilles Burelle, Sophie Cauchon, Jean Demers, Lance Laviolette, Francine Marcoux, Chris Murphy, André Pelletier, Clémence Soulard, Rodger Titman

Notes: MBO’s fifth full fall season began normally: with a bunch of birds!  This week has been nicely busy despite some bad weather, beating last year’s weekly total of 187 birds banded and actually setting a new record for the first week of the fall. Species banded for the first time in 2009 included Downy Woodpecker, Wood Thrush and Scarlet Tanager. In addition, we had some returning visitors new for the site: a Tennessee Warbler that we first banded at this time last year!  In the east this is one of the few species that appears to undertake a 'moult migration', i.e. moving some distance south from their breeding grounds to a stopover location where they complete their annual moult.  So it would appear that at least one Tennessee Warbler has decided to make its visit to MBO an annual event.

One of the great challenges each summer and early fall is figuring out the subtle distinctions among juvenile sparrows. Have a look at the one above and two below, then scroll down to below our "milestone" Yellow Warbler to check whether your ID of these three birds matches ours. (Photos by Marcel Gahbauer)

On the second day of the season, we banded our 20,000th bird at MBO ... rather appropriately (given that it is the basis of the silhouette in our logo) it was a Yellow Warbler  (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

Sparrow ID: In sequence, the three sparrows are Song, Swamp, and White-throated. All three species can show considerable variation, making identification quite difficult in some cases.  Typically Song Sparrow has the boldest head markings (including a distinct malar stripe), Swamp Sparrow is distinctly rustier on the wings, back, and tail, and is also smaller, and White-throated Sparrow tends to be noticeably larger and may already have a trace of yellow in the lores, though as our quiz bird above shows, this isn't always present.  We're just lucky we don't also have Lincoln's, Savannah, or Vesper Sparrows breeding nearby to compound the challenge!

The first week of fall always involves a lot of birds breeding at MBO or nearby, but it's worth starting this early because every year we do get the first migrants from further north trickling through.  More often than not, we tend to have some unexpected visitors.  This year the most notable find was a female Swainson's Thrush still showing a brood patch and replacing her flight feathers.  We don't know of them breeding in the area, so are curious from how far she came to complete her moult at MBO.

This week’s top ten lists are quite representative of what’s on-site at the moment: our breeders (well, more or less)! The invasion of Common Grackles, which doesn’t always manifest itself, may be coming – only time will tell, but they were far more numerous this week than any other species, and jumped several ranks from last year at this time.  House Wrens seem particularly abundant this year, and that's reflected by them showing up in the lower half of this week's top ten, and they may well remain there for a few weeks until they start dispersing or numbers of other species increase enough to push them down and off the list.  Of note, last year American Crows were in 4th place, but so far this season they've been rather scarce, with only a few seen each day - we have no doubt that their numbers will grow over the course of the season though.

Among the birds banded, the top three are quite similar to last year, with Rose-breasted Grosbeak continuing a surprisingly strong first week presence (the surprise being that they're rarely encountered at MBO in summer, so must be coming in from nearby).  American Redstart, which last year topped our list of birds banded in mid-August, appears to be on the move in good numbers a bit earlier this year. Meanwhile House Wren, Cedar Waxwing, and American Robin jumped on the list this year, based on larger numbers breeding or otherwise hanging around the site than in 2008.  Perhaps the biggest surprise though is the scarcity of Baltimore Orioles to date.  They are traditionally among our most abundant captures early in fall (e.g. 3rd place in week 1 in each of the last three years, but outside the top ten this year).

This week’s top 10   [last year's rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals banded

mean # individuals observed daily

1. Yellow Warbler (25) [1]

1. Common Grackle (42.1) [7]

1. Song Sparrow (25) [2]

2. Black-capped Chickadee (13.7) [6]

3. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (16) [4]

2. American Robin (13.7) [2]

4. American Redstart (15) [-]

4. Cedar Waxwing (13.3) [7]

5. House Wren (13) [-]

5. Song Sparrow (12.4) [4]

6. Cedar Waxwing (12) [-]

6. American Goldfinch (11.6) [1]

 7. American Robin (11) [-]

7. House Wren (8.3) [-]

7. White-throated Sparrow (11) [9]

8. Yellow Warbler (7.3) [-]

9. Red-eyed Vireo (10) [-]

9. Red-winged Blackbird (6.1) [3]

9. Gray Catbird (10) [5]

10. Gray Catbird (5.9) [9]

With the temporary return of Marcel Gahbauer and a full line-up of Banders-in-Charge, this fall promises to be one of MBO’s best: we’re coming up on our five-year anniversary (of full coverage) and are planning a summary report to examine the data we’ve collected so far. We’ve got some sneaking suspicions that we’ll be able to see some trends, even this early on. We are so thankful to our wonderful volunteers that brave weather, bugs, and early mornings to come and share our workload and to learn.

Last but not least, a very special thanks to Paul, Macdonald campus farm manager, for mowing our paths and making the trails manageable, and to our wonderful workhorse Malcolm, who showed the MBO jungle who was boss. We know they’re not the most glamorous jobs in the world, but they are one of the most important!

Banding in the early part of August means we see our share of fledglings just out of the nest, like this Common Yellowthroat.
(Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

August banding also brings with it an opportunity to see many species in various stages of moult, some like this female Northern Cardinal looking rather undignified in the process.
(Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

Of course with this being our 5th full fall migration season, we also have the potential to recapture ever older returns of birds from our "early years". This female Baltimore Oriole was banded at MBO as an after-hatch-year bird in 2005, making her now at least 5 years old and a veteran of at least 10 migratory flights to/from the Neotropics.  While we recapture many of our local orioles annually, this was our first recapture of her since 2005, so we don't know whether she has just been good at avoiding our nets most years, or has been breeding elsewhere for the past three summers.
(Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)




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