McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

FALL MIGRATION MONITORING PROGRAM

Week 10:  October 3-9, 2011

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PICTURE OF THE WEEK:



This hatch-year American Redstart banded on the first day of the week was only
the second we have ever banded in late October, and extended the total for fall
2011 to 150, which is a new record high for the fifth year in a row!
(Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

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THIS WEEK

THIS FALL

2011 TOTAL

SITE TOTAL

# birds (and species) banded

275 (29)

2400 (73)

3488 (83)

35057 (108)

# birds (and species) repeat

60 (12)

478 (42)

633 (47)

6140 (68)

# birds (and species) return

5 (2)

30 (9)

125 (21)

932 (37)

# species observed

81

136

157

204

# net hours

534.0

5062.1

7899.1

57516.2

# birds banded / 100 net hours

51.5

47.4

44.2

61.0

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge:  Bob Barnhurst, Simon Duval, Marcel Gahbauer, Gay Gruner
Assistants:
  Kenzie Azmi, Christine Barrie, Sue Bishop, Kaitlin Broadhurst, Jean Demers, Steve Dumont, Philippe Dunn, Réjean Duval, Nicki Fleming, Barbara Frei, Alison Hackney, Myriam Haineault, Lisa Keelty, Kristen Keyes, Erik Kudelka, Lance Laviolette, Francine Marcoux, Barbara MacDuff, Don MacDuff, Betsy McFarlane, Chris Murphy, Sarah Saldanha, Ahmad Shah, Marilou Skelling, Clémence Soulard, Patricia Stotland, Pierrot Tellier-Machabee, Elise Titman, Rodger Titman, Matthew Von Bornhoft, Brian Wilson

Notes:   We keep hoping that migration is just late this year, and the presence this week of several "mid-season" species such as Brown Thrasher, Tennessee Warbler, and American Redstart lent some credence to that belief.  However, the counts were dominated by the usual early October species (kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows) - just in much smaller numbers than we are used to seeing.  Last year at this time we had our third consecutive week with 1000+ individuals banded; this year over the seem period we have yet to hit a cumulative total of 1000!  Overall, we've banded fewer than half as many birds as we had at this point last fall, though it's worth noting we have actually banded four more species this fall.  While fall counts are largely dominated by hatch-year birds, and the lower numbers overall could therefore reflect a subpar breeding season, our returns are also way down this year, with only 24 individuals of 9 species to date, compared to 36 of 18 species by this time last fall.


Another surprisingly late bird, this Brown Thrasher was only the third we have ever banded in October - and surprisingly the first one we've banded this fall.  Below is a "crossbill" of sorts that we banded on Monday, but alas not the kind that we have long been hoping to band at MBO.  Rather, this is a Blue-headed Vireo with an unfortunate deformity of its upper mandible.
(Photos by Marcel Gahbauer)

For a second week in a row, our count of species observed was 81, and again it was a new record.  This included our first diurnal record of Northern Saw-whet Owl, as well as our first Northern Pintail, Fox Sparrow, and American Tree Sparrow this fall.  We banded our first Northern Saw-whet Owl ever as part of the Fall Migration Monitoring Program, thanks to an individual that was still flying around first thing in the morning. We also banded our first Fox Sparrow, Pine Siskin, and Brown Thrasher of fall (the latter quite a surprise, as we thought they were all long gone, but this keeps alive our streak of banding at least one each fall).

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

# individuals banded

mean # individuals observed daily

1. White-throated Sparrow (62) [2]

1. Canada Goose (928) [1]

2. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (59) [1]

2. Red-winged Blackbird (261) [2]

3. Yellow-rumped Warbler (31) [3]

3. American Robin (79) [4]

4. Golden-crowned Kinglet (24) [6]

4. American Crow (70) [3]

5. Hermit Thrush (14) [-]

5. White-throated Sparrow (51) [7]

6. Song Sparrow (12) [4]

6. Pine Siskin (50) [-]

7. White-crowned Sparrow (10) [-]

7. Blue Jay (34) [5]

8. Nashville Warbler (8) [5]

8. Black-capped Chickadee (31) [6]

9. Brown Creeper (7) [-]

9. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (23) [9]

10. Slate-colored Junco (7) [-]

10. Yellow-rumped Warbler (21) [10]

The top three species banded were the same as last week, although White-throated Sparrow and Ruby-crowned Kinglet swapped places.  This trio has been on top during week 10 for three of the previous five years, but numbers were somewhat below average for all three species.  Hermit Thrush, Song Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow numbers were also lower than expected for week 10.  On the other hand, it was our second-best single-week count of Golden-crowned Kinglets ever, and our best ever weekly total for Brown Creeper.  Tennessee Warbler finally dropped off the top ten list, although we banded four more this week to extend the record tally to 203 for the season.  Others displaced from the top ten since last week were Blue Jay, Gray Catbird, and Chipping Sparrow.

Similarly, there was little change among the most frequently observed species, with Canada Goose retaining a substantial lead over Red-winged Blackbird, while American Robin and American Crow swapped third and fourth place.  White-throated Sparrow moved up to fifth place, though numbers were still a bit lower than the six-year average for this time of year, which is 68.  A surprising new entry to the list was Pine Siskin, largely on the strength of a record flock of 150 individuals observed on Monday, and smaller but stil impressive counts of 85 on Wednesday and 45 on Thursday.  Not only are these numbers much greater than we've ever observed at MBO, but it also marks the earliest appearance of Pine Siskins in fall, and makes us wonder what might lie ahead for winter in terms of finch movements.  The siskin numbers are also particularly interesting given that American Goldfinches have been unusually scarce for most of fall.  The rest of the top ten was relatively similar to last week; the only species that dropped off was Snow Goose.


In our seventh year of fall migration monitoring, and our fifth year of Northern Saw-whet Owl research, the owl pictured above was our first daylight sighting ever!

(Photo by Matthew Von Bornhoft)

In contrast to the disappointing week of passerine migration, it was a record-setting week for the saw-whet program.  Conditions were still marginal on Monday night, and only one owl was banded.  However, the persistent low pressure system finally lifted on Tuesday, and that night the owls flooded through, with 20 banded (a single night record for MBO) and also a foreign recapture banded in Pennsylvania in 2010.  The next night was even better with 25 new owls and another foreign recapture, this one from Prince Edward Point, Ontario, banded in 2009.  By the time Thursday rolled around, the 16 owls banded almost seemed like a quiet night!  Numbers tapered off further as the week progressed, but all the same, the total of 75 banded was nearly double the previous single week record of 39 set in week 11 last fall.


In spring, we wondered whether perhaps White-crowned Sparrows that show a bit of brown at the rear end of their black crown stripes might be second-year birds that had not completely molted the feathers from their juvenile plumage.  However, as the after-hatch-year individual above demonstrates, even older birds can show that pattern.  Conversely, the hatch-year bird below is already showing flecks of black and white on its crown, and has an unusual pale spot at the front of its central crown stripe.

(Photos by Marcel Gahbauer)

 

 

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