McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY
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Banders-in-charge: Bob Barnhurst, Simon Duval, Gay Gruner
Notes: After an unusually quiet fall season, we were pleased to see winter get off to a busy start. The 231 birds banded this month is our second-highest monthly total for any winter (behind only November 2010), while the 40 species observed is close to the long-term average for November. Among the uncommon winter species observed this month were Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, American Pipit, and Rusty Blackbird - the pipit in fact representing our first record for the season, and becoming the 84th species observed at MBO in winter.
This month we kicked off an exciting new project at MBO, our feeder bird study. We know from experience that as soon as we stock our feeders at MBO, we see an influx of seed-eating species, including Mourning Dove, Black-capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, and American Goldfinch. Of course this is no surprise, as we have all seen these species at backyard feeders too. However, from banding these species at MBO in previous winters, we know that many of them must move around quite a bit during winter, given how few repeats we capture. To better learn how far these birds roam over the course of the season (and beyond), we are improving our chances of resighting House Finches and American Goldfinches by fitting them with unique alphanumeric colour bands. If the project is successful, we may consider expanding to other species next winter. Read full details on our project page, and if you are lucky enough to spot one of our birds, please send us the news through our reporting page.
While the finch project was getting launched, this year's Northern Saw-whet Owl program was winding down. Banding continued nightly for the first week after the official end of the Fall Migration Monitoring Program, with one or two owls most nights, for a total of 9. We tried three more nights the following week when weather was favourable, and got four more owls, bringing our season total to 199 banded, plus 9 foreign recaptures. These were by far our highest totals for saw-whets, although they largely represented an increase in effort. Click here for a summary of the 2011 owling season.
Fitting well with our research plans, House Finch was the top species banded this month, while American Goldfinch took third place. Neither of them made the top ten during the final week of fall, but both were also in the top three last November, reflecting the degree to which operating our feeders in winter brings in these (and other) species. Slate-colored Junco took second place this month with a good number of late migrants still on the move, as is the case most years; similarly the good number of American Tree Sparrows in fourth place likely represented mostly late fall migrants, although in both cases we expect smaller numbers will remain at MBO through the winter. In fact, we had 5 returns this month, showing a significant amount of winter site fidelity. Although a considerable step down in numbers from the top four, the 11 Northern Cardinals in fifth place was an impressive count, given that this one-month total far exceeds our previous record of 7 for an entire winter. Given that we also banded a fall record of 14 individuals over the past three months, there is clearly an impressive increase in the local Northern Cardinal population! This marks the third winter in a row that we have banded Red-winged Blackbirds, and for the first time Common Grackles too. Another pleasant surprise was Purple Finch, given that prior to the three banded this month, we had banded only two in all previous winters combined. Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, and Fox Sparrow rounded out the list with a modest two individuals each. Of note though, we had 59 Black-capped Chickadee repeats, so they are certainly still present in good numbers - it's just that we seem to have already banded almost all of them!
The species observed were more consistent with results from the last week of fall, in that the top five species were the same, but shuffled around a bit, with American Crow and European Starling moving up and pushing down Red-winged Blackbird and American Robin, but leaving Canada Goose far out on top. The two newcomers to the list this month, again thanks to the feeders, were House Finch and American Goldfinch. The top ten was rounded out with the other usual suspects for November, namely Mallard, Black-capped Chickadee, and Slate-colored Junco.
© 2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.