McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY
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Banders-in-charge: Marie-Anne Hudson, Barbara Frei
Notes: Pleasant weather despite some rather chilly mornings and lots of birds made this week quite wonderful. For those of you placing bets for the next new species to appear at MBO, it’s last call: we added TWO new species this week! Any guesses? None of us would have predicted that Lesser Yellowlegs and Black Tern would be the two species to bring the site total up to 193, but there you have it! Seven more to the big 2-0-0…
Sixteen species, including our two most famous additions, were added to the season/year list: Sora, Virginia Rail, Green Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Chimney Swift, Great Crested Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Veery, Blackpoll Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Cape May Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, and Scarlet Tanager.
Banding-wise things have picked up since last week. We banded more than twice as many individuals as last week, though couldn’t quite catch up to last year’s weekly total of 202 birds banded during the same period - though on the whole, the spring 2008 season remains ahead of the pace compared to past years. This week we added 11 new species to our list of species banded this season. Another first for the site was the return of a House Wren! We’re sure it’s busy cramming sticks into one or more of our nest boxes as we write these words. Our Tree Swallows have begun laying this week, and our Black-capped Chickadees, Canada Geese and Mallards have been on eggs for at least a week now, if not more. Although we have yet to see them nesting, some of the species returning to the site this week, such as the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Common Yellowthroats, Warbling Vireo, and previously mentioned House Wren may very well soon be! We’re looking forward to seeing the first fledgers of the season!
There were many other highlights this week: spotting two Virginia Rails carefully stepping amongst the cattails on the far side of Stoneycroft, having a little brown bat zipping around our ears first thing in the morning near the cabin, realizing that the leaves have come out overnight and the site has gone from brownish to vibrant green (and pink due to the apple blossoms), having 30+ warblers gleaning bugs off the cottonwood leaves all around us, banding five Brown-headed Cowbird males in two net rounds, topping 60 species seen and heard in one morning, and having a wonderful visit by nine keen MBOers-to-be on Mother’s Day weekend, coordinated by the Morgan Arboretum. We had a great time discussing the basics of banding and showing off our birds. Last but certainly not least, we had a very special return to MBO in the form of an after-second-year male Baltimore Oriole, first banded in 2005 and not seen since! These recoveries are only one of many interesting facets of banding, but usually the one that produces the most excitement.
This week’s top 10 banded species list again shows the influx of new species, with four new entries: Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle form), Baltimore Oriole, Brown-headed Cowbird and Blue-headed Vireo. The number of Myrtles banded gives an indication of how many there are around, since most don’t even get caught! The discrepancy between this week and last year’s week 7 comes from the blackbirds. Last year we caught 65 in a week, compared with this week’s 33. Granted we’ve had some escapes as these powerful birds are able to use our nets like trampolines, but they seem to be settling down on territory now, and we’ve had fewer flying high over the site.
This week’s top 10 observed species list hasn’t changed much from last week’s, with the exception of an invasion of Yellow-rumps and American Goldfinches. The Canada Goose lines have dropped dramatically, as they did last year at this time, while the White-throated Sparrows continue to hang around later than we would expect. Amazingly, the Eastern White-crowned Sparrows that were still around in fair numbers at the beginning of the week vanished overnight two days ago, making our J-trap seem quite empty (they really seemed to like the J-trap - the 15 we banded during those few days were nearly as many as in the first three spring seasons combined!)
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