April 17th – On A Roll: 61 Species…..& The Snow Bunting Saga Continues

One of 3 Broad-winged Hawks seen today. - C. Scholtens

It was an exciting day. Not because we banded a lot of birds (in fact, we banded only 25), but because we saw a lot of different species: 5 “firsts” for the year – Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Thrasher, and Cedar Waxwing – and another “first” for Ruthven – a Greater White-fronted Goose. When I tallied everything up at the end of the day, we closed out with a total of 61 species encountered. Some other notables included:
– 17 Common Loons
– 4 Bald Eagles
– 3 Broad-winged Hawks
– 1+ Sandhill Crane
– 7 Purple Martins
– 6+ Yellow-rumped Warblers
– 2 Rusty Blackbirds
So it looks like we had both great quantity and lots of quality. Some of our succes was due to the many volunteers helping out with many sets of eyes scanning the skies. Nothing escaped unseen!

First Blue-gray Gnatcatcher of the year - a young male.

The Purple Martin Colony has grown to 7 birds. - C. Scholtens

Later in the morning the best place to be was around the picnic table looking for passage birds, especially raptors. But we also witnessed an interesting phenomenon involving another species – Double-crested Cormorant. The flock was initially picked up at a great distance and a great height, 18 birds flapping and gliding in a ‘V’. We all had our binos trained on them, watching their progress across the sky when, suddenly, the flock seemed to ‘explode’ with birds scattering in all directions. The first thought was that there was a raptor attacking them but a careful scan didn’t reveal one. Just as quickly as it ‘exploded’, the flock began to reform but this time in a tight group, circling higher and higher in a thermal. The thermal lifted them very quickly and to a great height – we began to lose them in the base of a cloud. And then they reformed and continued north in a ‘V’ but just gliding, no flapping seemingly required. In talking it through, the consensus was that the flock had run into this thermal and been knocked off kilter by its powerful lift. They then used it to ascend before setting off again – taking advantage of the lift it had provided.

The Purple Martins were not happy about the Broad-wings being present. - C. Scholtens

Banded 25:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Tree Swallow
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
3 American Robins
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
2 Swamp Sparrows
2 White-throated Sparrows
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
5 Brown-headed Cowbirds
3 American Goldfinches

Hannah with a Mourning Dove.

Retrapped 28:
1 Blue Jay
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 House Wren
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 American Tree Sparrow
2 Chipping Sparrows
3 Song Sparrows
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
6 Brown-headed Cowbirds
7 American Goldfinches (including a male banded as an ASY in April 2008, making at least 6 years old now)

A few Eastern Bluebirds have been able to withstand the Tree Swallow onslaught. - C. Scholtens

ET’s: 61 spp

Red Admirals were still around today but not in the huge numbers seen yesterday. - C. Scholtens

Belted Kingfisher along the river. - C. Scholtens

Snow Bunting Update:

When you read this note from Darroch Whitaker in western Newfoundland, you’d think it was all over in the ‘south’ and the birds had all moved north into Labrador, well on their way to Greenland.
Hey guys, just a quick note to say that it looks like we’re done with Snow
Buntings here in Gros Morne for this year. There were ~40 at the bait last
Monday evening but we had great weather for the next 24 h and I haven’t
seen a bunting since. I have had a few reports saying that there were big
increases in Labrador this week though, including St. Lewis (just across
the Straits from Newfoundland) and Nain (the most northerly town on the
coast). Migration though Gros Morne lasted about 2 to 3 weeks in total,
something to keep in mind for next year – I’ll start keeping track of the
timing and duration of the migration each year too now that I’m more tuned
in to the buntings.

I’m entering all my banding data now and should be able to send it up to
you later this week. Between myself and Tina we finished up with ~120 birds
banded and maybe 15-20 retraps of these same birds (interesting for the
weight changes). I’m a bit frustrated that due to work commitments I
really wasn’t able to do much banding during the first week the buntings
were here, even though that’s when I had the highest numbers coming to the

No foreign bands but something to look forward to for another year 🙂

But then Yann Rochepault reports from the north shore of the St. Lawrence that he, Christophe Buidin, and Julie Lanthier had, as of yesterday, banded over 1,100 Snow Buntings and that for the last 3 days they were getting a large proportion of females. In fact, they had run out of bands and were waiting anxiously for their order from the Banding Office in order to continue. So I guess it ain’t over until the fat lady sings….


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