October 25th – A Really Big Day!

The record-breaking team - 309!! - Matt, Nancy, Carol, Bev and me (behind the camera).

Actually, this Really Big Day, started last night. And I should have known it was going to happen – there were all sorts of celestial portents of momentous events: a magnificent display of red northern lights, brilliant shooting stars, and Jupiter overseeing the rise of Orion in the east. I mean, it’s right there. “There is none so blind as he who will not see”, as my grandmother used to say. But I was too busy checking the nets for Saw-whet Owls. And we had good luck: 2 in each of the first 2 net rounds. After I went home at midnight, Nancy caught another 3 for a total of 7. A good start.

They're cute little devils aren't they? The birds I mean....

The first Northern Saw-whet Owl of the night - and the first I've banded this year.

Weatherwise, today was sort of like yesterday in reverse. Yesterday started off with rain and then cleared into brilliant blue skies, which seemed to inspire the Cedar Waxwings to throw themselves into a couple of nets in the afternoon. Today we started off with brilliant blue skies before it clouded over shortly after noon and later began to rain, which seemed to inspire all the Cedar Waxwings in the county to throw themselves into every net we have!!! I could feel this thing starting to happen: when the cloud began to roll in from the west, the bird activity, which was already fairly frenetic, began to pick up even more. In the distance you could hear and see giant flocks of starlings and blackbirds and waxwings foraging and then…there they were….wheeling above the nets. The old Doors tune “Riders on the Storm” jumped into my head. These birds were looking to feed before the bad weather hit. And then we were into it……

Carol, looking very wet and bedraggled in the rain, carrying the last few Cedar Waxwings back to the lab (the garbage bag is to keep them dry).

When we realized that this cloud bank was only getting darker, we decided to hustle around and furl the nets. Too late. The birds had beaten us to it. We had major “hits” in nets 4, 5, 7, 8, 8X, 8R, 9, 9A, and 10!! Matt, Nancy and I starting extracting as fast as we could while Carol and Bev carried full bird bags back to the lab. And then…..we just ran out of bags! Seriously, we ran out of bags (and remember, Loretta had just supplied us with 65 new ones to go with those we already had). So Nancy and I started to band while Bev scribed, in order to free some up. I decided that we would just “ring and fling”; i.e., we band the bird, and then just determine its age and sex before letting it go, rather than do the morphometrics (which are more time consuming). Of course, by this time it had begun to rain, so Matt and Carol, who were working on extracting the last of the birds, got quite wet. (But they managed to keep the birds fairly dry – Carol held the occupied bird bags in a plastic garbage bag.)

After extracting a LOT of Cedar Waxwings, Matt braved the rain to return the owl sound system to the lab.

“Ringing and flinging”, we were able to process a lot of birds quite quickly. The final tally? Wait for it…..302 banded. Add to this the 7 owls and we get a total of 309. This is a new record for the station. The old one was 271 on October 10th, 2005. The team did a GREAT job processing a lot of birds quickly and efficiently in difficult conditions. It should be noted that Cedar Waxwings, with 175 banded, made up about 59% of the daytime total (our clothes and hands were purple by the end). The other significant contributors to the catch were the 36 Dark-eyed Juncos. (Juncos seemed to be everywhere today.)

A rather poor picture (by me) of a large flock of Rusty Blackbirds outside the lab window.

We also set another record: we had 3 school classes (same school), totalling 64 students, go through the banding demonstration. We’ve never had that many before. We did a great job with them too. Fortunately, they were finished and bussing their way back to Brantford before the Big Show began. I shudder to think what it would have been like to deal with both sets of record numbers at the same time.

Male Rusty Blackbird on the left; female on the right.

Fox Sparrow - one of my fdavourites.

Banded 309:
7 Northern Saw-whet Owls
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
6 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Eastern Bluebird
8 Hermit Thrushes
5 American Robins
175 Cedar Waxwings
11 European Starlings
1 Myrtle Warbler
2 Northern Cardinals
1 Field Sparrow
3 Fox Sparrows
5 Song Sparrows
5 Swamp Sparrows
6 White-throated Sparrows
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
36 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
11 Rusty Blackbirds
1 House Finch
17 American Goldfinches

Et’s: 47 spp.

Birds banded per 100 net hours: 206 (!)


1 thought on “October 25th – A Really Big Day!

  1. Congrats on the new record! Rob and I are planning a trip over next week when we’re on vacation, looking forward to it.

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