October 31st – No Wind, No Rain

What a big surprise: Evening Grosbeaks below the feeder!!

The morning started off unusually (when compared to recent mornings): no wind and no rain (despite dark threatening skies). We took advantage of these conditions to open the nets and got about 5 hours of catching in before the rain started again, forcing us to close.

Female Evening Grosbeak (left) and male.

It’s been an exciting Fall in that we’ve been catching a large number of typically “northern” birds: record numbers of Pine Siskins and Red-breasted Nuthatches and larger than normal numbers of Purple Finches. But the real thrill came today when a flock of 12 Evening Grosbeaks arrived at the feeders just outside the banding lab. I had heard them calling a good ways off but disbelieved my ears as they are so unusual down here. In fact, in the past 18 years we have banded just 2. So by the time we were done, we had tripled this number, catching and banding 6 of the 12. What a marvellous bird in the hand. Chunky and very powerful. Their large bills can give a very painful bite – much stronger than that of a cardinal or Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Evening Grosbeaks weigh 10 to 15 grams more than either of these).

Wind detail on AHY male Evening Grosbeak.

Wing detail on HY female Evening Grosbeak.

The reason for the “irruption” of these northern species is that there was a very poor seed crop in the north and northeast. For a more detailed look at the reasons and the birds affected I would suggest you check out Ron Pittaway’s report: http://10000birds.com/winter-finch-forecast-for-2012-2013.htm

Banded 74:
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
5 Golden-crowned Kinglets
2 Hermit Thrushes
1 Northern Cardinal
4 American Tree Sparrows
1 Fox Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
3 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
8 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Purple Finch
9 Pine Siskins
28 American Goldfinches
6 Evening Grosbeaks

We retrapped 58 birds which suggests that the inclement weather is keeping a lot of migrants “bottled up” waiting for conditions that are more conducive to moving on. One of the more interesting retraps though was a local bird. This White-breasted Nuthatch was originally banded as a SY bird in 2008 and has been recaptured 26 times since then!

ET’s: 37 spp.
Fall Banding Total: 4,689
Year-to-Date Banding Total: 7,274

Photo Gallery:
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2 thoughts on “October 31st – No Wind, No Rain

  1. Wow, congrats on the Evening Grosbeaks! That is just amazing…!

    Do you take any special precautions when you handle an obviously sick bird, so as not to spread it to others? I guess conjunctivitis in House Finches is pretty common for them, but not so much in other species. What about those growths on the Pine Siskin–do you think they could be contagious to other birds that you handle after it?

  2. Good questions. With conjunctivitis we don’t put the birds in any bags and if we process it we would rinse out the weighing tube with hand sanitizer before reusing it. Either way, we would rinse our hands with hand sanitizer.
    I don’t think the Pine Siskin growths are contagious – each one has a little hole/opening and I’m wondering if it is caused by a parasite of some sort. Oliver Love at U of Windsor has sent the pics to some colleagues to try to get a diagnosis.

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