October 7th – Whew!!!

Northern Saw-whet Owl - one of 3 caught tonight.

We had a BIG DAY! Well…actually, the Big Day started last night. Nancy opened the owl nets. We managed to catch a Northern Saw-whet Owl much to the satisfaction of Dorothy Smith and daughter Dianne. They had been out earlier in the day (Saturday); went home and had a nap; and then returned in the hope of seeing one – and we didn’t let them down. We recaptured a young male that Matt had banded on September 28th. Great! But then, after I went home (naturally), Nancy caught two ‘new’ ones, bringing our total to 8 for the season.

For Dorothy and Dianne perseverance paid off.

Dianne playing a little one-upmanship on sister Joanne.

What a day! 242 banded! We were on the fly from the moment the nets were opened just before sunrise right up until we closed them shortly after one. We were completely inundated! The only way to handle the deluge with any expedience was to “ring and fling”: I stopped taking any measurements (wing length, fat and muscle score, and weight); I simply identified the bird, banded it, determined its age and sex and then let it go. Also, we didn’t hang on to many already-banded birds; if it was one of ‘our’ birds with a new or relatively new band we just released it and marked it down in the observation book. Birds with older bands or of special interest (e.g., a Blackpoll Warbler with a large fat load – it ended up weighing just over 17 g.) we took back to the lab. So the actual number of birds extracted was up around 300. Kinglets, Myrtle Warblers, a variety of sparrows and American Goldfinches were pouring through the site. But that wasn’t all – we banded 30 species. The Meadow Net Complex finally lived up to expectations – we banded 35 birds out of it but caught and released many retraps from it as well. Interestingly, the Western Palm Warblers and most of the Swamp Sparrows were caught in it suggesting that they are largely using the meadow. But then we also caught a Gray Catbird and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker with these nets as well. [At the end of the season, I am going to go through what birds were caught in this “complex” and figure out what percantage of the overall catch of each species was using the meadow in October. It might provide a good rationale for maintaining areas like this “butterfly meadow”.]

Kellie and Rita - bag ladies extraordinaire.

What made the day really interesting was that there were only two ‘experienced’ people making it happen: myself and Carol Jones. Fortunately, Carol’s extraction skills have reached a point that make her helpful and her scribing is great – so once we got the birds back to the lab we were able to whip through them. But we also got great help from visitors Rita and Kellie who helped us bag the birds and keep them in order while transporting them back to the lab. Both had been here before but had not had to work in this capacity….or so hard – they too were on the go from the time they arrived until the last bird left the lab.

When the dust finally settled and the numbers were crunched (around 4 o’clock), last night’s Saw-whet Owls seemed a long, long time ago.

Rusty Blackbird - first one of the year.

So what happened? Last night, there were patches of cloud interspersed with clear starry stretches early on. There was also a northerly ‘touch’ to the wind. I think migrants lifted off and set out under these conditions. But then, after midnight, the weather worsened – got cloudier and there were showers – forcing the birds down. This is referred to as a “fallout”. And we were the beneficiaries.

Comparison: HY (young) Swamp Sparrow on left; AHY (adult) on right.

Banded 242:
1 Mourning Dove
2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers
1 Hairy Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Eastern Phoebe
27 Golden-crowned Kinglets
23 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
1 Swainson’s Thrush
10 Hermit Thrushes
1 Gray Catbird
9 Cedar Waxwings
4 European Starlings
1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 Black-throated Blue Warbler
49 Myrtle Warblers
4 Western Palm Warblers
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Northern Cardinal
3 Chipping Sparrows
12 Song Sparrows
5 Swamp Sparrows
13 White-throated Sparrows
5 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
6 Dark-eye Juncos
1 Rusty Blackbird (1st of the year)
2 Purple Finches
2 House Finches
53 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 49 spp.
Fall Banding Total: 2,926
Year-to-Date Banding Total: 5,511

Photo Gallery: (These lovely pictures were taken yesterday by Robin McKay)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker -R. McKay

Cape May Warbler -R, McKay

Eastern Bluebird - checking things out for next Spring. -R. McKay

Chipping Sparrow -R. McKay

Ruby-crowned Kinglet -R. McKay

Myrtle Warbler -R. McKay

Cedar Waxwing -R. McKay

Autumn -R. McKay

White-breasted Nuthatch -R. McKay

Banding a young Mourning Dove -R. McKay

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