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Archive for August, 2015

Aug 24

For only the fourth time this season we managed to keep most of our nets open yet failed to beat our nine season average for birds per day. Hard to complain about that. Today’s census started off so good you know it could not last. Three of my first four species were: Sandhill Crane, Peregrine Falcon and Lewis’s Woodpecker. I doubt we have ever had such a hot start to census.

Banding turned up four recap Swainson’s Thrushes and three of them happened to be inter-annual. One of those birds was banded by Avery in 2011 as an after-hatch-year bird, so we know that bird was at least five years old. We also had an inter-annual female American Redstart. On top of that we also caught our first Ruffed Grouse of the season. These clumsy birds hit our nets fairly often, but are usually large and strong enough to free themselves. This particular bird was not.

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Finally, I should answer my quiz from the 14th of August. Tiggywinkler and Isaac were both correct. The birds were an AHY Red-eyed Vireo, a HY White-crowned Sparrow and a Vesper Sparrow. All answers were good and mistakes made understandable. A Dark-eyed Junco would have a relatively longer tail with more rounded feathers and the white would be on multiple feathers. A Golden-crowned Sparrow would have a hint of yellow in front of the eye and on the forehead, though that would be difficult to discern at this distance.

~Chutter

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 5 4
Common Yellowthroat 5 1
Warbling Vireo 3 2
Song Sparrow 2 3
Yellow Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Alder Flycatcher 1 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Willow Flycatcher 1
American Redstart 1

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Birds banded 25
Species banded 12
Birds recaptured 15
Species recaptured 8
Species on census 34
Species Total 52
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 892

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Another splendid morning to be in the Tatlayoko Valley. Andrew and Gail Harcombe are back for their annual volunteering stint and they were welcomed to the station by 2 Grey Wolves that I spotted sauntering across the field in front of the banding lab, literally as Andrew and Gail pulled in to the parking to at 6:40! To the best of my knowledge this is the first sighting of these majestic canines here at the station itself, although reports from elsewhere in the valley are fairly frequent and we have been hearing them regularly this fall. I tried to get a photo but the light was too low, and the results were blurry to the point of being difficult to tell if there was anything in the frame, let alone a Wolf.

This double-wow first act was to be the first of many highlights throughout the morning. Andrew joined me on census and we enjoyed a nice diversity of species as some of the later arrivals seem to be beginning to trickle in. Yellow-rumped Warbler numbers have been increasing the last couple days and a large flock of these guys also held an Orange-crowned Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Wilson’s Warbler and a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The latter are another later-season migrant and the 4 we recorded on census was a season high. Way overhead I could just make out the calls of a flock of Mountain Bluebirds which we eventually spotted at least 7 of. I suspect there were probably more we couldn’t see though. This was our first sighting of this species for the 2015 season and was shortly followed by our first Steller’s Jay.

After census a Golden-crowned Sparrow was spotted by the back end of our net loop, also a first of the season. We have now recorded 107 species in the census area this season, which is already higher than two of the past three years August totals.

IMG_7931

Throughout the morning the nets kept catching at a steady rate. Of note were two previous year recaps of Swainson’s Thrush, both originally banded in 2012. One of these was recaptured last year on this very same date! Talk about impeccable timing. Also in our nets was our first of year Hairy Woodpecker, a hatch-year male. It has been a poor season so far for woodpeckers around the station so it was nice to finally catch one. On the topic of woodpeckers, the Lewis’ is still present and was seen several times throughout the day at various points around the station. Hopefully it sticks around for a while yet.

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 8 2
Warbling Vireo 7 2
Song Sparrow 3 4
Common Yellowthroat 2 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2 1
Yellow Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
American Robin 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
American Redstart 1
Spotted Towhee 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Alder Flycatcher 2
Red-eyed Vireo 2

Birds banded 33
Species banded 14
Birds recaptured 14
Species recaptured 7
Species on census 39
Species Total 56
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 867
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 867

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This season started off incredibly busy, and has now settled into a pattern of being incredibly unpredictable. We seem to switch daily between busy days and more typical days, and days with diverse census results and days with dud censuses. Yesterday we banded just 26 birds and had only 19 species on census; my last two censuses have turned up just 28 and 25 species. So I was expecting a slow day today, but despite a slow start we ended up banding 32 birds banded today and I had 41 species on census.

Last night we tried for Saw-whet Owls, but were unsuccessful, partly owing to technological difficulties. Good to learn early in the owling season that Samsung Galaxy S3s have no function to keep the screen on for longer than 10 minutes, and the Sibley’s app will not run if the screen is not on and the app not showing. AKA enjoy running to the playback every ten minutes to refresh the screen and probably chasing away all the owls.

Today at the station was quite note-worthy. In addition to a remarkable diversity of waterfowl on the lagoon, we also banded our first Red-breasted Nuthatch of the season, and Avery spotted just our third Lewis’ Woodpecker ever. We had one in 2010 and then another in 2013, so hopefully they are about to colonize the valley. Despite established populations being fairly far away, the habitat here seems well suited to them and many locals would welcome any predator that might help with the exploding grasshopper population. While watching the bird for about 10 minutes we saw it capture and consume four flying grasshoppers.

IMG_7903 IMG_7910

~Chutter

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 11 6
Common Yellowthroat 7
Warbling Vireo 2 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2 1
Dusky Flycatcher 2
Northern Waterthrush 2
Alder Flycatcher 1 2
American Redstart 1 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
American Robin 1
Oregon Junco 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Western Tanager 1

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Birds banded 32
Species banded 12
Birds recaptured 13
Species recaptured 7
Species on census 41
Species Total 58
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 834

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A strong wind was blowing when our alarm clocks went off this morning, however by the time we arrived at the station for net opening they had abated somewhat. Throughout the morning the breeze blew, threatening to reach the point where we would have to close down. In the end we got in our full 6 hour session minus a few net hours for our most exposed nets.

This very fresh Mourning Cloak surprised Sandy and I by being out and about in seemingly inclement conditions

This very fresh Mourning Cloak surprised Sandy and I by being out and about in seemingly inclement conditions

We are feeling a shift in the species composition coming as the ratio of adult/hatch-year of many of our early migrants is increasing in favour of the adults. The most noticeable example is the Swainson’s Thrush. During the first 16 days only 7% of the banded individuals were adults (10/140); over the last two days this percentage has jumped to 33% (5/15).

In most songbirds the young migrate first. The adults spend several weeks post-breeding moulting in a complete new crop of feathers. All three of the adults banded today were finishing up their moult, indicating that they were likely from not too far away and (I speculate) just commencing their migration. Also of interests is that although we couldn’t measure their wing length (being in moult) all three were quite heavy (despite fat scores of 0 for each) and “felt” large, indicating that they were likely males, which are somewhat larger than the females. This makes sense as males are, on average, a few days ahead of the females in their migration.

If you are wondering why I am straying from the normal daily narrative, your suspicions are correct; the wind created rather less than ideal conditions and activity was quite low throughout the day producing little to report. Even though Volunteer Sandy joined me on census we barely eeked out 20 species, the highlight being an American Kestrel with a small rodent in it’s talons, looking very picturesque perched atop a snag with the Potato Range in the background.

IMG_7888

If the winds die down Chris will likely go owling tonight. Although it is still early in the season we have several visitors (including NCC staff) who are interested in seeing the owl banding, so fingers crossed that Chris’ blog tomorrow will have a photo of one of these cute little avian hobbits.

Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 8 2
Swainson’s Thrush 5 1
Common Yellowthroat 4 5
Song Sparrow 2 1
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Western Tanager 1 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
American Robin 1
American Redstart 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Alder Flycatcher 2
Willow Flycatcher 1
Northern Waterthrush 1

Birds banded 26
Species banded 10
Birds recaptured 14
Species recaptured 8
Species on census 19
Species Total 34
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 802
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 802

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Aug 20

Today started slow but had a decent surge towards the end. We finished with 41 birds for the day, still a pretty good total that helps pad our lead on all previous seasons. We’ve also started to notice more adult birds hitting the nets, including my personal favourite the after-hatch-year male American Redstart. Today we had our first two of these beauties. The highlight of census was the first Common Mergansers of the year.

IMG_2029

P1010314

Today I dug deeper into the stats and found that similar to Western Tanagers and American Robins, we are experiencing our best season ever for Swainson’s Thrushes. This is consistent with my observation that fruit-eating (frugivorous) birds were doing exceptionally well this year. We have now banded 22 more Swainson’s then ever before on this date.

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 10
Common Yellowthroat 7 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 6
Song Sparrow 4 3
Warbling Vireo 3
American Redstart 2
Willow Flycatcher 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Cedar Waxwing 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Alder Flycatcher 1

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Birds banded 41
Species banded 15
Birds recaptured 7
Species recaptured 3
Species on census 28
Species Total 55
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 776

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…is that it means few birds for us at the station. Last night was cold and clear making for ideal migration conditions so any birds that were ready to move seemingly did so. Their absence was apparent from the get go as we heard very few birds while opening the nets. The most obvious declines were in the Swainson’s Thrush and Warbling Vireo numbers with just 2 of each banded.

One of the few birds that did make it’s presence known first thing was a Sharp-shinned Hawk that cruised over as I opened net 14. Raptor numbers have increased somewhat after a few days of being almost non-existent here. This was reflected on census as well as a passing vehicle flushed an adult Bald Eagle and a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk from the slopes above the lagoon. On the opposite side of the water a Merlin was perched in a snag.

Census held a nice diversity of species, if low numbers. A small flock along the road included singles of Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, MacGillivray’s and Yellow Warbler along with a family of Alder Flycatchers.

IMG_7867

This Snowshoe Hare is nearly always present on census along the side of the road just north of the lagoon

Around the station Orange-crowned Warbler numbers seem to be increasing slowly with two banded and a couple observed in the Warbling Vireo flocks. Common Yellowthroats and Northern Waterthrush were the two species with obvious increases, the former being the top species we banded for the day (7) and the later hitting a single day high for the season (4). Eleven Red Crossbills flew over as the morning wound down. With the nets not being very active Chris and a visiting friend decided to take off early and hike to Jellostone Lake above the station. The hike is grueling (from what I have heard) but well worth it for the amazing scenery. Chris can report on that tomorrow!

View from the East end of net 17

View from the East end of net 17

Species Band Recap
Common Yellowthroat 7 5
Song Sparrow 5
Northern Waterthrush 4
Swainson’s Thrush 2 3
Warbling Vireo 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2
Western Tanager 1

Birds banded 24
Species banded 7
Birds recaptured 9
Species recaptured 3
Species on census 38
Species Total 51
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 735
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 735

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Aug 18

Yesterday was truly unusual to me in my eight seasons at TLBO. I cannot remember any day in that span where it was warm and windless throughout the entire afternoon. Even at 3pm the lake was like glass. This made for a great time to swim and do laundry in the lake, but perhaps also meant a lot of birds migrated out. Today we banded 35 birds, which in most seasons would be a highlight, but in light of this season’s successes it seems concerningly slow. I also managed just a paltry 25 species on census; though that did include our first and second Bufflehead of the season.

Back at the station we caught our first Mountain Chickadee of the season. Always a rare highlight at TLBO and noticeably kinder to our poor fingers than their Black-capped cousins. Also, Avery detected our first Killdeer of the season near the station.

P1010348

Since we had a relatively slow day at the station today I worked on this chart I find interesting. Just a quarter of the way through the season we have already set new records for American Robins and Western Tanagers. We will most likely continue to break their existing records for the next six weeks. Below is a chart showing Western Tanager (WETA) and American Robin (AMRO) captures by August 17 over the ten seasons at TLBO. As you can see this season has been exceptional for fruit-eating (frugivorous) birds.

blog chart

~Chutter

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 6 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 6 1
Warbling Vireo 5
Willow Flycatcher 2
Alder Flycatcher 2
Common Yellowthroat 2
Purple Finch 2
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Mountain Chickadee 1
Cedar Waxwing 1
American Redstart 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Oregon Junco 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Western Tanager 1
Song Sparrow 1

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Birds banded 35
Species banded 17
Birds recaptured 3
Species recaptured 3
Species on census 25
Species Total 57
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 711

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