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Northern Shrike with the Niuts in the background

So another banding season has come to a close, more with a whimper than a bang.  The wind shut us down early yesterday, prevented me from doing owls last night, prevented us from banding at all this morning, and will prevent us from doing owls again tonight.  However, losing the final 1.5 days to wind is a heck of a lot better than losing almost a week to flooding as happened in 2010 and 2011.  As this will be the final blog post of 2012 and probably my last day at TLBO since being here at the opening in 2006, I figure I should make it an epic one.

This season overall was a great one, like all seasons at TLBO.  We banded hundreds of birds, found three new species, banded 31 Northern Saw-whet Owls, had our first foreign recovery, and had several very interesting observations and banding records.  This year we added Black-throated-gray Warbler, Blue Jay, and Long-billed Dowitcher to the station list.  We banded several unusual birds including Swamp Sparrow, Blackpoll Warbler, two Magnolia Warblers, Boreal Chickadee, and Black-throated-gray Warbler.  Unusual sightings included several Northern Shrike, our second Black-and-white Warbler ever, Golden Eagle, Peregrin Falcon, Solitary Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Common Tern, Eurasian Collared Dove, and Blue Jay.  Avery and I were both very surprised by the number of Northern Saw-whet Owls we captured in less than two weeks of trying, and this effort led to our first foreign recovery when RPBO in Victoria caught one of our banded owls.

Unfortunately this year followed the trend of 2011 and was our slowest year on record with just 1286 birds banded, 48 fewer than in 2011.  This however was due to probably the nicest fall weather TLBO has witnessed in her history.  This year we only lost one day to rain and one day to wind, resulting in our highest level of effort ever, despite the lack of captures.  This could suggest population declines, but could also just suggest the nice weather led to easier times for the birds who could migrate at higher elevation or more leasurely so as not to rush into our nets.  The latter might be supported by the fact that in previous years we always had a couple really busy days associated with poor weather and this year we had no really busy days because we had no poor weather.

Perhaps one reason the banded total was so low this year is that this was the worst year on record for the Lincoln’s Sparrow, which other than 2008 has always been our number one species caught, and even in 2008 we managed to catch over 200.  Strangely, we see a lot of similarities between this year and 2008, as 2008 was actually a great year for Song Sparrows as was true this year.  Also, the Northern Shrike, Boreal Chickadee, and Swamp Sparrow all made their first appearance since 2008.

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Song Sparrow 148 69 231 101 141 127 166
Lincoln’s Sparrow 279 202 208 241 226 241 149

This year we were also fortunate to have another excellent group of volunteers and visitors.  Volunteers are always a vital part of what we do, especially for livening up a long season, where without them Avery and I would probably get bored with just eachother for companionship.  This year we even had a number of volunteers capable of doing the most important part of our jobs for us, which is both excellent and concerning 🙂  For our sakes it is a good thing none of them banded more birds than we did.  If you are considering volunteering in the future you should, if I am unable to work here next season I hope to come as a volunteer and steadfastly refuse to write blog, as all our volunteers did this year.

Bander Banded Percent Recaps Processed
Chris 596 46.35 110 46.02
Avery 414 32.19 79 32.14
Laura 151 11.74 21 11.21
Morgan 82 6.38 24 6.91
Barry 43 3.34 14 3.72

Well I suppose all there is to do now is wish all our readers the best of luck coping without this daily blog.  Avery is rushing off to band at Long Point, so if you feel a strong craving for blog I encourage you to email him and ask for daily updates.  He will be returning to warm Colombia again this winter so we should all be very jealous and a little spiteful 🙂

~Chutter

Species Banded Recaps
SOSP 166 88
LISP 149 23
COYE 125 34
WAVI 105 1
YEWA 86 17
SWTH 74 13
PISI 74 0
AMRE 58 18
NOWA 50 10
WIWA 44 3
OCWA 35 10
RCKI 34 0
SAVS 25 2
MGWA 24 6
DEJU 23 0
BCCH 18 10
ALFL 17 1
CEDW 16 7
WCSP 16 0
PUFI 14 0
AUWA 14 0
DUFL 13 0
AMRO 10 1
RBNU 8 0
SSHA 7 0
HAFL 6 0
WIFL 6 0
FOSP 6 0
REVI 5 2
LEFL 5 0
PSFL 5 0
WETA 5 0
HAWO 4 1
MYWA 4 0
UYRW 3 0
DOWO 2 1
NOFL 2 0
CHSP 2 0
HYSA 2 0
MAWA 2 0
RNSA 2 0
TOWA 2 0
VESP 2 0
HETH 2 0
FLIN 2 0
BHCO 1 0
BLPW 1 0
BTYW 1 0
LAZB 1 0
RWBL 1 0
TRFL 1 0
BOCH 1 0
SPTO 1 0
NSWO 1 0
BRCR 1 0
SWSP 1 0
VATH 1 0
Birds banded 1284
Species banded 51
Birds recaptured 269
Species recaptured 19
Species on census 108
Species Total 124
Year Birds Banded Birds Recapped Species Banded Species Recapped Obs Census ET
2006 1595 272 52 20 110 118 131
2007 1770 199 53 20 121 116 137
2008 1874 459 57 29 119 111 137
2009 1866 307 54 28 116 108 129
2010 1817 297 54 20 121 115 138
2011 1331 232 49 19 111 105 125
2012 1284 269 51 19 109 108 124

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Well today was all kinds of unusual down at the station.  For a change, there is so much to write about I don’t know where to start, so let’s go in chronological order of short paragraphs

Last night I caught five Northern Saw-whet Owls, always fun and always cute.

“I’m a furry little ewok, and I’ve got your camera sting, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.”

“Yes! I put the ogre to sleep, now to incinerate the camera with the power of my mind”

 

This morning Avery caught our first Swamp Sparrow of the season.  Not a particularly pretty bird, but it is always a highlight to get something new this late in the season.  Especially since we have only ever caught two Swamp Sparrows before and they were both back in 2008.

Then I had a 30 species census which is really good this late in the season.  On census I had our first Pygmy Owl of the season as well as a number of other rare sightings including Hermit Thrush, 24 Ring-necked Ducks, Pacific Wren, a very late Cedar Waxwing, and a Gray Jay.

Later in the day Avery heard a Boreal Chickadee across the river which is quite rare here.

Then just before closing Avery saw a Northern Shrike which probably bounced out of net 13.  This is a very rare sighting at TLBO as we have only detected one twice before and like the Swamp Sparrow that was back in 2008.

Then after the banding day was done Avery received an email about a banded bird caught at Rocky Point Bird Observatory near Victoria.  After looking into it, we realized we finally (after nearly 12,000 bands) have our first foreign recap.  RPBO caught a Northern Saw-whet Owl that we had banded on September 14th.  This is a pretty exciting event not only because we’ve been waiting for it for seven years, but because that means that one in less than 30 Saw-whets banded here has already turned up in Victoria.  Seven years ago we were optimistic that a lot of our banded birds would turn up in Victoria, but it seems the passerines probably take a different route.  With one in 29 Saw-whets already turning up at RPBO there is a good chance that a lot of our owls are migrating down Vancouver Island.  Plus with five owls banded last night it is always possible they could get another one of our owls shortly.

With all this unusual stuff happening today it seems a shame that the last two years we were unable to band this late into the season due to weather.  Keep your fingers crossed for even more unusual stuff in our final two days of banding.

~Chutter

Species Band Recap
Song Sparrow 5 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Pine Siskin 2
Common Yellowthroat 1 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Fox Sparrow 1
Birds banded 24
Species banded 8
Birds recaptured 8
Species recaptured 5
Species on census 30
Species Total 41

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Well today turned out to be a fairly interesting day.  Avery caught two owls last night and so slept in a little this morning.  As he got to the station a bird called which I immediately knew was a jay (none are common at the site), but it didn’t sound right for any of the three possible jays in the area, Stellers, Gray, or Clark’s Nutcracker (I consider it a jay).  As I tried to narrow it down it still didn’t fit and Avery cries, “You know what that is?”  To which I honestly answered, “A jay.”  Having worked in the east he knew it to be a Blue Jay, and sure enough I managed to chase it down for just long enough to confirm this unlikely bird.  For those of you unsure, the Blue Jay is a bird similar to the Stellers Jay, but the Blue Jay is found east of the Rockies while the Stellers is found to the west.  It is a frequent vagrant west of the Rockies, but I had never seen one in BC before.

Additionally we came within two feet of catching our first Merlin today as it nearly chased a protesting bird into net six.  The Merlin missed and whatever it was chasing never popped out of the bush so the Merlin followed me for a couple seconds afterward and told me off about it.

On census I got to watch another Merlin capture and consume four dragonflies.  I generally hold Merlins in too high a regard to think of them as insectivores, but after watching it catch four dragonflies in flight on just five attempts it still looked far cooler than the American Kestrel hunting lowly grasshoppers from a telephone line.  It does seem odd to me that the Merlin pulls off the wings and takes a couple minutes per dragonfly, while I have watched Eastern Kingbird chicks (a fraction the size) swallow them whole in just seconds hundreds of times as part of my thesis.

Excitement back at the station was limited to a beautiful after-hatch-year male White-crowned Sparrow and our first Myrtle Warbler of the season.

Season’s first Myrtle

~Chutter

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 9
Song Sparrow 7 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3 1
Common Yellowthroat 1 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Birds banded 26
Species banded 7
Birds recaptured 4
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 23
Species Total 33

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Sept 22

You could really tell it was a Chris blog day down at the station today.  For one thing we only caught 14 birds and for another I struck-out going after owls last night for the first time this season.  We did, however, catch our second Hermit Thrush of the season which was nice, and had a pretty decent number of species for this time of year both observed (38) and on census (25).  The highlight of census were our first Horned Grebes of the season, five of them actually, playing around at the north end of the lake.

For the first time in weeks it was cloudy when we opened, and the forecast is for some rain finally.  A little rain might really help our capture numbers, but too much and we could get flooded out like we did the last two seasons.  In fact, although we trail last year by 145 birds presently things are kind of looking up.  This day last year was the last day we were able to band, so every bird from here on is a tiny step towards not having the slowest season on record.  I really doubt we will catch last year now, but we should be able to make up half the difference with some luck.

As promised in comments yesterday, here is a super cute picture of a Saw-whet from a couple of nights ago.  I feel the photographer (me) really captured the cuteness and tinyness of the owl while simultaneously catching the ugly mug that is me  🙂

The owl appears to be in the best of spirits, but the secretly spiteful little cutey pooped on my shoulder and flew off right after the photo was taken.

~Chutter

 

Species Band Recap
Lincoln’s Sparrow 5 1
Song Sparrow 3 4
Oregon Junco 3
Common Yellowthroat 2
Hermit Thrush 1
Birds banded 14
Species banded 5
Birds recaptured 5
Species recaptured 2
Species on census 25
Species Total 38

 

 

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Sept 20

It was another Chris-blog day out there today, though we did catch 25 new birds.  Or rather Avery did, as I left after census to run some errands and only after I left did birds start colliding with nets.  Twenty-five birds banded for him versus zero for me helped him catch up a bit in total birds banded, but he really has no chance of catching me this season owing to his illness when we were actually catching significant numbers of birds.

Our best bird of the day was…  we did not catch or even observe anything unusual today as it was my blog day of course.  We did however catch an Oregon Junco with a very peculiar bill.  Unfortunately, peculiar in a way that will probably quickly remove it from the gene pool, though maybe it will be advantageous and this one bird will spawn a genetically superior Man-eating Junco that will take over the world.

Also Avery caught another Savannah Sparrow today and took a photo of it as per a previous request.

Also, I have been realizing of late that not only are cool birds only observed on Avery’s blog days, but the longer Avery is here the fewer birds we catch.  Since he joined us at TLBO in September 2010 our capture rate has been steadily declining.  I have graphed it here if you don’t believe me

Clearly we can now conclude that Avery is chasing away all the birds, especially on my blog days  🙂  Perhaps next year we should send him to a competing banding station, but still have him write our blog.  Actually, this trend is completely ridiculous and very similar to another statistically significant study that shows that global warming was prevented by pirates.  Sure enough as pirates have dissappeared, the earth has gotten warmer (it has nothing to do with the industrial revolution and fossil fuels).

Also, I caught two more Saw-whets last night, bringing us up to 17 banded now with zero recaps.  These two numbers lead us to believe there are quite a few of the cute little owls passing through the Tatlayoko Valley this time of year and they either learn or move on quickly.

~Chutter

Species Band Recap
Song Sparrow 7 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 5 1
Pine Siskin 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
American Robin 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Oregon Junco 1
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Common Yellowthroat 1
Birds banded 25
Species banded 9
Birds recaptured 8
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 18
Species Total 29

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Sept 18

 

With an hour left in the day, today had the makings of the slowest full day of banding in TLBO’s history.  With one hour left we had caught just seven birds.  I opened nets this morning despite low temperatures hoping to increase our capture totals of late.  Before I started census an hour and a half later we had captured three birds, when I returned from census an hour and a half after that we had captured three birds.  At this point, with a capture rate of less than one bird per hour, Avery and I engaged in the first ever which-bander-gets-to-go-home-at-10 o’clock coin toss, which I lost.

However, in the last hour things turned around a bit; I caught our first Northern Flicker in over three years as well as half a dozen Pine Siskins.  Other than the Flicker in the net the most noteworthy achievement of the day was setting a new second highest score in the pinball game on the laptop…  Yes that is how slow and quiet it was at the station today.  I am personally glad we do not have volunteers at the station this week as I have no idea what they would be doing to entertain themselves.

 

For the love of Pyle (the author of the bird bander’s bible for North America), let us catch more than 20 birds at least once more before the end of the season.  On a positive note Avery banded five more Saw-whets last night.

 

~Chutter

Species Band Recap
Pine Siskin 8
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1 1
Red-shafted Flicker 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Fox Sparrow 1

Birds banded 14
Species banded 6
Birds recaptured 1
Species recaptured 1
Species on census 18
Species Total 27

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Sept 14 – A surprise!

Today at the station we continued our recent trends of low capture total (20) and low species diversity (32).  Despite this we had some excitement with our first Hermit Thrush of the season as well as a very late Hammond’s Flycatcher.  Little else was worth reporting other than continued huge numbers of Pine Siskins, Northern Flickers, and various sparrows.

Our first Hermit Thrush of the year

Well we have often recognised that our interest in blogging about what we do tends to decline through the season along with the diversity and colours of the birds we observe.  To this end we came up with a solution this year, and to our faithful readers that have stuck by us through the last week or two of sparrows and thrushes I give you 90 grams of pure cuteness.

Everyone loves a Saw-whet Owl

Any cuter and it might explode

Cutest feet ever… unless you are a mouse.

 

That’s right, at TLBO we are now banding the Northern Saw-whet Owl (AKA the Cute Owl).  We received our permit yesterday so last night we went out and we have now put out seven bands and taken a million photos of the owl so cute it makes you want to squeel and run in place.  Well it makes people younger than myself want to do that.

 

~Chutter

 

 

Species Band Recap
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4 3
Song Sparrow 4 2
Common Yellowthroat 3 1
Pine Siskin 3
Warbling Vireo 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1
Hermit Thrush 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Swainson’s Thrush 1

 

Birds banded 20
Species banded 9
Birds recaptured 7
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 23
Species Total 32

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