This morning at TTPBRS saw quite a scene! We had gone down to the station to wrap up the season by packing up the last of the equipment, and in preparation for inventorying and taking down the nets, we had our remaining nets open - the last week at the station has been so quiet, we didn't expect any birds to get caught. Well, what a surprise we were in for, then, when we walked around the corner of net 7 to discover a flock of 47 redpolls caught in a single net!
We banded 70 redpolls this morning. In the group were 13 much chunkier birds, with noticeably darker plumage. These birds are of the "Greenland" subspecies of Common Redpoll, and average about 10% larger than the "mainland" populations. Our "mainland" birds were mostly 11-13 g in weight, while the "Greenland" birds were generally 16+ g, with one weighing in at over 19 g!
Also among the flocks of redpolls were two Hoary Redpolls. Hoarys are difficult to distinguish from Common Redpolls in that they overlap in size and plumage characteristics, especially in their first-winter (hatch-year) plumage. The two best criteria for identifying Hoary Redpolls are the size and shape of the bill, and the patterning of the undertail coverts. The bill of the Hoary is noticeably shorter and stubbier, with a resultingly sharper angle to the upper mandible. The undertail coverts are sparsely streaked, with little to no markings over most of the feathers. The birds are also slightly paler overall, and show narrower, less diffuse streaking. Only the adult males are the really "snowy" birds one tends to think of for the species. Both of the birds we captured were hatch-year females.
The fall 2007 season of the Migration Monitoring Program officially came to an end on November 12. The final week of the season was much like the previous week with very few birds captured (39) but some pretty heavy diurnal movement of winter finches, blackbirds, Snow Buntings, American Pipits and Horned Larks. Numbers of waterfowl continued to increase as Long-tailed Ducks peaked for the season this morning at over 3,000. An estimated 1500 ducks are staging in cell 3, which includes over 70 Redhead, 250 Common Goldeneye and 800 scaup. Northern Saw-whet Owls continued to move through the park during the week with over 50 owls banded. It has been a remarkable season for owls, as 322 Northern Saw-whets have been captured, which is easily the busiest season in the 5-year history of TTPBRS. The program was featured on CBC news Toronto on November 8. November 10 was cold and overcast with light north winds. These conditions were ideal for a large passage of finches on the Toronto lakeshore. A total of 67 Common Redpolls were recorded along with smaller numbers of Pine Siskin and a brief sighting of an Evening Grosbeak. This was just the second record of Evening Grosbeak for TTPBRS and easily a record high count for Common Redpoll.
Despite the lack of activity indicated by our paucit banding totals for the last two weeks, the birding at Tommy Thompson Park has been excellent as always. A tour of the park this morning revealed some unusual species including a Red-throated Loon, Black Scoter, dark phase Rough-legged Hawk, Lapland Longspur, Short-eared Owls and a single Pine Grosbeak. It was a great way to close another fantastic year for TTPBRS!
A big thanks are due to our dedicated crew of 25 volunteers who make TTPBRS possible! Special thanks go to Jan McDonald for digitizing the fall data, Ian Sturdee for station support and comic relief, Tom Flinn for help with surveys, Andrew Jano for giving up sleep to help with owls and to Seabrooke Leckie for her countless hours of assistance with just about everything!
HIGHLIGHTS (banding totals in bold)
67-Common Redpoll (record high count for TTPBRS)
1-Evening Grosbeak (2nd record for TTPBRS)
Birds Banded: Aug 5-Nov 12
Species Recorded: Aug 5-Nov 12
Another week of migration monitoring has passed and the 7-day period can be best summed up by the meager total of 64 birds that were banded. In other words, it was extremely quiet for late fall species such as juncos, chickadees, kinglets and American Tree Sparrows, to name a few. Conversely, landbirds flying over the station were plentiful as mixed flocks of blackbirds and smaller groups of finches, Snow Buntings and American Pipits were recorded in strong numbers. Common Redpolls are being recorded on a daily basis and in decent numbers, which is significant given that the species had not been recorded since the fall of 2004. It was even more of a surprise to find one in our nets on October 28 as, much like Pine Siskins, they rarely land in our study area. Record late sightings of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on October 29 and a Monarch Butterfly on October 30 were noteworthy. A couple of rattling Lapland Longspurs flew over on November 3, which brought the season species total to a record high 184.
Northern Saw-whet Owls continued to migrate through the Toronto lakeshore in record numbers as 67 were banded from two nights of effort during the week. A total of 305 Saw-whets and 1 Long-eared Owl have been captured this fall. This figure includes 7 recoveries of owls originally banded elsewhere. The Owls Up Close event for TTPBRS members was held in two parts due to overwhelming interest, and took place on October 28 and November 1. A combined total of 27 visitors were welcomed and I am very pleased to report that all in attendance got to see an owl!
The last day of the Fall Migration Monitoring Program will be November 12, at which point we will take down the nets and pack up the lab for a few months of number crunching. We have 7 days left and can look forward to increasing numbers of wintering waterfowl, more owls and hopefully more high flying landbirds.
Interesting Recovery of a Northern Saw-whet Owl
Encountering an owl with a band number that doesn't match your current string is not unusual, as the number of foreign recoveries is much higher for owls than it is for songbirds. In fact, we recapture more owls banded elsewhere than we do of "our" own. It was therefore a great surprise for us to recapture 0924-03480 (an adult male) on November 3, 2007, which was originally banded as a young bird at TTPBRS on October 27, 2006!
HIGHLIGHTS (banding totals in bold)
12-American Tree Sparrow
Birds Banded: Aug 5-Nov 3
Species Recorded: Aug 5-Nov 3