Fall Migration Monitoring: August 27

Hatch-year Red-eyed Vireo

The north winds brought an abundance of birds this week, and we have been enjoying the mixed flocks of warblers, vireos, chickadees, flycatchers and nuthatches. Only a fraction have been caught in our nets though, as most of these birds have been staying high in the trees. Some of us are suffering from "warbler neck" but it is worth it!

Hatch-year male Wilson's Warbler

Black-billed Cuckoos have been seen frequently this month in the vicinity of the banding station. Yesterday we were in for a surprise when not one, but two cuckoos were spotted together. After the first bird was found, our attention was drawn to the motion of fluttering wings from behind some leaves. Sitting on the same branch was a juvenile cuckoo begging for food! Along with sightings of Black-billed Cuckoos througout the summer, this is a good indication that the species has bred at TTP.

After weeks of a Merlin hanging around the spit, we finally caught sight of one at the station yesterday. It was actively hunting the very flock of warblers that we were watching! It kept zooming past, swooping down low and giving us excellent looks. What an impressive bird to observe, with such speed and agility!

Thursday as we were going over the day's observations, a hawk flew past the lab. We all dropped what we were doing and ran out to see what it was. Quite unexpectedly, it turned out to be a Red-shouldered Hawk, a species very rarely seen at TTP. Luckily it was quite close and afforded excellent looks by 5 observers, all who saw the trademark windows, dark primary tips, narrowly banded tail, shape, etc. that distinguished it from any other potential raptor.


Migration Monitoring: August 17

Adult female Cedar Waxwing

After the initial burst of activity from starlings and resident breeders, activitiy slowed down considerably at the station. The last week has been so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.

One of our biggest highlights was not even a bird - instead we caught a very interesting dragonfly. It was successfully extracted by Bronwyn Dalziel, and we were lucky to get some great photos before it flew away. It was identified as a Swamp Darner, a species which is quite rare in this region.

Swamp Darner

Swamp Darner

Finally, today we had our first real wave of migrants. It is amazing how much faster time passes when you are catching birds! Today we banded 34 birds and recorded 11 new species, bringing our season total to 86 species.

This Baltimore Oriole was one of 6 caught in one net! It was a hatch-year bird, most likely born at TTP this summer. Evidently it has been feeding on honeysuckle berries, which are high in carotenoids - the pigment that produces reds, yellows and that brilliant orange that you can see in this bird. Most of the orioles we catch have the typical yellow plumage.

Hatch-year Baltimore Oriole

Banding Totals August 5 - 17



Yellow-shafted Flicker


Eastern Wood Pewee


Yellow-bellied Flycatcher


Traill's Flycatcher


Least Flycatcher


Black-capped Chickadee


Swainson's Thrush


American Robin


Gray Catbird


Cedar Waxwing


European Starling


Warbling Vireo


Yellow Warbler


Magnolia Warbler


Myrtle Warbler


Black-and-white Warbler




Northern Waterthrush


Canada Warbler


Northern Cardinal


Song Sparrow


Red-winged Blackbird


Baltimore Oriole





Weekend Update: August 7-8

Hatch-year Magnolia Warbler

This was our first weekend of the season, and the cold snap was much appreciated after the oppressive heat of Thursday. On Saturday morning I was quite surprised to be chilly for a change, but I wasn't complaining!
It was rather quiet, but we did have several new species: American Black Duck, Northern Cardinal, Tree Swallow, Cooper's Hawk, Myrtle Warbler, Magnolia Warbler and Canada Warbler. Until now the earliest a Magnolia was seen at the station was August 8, 2005. Canada Warblers haven't been this early since August 7, 2004.
Note: some of these species (such as the Northern Cardinal) were here all summer but just weren't detected on the first two days of migration monitoring.

Hatch-year female Canada Warbler

On Sunday we were having a great morning until the rain came and forced us to close early. We did manage to add American Wigeon and Common Merganser to the list though. Our season total is now 51 species, with 35 birds banded of 13 species.


First Day of Fall Migration Monitoring

Northern Waterthrush

It felt good to get back to the station today. We were greeted by the resident breeders, including Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, Baltimore Orioles, Cedar Waxwings and Warbling Vireos. Most of the Red-winged Blackbirds have left, and now we have hundreds of European Starlings instead! Every time a huge flock swooped towards a net, there was a slight twinge of panic. One or two starlings is one thing, but a net full of them is another thing entirely...
Despite the heat and humidity, we managed to band 20 birds of 9 species. All breed at TTP except one: a Northern Waterthrush. This species does tend to be one of the early migrants, but it won't be surprising if migration is on the early side this year after such a productive summer.
As we were shutting nets, I noticed a caterpillar on the trunk of a European Birch, and I have never seen anything like it before. It turned out to be a White-marked Tussock Moth, quite a stunning creature.
White-marked Tussock Moth

Our season species list is up to 42 and counting. It is so much fun at the beginning, because every day promises new species to check off of the list!
Don't forget to visit us on the weekends, and get there early because we close the nets around 11:45. Trust me, with this heat you will want to get there in the wee hours!