Posted | filed under Weekly Banding Reports.

Well it is official, fall migration has blown away, literally; the last few days of monitoring were some of the windiest we have seen all season. Unfortunately the windy days prevented us from being able to get the nets open as often as we should have been able to so we didn’t quite hit the total of 1900 that I had predicted. All-in-all we ended up with a season total of 1874 of 53 species which still makes this the busiest fall banding season since 2006. The top five banded species didn’t present any surprises, except one. Four of them were expected species, but one was a species that hasn’t seen the top charts in many years. Species number one was the same as it is almost every year – the myrtle warbler with 370, the second, third and fourth most banded species were ovenbird (297), Swainson’s thrush (252) and Tennessee warbler (147). The bird in fifth place was the surprise, it was the black-capped chickadee with 105 banded. It is a shame the wind prevented us from achieving full net-hours and letting us catch even more birds; during the last few days chickadees continued to move through in huge flocks and given one or two more calm days we probably could have broken their season record of 128 that was set in 2000. There were two other species that did break their record seasons, though, and that was the sharp-shinned hawk and the Swainson’s thrush. The previous sharpie record was 40 set back in 2009, this year we banded 50. We didn’t observe or catch any new species for the observatory this season but there were a couple new species for me; I got to band my first common grackle and Le Conte’s sparrow. The end of fall migration is always so bittersweet. It is sad knowing that the field season is over and we will be resigned to the office, in Richard’s case, and a yet undecided new job, in my case. As sad as it is to no longer be out in the field – I can’t be too sad since when I look out the window right now I see snow blowing sideways in the wind. One of the highest highlights of the fall happened during saw-whet owl monitoring. After 9 years of netting for owls we finally caught a boreal owl! The boreal owl looks very similar to the northern saw-whet owl but it is a bit larger and has slightly different facial markings. Boreal owls breed further north, preferring forests that are predominately coniferous and aren’t as strongly migratory as the saw-whets. When we first started the owl monitoring program we expected to catch loads of boreals and were mystified that they eluded us for so long. Especially since almost every other station that monitors saw-whets catches the occasional boreal owl. Even the station near Edmonton that is in probably the most unsuitable boreal habitat catches one or two of these owls every year. Needless to say, this little owl generated a lot of excitement.