The Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory recently finished its final period of Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS), but our summary of this breeding-focused program will have to wait until next week. While most of the 629 birds banded this week were again American Redstarts and Yellow Warblers, our Fall Migration Monitoring program had three exciting captures!
Two of these captures breed locally, but rarely find themselves in our nets. Our first uncommon capture was a Western Wood-pewee, only our eighteenth for fall monitoring since we began in 1994. These grayish flycatchers look very similar to Alder and Least Flycatchers, but can be distinguished by a mild peak in their crown and their light gray flanks and chest.
The second rare capture was our eighth fall LeConte’s Sparrow. In my experience, it is often easier to mistake LeConte’s Sparrows for mice than it is to mistake them for most other sparrow species. This is because of their small size and their proclivity for scurrying quickly near the ground in thick grass.
The week’s highlight was a Baltimore Oriole – only the sixth ever banded by the LSLBO, our second in the fall, and the first capture since 2006. Detections locally of this species seem to go in waves. In the early years of our monitoring, there was a relatively steady increase in detections peaking in 2003 with 18 seen before detections became rare again. In 2014, observations were again on the rise and with 24 seen so far in 2022 we may be close to another peak.
Baltimore Orioles are rare visitors to our station and tend not to breed locally. This is because the dense forest surrounding Slave Lake is not their preferred habitat of open areas with stands of tall deciduous trees nearby. In the right habitat, Baltimore Orioles can be visitors to feeders. Unlike grain-eating species that will readily consume bird seed, Orioles prefer ripe fruit or even a little bit of jelly.
Similar to American Redstarts that do not get their brilliant black and orange until their second fall, male Baltimore Orioles also remain somewhat drab with yellowish underparts and grayish backs (similar to the females) until after their first breeding season when the males will become bright orange with a black head and back. It may come as a surprise to many that these bright birds are actually a member of the blackbird family.
If you would like to experience our Fall program in person, tours run every Wednesday and Saturday through the month of August. Contact the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation at (780) 849-8240 for more information.
By Robyn Perkins, LSLBO Bander-in-Charge