McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY
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Marcel Gahbauer, Marie-Anne Hudson
Notes: Our second full week of banding was considerably more productive than our first, though still slow by usual MBO standards. At this point in migration, many species have still only begun to trickle in, so the somewhat low numbers are to be expected. Nonetheless, there were again a number of highlights this week, including our third ever Rusty Blackbird in the nets, and our first morning of the season with 10 species banded.
New arrivals continued to show up almost daily, with another 7 species added to the season total this week (Double-crested Cormorant, American Bittern, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Belted Kingfisher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Evening Grosbeak). Proof of migration advancing is that the 53 species observed during the past week nearly matches the total for the year to date at the start of the week! Of these species, 20 were observed each day this week, and another half dozen were missed just once. The large flocks of Canada Geese continue to dominate in numbers, flying past us each morning in flocks of dozens or even hundreds, but blackbirds, robins, and sparrows have been moving in flocks this week as well.
As shown in the table above, Slate-coloured Juncos were the dominant bird of the week in the nets, accounting for nearly 30% of all birds banded. In this week alone, we quadrupled the number of juncos banded in spring 2005, largely thanks to banding occurring daily this year, rather than a few times per week last year. In fact, though numbers have been low, we have already matched or exceeded the 2005 spring banding totals for nine other species (Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, American Tree Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, and House Sparrow).
The relatively low volume of birds early in the season makes it a great time to get some much-needed site maintenance work done. The main effort was a 12-hour session under beautiful sunny skies on Friday, during which we moved in over 60 wheelbarrow loads of gravel from the road to line the wet sections of the trails. We also got the last of our 30 bluebird boxes in place and cleaned out, and over the course of the weekend put up 4 new Wood Duck boxes. The latter don't seem to have been immediately adopted, but some of the bluebird boxes were being investigated by Tree Swallows or House Sparrows within minutes of being installed. Last but not least, Holly Bockus and five students from the Community Recreation and Leadership Program at Dawson College built the frame for a "j-trap" that we will use to increase our capture success for blackbirds. Thank you to everyone who helped out with the site work this week, especially to those who delivered many back-aching loads of gravel with the wheelbarrows!
Again this week, other wildlife has been abundant. As many as 5 deer have been seen together, a fox was seen on at least two mornings, and a couple of very well-fed raccoons have been spotted rambling around at various times. The most interesting mammal sighting of the week though was a very bold and curious little weasel in one of the wood piles along the back pond. During the course of some digging on Friday, three blue-spotted salamanders were unearthed. Meanwhile, the spring peeper chorus grew louder throughout the first few days of the week, to the point where it was truly painful to the ears to be near the ponds in the late afternoon! The wood frogs also became more vocal and active at the same time, and on Friday a number of them were seen hopping around as mated pairs.
© 2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.