Weeks 18-21:  March 1 - 27, 2010

Welcome to the McGill Bird Observatory weekly report.  Click here for a complete listing of our archives.
Comments or questions are welcome at "mbo AT".


With the unusually early arrival of persistent warm spring weather, the
Red-winged Blackbirds have been returning to MBO sooner than in other years.
Photo by Simon Duval)

MBO gratefully acknowledges the in-kind support provided for winter 2009-2010 by CCFA (Centre de Conservation de la Faune Ailée) in Montreal, in the form of bird seed to keep the MBO feeders stocked throughout the season.






2010 TOTAL


# birds (and species) banded

85 (9)

317 (17)

123 (10)

23632 (105)

# birds (and species) repeat

11 (3)

139 (11)

30 (4)

4371 (66)

# birds (and species) return


15 (5)

9 (3)

629 (37)

# species observed





# net hours





# birds banded / 100 net hours





Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge:  Simon Duval, Gay Gruner
Christine Barrie, Chris Cloutier, Jean Demers, Malcolm Johnson, Barbara MacDuff, Donald MacDuff, Chris Murphy, Greg Rand, Clémence Soulard

Notes:  March weather was a treat; the mean temperature for the month was 7.8°C, with some days setting record highs of 14° and 15° (in comparison, over the past 5 years, the March mean has been between 0°C and 3°C).  The lure to go birding could not be ignored.   We observed 40 species (almost double the 23 species observed in February) and, as is typical of March, the birds were a mix of winter residents and early spring arrivals.  (Picture American Tree Sparrow and Northern Shrike sharing the trees and treetops with mobs of screaming Red-winged Blackbirds.  Black-capped Chickadees were not at all disturbed by the ruckus and carried on flying between feeders and trees with their usual equanimity.)

We added six species to the 2009-2010 winter list bringing the season total to 58: Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Killdeer, Brown-headed Cowbird and House Sparrow.  In addition to those six species, these early returning migrants were also new for 2010: Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle and Purple Finch.

Banding highlights in March included 23 American Tree Sparrows, a species which is usually undersampled at MBO due to being a very late fall and early spring migrant.  Red-wings charged the nets on the final day of winter banding (13 male and 1 especially early female).   We recaptured a male Red-winged Blackbird that was first banded in spring of 2005 – an excellent example of site fidelity. It was aged as an after-second year in 2005, which makes it at least 7 years old!  Other highlights included a female European Starling, hardly a rare species, but one rarely caught at MBO (an average of only one per year).

This European Starling is only the second banded at MBO during winter, the other one being caught three years ago.  This individual was identified as female based on the pinkish (rather than bluish) lower mandible and yellowish iris.  It was aged as a second-year bird based on the indistinct dark subterminal edging on the central rectrices, and a remaining trace of yellow on the tongue.
(Photos by Simon Duval)

The Wood Duck boxes are cleaned and prepared for spring occupancy; hopefully the drakes and hens we have been observing recently will set up house. The census trail is clear, although in need of some work.  And that is a good segue to an announcement about our Maintenance Day planned on Saturday, April 10.  There are many tasks ranging from light to heavy labour - we hope to have a good turnout of volunteers (hint hint)!

Once again, many thanks to the winter censusers.  It is not easy tramping the census route in bad weather and your dedication is greatly appreciated.   We are now switching over to the Spring Migration Monitoring Program, which will begin as usual with three weeks of daily census, then expand to include full banding efforts for 45 days from April 18 to June 1.

This week’s top 5   [last month's rank in brackets]

# individuals banded

mean # individuals observed daily

1.  American Tree Sparrow (23) [4]

1.  Canada Goose (171) [-]

2.  Black-capped Chickadee (21) [1]

2.  Red-winged Blackbird (29) [-]

3.  American Goldfinch (19) [3]

3.  American Crow (27) [4]

4.  Red-winged Blackbird (14) [-]

4.  American Goldfinch (15) [-]

5.  Song Sparrow (3) [-]

5.  Black-capped Chickadee (14) [1]

This female Mourning Dove banded on March 9 had an overgrown upper mandible.
(Photo by Simon Duval)

American Tree Sparrow was the species of the month in the nets, with nearly as many banded (23) this March as in all five previous winters combined (29).
(Photo by Simon Duval)




2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.