McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

WINTER POPULATION MONITORING

March 1 - 27, 2012

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 migrationresearch.org".

PICTURE OF THE MONTH:



Red-winged Blackbirds are a sure sign of spring at MBO, and with warmer weather
arriving earlier than usual this year, the males also showed up in larger numbers
than usual (only in 2010 were they more abundant in March).
(
Photo by Simon Duval)


MBO gratefully acknowledges the in-kind support provided for winter 2011-2012 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.

 

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THIS MONTH

THIS WINTER

2012 TOTAL

SITE TOTAL

# birds (and species) banded

49 (7)

380 (18)

75 (10)

35826 (108)

# birds (and species) repeat

13 (4)

158 (8)

14 (4)

6427 (68)

# birds (and species) return

21 (6)

47 (7)

26 (6)

987 (37)

# species observed

45

63

49

204

# net hours

48.7

315.7

63.7

59162.9

# birds banded / 100 net hours

100.6

120.4

117.7

60.6

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge:  Simon Duval, Gay Gruner
Assistants:
 Jean Demers, Andrée-Anne Deschamps Leonard, Alison Hackney, James Junda, Lisa Keelty, Barbara MacDuff, Chris Murphy, Clémence Soulard

Notes:  In 2010, we experienced an unusually early spring, but this year March was even warmer.  The average high temperature for the month is usually just above freezing, but this year was 8 degrees Celsius - in large part due to an unprecedented stretch of five straight days mid-month with highs exceeding 20 degrees!   Not surprisingly, the birds responded to the prolonged mild conditions, and we noted record early arrivals for several species, including six that we have never previously observed during our "winter season":  Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Hooded Merganser, American Kestrel, American Woodcock, and Eastern Phoebe.  The total of 45 species observed this month is a new record for March by a large margin, and close to the single-month winter record of 48 species observed in November 2009.  Meanwhile, the push of early migrants pushed this winter's total to 63 species, well ahead of the previous season record of 58 set in the winter of 2009-2010.  It is also worth noting that this month's observations are based on fairly limited effort, five days between March 18 and 27, due to lingering snow and preparations for the spring program earlier in the month; with additional visits, the totals might have been even higher!  Of course we realize that our winter season is particularly vulnerable to variability in weather from year to year, so the records are not particularly meaningful - but they do offer a clear indication of how different March was this year.

This month’s top 10   [previous month's rank in brackets]

# individuals banded

mean # individuals observed daily

1.  American Tree Sparrow (27) [4]

1.  Canada Goose (981) [-]

2.  Slate-colored Junco (9) [1]

2.  Mallard (25) [-]

3.  American Goldfinch (8) [3]

3.  Red-winged Blackbird (24) [-]

4.  Song Sparrow (2) [-]

4.  Common Grackle (17) [-]

5.  Blue Jay (1) [4]

5.  American Crow (15) [2]

5.  Black-capped Chickadee (1) [1]

5.  Black-capped Chickadee (15) [3]

5.  Red-winged Blackbird (1) [-]

7.  American Tree Sparrow (13) [8]

 

8.  Greater Snow Goose (13) [-]

 

9.  American Robin (9) [1]

 

10.  Ring-billed Gull (7) [-]

Three mornings of banding were undertaken in March, and American Tree Sparrows dominated by a wide margin, accounting for over half of all individuals banded.  That count is the highest in a single winter month, and exceeds the season total for all but one previous winter.  We still managed to band a handful of "new" juncos and goldfinches, and the early Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds managed to get represented along with a lone Blue Jay and Black-capped Chicakdee.

The species observed this month represented a drastic shift from February's results.  None of this month's top four species were observed last month, and the daily averages of both Canada Goose and Mallard were the highest ever for a winter period at MBO.  The Red-winged Blackbird counts were also much higher than usual, although slightly lower than in March 2010, while we have never before had more a daily mean of 2 Common Grackles in any winter month, so 17 this month was quite a surprise.  The influx of these four species pushed American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, and American Robin down the list, intermingled with other new arrivals in the form of Greater Snow Goose and Ring-billed Gull, as well as American Tree Sparrow, hanging close to last month's ranking.


Even though it was an unusually mild winter, we discovered that our resident Red Squirrel had made a substantially insulated nest on the inner roof of our shed, surrounded by a rich crop of walnuts from one of the nearby trees!
(Photo by Simon Duval)


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