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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Teslin Lake - end of the season

In spite of the beauty of the scene, it is not easy to count migration when there is no visibility!
The second half of October had some really nice bird moments but also lots of very slow times especially when it got really cold. The last of the main swan movement happened right after mid-month. On the 16th 930 swans were counted and on the 19th the last pulse of the season brought at least 1060 swans by the observatory. What was surprising was the high number of Tundra Swans as typically the later flights are predominantly Trumpeters. At the same time there was a good movement of Golden Eagles as 34 were counted on the 16th and 26 on the 17th. The 19th was a mixed raptor bag day with a few of almost every expected species seen including a surprise count of 11 Sharp-shinned Hawks.
 
Adult Golden Eagle
 
A young Tundra swan paid a visit to our young Glaucous Gull. They seemed like old friends..

A few flocks of Bohemian Waxwings darted by during the last week of the season
 
After that the temperatures plummeted first below the -10 mark, then quickly below -15 and the morning of the 29th was the coldest with -21 degrees. Not really a typical October temperature! The birds all but disappeared except for the hardy species like Snow Bunting, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll and of course the Ravens and Magpies. A few stragglers of this and that were spotted like the odd American Robin and Varied Thrush, the season’s only (!!) Mountain Bluebird, and a few lingering Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. The lake was very quiet as well and once it got cold, on most mornings, there was no visibility anyway. One juvenile of each, Pacific Loon, Common Loon and Red-necked Grebe, stayed almost till the end of the season as did our faithful Glaucous Gull. A Gyrfalcon was seen on the 21st. A record number of Northern Goshawks were seen flying by as well but the highlight of the end of the season was the good flight of Bald Eagles. About 70, more than the season total last year, were seen during the last two weeks with high counts of 11 on the 19th, 10 on the 26th and 14 on the 28th.

Glaucous Gull in almost a biblical pose

Several Pine Grosbeaks spent some time at the observatory browsing willow buds

Snow Buntings on the frozen shore
 
After the observers have left for the winter only the Ravens remain...
And so the TLBO 2012 fall season came to an end on a day when it almost felt like spring again after a brutal cold snap. We would once again like to thank everyone who helped at the station with banding, observations, visual counts and all the practical things. While the list of individuals is too long to list here there are a few that do deserve a special mention. Doug Martens for providing the main staff with a comfortable accommodation, Ted Murphy-Kelly for providing the volunteers with an accommodation and helping with volunteers and gear, and last but definitely not least Abril Heredia who not only volunteered at the station and helped with other bird counts also bravely put up with yours truly for her entire stay of over two months. Thank you everyone!
 
Jukka
A cool ice dam in the creek
 
The parting shot


All photos ©Jukka Jantunen

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teslin Lake update - October 15

Morning of Oct 11, just before the swan exodus begun
Well, it has been almost three weeks since the last update – a lot has happened since then. Winter came and went a couple of times and more snow and cold is in the forecast for the coming days. The banding season came to an end as well and most of the birds departed for their warmer winter homes. Our long serving volunteer Abril Heredia who was with us since early August departed for home and warmer climate on October 11th. She reports that some species she was banding here earlier are already chirping away in the Botanical Garden of Mexico City! Thank you Abril!
 
Young Northern Shrike - more scary in hand than any hawk!

Dusky Flycatcher on Sept 30 - seeing is believing
 
The official banding season ended September 23rd but as always we continued banding hoping to catch the southbound Juncos and American Tree Sparrows. We waited and waited and finally when the snow and Snow Buntings started flying we had to accept the fact that those very common species, together with American Robins, had somehow eluded us. We did, of course, get some Juncos and Tree Sparrows but most of the catch was Common Redpolls and Chickadees. It is always amazing to see Wilson’s Warblers linger into October up here. Some of the other banding highlights included two more Sharp-shinned Hawks, the season’s only banded Northern Shrike on the 29th and Mountain Chickadee on the 5th, two very late Empids, a Dusky Flycatcher on the 30th and a Hammond’s Flycatcher on the 4th, and finally the rarest of them all, a hatch-year female Nashville Warbler, the territory’s 3rd and the observatory’s 2nd, on October 1st! Overall, in spite of the record number of Alder Flycatchers, the banding season was by far the slowest of the observatory’s short history.

NASHVILLE!!

The season only Mochie
 
Since the official banding season was over our main focus was on the visual migration counts. Unfortunately most of the days were pretty dead but luckily there were a few good ones there too. On September 30th we tallied 493 Snow Geese for a new observatory record alongside over 200 Canada Geese and Tundra Swans. Also on the move were a few raptors including the season 2nd Gyrfalcon. October 1st we finally had what we had been waiting for, northwest winds, but we got too much of the good stuff – the gale force winds lifted the raptors way way high up and they moved past us with great speed so that we probably missed most of them but we did tally 400+ Tundra Swans, 18 Golden Eagles and 22 Northern Harriers among others. A Hooded Merganser was seen on the 3rd, 1000+ Redpolls was tallied on the 4th, the season 1st Black-backed Woodpecker was seen on the 5th and late Sandhill Crane and the season 1st Snow Buntings were seen on the 10th.

Hooded Merganser with Common Mergansers
 
Osprey
 
Mew Gull having a bath

 
The swan migration that we had been waiting for started on the 11th. That day almost 5000 swans, mostly Tundras were counted. Other highlights for the day were the observatory’s first ever Cackling Goose, a Northern Hawk Owl and so far the season highest count 27 Golden Eagles. The next day another nearly a thousand swans were seen together with 2600 Redpolls and 57 Pine Grosbeaks. On the 14th the swans were moving again but this time both species and mostly in mixed flocks which made the day very challenging. Of the almost 4000 swans 1200 were identified as Trumpeter Swans and 2300 as Tundra Swans and the rest were left unidentified. The number of Trumpeter Swans is by far the highest ever recorded at the observatory and more like the spring numbers on Marsh Lake. Other birds of note that day included 2 American Kestrels well behind the others of their species, 37 Rough-legged Hawks and yet another minima-type Cackling Goose. On the 15th another over a thousand swans were counted and now we are just waiting to see if that was it or if there will still be something to write in the last blog entry of the season...

Tundra Swans high up in the sky...


...and low right above the lake surface

Juvenile Trumpeter Swans passing the point...

...and a family above the "Aces"

Our president Jim Hawkings visited the observatory


Rude-boy on his first observatory visit

Teddles, Willie and Jukks
Abril when it was still nice and sunny (Oct 8)
 
Here is the final banding list for the 2012 season (the number banded after Sept 25th in the  brackets):
 
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 13 (2)
Merlin – 1
Solitary Sandpiper – 3
Belted Kingfisher – 6
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1
Western Wood-Pewee – 3
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher –9
Pacific-slope Flycatcher – 1
Alder Flycatcher – 827
Least Flycatcher – 3
Hammond’s Flycatcher – 7 (1)
Dusky Flycatcher – 3 (1)
Northern Shrike – 1 (1)
Warbling Vireo – 15
Black-capped Chickadee – 65 (16)
Mountain Chickadee – 1 (1)
Boreal Chickadee – 142 (20)
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 12
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 134 (11)
Townsend’s Solitaire – 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush – 4
Swainson’s Thrush – 41
Hermit Thrush – 3
Varied Thrush – 2
Tennessee Warbler – 1
Orange-crowned Warbler – 88 (1)
Nashville Warbler – 1 (1)
Yellow Warbler – 225
Magnolia Warbler – 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler – 195 (3)
Townsend’s Warbler – 6
Blackpoll Warbler – 87
Cape May Warbler – 1
American Redstart – 21
Northern Waterthrush – 47
MacGillivray’s Warbler – 1
Common Yellowthroat – 45
Wilson’s Warbler – 134 (17)
American Tree Sparrow – 17 (7)
Chipping Sparrow – 17
Savannah Sparrow – 25 (1)
Fox Sparrow – 6
Lincoln’s Sparrow – 9 (1)
White-crowned Sparrow – 22
Dark-eyed Junco – 116 (8)
Rusty Blackbird – 9 (1)
Purple Finch – 2
White-winged Crossbill – 2
Common Redpoll – 47 (41)
Pine Siskin – 3
= 2429 birds - 49 species

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Teslin Lake update - September 25

Without Boreal Chickadees we would've had almost nothing to band!
 
The period from September 21st to 25th was right back to the migration doldrums we were experiencing two weeks ago. We only banded a total of 66 birds (0.1 birds/net hr) for a current season total of 2295  birds (0.319 birds/net hr) of 46 species. The period top three was Boreal Chickadee 36, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 7, and Black-capped Chickadee 4. The current season top five is Alder Flycatcher 827, Yellow Warbler 225, Yellow-rumped Warbler 192, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 123, and Boreal Chickadee 122. No new species for the season or anything else of particular interest were captured.

pretty Lincoln's Sparrow - the Lanceolated Warbler of Nearctic boreal...plumage wise

UFO!??...some claimed it was a Murrelet...the former is almost easier to believe (TLBO = Canada'a area 51!?)
 
The period started very nicely with a pair of Great Horned Owls serenading at the dawn of the 21st. The biggest surprise of the season so far was a non-breeding plumaged black and white Murrelet that whirled by on the 24th. Unfortunately the views nor the “photos” allowed it to be identified to species. Other highlights were very few. Three Parasitic Jaegers were seen on the 21st, 8 Snow Geese on the 22nd and 28 more on the 25th. The season 1st Hairy Woodpecker was seen on the 23rd and the season 1st Long-billed Dowitcher on the 24th. A fairly late Spotted Sandpiper stopped by briefly on the 23rd. Another mystery of TLBO and Teslin Lake is the relative lack of Canada Goose migration. A few flocks were seen daily this period including 424, a high tally for us, on the 25th. Also on the move in the last five days have been smallish numbers of Lesser Scaup, raptors, Boreal Chickadees, and Pine Siskins.
 
Finally, a thank you to Cathy Pohl for taking the time to volunteer at TLBO inspite of the cold weather and lack of birds.

Migrating male Northern Harrier heading towards the first sun rays of the day

Subadult Bald Eagle - our regular guardsman in the spruce top

Snow Geese

Early morning Red-necked Grebe

Our station mascot - the juvenile Black-billed Magpie

Mountain Chickadee performing some acrobatics

Cathy Pohl showing visitor René Carlson how to hold a Yellow-rumped Warbler

The complete list of birds banded at TLBO this season by Sept 25th (the last five days in brackets):

Sharp-shinned Hawk – 11
Merlin – 1
Solitary Sandpiper – 3
Belted Kingfisher – 6
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1
Western Wood-Pewee – 3
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher –9
Pacific-slope Flycatcher – 1
Alder Flycatcher – 827
Least Flycatcher – 3
Hammond’s Flycatcher – 6
Dusky Flycatcher – 2
Warbling Vireo – 15
Black-capped Chickadee – 49 (4)
Boreal Chickadee – 122 (36)
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 12 (1)
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 123 (7)
Townsend’s Solitaire – 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush – 4
Swainson’s Thrush – 41
Hermit Thrush – 3
Varied Thrush – 2
Tennessee Warbler – 1
Orange-crowned Warbler – 87 (2)
Yellow Warbler – 225 (1)
Magnolia Warbler – 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler – 192 (2)
Townsend’s Warbler – 6
Blackpoll Warbler – 87
Cape May Warbler – 1
American Redstart – 21
Northern Waterthrush – 47
MacGillivray’s Warbler – 1
Common Yellowthroat – 45 (2)
Wilson’s Warbler – 117 (3)
American Tree Sparrow – 10 (2)
Chipping Sparrow – 17
Savannah Sparrow – 24 (1)
Fox Sparrow – 6 (1)
Lincoln’s Sparrow – 8 (1)
White-crowned Sparrow – 22
Dark-eyed Junco – 108 (3)
Rusty Blackbird – 8
Purple Finch – 2
White-winged Crossbill – 2
Common Redpoll – 6
Pine Siskin – 3
= 2295 birds - 46 species - 0.319 birds/net hr (66 birds - 14 species – 0.100 birds/net hr)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Teslin Lake update - September 20

A Golden-crowned Kinglet - mi vida!!
 
The period from September 16th to 20th had the feeling of approaching winter, not so much because how the weather was but rather because the variety of bird species was getting noticeably smaller and the majority of birds caught were typical end-of-the-season birds. Each day we banded fewer birds than the day before and so we ended up with 166 birds (0.284 birds/net hr) for the period and for a current season total of 2229 birds (0.341 birds/net hr) of 46 species. The period top five was Ruby-crowned Kinglet 41, Yellow-rumped Warbler 37, Boreal Chickadee 21, Dark-eyed Junco 14 and Orange-crowned Warbler 11. The current season top five is Alder Flycatcher 827, Yellow Warbler 224, Yellow-rumped Warbler 190, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 116, and Wilson’s Warbler 114. Three Golden-crowned Kinglets were banded on the 17th for a 1st record for the season. Other birds of interest included 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, the season 2nd Varied Thrush on the 19th, and two late-feeling birds – an American Redstart on the 16th and a Blackpoll Warbler on the 18th.

Lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers (adult female here) have been on the move
The period was fairly slow with observations too. On the 16th there was a little bit of waterfowl movement, something we don’t get much for whatever reason. The highlights included 180 Surf Scoters, 20 White-winged Scoters and 124 Common Mergansers. The same day was a bit of a gull day as on top of our regular suspects we also spotted an immature Glaucous Gull, a juvenile California Gull, and two Herring x Glaucous-winged Gull hybrids. Obviously California Gull is the rarest of these as the species is barely annual in the territory. The others we see on a regular basis but in small numbers late in the season. The next these were all still present and joined by a juvenile Herring x Glaucous Gull hybrid. Also on the 17th, the season 1st Northern Shrike, just over 300 Yellow-rumped Warblers and 200 Pine Siskins were seen passing by our observation site. The highlights for the 18th included another almost 200 Pine Siskins, 66 Bohemian Waxwings, 3 Three-toed Woodpeckers, about 70 raptors, and the season 1st two Mountain Chickadees. The only highlight for the 19th was the season 1st Long-tailed Duck and absolutely nothing happened on the 20th – it was almost as if all the birds had disappeared from the surface of the planet!


California Gull, in flight and on the beach

Both Red-necked (top) and Horned Grebes have been cruising back and forth by the point

It has been a record year with Red-breasted Nuthatches at TLBO

American Kestrel


The complete list of birds banded at TLBO this season by Sept 20th (the last five days in brackets):

Sharp-shinned Hawk – 11 (2)
Merlin – 1
Solitary Sandpiper – 3
Belted Kingfisher – 6
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1
Western Wood-Pewee – 3
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher –9
Pacific-slope Flycatcher – 1
Alder Flycatcher – 827
Least Flycatcher – 3
Hammond’s Flycatcher – 6
Dusky Flycatcher – 2
Warbling Vireo – 15
Black-capped Chickadee – 45 (8)
Boreal Chickadee – 86 (21)
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 11
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 3 (3)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 116 (41)
Townsend’s Solitaire – 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush – 4
Swainson’s Thrush – 41
Hermit Thrush – 3
Varied Thrush – 2 (1)
Tennessee Warbler – 1
Orange-crowned Warbler – 85 (11)
Yellow Warbler – 224 (8)
Magnolia Warbler – 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler – 190 (37)
Townsend’s Warbler – 6
Blackpoll Warbler – 87 (1)
Cape May Warbler – 1
American Redstart – 21 (1)
Northern Waterthrush – 47
MacGillivray’s Warbler – 1
Common Yellowthroat – 43 (2)
Wilson’s Warbler – 114 (4)
American Tree Sparrow – 8 (2)
Chipping Sparrow – 17
Savannah Sparrow – 23 (4)
Fox Sparrow – 5 (1)
Lincoln’s Sparrow – 7
White-crowned Sparrow – 22 (2)
Dark-eyed Junco – 105 (14)
Rusty Blackbird – 8 (3)
Purple Finch – 2
White-winged Crossbill – 2
Common Redpoll – 6
Pine Siskin – 3
= 2229 birds - 46 species - 0.341 birds/net hr (166 birds - 19 species – 0.284 birds/net hr)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Teslin Lake update - September 15

The funniest looking Ruby-crowned Kinglet ever!
The weather was very variable during the period from September 11th to 15th. We had the first snow fall for the valley bottom on the 11th and the 12th was lost to heavy rain. There was some more rain on the 13th and the last two days were windy so that we had to keep some of the nets closed. The big difference was in the bird movement. Passerines were out and about and many also found our nets. The busiest morning was the 14th when after heavy rain overnight and into the morning we opened two hours late and still managed to band 90 birds. Overall we banded 260 birds (0.554 birds/net hr) for a season total of 2063 birds (0.344 birds/net hr) of 45 species. The period top six was Ruby-crowned Kinglet 57, Orange-crowned and Yellow Warbler both 38, and Boreal Chickadee, Yellow-rumped and Wilson’s Warbler 27 each. The current season top five is Alder Flycatcher 827, Yellow Warbler 216, Yellow-rumped Warbler 153, Wilson’s Warbler 110 and Dark-eyed Junco 91. No new species for the season were caught. Of interest were somewhat late Northern Waterthrush on the 11th and Alder Flycatcher on the 15th plus three more Gray-cheeked Thrushes.

Orange-crowned Warblers were on the move last week

Boreal Chickadee tail-feather comparison - juvenile (L) and adult (R)
 
Both 11th and 12th were quiet bird days but on the 11th the season 1st three Trumpeter Swans were seen. There was a lot more action on the 13th when over 70 Pacific and 15 Red-throated Loons were observed. However, the day was mostly about passerine migration as over 2500 of them flew by. Most of them were Yellow-rumped Warblers but in the mix there were also well over 500 thrushes (half and half Robins and Varieds), 74 American Pipits and 36 Rusty Blackbirds. The 14th was a very busy day in the sky but unfortunately it was very busy at the nets at the same time and so with just two people staffing the station there was no time for migration counts until the afternoon. When ever one did have time to look up during the morning hours there was always a flock of geese or cranes or a harrier or some passerines hurrying south in strong northwest wind. In the end we were able to tally about 140 raptors including the season 1st juvenile Swainson’s Hawk and 12 Golden Eagles (early for such high count), almost 200 Sandhill Cranes, and 62 Rusty Blackbirds. Also seen was the season 1st Sabine’s Gull, a juvenile. At one point we witnessed a Peregrine nail a small gull that looked to have a lot of black on its wing but before we were able to confirm the identity of the prey the Peregrine had tucked it into its talons and carried it away. We never saw the Sabine’s after that... The 15th was rather quiet a day with obs.

Adult Common Loon passing the point

Pacific Loons

One last photo of specklebellies

juvenile male Northern Harrier

Identifying high-flying raptors has many challenges - physical and other. Juvenile Swainson's Hawk in Jukka's scope.

Not all Herring Gulls love each other!

Rose hips are yummy and full of vitamin C

The complete list of birds banded at TLBO this season by Sept 15th (the last five days in brackets):

Sharp-shinned Hawk – 9
Merlin – 1
Solitary Sandpiper – 3
Belted Kingfisher – 6
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1
Western Wood-Pewee – 3
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher –9
Pacific-slope Flycatcher – 1
Alder Flycatcher – 827 (1)
Least Flycatcher – 3
Hammond’s Flycatcher – 6 (1)
Dusky Flycatcher – 2
Warbling Vireo – 15
Black-capped Chickadee – 37 (3)
Boreal Chickadee – 65 (27)
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 11
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 75 (57)
Townsend’s Solitaire – 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush – 4 (3)
Swainson’s Thrush – 41 (1)
Hermit Thrush – 3 (2)
Varied Thrush – 1
Tennessee Warbler – 1
Orange-crowned Warbler – 74 (38)
Yellow Warbler – 216 (38)
Magnolia Warbler – 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler – 153 (27)
Townsend’s Warbler – 6
Blackpoll Warbler – 86 (2)
Cape May Warbler – 1
American Redstart – 20
Northern Waterthrush – 47 (1)
MacGillivray’s Warbler – 1
Common Yellowthroat – 41 (3)
Wilson’s Warbler – 110 (27)
American Tree Sparrow – 6 (5)
Chipping Sparrow – 17
Savannah Sparrow – 19 (2)
Fox Sparrow – 4
Lincoln’s Sparrow – 7
White-crowned Sparrow – 20 (7)
Dark-eyed Junco – 91 (13)
Rusty Blackbird – 5
Purple Finch – 2
White-winged Crossbill – 2
Common Redpoll – 6 (2)
Pine Siskin – 3
= 2063 birds - 45 species - 0.344 birds/net hr (260 birds - 20 species – 0.554 birds/net hr)