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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.


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
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