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Monday, September 1, 2014

Teslin Lake update, August 31 2014

Volunteers Sarah Nägl (L) and Ariel Lenske (R) trying to figure out what the heck is this bird? Answer, a juvenile Common Redpoll without red poll.

Welcome to the first blog entry of TLBO's 2014 fall season. First we want to apologize for the lack of blog entries but we've had certain difficulties like no internet.

The season was opened a couple of days late due to other commitments of all the staff members. The lake water was and has been relatively high so that the sandbars at the mouth of Ten Mile Creek have just recently become visible and bad weather has hindered the operation more than on any other year. We've already lost six full mornings and parts of many other to rain and wind! On the plus side we've had two great long term volunteers - Ariel Lenske of Cowichan Bay, BC, spent three weeks with us and Sarah Nägl of Berlin, Germany, is still holding on and seems determined to stay into October!

A juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird - only the 2nd ever banded at TLBO

A juvenile Golden-crowned Sparrow
It has also been a very slow start for the season. The missed netting hours of course effect the number of birds banded but even when the weather did cooperate the going was slow early in the season. The migration finally picked up on Aug 20 and since then we've had many mornings around and over 100 birds banded including 224 banded on Aug 23. In spite of the good numbers lately the total is still less than on this date on the previous poorest year! As expected Alder Flycatcher (434) leads the way followed by Yellow Warbler (297), Pine Siskin (211), Yellow-rumped (121) and Wilson's Warbler (88). Pine Siskin has been the surprise species of the season as the current total is already twice the previous season high and siskin flocks continue to roam the area. The most interesting captures have been the observatory's 2nd and 3rd banded Brown-headed Cowbirds on Aug 7 and a Golden-crowned Sparrow, the 2nd ever banded in fall, on Aug 21. This season we've also put in some regular, weekly, effort in owl banding. Besides just playing a playback at the regular netting area we also set a site in some conifers higher up on the slope and away from the lake. This has so far resulted banding of eight Boreal Owls.

Pine Siskin - the current headline maker!

Our volunteers and the pile of used bird bags after 224 birds were banded on Aug 23
Wilson's Snipe is almost all bill!

 No actual rarities have been seen so far and visible migration has been very slow too. A nearly complete lack of migrating raptors and Thayer's Gulls is baffling. On Aug 27 over 3300 Greater White-fronted Geese were counted flying by the observatory as well as a lone Swainson's Hawk. Another one passed by the previous day. In the last couple of weeks species like Parasitic Jaeger and Red-throated Loon have become a regular sight on the lake and on the land species like Rusty Blackbird, American Pipit and Townsend's Solitaire have clearly started their fall movement too. A Sanderling touched down briefly on Aug  23, and there has been higher number of Red-necked Phalaropes seen than the average. Four sighted Black-backed Woodpeckers is a higher count than usual. Meanwhile we've seen only two Three-toed Woodpeckers and White-winged Crossbills have mysteriously almost disappeared after a summer of abundance.

A Merlin flying right over the banding table
This Northern Pintail has been living in the pond for a couple of weeks now!
The most exciting and rare sighting of the year has not been a bird but this leucistic Porcupine. Looks like a tiny spiny Polar Bear, doesn't it?

Here are the banding totals as of Aug 31 (including birds banded as part of the owling effort):

Sharp-shinned Hawk - 3
Solitary Sandpiper - 1
Wilson's Snipe - 1
Boreal Owl - 8
Belted Kingfisher - 7
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 3
Alder Flycatcher - 434
Least Flycatcher - 2
Hammond's Flycatcher - 4
Dusky Flycatcher - 3
Warbling Vireo - 12
Black-capped Chickadee - 13
Boreal Chickadee - 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 14
Swainson's Thrush - 41
American Robin - 9
Varied Thrush - 1
Orange-crowned Warbler - 27
Yellow Warbler - 297
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 121
Townsend's Warbler - 9
Blackpoll Warbler - 55
American Redstart - 25
Northern Waterthrush - 40
Common Yellowthroat - 39
Wilson's Warbler - 88
American Tree Sparrow - 2
Chipping Sparrow - 14
Savannah Sparrow - 11
Fox Sparrow - 2
Lincoln's Sparrow - 6
White-crowned Sparrow - 7
Golden-crowned Sparrow - 1
Slate-coloured Junco - 46
Rusty Blackbird - 1
Brown-headed Cowbird - 2
Purple Finch - 3
White-winged Crossbill - 2
Common Redpoll - 1
Pine Siskin - 211

Total = 1570 birds of 41 species

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