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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Teslin Lake update, September 30 2014

Raptor-eye view of TLBO (the small point in the middle on the foreshore)! This is what TLBO looks like from the raptor mountain often featured in photos of this blog. Photo © Vesta Mather
Well, this is a blog entry of a ten day period at TLBO unlike any other before. Sure there was rain and wind, lots of them, and even some snow but none of that bad weather can explain the nearly complete lack of birds in the nets. We only banded 38 birds (!!) during the day time effort and further 16 owls at night for a grand total of 54. Northern Shrike and Hermit Thrush, both on the 26th, were new species for the season. A Winter/Pacific Wren, a recent split where the identification criteria for non-vocalizing birds is yet to be established, was banded on the 22nd and was a new species for the site. TLBO's 1st ever Northern Saw-whet Owl was banded the same evening and amazingly another one was banded at our separate owl site the following night!

Winter/Pacific Wren

The 1st Northern Saw-whet Owl for TLBO! Below is the second one - so cute, so small!

The biggest news, however, were caused by the TLBO's 1st and roughly the Yukon's 5th Turkey Vulture that flew by on the 24th. Unfortunately it didn't come close enough for even record shots. On the same morning a juvenile Gyrfalcon put up a nice show by chasing some local gulls and sitting in various spruce trees for great scope views and some poor photos as it was so early in the morning that there was almost no light for photos. Another Gyrfalcon flew by on the 27th. Black-bellied Plover is a pretty common fall migrant in the Yukon so it may come as a surprise to our readers that the flocks of 11 and 17 birds seen on the 21st were only the 2nd and 3rd record for TLBO, something that the staff is equally baffled about!

An early morning juvenile Gyrfalcon

Other sightings of somewhat uncommon birds at TLBO included yet another Sanderling on the 21st, four Redheads and two Harlequin Ducks on the 23rd and an unidentified winter-plumaged Phalarope way out on the lake on the same day. A Belted Kingfisher seen on the 29th was the only bird seen that was behind its usual departure time. However, several species were seen for the first time this season: Long-tailed Duck and Long-billed Dowitcher on the 21st, and Tundra Swan, Ring-necked Duck and Glaucous Gull on the 23rd. Of uncommon migrants  72 Snow Geese were seen on the 24th and 82 on the 30th, 37 Canvasbacks on the 21st and 12 on the 23rd, and 13 Sandhill Cranes on the 21st, 69 on the 29th and 10 on the 30th.

Northern Pintail traveling with Canada Geese

A light-morph juvenile Harlan's Hawk is a funky looking thing!

Usually the big news at this time of the year are the big southbound flights of various species but so far we've had very few exciting movements happen. On the 21st under cloudy skies and rain 157 Lesser Scaup and 71 Pacific Loons were counted. Neither is a very high count but so far the highest for the season as was the count of 263 Canada Geese on the 23rd. On the 24th the wind turned north and the skies cleared, unfortunately, as the raptors climbed high and were very difficult to spot against the blue sky. We did manage to spot 195 of them, mostly Red-tailed (66) and Sharp-shinned Hawks (62) but also 16 American Kestrels and 10 Golden Eagles were seen. 119 White-winged Scoters on the following day was a record count for TLBO. On the 29th, without a warning from the weather forecast, the wind was suddenly blowing from northwest. With the wind came the first flight of Tundra Swans (615) and 305 raptors (123 Red-tails, 80 Rough-legged Hawks, 51 Sharp-shinns, and 27 Northern Harriers among others) were counted too. On the 30th as the snow flew a few more raptors were sailing the stormy nortwesterlies but no high counts were reached.

A seemingly black and white but actually wonderfully colorful Black-billed Magpie having some Burbot for breakfast

Chris Sukha (R) trying to prevent further bloodshed by holding the Shrike's bill as Jukka Jantunen (L) bands with already bleeding fingers! Photo © Sarah N├Ągl 

Here are the banding totals as of Sept 30 including birds banded as part of the owling effort (the number in brackets is the number banded since the last blog entry):

Sharp-shinned Hawk - 14
Solitary Sandpiper - 1
Wilson's Snipe - 1
Boreal Owl - 35 (17)
Northern Saw-whet Owl - 2 (2)
Belted Kingfisher - 9
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Western Wood-Pewee - 4
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 3
Alder Flycatcher - 506
Least Flycatcher - 2
Hammond's Flycatcher - 8
Dusky Flycatcher - 4
Northern Shrike - 1 (1)
Warbling Vireo - 12
Gray Jay - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 16 (1)
Boreal Chickadee - 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 3
Winter/Pacific Wren - 1 (1)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 69 (2)
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 10
Swainson's Thrush - 49
Hermit Thrush - 1 (1)
American Robin - 9
Varied Thrush - 3
Tennessee Warbler - 1
Orange-crowned Warbler - 149
Yellow Warbler - 504
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 177 (5)
Townsend's Warbler - 10
Blackpoll Warbler - 61
American Redstart - 25
Northern Waterthrush - 48
Common Yellowthroat - 82 (3)
Wilson's Warbler - 164 (1)
American Tree Sparrow - 21 (5)
Chipping Sparrow - 15
Savannah Sparrow - 17
Fox Sparrow - 17 (1)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 9 (1)
White-crowned Sparrow - 15
Golden-crowned Sparrow - 1
Slate-coloured Junco - 139 (9)
Rusty Blackbird - 10 (1)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 2
Purple Finch - 3
White-winged Crossbill - 2
Common Redpoll - 1
Pine Siskin - 303 (6)

Total = 2544 (54) birds of 50 species

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