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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Teslin Lake update - August 31, 2015

Fresh snow on the surrounding mountains on the morning of Aug 30th

For the last ten days of August the weather remained very unsettled. Fortunately we only lost two full mornings of banding as for the most part the pattern remained the same - cloudy with showers in the morning and solid rain in the afternoon. It rained so much that the lake started to come up again. As much as it is the human nature to complain about the weather, the weather we had actually brought us some great birding and good numbers. As the fresh snow blanketed all of the alpine and lot of the treeline as well in the last few days of the month it first dropped many of the passerines living up there down and then, together with northwest winds, created an unprecedented exodus of Swainson's Hawks among other birds fleeting the suddenly early October like conditions.

This Ruby-crowned Kinglet was the 2000th bird banded this season

 Of the eight mornings we were able to operate on six we banded over a hundred birds. In total, we banded 939 birds and the top five was as follows: Alder Flycatcher 405, Yellow Warbler 137, Wilson's Warbler 77, Orange-crowned Warbler 68, and Yellow-rumped Warbler 58. Some of the more interesting birds banded included the season 2nd Olive-sided Flycatcher on the 27th, also the season 2nd Say's Phoebe on the 26th, the season first Gray-cheeked Thrush on the 23rd, two fairly late Tennessee Warblers, one on the 27th and the other on the 31st, the season first American Tree Sparrow on the 26th, and finally, a late Warbling Vireo and the season first Common Redpoll on the 31st. 

Adult (L) and hatch-year (R) Lincoln's Sparrow showing the color difference of the face and particularly rear eye-brow - pure gray on adult but with greenish tint on the HY

While the banding was very busy throughout the period the more interesting sightings and high visible migration counts took place late, between the 25th and the end of the month. The first wave of Greater White-fronted Geese was seen on the 25th when 1700 were tallied but the big movement went through in a few early afternoon hours of the 28th. That day's count 6850 is the observatory's 2nd highest. That day was also the first one with some notable raptor movement as 174 were counted including Northern Harrier 69, Sharp-shinned Hawk 34, Red-tailed Hawk 29, American Kestrel 27, Swainson's Hawk 9 and Peregrine Falcon 4. 390 Sandhill Cranes was also a very good count this early in the season and the seven Say's Phoebes seen during the morning set a new day record. The 29th was a day of heavy rain and no bird movement but on the 30th the wind started to blow from northwest again bringing a modest flight of 500 Greater White-fronted Geese, likely the last decent flight of the species this fall, and a tally of 146 raptors including Sharp-shinned Hawk 46, Red-tailed Hawk 40, Northern Harrier 27, Swainson's Hawk 10 and Peregrine Falcon 10. The 31st belonged to Swainson's Hawk as the day total of 52 far exceeded anything we had ever seen before and was about twice as many as the highest previous season total!! Other notable raptor counts for the day included Northern Harrier 64, Red-tailed Hawk 25, and Sharp-shinned Hawk 21. 

One of the many small flocks of Sandhill Cranes seen during the last few days of August

Due to rainy conditions many raptors flew very low and some like this American Kestrel even stopped briefly at the tip

While the Swainson's Hawk flight was the phenomenon of the period the two most exciting birds were both real big time rarities. A Black-and-white Warbler was first seen from the campground cooking shelter on the afternoon of the 29th and then caught and banded on the 30th. It was the first record for the observatory and for the whole Teslin area. Even more rare was an unidentified Chaetura swift (Chimney/Vaux's) seen briefly on the 28th. It was the first record for the Yukon!

The Black-and-white Warbler by the cooking shelter. Photo by Hélène Dion-Phenix and Francis Bordeleau-Martin

And presumably the same bird when caught and banded on the 30th

This Chaetura Swift was the first record for the Yukon

The sightings of other less common species during the period included two Sanderlings on the 24th, a Common Nighthawk flew over the campfire in the evening of the 26th and two were seen early the next morning, two American Golden-Plovers flew by on the 28th, a Townsend's Warbler was seen on both the 28th and the 29th, and a Baird's Sandpiper was seen on the 30th.

Bonaparte's Gulls are already uncommon in late August and birds in full juvenal plumage are really quite rare at that late a date

The season's first Downy Woodpecker stopped at the tip briefly on the 24th

The banding totals as of Aug 31 (the number in brackets indicates the number banded since the previous blog entry):

Sharp-shinned Hawk - 9 (3)
Solitary Sandpiper - 3
Belted Kingfisher - 6 (2)
Olive-sided Flycatcher -2 (1)
Western Wood-Pewee - 2
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 11 (3)
Alder Flycatcher - 953 (405)
Least Flycatcher - 4 (1)
Hammond's Flycatcher -10 (6)
Dusky Flycatcher - 1 (1)
Say's Phoebe - 2 (1)
Warbling Vireo - 7 (2)
Gray Jay - 1 (1)
Common Raven - 1
Black-capped Chickadee -24 (12)
Boreal Chickadee - 8 (8)
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 8 (2)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 31 (11)
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 2 (2)
Swainson's Thrush - 59 (31)
Hermit Thrush - 2 (1)
American Robin - 2
American Pipit - 1
Tennessee Warbler - 6 (2)
Orange-crowned Warbler - 99 (68)
Yellow Warbler - 293 (137)
Black-and-white Warbler - 1 (1)
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 137 (58)
Townsend's Warbler - 2
Blackpoll Warbler - 70 (21)
American Redstart - 27 (8)
Northern Waterthrush - 45 (11)
Common Yellowthroat - 35 (26)
Wilson's Warbler - 178 (77)
Chipping Sparrow - 25
Savannah Sparrow - 21 (7)
Fox Sparrow - 6 (5)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 21 (10)
White-crowned Sparrow - 9 (9)
Dark-eyed Junco - 28 (28)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1
Common Redpoll - 1 (1)

= 2157 (939) birds of 43 (7) species

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