Fall – 2008

Week 1:  August 1-7, 2008


No, this hatch-year male Northern Cardinal was not suffering from a receding ‘feather’-line! He is just showing off some of his remaining juvenile feathers on his head, contrasting with the mostly red body feathers that he has already moulted. By the end of fall, he will likely have completed this moult and be indistinguishable from older cardinals, a reminder of why we need to treat adult-looking cardinals as age unknown later in the year. (Photo by Barbara Frei)

# birds (and species) banded187 (32)187 (32)1029 (68)14007 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat42 (17)42 (17)240 (31)2466 (61)
# birds (and species) return11 (7)11 (7)103 (21)434 (31)
# species observed7171139194
# net hours386.5386.53298.725244.5
# birds banded / 100 net hours48.448.431.255.5

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marie-Anne Hudson

Assistants: Barbara MacDuff, Sophie Cauchon, Nicky Fleming, Gay Gruner, Chris Murphy, André Pelletier

Notes: MBO’s third full fall season got off to a very busy start on Wednesday, with 62 birds banded!  We were sort of expecting a busy day since we had quite the first day last year, but the birds really outdid themselves this time, with moulting Tennessee Warblers and young Nashville Warbler appearing in our nets on our very first day of the fall season (reinforcing our reason for starting so early!). Like last year though, the pace didn’t keep up, and with almost two days rained out due to an explosive thunderstorm, heavy rain, and several others hot and humid days, we closed out the week with 187 new birds banded, only slightly behind last year. Species banded for the first time in 2008 included Northern Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, and Ovenbird, which failed to find their way to the nets during the spring season. In addition, we had some returning visitors new for the site, namely a Trail’s Flycatcher repeat and a returning Ovenbird, which we have not seen since it was banded as an after-hatch year bird in September 2005!

Some more highlights of the week included a rather ‘gros’ Rose-breasted Grosbeak day, with 12 young birds caught in 2 net rounds!  Big thanks to Gay Gruner for risking fingers to help extract and band them all!  Many young Baltimore Orioles, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers and other young birds are around, so we are happy to know the MBO and Arboretum residents bred successfully this summer. Another (less painful) surprise was two young Golden-crowned Kinglets fresh out of the nest, which must have called the conifers in the Arboretum home this summer – the surprise being that the past two years, our first sightings of the fall season were on September 20 and 25, respectively.

Another great example of how adult birds in late summer / early fall can look much scruffier than young of the year – an after-hatch-year male above, compared to a hatch-year unknown below. (Photos by Marie-Anne Hudson)  

This week’s top ten is very interesting. Compared to last fall, the top 4 species are relatively similar, with the minor exception of Yellow Warblers and Song Sparrows jostling for the top spot (this year Yellow Warblers have it, while last year it was Song Sparrows by almost twice the number!). Yet the remainder of the birds, save our faithful Black-capped Chickadees were not on our list last year at all. The 5th spot goes to Gray Catbird, another local breeder in our shrubby habitat. Their position on the top 10 banded listed would come as no surprise to any of our volunteers on the site this week, for it is hard to walk a net round without at least a couple individuals ‘meowing’ from the bushes. The Tennessee Warblers, Traill’s Flycatchers, and White-throated Sparrows are species that usually come in decent numbers later in the month, so its seems migration is on the move a bit early for some species this year.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
Yellow Warbler (24) [2]1. American Goldfinch (17) [3]
2. Song Sparrow (22) [1]2. American Robin (16) [8]
3.Baltimore Oriole (16) [3]3. Red-winged Blackbird (15) [1]
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (15) [4]American Crow (13) [4]
5. Gray Catbird (12) [-]Song Sparrow (13) [2]
6. Traill’s Flycatcher (10) [-]6. Black-capped Chickadee (11)[5]
7. Tennessee Warbler (9) [-]7. Common Grackle (9) [4]
7. Black-capped Chickadee (9) [8]7. Cedar Waxwing (9) [6]
9. Common Yellowthroat (7)[-]9. Gray Catbird (7) [-]
9. White-throated Sparrow (7) [-]9. Blue Jay (7) [-]

Comparatively, the top 10 observed species shows quite a bit more overlap with last years numbers, with several of the more common breeders or residents as the main players. Here the biggest difference is a drop in abundance for certain species, namely the blackbirds. Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles were far scarcer this week than week 1 in 2007, and we have yet to see some larger flocks that we are accustomed to seeing gracing the treetops of MBO.

All in all we’ve had a very good start to our fourth complete fall season (fifth overall)!   We are all very excited for another season of banding and bird observation at the site. As we continue to grow and age as a station we gather a wealth of information and it becomes more and more interesting to look back over the years and see what population fluctuations and patterns emerge. We are entering a crucial time for data collection that will serve for future conservation planning. We are again so thankful to our wonderful volunteers that brave weather, bugs, and early morning to come and share the work and amazing experiences with us every day. We look forward to sending you future updates as our fall season continues, stay tuned!

Last but not least, a very special thanks to Paul Meldrum, Macdonald campus farm manager, for coming and mowing our paths on his own time. Thank you Paul, our paths have never been easier to walk!

What a lovely and beyond cute surprise in our nets, a juvenile Golden-crowned Kinglet! Its fluffy feathers and ‘baby-gape’, the fleshy and yellow skin at the base of the bill, means that this little one is pretty fresh out of its nest. (Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson)

As we enter our 4th full fall migration season, we have a higher and higher possibility to see some older returns such as this Ovenbird which we first banded in September 2005 as an after-hatch year bird. That means this individual is at least 4 years old, and survived at least 8 migration events between its breeding and wintering grounds! (Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson)



Week 2:  August 8-14, 2008


The numbers below prove that migration is well underway for many species, but there are others for which this is still very much part of their breeding season. Among this small group are House Wrens, on (at least) their second brood of the seaason currently … including this scruffy little youngster. (Photo by Barbara Frei)

# birds (and species) banded187 (42)374 (45)1216 (72)14194 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat47 (14)89 (20)287 (33)2513 (61)
# birds (and species) return11 (7)103 (21)434 (31)
# species observed7185140194
# net hours459.3845.8375825703.8
# birds banded / 100 net hours40.744.232.455.2

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Marie-Anne Hudson, Barbara Frei

Assistants: Sophie Cauchon, Anne Chen, Nicki Fleming, Gay Gruner, Marie-Melissa Kalamaras, Joëlle LaPalme, Helen Leroux, Barbara MacDuff, Mike Mayerhofer, Chris Murphy, André Pelletier, Laurie St-Onge

Notes: We closed out this week with 187 new birds banded – exactly the same as last week. If our nets hadn’t been closed by rain on a few days though, we’re sure we would have gotten close to 2006’s fall total for the week (225 of 40 spp), though we certainly surpassed last year’s 142 banded of 33 species. Fourteen new species for the season were observed this week: Turkey Vulture, Lesser Yellowlegs, American Woodcock, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Common Raven, Philadelphia Vireo, Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Magnolia Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Mourning Warbler, Canada Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler!  These birds bring our season total to 85 species, on par with last year at this time (84 spp) and just behind 2006 (91 spp). Thirteen new species for the season were banded, and four species were banded for the first time in 2008: Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Hermit Thrush, and our second-ever Golden-winged Warbler.

Highlights of the week include (obviously) banding the Golden-winged Warbler, having a Gray Catbird coming back to us after being banded as a second-year bird in 2005, chattering baby House Wrens at every turn (which were banded early in the week), and banding a ton of warblers (14 species).

This week’s top 10 banded species is nothing like last week’s, with six species being replaced. American Redstarts took over this week, in numbers that easily beat our previous weekly record of 15 banded in 2007. Other new entries in our top 10 include Red-eyed Vireo, which also appeared in good numbers at this time last year. Canada Warbler and Ovenbird appear half-way down and last on the list, respectively, mirroring 2006’s results from this time period.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. American Redstart (21) [-]1. Common Grackle (23) [7]
2. Baltimore Oriole (14) [3]2. American Crow (17) [4]
3. Traill’s Flycatcher (13) [6]3. American Goldfinch (15) [1]
Song Sparrow (12) [-]3. Black-capped Chickadee (15) [6]
Red-eyed Vireo (12) [-]5. Cedar Waxwing (14) [7]
6. Canada Warbler (10) [-]6. Blue Jay (12) [9]
7. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (8) [4]7. American Robin (11) [2]
8. Black-capped Chickadee (7) [7]8. Song Sparrow (9) [4]
8. House Wren (7) [-]9. Canada Goose (7) [-]
8. Ovenbird (7) [-]10. Gray Catbird (6) [9]

Comparatively, the top 10 observed species shows quite a bit more overlap with last week’s numbers, despite being somewhat shuffled. The Common Grackles are starting to flock up a little, but still aren’t anywhere near the giant flocks of past years. The only new species to creep onto the list this week is the Canada Goose, with small flocks starting to appear in or flying over the fields next to MBO

An impressive rarity, this hatch-year female was only the second Golden-winged Warbler ever banded at MBO. (Photo by Barbara Frei)



Week 3:  August 15-21, 2008


No matter what we do, this is a species that always looks like a hunchback!  This young Black- billed Cuckoo is only the third ever banded at MBO, and unlike the young Red-tailed Hawk that escaped our nets this week, we were able to get to the net in time to nab the cuckoo. (Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson)

# birds (and species) banded154 (33)528 (48)1370 (73)14348 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat51 (19)140 (26)338 (38)2564 (63)
# birds (and species) return11 (7)103 (21)434 (31)
# species observed7796142194
# net hours5201365.8427826223.8
# birds banded / 100 net hours29.638.732.154.7

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Marie-Anne Hudson, Barbara Frei Assistants: Anne Chen, David Davey, Andréanne Deschamps, Simon Duval, Nicki Fleming, Gay Gruner, Alless Kockel, Dominique Lantier, Dara Mashonas, Mike Mayerhofer, Chris Murphy, Ken Nomura, Katleen Robert, Laurie St-Onge, Rodger Titman

Notes: This week was Q-U-I-E-T with warm sunny days and mostly west winds. We banded 154 birds of 33 species, which despite feeling really slow, is roughly a 50% increase from last year at this time, so we’re not complaining – this just happens to be an annual lull between the earliest migrants and the next wave to come. Even so, 11 species were spotted this week for the first time this fall: Osprey, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Solitary Sandpiper, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blackburnian Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, and Purple Finch, bringing our seasonal total to 96 birds. Only three species were banded for the first time this season: Black-billed Cuckoo (also new for 2008), Black-throated Blue and Wilson’s Warblers. A new species to be repeated at MBO was a young male Mourning Warbler early in the week. The high number of repeats deserves mention actually, since it illustrates how stable things have been around here lately: the birds are sticking around and hitting the nets more than once!  These include Nashville, Magnolia, Wilson’s and Canada Warbler, birds we don’t often have hanging around for too long.

This week’s highlights SHOULD have included banding a young Red-tailed Hawk, but it managed to flop its way out of our nets before we were able to reach it. Real highlights include a tree full of warblers (seven species) on an otherwise uninspiring census, five species of raptors zipping by within the space of 10 minutes, the return of our little banded House Wrens in nets further away from their nest box (they’re exploring!), and banding four Great-crested Flycatchers (we’re one bird away from beating our record-high of six birds banded in the Fall of 2005).

This week’s top 10 banded species contains half of last week’s species, most notably the top spot: American Redstarts are still holding down the fort. The five new species are all warblers: Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow and Nashville, resulting in just two species on our list that are not warblers!  The Canada Warbler merits particular mention, as the total of 19 over the past two weeks already eclipses our previous high for any entire fall season. The numbers are especially encouraging given that the species was newly listed as Threatened by COSEWIC this past April, based on significant long-term declines across its breeding range.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. American Redstart (22) [1]1. American Crow (20) [2]
2. Magnolia Warbler (12) [-]2. Common Grackle (19) [1]
3. Chestnut-sided Warbler (10) [-]3. Black-capped Chickadee (16) [3]
3. Song Sparrow (10) [4]American Goldfinch (15) [3]
5. Baltimore Oriole (9) [2]5. American Robin (13) [7]
5. Canada Warbler (9) [6]6. Cedar Waxwing (12) [5]
5. Common Yellowthroat (9) [-]7. Blue Jay (8) [6]
8. Ovenbird (7) [8]8. Song Sparrow (7) [8]
8. Yellow Warbler (7) [-]9. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (6) [-]
10. Nashville Warbler (6) [-]9. Common Yellowthroat (6) [-]

Only two new species made it on to the top 10 observed list this week, and all the way at the bottom of the pile. The top eight have simply been reshuffled, again indicating the relative stability of the community around MBO this past week. Though we’ve enjoyed the slow pace this week which makes for some easy banding, we’re certainly looking forward to the cooler, bird-filled mornings of September and especially October!  Now is the time for new and old volunteers alike to brush up on the skills that will help us get through that busy period with quick and safe handling of all birds. There are still openings for volunteers on most mornings for the rest of the season, but we know from past experience the days will begin to fill up – reserve your preferences now if you can!

These guys always have something to say (or bite) when we need to take a photo. This Great-crested Flycatcher was no exception. (Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson)



Week 4:  August 22-28, 2008


A rare treat on Thursday was this trio of vireos (left to right: Red-eyed, Philadelphia, and Warbling) all caught on the same net round, the latter two just a metre apart in net DLast fall we banded just one Philadelphia Vireo, so we had to take advantage of the opportunity to compare the species. Note in particular the yellow throat and upper breast of the Philadelphia Vireo in comparison with the Warbling, and also its darker lores in contrast with the more pale face of the Warbling. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

# birds (and species) banded166 (35)694 (52)1536 (75)14514 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat36 (12)176 (27)374 (39)2600 (63)
# birds (and species) return1 (1)12 (7)104 (21)435 (31)
# species observed76105146195
# net hours5601905.84818.026763.8
# birds banded / 100 net hours29.536.431.954.2

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marcel Gahbauer, Marie-Anne Hudson

Assistants: Simon Duval, Nicki Fleming, Gay Gruner, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Helen Leroux, Barbara MacDuff, Barry Mantal, Chris Murphy, Rodger Titman

Notes: As expected, week 4 was fairly quiet, with the normal end of August lull resulting from the breeding species starting to slip away and many of the migrants we know will come, just not quite here yet. Despite the lower numbers, we were treated to an interesting mix of species, with several warbler species kicking around, and banding was slow but steady most days. Compared to last year, as well as last week, we are still ahead with both number of individuals and species banded. All in all, a nice week for our volunteers (and banders!) to brush up on things, enjoy a nice unhurried look at some uncommon species and get inspired for the rush ahead!

Time for a quiz: believe it or not, this closeup photo is enough to identify not only the species, but also give a clue to its sex!  See the bottom of this week’s update for the answer. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

Even a slow week can have significant highlights. This week, the biggest news was the addition of a 195th species to our all-time MBO checklist, a Common Nighthawk spotted first thing Wednesday morning. We also saw a Peregrine Falcon for the first time this year, and added Spotted Sandpiper, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Blackpoll Warbler to our list for this fall. In terms of banding, we got our first Eastern Phoebe and Blackburnian Warbler of the year, and our first Philadelphia Vireo and Blackpoll Warbler of the fall.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. Magnolia Warbler (19) [2]1. Common Grackle (28) [2]
2. American Redstart (17) [1]2. American Crow (26) [1]
3. Common Yellowthroat (14) [5]3. Blue Jay (15) [7]
Nashville Warbler (11) [10]3. Black-capped Chickadee (15) [3]
5. Song Sparrow (8) [3]5. American Robin (11) [5]
6. Mourning Warbler (6) [-]6. American Goldfinch (10) [4]
6. Tennessee Warbler (6) [-]7. Song Sparrow (8) [8]
6. Wilson’s Warbler (6) [-]8. Cedar Waxwing (7) [6]
9. Baltimore Oriole (5) [5]9. Common Yellowthroat (6) [9]
9. Black-throated Blue Warbler (5) [-]10. Gray Catbird (5) [-]

Common Grackles claim the top spot for birds observed on site this week, with groups from several individuals to 50 or more seen, but they all stayed high and tended to move past MBO rather than lingering. The noisy and familiar Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, and American Robins were also common sightings this week. Although small groups are seen daily, there seem to be fewer Cedar Waxwings than last year, and the House Wren family and friends must have moved on, since their chatter is no longer heard around every corner. Though not nearly common enough yet to make it into the table, we have been starting to see some raptors pass by, especially during our closing hour, the highlight on Tuesday being some prolonged interactions among Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged, and Red-tailed Hawks in the sky above while we compiled our daily totals.

For the top ten banded, well, bring on the warblers. With 8 out of the top 10 species, the warblers though small in number are fair of face. As last year at this time, Magnolia Warblers and American Redstarts are at the top of the list. Strangely enough Black-throated Blue Warblers are at the bottom, same place as last year too!  Missing this year compared to last are the Red-eyed Vireos, which are around but not nearly in the same number as last year. Instead the chattering Common Yellowthroats found their way into our nets in surprising numbers, giving them the number 3 spot. We were very lucky to get several Mourning Warblers as well, with 2/3 of last falls total number banded in this week alone.

We didn’t band a single Blackburnian Warbler in fall 2007, so were very pleased to have this hatch-year female visit us this week . (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

This scruffy-looking hatch-year Common Yellowthroat provided a good reminder that one needs to look closely at the face for black feathers – in this case while it looks black and might be called a male at a glance, the feathers aren’t actually far enough out of their dark shafts to tell (note the exposed ear) . (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

And here’s the mystery bird, a Yellow-shafted Flicker!  While the spots on the upper breast are more circular, those on the lower breast are heart-shaped on females – though beware it isn’t a failsafe field mark, as some males do have heart-shaped spots too. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)



Week 5:  August 29 – September 4, 2008


Magnolia Warblers were the most frequently banded species on all but one day this week, with as many on Sunday as in all of week .. a period during which Magnolia Warbler was already the most frequently banded species at MBO!. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

# birds (and species) banded271 (44)965 (59)1807 (78)14785 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat54 (20)226 (29)424 (37)2650 (62)
# birds (and species) return2 (2)14 (9)106 (22)437 (32)
# species observed82112147195
# net hours5532458.85371.027316.8
# birds banded / 100 net hours49.039.233.754.1

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marcel Gahbauer, Marie-Anne Hudson

Assistants: Sophie Cauchon, Anne Chen, David Davey, Simon Duval, Nicki Fleming, Sara Frechette, Gay Gruner, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Kristen Keyes, Genki Kondo, Dominique Lantier, Barbara MacDuff, Mike Mayerhofer, Chris Murphy, Andre Pelletier, Katleen Robert, Emilie Roy-Dufresne, Krystal Swift, Rodger Titman

Notes: The past couple of years, the fifth week of our fall season has been a slow period following the dispersal of local breeders, and preceding the arrival of the main push of fall migrants. However, this year we were pleasantly surprised, with more birds banded in the first four days of this week than any previous full week this fall – and by the end of the week, more than twice as many as this time last year. Contributing significantly to that was our Sunday total of 68 birds banded, the busiest day yet this season; Monday with another 52 birds matched the third busiest date of the fall. Even our “worst” two days this week, with 28 birds banded, matched the busiest day from the prevoius week!  We’ve never before had such a high count of species or individuals banded at this point in the season, nor number of species observed, and hope that our success to date is a good omen for the remainder of the fall.

Not only did the number of birds in the net rise nicely this week, but also the diversity – the 44 species banded represent our best weekly total for fall since week 7 of the 2005 season. This included 18 species of warbler, with particularly noteworthy catches being an unusually early Western Palm Warbler, and a Bay-breasted Warbler, always scarce at MBO (this was just our 12th one banded over the years). However, the number of species observed this week, 82, was rather typical for this time of year. Among those seen were 7 species observed for the first time this fall:  Eastern Wood-Pewee, Brown Creeper, Northern Parula, Bay-breasted Warbler, Palm Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and House Finch. More than half of those (the Brown Creeper, Bay-breasted Warbler, Palm Warbler, and Lincoln’s Sparrow) also paid us a visit in the nets for the first time this fall – as did Black-throated Green Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, and Purple Finch. Other banding highlights of the week included our second Black-billed Cuckoo of the season, and another five Philadelphia Vireos – a species we only caught once in 2007. Though we had just one return this week, it was interesting – our first Nashville Warbler return, caught for the first time since being banded as a heavily moulting adult on August 3, 2007.

Just as the bird numbers are beginning to build, our volunteer ranks are growing too with the return of McGill students – and arrival of new ones. On Thursday, we welcomed the ornithology class for a group visit, and we look forward to seeing all members of the class returning as volunteers over the course of the remaining 8 weeks of the fall season.

Blackpoll Warbler is one of the few species we traditionally band more often in spring than fall, but we thought our luck might be changing when we caught 11 on the first of Sunday’s net rounds. We got another five the following morning, but then they disappeared as quickly as they arrived … we are curious to see whether the next cold front will bring a second wave. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

Magnolia Warbler remained the most frequently banded species for a second week in a row, but shot up in numbers, with nearly three times as many of them as the Wilson’s Warbler in second place. Wilson’s Warblers have been increasing in numbers at MBO over the past three fall seasons, and it looks like we might be headed for another record tally this year. Again this week, warblers account for 8 of the most frequently banded species, with the only others among the top ten being Red-eyed Vireo and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher – the latter a particular surprise, as we banded just a single one all of last fall. Among the warblers, the Blackpoll was also a bit unexpected – we see them in good numbers during spring migration, but have never had more than 21 over an entire fall season. The Ovenbird count for the week was also unusually high, and the continued prominence of American Redstarts has them headed for a record season as well.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. Magnolia Warbler (62) [1]1. Common Grackle (60) [1]
2. Wilson’s Warbler (22) [6]2. Canada Goose (55) [-]
3. Common Yellowthroat (19) [3]3. American Crow (33) [2]
Blackpoll Warbler (16) [-]Black-capped Chickadee (20) [3]
5. American Redstart (15) [2]5. Magnolia Warbler (13) [-]
6. Red-eyed Vireo (14) [-]6. Blue Jay (12) [3]
7. Ovenbird (12) [-]7. American Goldfinch (11) [6]
8. Nashville Warbler (10) [4]8. Cedar Waxwing (10) [8]
9. Northern Waterthrush (8) [-]9. Common Yellowthroat (8) [9]
10. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (7) [-] 10. Song Sparrow (7) [5]10. American Robin (8) [5]

The list of species observed reflects a bit of a transition to later fall, with larger flocks of Canada Geese, Common Grackles, and Red-winged Blackbirds making appearances on numerous days. The crows remained common as usual, while the local populations of Black-capped Chickadees and American Goldfinches remain a significant presence. Magnolia Warbler, largely on the strength of the many individuals banded, was the other new entry on this week’s list, jumping into the top five. Based on past years, we expect the “early warblers” such as Magnolia, Nashville, and Redstart to start tapering off in numbers over the next week or two, while the sparrows (most notably White-throated and Song) begin to increase. However, every year is different – we trust that as usual, some surprises will be awaiting us over the next week.

Among the 18 species of warblers we handled this week was this Black-and-white Warbler, a dashing after-hatch-year male. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)



Week 6:  September 5-11, 2008


In the first three days of this week alone, we banded 18 species of warbler. The rarest of these was this hatch-year female Northern Parula, our first of the season and hopefully not the last – but with only one last fall and two the previous year, our expectations are low. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

# birds (and species) banded343 (43)1308 (62)2150 (78)15128 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat63 (15)293 (34)491 (41)2717 (63)
# birds (and species) return3 (3)17 (10)109 (22)440 (32)
# species observed84115148196
# net hours4332891.85804.027749.8
# birds banded / 100 net hours79.

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marcel Gahbauer, Marie-Anne Hudson, James Junda

Assistants: Chantel Broueou, Victoria Desmarais-Low, Nicki Fleming, Maura Forrest, Val Francella, Marianne Gagnon, Gay Gruner, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Kristen Keyes, Dominic Marie Lanthier, Helen Leroux, Barbara MacDuff, Barry Mantal, Chris Murphy, Sabrina Richard-Lalonde, Katleen Robert, Rodger Titman

Notes: Our unusually productive week 5 seems to have been a sign of things to come, as we had our busiest ever week 6, with the birds giving a hearty welcome to our new bander for the remainder of the 2008 fall season, James Junda!  He hails from the mountains of Colorado and has spent the last several years working with birds, including migration monitoring in New Brunswick, summer MAPS in Indiana, and banding both our migrants and exotic species during a winter in Jamaica. We are very fortunate to have James with us on the MBO team!  He claims to be a lucky bander, and his first three days on the job at MBO seemed to support that – more birds were banded during that short period than in the entire week 6 in two of our previous three fall seasons!  In the end, the weekly total was nearly 25% better than our previous best for this time of year (in 2006).

The high point of the week, in many ways, was Sunday. We banded 81 birds that day, our highest total so far this year, and with another 20 repeats also broke the 100-bird barrier … something we expect to see a few more times in the coming weeks if the kinglets, White-throated Sparrows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers show up in good numbers. By happy coincidence, Sunday was the morning dedicated to our annual MBO identification and moult workshop, so participants were treated to a great number of examples to reinforce the lessons from the Saturday afternoon classroom session. Better yet, the diversity of birds in the nets was exceptional that day – in fact, it marked the first time ever at MBO that we banded 30 different species in a day!  Among those were 16 warblers, and also for the first time at MBO, we banded all 4 vireo species in the same day (well, at least all of those we’ve ever seen here – we eagerly await the arrival of a YelloWhite-throated or White-eyed). As if all our luck at the nets wasn’t enough, Sunday also marked the discovery of species #196 for our all-time checklist, and it was a remarkable one at that – a wayward juvenile Northern Gannet flying south over MBO!

As great as Sunday was, most other days this week also proved memorable. Prior to the new record of 30 species banded in a day set on Sunday, Friday was our most diverse day since 2005, with 25 species banded. Overall, our 43 species banded for the week nearly matched last week’s 44, which we noted as being especially high. For three days running we banded over 20 Magnolia Warblers each morning … by Monday they had tapered off a bit, but another surge came through on Wednesday, helping push the weekly total to over 100 of them. That means that just in the last two weeks alone, we’ve banded more Magnolia Warblers than in all but one of our previous full seasons (and the record of 192 from fall 2005 has also fallen by now, considering those we banded earlier this fall). We won’t do a thorough search for new season records until we get to the end of October, but already halfway through this season we know we’ve banded record numbers of several other warblers, including Blackpoll, Mourning, Canada, Wilson’s, and American Redstart. It appears to have been a great year for breeding in the eastern boreal forest, and we hope that the later fall migrants will have been similarly successful. For the season, the number of species observed and banded remain just marginally ahead of our normal pace. However, the total number of individuals banded continues on a record pace, over 50% more than last year, and more than 100 individuals ahead of 2006.

Nashville Warblers haven’t been nearly as abundant as Magnolia Warblers this year, but did put on a good showing this week. While we’ve been overwhelmingly banding hatch-year birds, this after-hatch-year male with his bold white eye-ring and significant patch of rust-coloured crown feathers provided a nice contrast to the younger birds. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

Magnolia Warbler remained on top of the list of birds banded for an unprecedented third week in a row, once again increasing in numbers and widening the gap between first and second place. Thanks perhaps in part to the continuing warm weather, week 6 remained dominated by warblers, including the 5 most frequently banded species, and 8 of the top 11. White-throated and Song Sparrows tend to increase around mid-September, and both started making their presence known this week. The other species in this week’s list was Red-eyed Vireo, largely on the strength of a flock of 7 that hit the last of the B nets at closing time on Friday.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. Magnolia Warbler (109) [1]1. American Crow (83) [3]
2. Nashville Warbler (22) [8]2. Common Grackle (42) [1]
3. Wilson’s Warbler (20) [6]3. Cedar Waxwing (33) [8]
Common Yellowthroat (16) [-]Canada Goose (29) [2]
Tennessee Warbler (16) [3]5. Magnolia Warbler (23) [5]
6. Red-eyed Vireo (14) [6]6. Black-capped Chickadee (21) [4]
7. White-throated Sparrow (13) [-]7. American Robin (20) [10]
8. American Redstart (11) [5]8. American Goldfinch (16) [7]
8. Blackpoll Warbler (11) [4]9. Blue Jay (13) [6]
8.Black-throated Green Warbler (11) [-] 8. Song Sparrow (11) [10]10. Common Yellowthroat (8) [9]

This week’s list of most frequently observed species features the same cast of characters as last week. The waxwing influx was most noticeable on Monday, when at least 100 of them were milling about, though we managed to get only a couple of youngsters in the nets. The rest of the list shuffled a bit from last week, with crows moving back up to the top as the grackle flocks tapered off a bit. They will likely build again as we head toward late fall, as will the Canada Goose numbers. The position of Magnolia Warbler might be expected to be higher, considering how many we banded, but many days we saw hardly any other than the ones we found in the nets – either they were all very eager to get a bit of new jewelry, or just awfully secretive (though admittedly on the busiest days, we could have used a couple of extra pairs of eyes to keep up with observations outside). Although many of the warblers were observed in relatively low numbers, we counted an average of close to 15 species per day this week, an impressive number for anywhere in southern Quebec at this time of year.

This Blue-headed Vireo was our fourth species of vireo banded on this week’s very busy Sunday, and also was the first of its kind banded at MBO this fall. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

This warbler highlights the importance of looking at all of the key field marks. The overall impression pointed several observers toward Cape May Warbler at first – but others astutely noted that the bill was somewhat too thick, and there was too much black on the upper breast. But most significantly, the rump (as shown in the photo below) is grayish-green, whereas Cape May Warblers have distinctly yellow rumps. (Photos by Marcel Gahbauer)



Week 7:  September 12-18, 2008


A sure sign of the advancing season was the arrival of Yellow-rumped Warblers this week. This hatch-year male shows a distinct contrast between the dull brownish primary coverts, primaries, and secondaries of the wing, relative to the darker and fresher greater coverts. (Photo by James Junda)

# birds (and species) banded203 (35)1511 (66)2353 (79)15331 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat67 (19)360 (36)558 (42)2784 (64)
# birds (and species) return3 (3)20 (11)112 (22)443 (32)
# species observed76119149196
# net hours3583249.86162.028107.8
# birds banded / 100 net hours45.246.538.354.5

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marie-Anne Hudson, James Junda

Assistants: Katrina Belanger-Smith, Virginie Cabana-Vaudrin, Sophie Cauchon, Amélie Constantineau, Shawn Craik, Genevieve D’Avignon, Nicki Fleming, Sara Fréchette-Laflamme, Marieann Gagnon, Tiffany Gamelin, Marie-Hélene Gauthier, Gay Gruner, Vicki Houde, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Kristen Keyes, Christie Lovat, Barbara MacDuff, Mike Mayerhofer, Melanie McCormick, Christina Miller, André Pelletier, Emilie Roy-Dufresne, Cat Spina, Krystal Swift, Rodger Titman, Fredella Weil, Brigette Zacharczenko

Notes:  After the busiest week 6 we’ve ever had, things seemed calmer for week 7 of our 2008 fall banding season. With two days washed out by rain and another half-day for net opening, our lower number of exactly 200 birds is no small surprise, and our banding rate was actually quite close to our season average so far. Interestingly we had the same number of repeat birds as last week, with a higher number of species. During these rainy days, MBO serves as a welcome stopover for many birds, as they rest from the latest leg of their journey and gorge themselves on the ripening fruit in the area, including apples, hawthorns, buckthorn, and wild grapes. But this may indeed be the calm before the storm!   Our total number of birds banded for the season is still 50% higher than last year at this time, and with several of our ‘key’ species slowly starting to increase in number, peak migration appears to be right around the corner!

The highlights this week were 4 species banded for the first time this season – Winter Wren, Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, and Slate-coloured Junco. Meanwhile, new additions to our list of species observed this fall included a Double-crested Cormorant flying arrow-straight over the site, an American Kestrel as a treat for our Tuesday census walk, and a skulking Virginia Rail in Stoneycroft pond on the same day. Also of note was our first ever Least Flycatcher repeat. Repeat birds (birds that are re-caught within 3 months of previous capture) cannot provide information on longevity or population dynamics like returns (those caught for the first time more than 3 months) can, yet they indicate to us that our site is composed of habitat and food sources capable of providing our repeat birds with a short term home. And that’s pretty neat too!

Brown Creepers are always a special treat since they pass through MBO in small numbers. They are one of the woodland birds for which the B/N nets are particularly good. (Photo by James Junda)

Magnolia Warblers, though far down in number compared to huge wave of last week are still easily the top bird banded this week, now for a remarkable four weeks in a row. White-throated Sparrows have jumped up into second spot past all the other warbler species – not surprising, as they were the top species at this time last year. Tennessee Warbler, with a second consecutive strong week of movement, have now been added to the growing list of warblers with record high numbers this fall. Although half of the top 10 species are still warblers, a change is on the way. Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a major player in the weeks to come, have begun making an appearance this week. A bigger surprise was seeing Blue Jay make the list for the first time since late 2006, with more individuals banded this week than during our entire fall 2007 season. Everyone who has been on site this fall can attest to their noisy presence, but having this many in the nets was a surprise all the same!

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. Magnolia Warbler (36) [1]1. American Crow (86) [1]
2. White-throated Sparrow (20) [7]2. Canada Goose (42) [4]
3. Nashville Warbler (19) [3]3. Cedar Waxwing (29) [3]
Tennessee Warbler (18) [4]Red-winged Blackbird (24) [-]
5. Song Sparrow (10) [8]5. Common Grackle (19) [2]
6. Blue Jay (9) [-]6. Black-capped Chickadee (17) [6]
6. Common Yellowthroat (9) [4]7. Blue Jay (14) [9]
8. American Redstart (8) [8]8. American Goldfinch (13) [8]
8. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (8) [-]9. Magnolia Warbler (9) [5]
10. American Goldfinch (7) [-] 10. Red-eyed Vireo (7) [6]10. White-throated Sparrow (8) [-]

The top 10 observed has not changed drastically between week 6 and 7 this fall. The biggest changes are the increases of Canada Goose and Red-winged Blackbird flocks and the arrival of twittering White-throated Sparrows in the bushes and tangles – though we’re sure they’ll quickly rise further up the list in the weeks to come.

There have been a number of good days already this fall for enjoying the raptor migration overhead, but they’ve rarely come down low, so getting this hatch-year male Sharp-shinned Hawk in the net this Wednesday was a highlight for everyone present. (Photo by James Junda)



Week 8:  September 19-25, 2008


Each year, late September heralds the arrival of many White-throated Sparrows at MBO. This nicely marked individual, one of 50 banded this week, had something to say about being photographed after receiving its shiny new band. (Photo by James Junda)

# birds (and species) banded392 (35)1903 (67)2745 (79)15723 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat69 (13)429 (37)627 (42)2853 (64)
# birds (and species) return3 (3)23 (14)115 (22)446 (32)
# species observed78122150196
# net hours536.53786.36698.528644.3
# birds banded / 100 net hours73.650.341.154.9

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marie-Anne Hudson, James Junda

Assistants: Jean Bacon, Virginie Cabana-Vaudrin, Christine Cadieux, Sophie Cauchon, David Davey, Ana De Aguayo, Nicki Fleming, Sara Fréchette-Laflamme, Maura Forrest, Tiffany Gamelin, Gay Gruner, Cristina Guillamette, Janina Heim, Vicki Houde, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Kristen Keyes, Christie Lovat, Barbara MacDuff, Mike Mayerhofer, André Pelletier, Greg Rand, Emilie Roy-Dufresne, Cat Spina, Kristal Dumesnil Swift, Rodger Titman, Fredella Weil

Notes: Our prediction that some of our ‘key players’ would be turning up this week has proven to be true. Along with the second half of September and the second half of the fall migration season, the birds have arrived en masse! With almost double the number of birds banded this week compared to last, yet the same number of species, we see a new pattern emerging. We are seeing a lower diversity of birds, now that most of the warblers and flycatchers are on their way out, but a higher volume as our top species, the Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated Sparrows and Ruby-crowned Kinglets migrate past us in large numbers. Our total for the season remains over 50% higher than in 2007, both in terms of total number of birds banded, and number banded per net hour.

Highlights this week included two species banded for the first time this fall – Yellow Palm Warbler (which is actually one of 2 subspecies of the Palm Warbler we see during migration) and Eastern White-crowned Sparrow, and two species newly observed for the season – Cackling Goose and Greater Yellowlegs. Diversity of species seen on the site has dropped, yet an average of 40+ species are still being seen or banded at MBO on a daily basis. In contrast, the number of birds banded each day has increased to between 50 – 70 individuals.

Yellow-rumped Warblers jumped easily into the number one spot of the top ten species banded this week, with 167 birds banded – the first species this year to top 150 individuals in a single week. White-throated Sparrows remain in the number 2 spot, despite having more than doubled their numbers between week 7 and 8. Meanwhile, Ruby-crowned Kinglets have tripled their numbers from a week ago, and vaulted into third place. Magnolia Warblers have at last dropped significantly, while Nashville and Tennessee Warblers have maintained similar numbers and positions, as has Song Sparrow. The Golden-crowned Kinglet is a new addition near the bottom of this week’s list, but may well move up in prominence over the weeks to come, as their numbers typically peak in early to mid-October.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. Yellow-rumped Warbler (170) [-]1. Canada Goose (448) [2]
2. White-throated Sparrow (50) [2]2. American Crow (144) [1]
3. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (24) [8]3. Yellow-rumped Warbler (46) [-]
Nashville Warbler (20) [3]Red-winged Blackbird (36) [4]
5. Tennessee Warbler (16) [4]5. White-throated Sparrow (29) [10]
6. Song Sparrow (13) [5]6. Blue Jay (23) [7]
7. Magnolia Warbler (10) [1]7. Cedar Waxwing (22) [3]
8. Common Yellowthroat (8) [6]8. American Robin (17) [-]
8. Golden-crowned Kinglet (8) [-]9. Black-capped Chickadee (16) [6]
10. Blue Jay (7) [6]10. American Goldfinch (14) [8]

For the top species observed on site this week, Canada Geese are the clear winners, as their familiar calls and V-formations often darken the skies in the early morning hours. Volunteers old and new are now well versed to dash to the nearest clearing and turn their eyes to the sky with the first honk heard in order to be the first to correctly count the flocks overhead. The birds of early fall, such as the Cedar Waxwings, are slowly disappearing and we see more of the later fall species on site, such as the Black-capped Chickadees, Red-winged Blackbirds, and White-throated Sparrows. Also of note, American Robin has crept into the bottom of the list this week, and likely represents the advance guard of the hundreds of individuals we often see daily over the final three weeks of the fall season. Just the ten most abundant species alone accounted for an average of more than 800 birds per day observed at MBO this week.

While most of the flycatchers are early fall migrants at MBO, the Eastern Phoebe is an exception, with migrants tending to peak in late September or early October (though overall, our highest numbers are sometimes in August, when the local breeding pairs and their offspring are seen regularly). (Photo by Barbara Frei)



Week 9:  September 26 – October 2, 2008


Orange-crowned Warblers may sometimes be confused with Tennessee Warblers, as both have a similar greenish-olive colouration, but the yellowish eye-crescents of the Orange-crowned Warbler are quite distinctive – and in the hand, the crown itself is often visible too, as in the second photo below. Although common in western North America, it is much less abundant in the east, with a dozen or fewer banded at MBO each year, so it is always a welcome highlight when one stops in for a visit. (Photo by Barbara Frei)

# birds (and species) banded1113 (48)3016 (71)3858 (82)16836 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat135 (14)564 (38)762 (43)2988 (64)
# birds (and species) return23 (14)115 (22)446 (32)
# species observed76126150196
# net hours377.54163.87076.029021.8
# birds banded / 100 net hours294.872.454.658.0

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marie-Anne Hudson, James Junda

Assistants: Jean Bacon, Jean-François Beauchemin, Katrina Belanger-Smith, Virginie Cabana-Vaudrin, Sophie Cauchon, Victoria Chang, Shawn Craik, Nicki Fleming, Tiffany Gamelin, Tiffany Gilchrist, Gay Gruner, Cristina Guillamette, Jeff Harrison, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Genki Kendo, Kristen Keyes, Christie Lovat, Barbara MacDuff, Mike Mayerhofer, André Pelletier, Greg Rand, Brittney Roughan, Emilie Roy-Dufresne, Marylise Schmit, Cat Spina, Rodger Titman, Fredella Weil, Brigette Zacharczenko

Notes: If we would be bold enough to sum up this week in a single and eloquent word…. WOW!!  Well, maybe not so eloquent – but week 9 of the 2008 fall migration season at MBO was a week during which we were repeatedly surprised at the records being broken. We suspected that one of our traditional ‘key species’, the Yellow-rumped or Myrtle Warbler, would show up in large numbers this year. They, like many other species, appear to have a 2-year cycle of highs and lows (in numbers) based on data at MBO over our first several seasons. Since 2006 was a high year (from what we could tell) for these ‘butter-butts’, we expected good numbers this fall, but nothing like we experienced this week – MBO was literally dripping with warblers!  They absolutely stole the show, with the 729 yellow-rumps banded this week shattering (on their own) our previous high for the number of birds banded in a week, all species combined!  Altogether, they accounted for 65% of the 1113 birds banded during week 9. For the first time in MBO’s history, we banded over 200 birds in a day – and then we did so twice more before the week was over, despite missing a day due to rain, and reducing net hours on most other days to keep the volume of birds safely manageable!

Beyond the Yellow-rumped Warblers, there were other highlights at the station this week. Four species were banded this week for the first time this fall – Wood Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Savannah Sparrow. Species observed for the first time this season included a flyover Greater Black-backed Gull and Rusty Blackbird.

A closeup of the Orange-crowned Warbler’s head, showing where it gets its name. (Photo by Barbara Frei)

Among the top ten species banded this week, Yellow-rumped Warblers of course won the top spot easily, with more than 4 times as many as were banded last week. Our other key species this week, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and White-throated Sparrows, were in second and third place respectively, and also doubled to quadrupled their numbers since last week. Last year there was also a good jump in White-throated Sparrows and a lesser one for Ruby-crowned Kinglets in week 9, but there were a mere 12 Yellow-rumped Warblers banded then. In fact, several times this week we banded more Yellow-rumped Warblers in one day than we did over the entire fall 2007 season (just 68 birds, reflecting the dramatic differences between highs and lows of this apparent cycle). Amidst all of the super-abundant birds, a pleasant surprise in the lower half of the list was the Blue-headed Vireo, which has only made the top 10 list once before … in week 9 of 2006. Reflecting a pattern we’ve noted for several species this fall (including the Yellow-rumped Warbler this week), we banded almost as many Blue-headed Vireos this week as we ever have before in a full season! A couple of final species of note – the strong flight of Magnolia Warblers this fall is reflected by their continued presence in decent numbers at a time of year when we usually only see the last few stragglers, while the entry of the Slate-coloured Juncos at the bottom of the list is a sign that while migration is peaking, the later species are beginning to arrive, and we can expect a significant drop in diversity over the remaining four weeks of the season.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. Yellow-rumped Warbler (688) [1]1. Canada Goose (310) [1]
2. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (111) [3]2. American Crow (206) [2]
3. White-throated Sparrow (74) [2]3. Yellow-rumped Warbler (155) [3]
Nashville Warbler (36) [4]American Robin (34) [8]
5. Song Sparrow (24) [6]5. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (33) [-]
6. Blue-headed Vireo (18) [-]6. Red-winged Blackbird (32) [4]
7. American Goldfinch (12) [-]7. White-throated Sparrow (27) [5]
8. Magnolia Warbler (11) [7]8. Common Grackle (27) [-]
8. Tennessee Warbler (11) [5]9. Blue Jay (18) [6]
10. Slate-coloured Junco (10) [-]10. Cedar Waxwing (17) [7]

The ten most frequently observed species this week has changed little in comparison to week 8. Canada Goose and American Crow numbers have dropped, though they are both still secure in the top two spots. Conversely, Yellow-rumped Warblers have also maintained their position, but with a big spike in numbers, reflecting how omnipresent they were all around the site this week.

We could have photographed any number of Yellow-rumped Warblers for this space in the weekly report, but instead decided to focus on this colourful fellow. Although not as vivid as in its spring plumage, this after-hatch-year male still has splashes of blue, especially on his shoulder and tail. (Photos by Barbara Frei)



Week 10:  October 3-9, 2008


This hatch-year Bicknell’s Thrush may have been one of the young hatched this year from the small population at Mont Tremblant – a reminder that there is the potential for great surprises at MBO every morning. (Photo by Barbara Frei)

# birds (and species) banded1113 (40)4129 (74)4971 (83)17949 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat153 (16)717 (42)915 (46)3141 (64)
# birds (and species) return1 (1)24 (14)116 (22)447 (32)
# species observed75129150196
# net hours377.54541.37453.529399.3
# birds banded / 100 net hours294.890.966.861.0

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marie-Anne Hudson, James Junda

Assistants: Jean Bacon, Jean-François Beauchemin, Louise Bédard, Christine Cadieux, Marie-Eve Campin, Sophie Cauchon, David Davey, Genevieve D’Avignon, Luc Farly, Nicki Fleming, Maura Forrest, Tiffany Gamelin, Tiffany Gilchrist, Gay Gruner, Cristina Guillamette, Meggy Hervieux, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Kristen Keyes, Gillian Kinsman, Marjolaine Lagacé, Barbara MacDuff, Mike Mayerhofer, Betsy McFarlane, Chris Murphy, Chloé Nadeau-Perrier, André Pelletier, Brittney Roughan, Cat Spina, Rodger Titman, Brigette Zacharczenko

Notes: Peak migration is still underway at MBO!  Remarkably the number of birds banded this week was exactly the same as last week, at a whopping 1113 – more than twice as many individuals banded this week as during week 10 of 2007. As well, we are at an unbelievable 2.5 times the number of birds banded overall this fall compared to last fall at this time.

Week 10 was a week with several highlights beyond the sheer number of birds banded. Three species were banded this week for the first time this fall – American Tree Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, and … Bicknell’s Thrush!  What a treat for the Monday crew, to find this rare thrush in the nets. Only one other Bicknell’s Thrush has been banded in the history of MBO. There is a small breeding population of these elusive birds in Mont Tremblant Park, which is probably the source of the rare individuals we’ve spotted at MBO during migration. Further proof that we never know what surprises await on any given morning, and how quickly an ordinary day can turn extraordinary. In addition, two more species were added to this fall’s overall checklist – a Northern Goshawk and a pair of American Pipits.

As the warblers leave, they are replaced by a wider variety of sparrows – a group that usually blesses MBO with both a good diversity and abundance of birds. This hatch-year Chipping Sparrow is the smallest of the species we reguarly see at MBO. (Photo by Barbara Frei)

For the top ten banded this week, very little has changed in the top three spots, with the Yellow-rumped Warblers still in a very clear lead, despite a small drop in numbers – hard as it still is to believe that 649 in one week could be considered a reduced quantity. Like last week they were followed by Ruby-crowned Kinglet and White-throated Sparrow, each of which increased slightly in numbers. While they both topped the 100 bird mark for the week, the Yellow-rumped Warblers overshadowed them to such an extent that their peak wasn’t evident until we looked at the total numbers at the end of the week. Song Sparrow and American Robin both jumped up several spots in the list, as their late season migration became more evident. Nashville Warblers were the only other warbler to make it into the top ten this week, with most others now having made their way well to the south already.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. Yellow-rumped Warbler (650) [1]1. Canada Goose (428) [1]
2. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (126) [2]2. Yellow-rumped Warbler (178) [3]
3. White-throated Sparrow (100) [3]3. American Robin (108) [4]
Song Sparrow (32) [5]American Crow (106) [2]
5. American Robin (28) [-]5. Common Grackle (85) [8]
6. Slate-coloured Junco (23) [10]6. White-throated Sparrow (57) [7]
7. Nashville Warbler (21) [4]7. Red-winged Blackbird (50) [6]
8. White-crowned Sparrow (19) [-]8. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (49) [5]
9. Golden-crowned Kinglet (14) [-]9. Blue Jay (18) [9]
10. Hermit Thrush (12) [-]10. Black-capped Chickadee (17) [-]

Canada Geese were still seen in large flocks daily this week. The Yellow-rumped Warblers jumped up to the second most frequently observed species of the week – it’s not often that a small songbird beats out the large and noisy flocks of robins, crows, and blackbirds for such a prominent spot on the list, but it reflects the sheer number of these little guys around!  The remainder of the top ten species are all common fall birds for the station. With an average of 1000+ individuals seen on site each day, MBO has been a busy place indeed this week 10.

Another of the less commonly seen sparrows at MBO is the Savannah Sparrow, which resembles the much more abundant Song Sparrow to an extent. The Savannah has smaller, finer streaks on the breast, and distinctly yellow patches in the supercilium (over the eyes). Our local breeders have already migrated, so these later individuals are likely from the numerous bogs and grassy wetlands in northern Ontario, Quebec, or Labrador. (Photos by Barbara Frei)



Week 11:  October 10-16, 2008


This year’s finch forecast appears to be correct at least for Pine Siskins, which were predicted to arrive in good numbers this fall and winter – and indeed, we observed more of them at MBO this week than ever before during our migration monitoring efforts. This after-hatch-year male shows extensive yellow in his rectrices and primaries. (Photo by Barbara Frei)

# birds (and species) banded530 (27)4659 (77)5501 (84)18479 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat122 (15)839 (46)1037 (48)3263 (65)
# birds (and species) return5 (3)29 (14)121 (22)452 (32)
# species observed62134154197
# net hours373.04914.37826.529772.3
# birds banded / 100 net hours142.194.870.462.1

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marie-Anne Hudson, James Junda

Assistants: Jean Bacon, Jean-François Beauchemin, Christine Berry, Christine Cadieux, Victoria Chang, Sophie Cauchon, David Davey, Genevieve D’Avignon, Luc Farly, Nicki Fleming, Tiffany Gamelin, Tiffany Gilchrist, Gay Gruner, Meggy Hervieux, Grace Hlywa Maytan, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Kristen Keyes, Barbara MacDuff, Chris Murphy, Marie Nicole, André Pelletier, Cat Spina, Audrey Saumure Di Fruscia, Rodger Titman, Victor Tomasson, Carine Touma

Notes: After an extremely busy last two weeks, the reduced volume of birds in the nets during week 11 provided a welcome respite for us – though actually the total of over 500 birds banded still ranks among our busiest ever. With fewer birds on the move we were able to resume operating our full set of nets, but instead high winds and light rain on several mornings limited our net hours for the week.

Highlights this week included three species banded for the first time this fall – Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Shrike and Pine Siskin!  This marked the first time that we banded Pine Siskins at MBO during our migration monitoring season – previously the only occasion we banded any was a single day in February 2006 as part of our winter population monitoring efforts. We were therefore delighted to have a large flock of these finches on site this week, especially since 14 of them found their way into our nets!  Additional highlights included our first Rough-legged Hawk of the year, and a new species for the site – a Ruffed Grouse seen along the census trail. This brings us to a whopping 197 species seen at MBO so far – just 3 shy of 200!  What could the next 3 species be?  Likely candidates (based on sightings in adjacent areas over the past couple of years) include Great Egret, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, and Carolina Wren … but we’d also be happy to have some more exotic surprises help us reach this milestone.

The diversity of species observed and banded dropped considerably in comparison with last week, as is expected in mid-October. Most of the warblers have finished passing through, except of course the Yellow-rumped Warbler. Despite a large drop from 649 banded last week to 209 banded this week, it remained firmly ensconced in the number 1 position on the list of most frequently banded species for week 11. This continues a remarkable season for warblers – every week this fall, a warbler species has topped this list (Yellow Warbler in week 1, American Redstart in weeks 2-3, Magnolia Warbler in weeks 4-7, and Yellow-rumped Warbler in weeks 8-11). With even the Yellow-rumped Warblers finally tapering off, it seems likely that non-warblers may finally dominate over the final two weeks of the fall, but it has been an impressive streak in any case, considering how dominant kinglets and sparrows have been in past fall seasons.

American Robins jumped to the number 2 spot this week with a hundred banded, and also moved up to the top of the list of most frequently observed birds. Flocks of 200 or more individuals can be seen most mornings, with their shrill cries and melodious snippets of songs echoing through the large cottonwood trees next to the station. All our helpful extractors can attest to the abundance of robins all too well, as they went home most days with purple-stained fingers (and clothes), thanks to the loose bowels of these birds and their preference for eating the purple-fleshed buckthorn berries so common at MBO. The remainder of this week’s top 10 birds banded were of relatively smaller numbers and included four sparrow species, a modest movement of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a fraction of the Pine Siskin flock, Common Grackles, and for the second week in a row, Hermit Thrush.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. Yellow-rumped Warbler (209) [1]1. American Robin (260) [3]
2. American Robin (103) [5]2. Red-winged Blackbird (176) [7]
3. Slate-coloured Junco (53) [6]3. Canada Goose (175) [1]
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (34) [2]American Crow (154) [4]
5. Song Sparrow (32) [4]5. Common Grackle (82) [5]
6. White-throated Sparrow (25) [3]6. Yellow-rumped Warbler (59) [2]
7. Pine Siskin (14) [-]7. European Starling (49) [-]
8. Hermit Thrush (13) [10]8. White-throated Sparrow (26) [6]
9. Common Grackle (8) [-]9. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (21) [8]
10. White-crowned Sparrow (7) [8]10. Pine Siskin (21) [-]

Among the top 10 species observed, there was a decrease in the number of individuals observed overall, save for the robins. Pine Siskins made their first ever appearance on this list, while European Starling was the only other species added since last week. Canada Geese are tapering off, while the mixed blackbird flocks remain fairly sizeable, but are largely staying up high and flying overhead, rather than spending much time within the site itself.

Northern Shrikes are aptly nicknamed “butcher birds”, for their habit of impaling prey on hawthorns and using their hooked beak to tear apart their food. This individual, our first Northern Shrike banded in 2008, was a hatch-year bird, easily identified by its incomplete face mask and the distinctly contrasting moult limit between the black greater coverts and the brown alula, primary coverts, and primaries. (Photo by Barbara Frei)



Week 12:  October 17-23, 2008


With migration tapering off, we finally had a bit more time to appreciate the gorgeous fall colours at MBO this fall. This photo was taken from the small lookout point along the census trail on the west side of Stoneycroft Pond. In addition to showing the nice line of sugar maples in the distance, it highlights the dramatic invasion of cattails into the pond – some active habitat management is needed before next spring to ensure that the pond does not get further choked out by vegetation, limiting its attractiveness to birds that have nested in the past, such as Pied-billed Grebes and Canada Geese. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

# birds (and species) banded218 (14)4877 (77)5719 (84)18697 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat52 (12)891 (47)1089 (48)3315 (65)
# birds (and species) return29 (14)121 (22)452 (32)
# species observed57140158197
# net hours402.25316.58228.730174.5
# birds banded / 100 net hours54.291.769.662.0

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marcel Gahbauer, Marie-Anne Hudson, James Junda

Assistants: Sophie Cauchon, Shawn Craik, David Davey, Simon Duval, Luc Farly, Nicki Fleming, Maura Forrest, Tiffany Gamelin, Tiffany Gilchrist, Gay Gruner, Meggy Hervieux, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Kristen Keyes, Gillian Kinsman, Emma Loosigian, Barbara MacDuff, Chris Murphy, Marie Nicole, André Pelletier, Emily Roy-Dufresne, Cat Spina, Rodger Titman, Carine Touma, Virginie Voudine

Notes: With early morning temperatures below freezing and even the first snowflakes (gasp!) seen in many months, the chilly part of late fall made its arrival known this week. Yet the crisp mornings were very pleasant, as inside the banding cabin we were warmed by the woodstove and outside we were entertained by large noisy flocks of American Robins, Common Grackles, and Red-winged Blackbirds against the backdrop of blazing red, orange, and yellows from the arboretum’s maple bush. As these large flocks sometimes alight in the group of cottonwoods beside the station we enjoyed their cacophony of sound and watching them feed and chase one another (the robins especially appear rather rambunctious at times!). At these times we are of two minds; hoping some of them will find their way into the nets, but certainly not all of them at once! The blackbirds often stay in the treetops, so unlike in spring we band very few of them – but we do catch the robins in good numbers each fall. Despite the lower total number of birds banded this week, our season total is now almost 50% greater than our previous fall record. The only question now is whether we will get to 5000 for the season – based on past years, it should be possible!

With just one more week left in the fall season after this, we were very happy to add 6 more species to the list of species observed this season!  Flyovers included an arrow-straight Common Loon and a small flock of Greater Snow Geese. On Friday a pair of House Sparrows was spotted on the site (yes, they are that rare at MBO!) as well as a lone Eastern Bluebird. Two days later 3 bluebirds perched for a short while on our windmill, charming us with their sky-blue color against the matching sky. Saturday on the census walk, the nighthawk-like call note of an Eastern Meadowlark was heard a few times before the bird came into view – it’s a good thing it wasn’t singing, as we would have seriously doubted its proclamation of “spring of the ye-ear”!  Lastly, the plowing of the adjacent fields lived up to expectations, offering a welcome stopover site for a flock of Horned Larks.

Now we just have to say it, this is one sexy bird! This after-hatch-year American Robin is a picture-perfect example of his kind, with a dark head, bright white broken eye ring, and characteristically brick-red breast. (Photo by James Junda)

American Robins finally pushed their way to the top of the list of birds banded this week, becoming the first non-warbler this fall to hold that position. The Yellow-rumped Warblers that dominated over the previous month have tapered off significantly, with just 11 late stragglers banded this week. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are also dropping down the list as we approach the end of the season. Meanwhile, Slate-coloured Juncos jumped up to number 2 for the week, with the biggest single-week total since the final week of Fall 2005. American Tree Sparrows made it to the list for the first time this fall, as they begin to arrive for the winter. Only 8 species are listed in the table this week, as the remaining 6 we banded were each represented by just a single individual: Hermit Thrush, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, and Red-winged Blackbird. Interestingly, this marks the third year in a row that our first Red-winged Blackbird of the fall season was banded in week 12 (despite the large numbers observed over much of the season) – talk about consistency!  Speaking of consistency, this is the 6th week in a row that Song Sparrow has hovered between 4th and 6th place on the list, with a total of 129 banded during this period.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. American Robin (101) [2]1. Canada Goose (283) [3]
2. Slate-coloured Junco (54) [3]2. Red-winged Blackbird (276) [2]
3. White-throated Sparrow (15) [6]3. American Robin (264) [1]
Song Sparrow (13) [5]American Crow (197) [4]
5. Yellow-rumped Warbler (11) [1]5. Common Grackle (105) [5]
6. Black-capped Chickadee (9) [-]6. Ring-billed Gull (58) [-]
7. American Tree Sparrow (5) [-]7. Slate-coloured Junco (36) [-]
7. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (5) [3]8. European Starling (28) [7]
 9. Black-capped Chickadee (22) [-]
 10. White-throated Sparrow (14) [8]

For overall numbers, the yo-yo for top spot continues, with Canada Goose coming out on top this week as the most abundant species on average, but only slightly more numerous than the growing flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and the continued strong presence of American Robins. Common Grackles remained in the 5th position for a third week in a row despite increasing in numbers again, and Ring-billed Gull jumped in at 6th place thanks to hundreds of individuals occupying the neighbouring field during the last two days of the week when it was being plowed. The rest of the week, only 1 or 2 individuals were seen daily, highlighting what a dramatic impact human activity can have on the presence or absence of species.

This after-hatch-year female Red-winged Blackbird shows quite a bit of reddish tones on her lesser coverts and face. While we enjoy the large flocks of blackbirds at MBO, they are often met with a much more hostile reception where they winter in the southern United States. Having lost many traditional wintering grounds (i.e. humid fields and marshes), they have increasingly moved to feed and roost in agricultural fields, where they are considered pests, and are persecuted as such, through shooting, poisoning, and spraying surfactants that break down the oil-proofing of feathers, leaving the birds vulnerable to exposure. Although still abundant, the Red-winged Blackbird has shown signs of decline – and other related species caught in the crossfire, such as Rusty Blackbird, have already become the subject of serious conservation concerns. Migration monitoring at MBO and other similar sites is an important tool in tracking ongoing population changes in these species. (Photo by James Junda)



Week 13:  October 24-30, 2008


As the season came to an end, our lead BIC for the fall, James Junda, turned his attention to making the most of our wood stove by using it to prepare breakfast! (Photo by Gay Gruner)

# birds (and species) banded224 (13)5101 (77)5943 (84)18921 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat33 (7)924 (48)1122 (49)3348 (65)
# birds (and species) return2 (2)31 (14)123 (22)454 (32)
# species observed46140158197
# net hours290.85607.38519.530465.3
# birds banded / 100 net hours77.091.069.862.1

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Barbara Frei, Marcel Gahbauer, Gay Gruner, Marie-Anne Hudson, James Junda

Assistants: Veronica Aponte, Elisa Bernier, Christine Berrie, Victoria Chang, Shawn Craik, David Davey, Anna de Aguayo, Simon Duval, Nicki Fleming, Tiffany Gamelin, Tiffany Gilchrist, Gay Gruner, Vicky Houde, Marie-Mellissa Kalamaras, Kristen Keyes, Gillian Kinsman, Stephanie Levesque, Emma Loosigian, Barbara MacDuff, Chris Murphy, Marie Nicole, Brittney Roughan, Audrey Saumure Di Fruscia, Rodger Titman, Victor Thomasson

Notes: Our final week of the Fall 2008 migration monitoring season has now officially come to an end. And keeping with this season’s trend, we had our most productive final week ever!  Despite net hours being reduced due to rain, snow, cold weather, and high winds, we banded over 200 birds this week, a first for week 13 – and the rate of 76.7 birds banded per 100 net hours is also the best we’ve ever had this late in fall. Giant thanks to all our wonderful volunteers who braved early mornings, mosquitoes, rain, snow, and a distinct lack of caffeine at times, whose assistance made this incredible season possible. Special thanks to James Junda, our wonderful guest star BIC for all his hard work over the past two months – we are sad to see him leave and hope he will return for a visit someday!  As well, thanks and congratulations to our newest MBO BIC, Gay Gruner, who has been with us since the very beginning and has been a dedicated bander-in-training for more than a year. She is a fantastic birder and bander, and we are so lucky to have her on our team!

We marked another significant milestone this week as we banded our 5000th bird of the fall season – a total we had never previously reached over the course of a full year, let alone a single season. It really was a remarkable fall migration this year, as our previous three season totals had all been rather similar:  3218 birds banded of 78 species in 2005, 3268 of 76 species in 2006, and 2876 of 77 species in 2007. While the number of species banded this fall was in the same range at 77, our final total of 5101 represents a 56% increase beyond our previous high – a result we would never have expected!  Of course, absolute numbers can be a bit misleading, as they don’t reflect year-to-year differences in effort and weather. Not only did we band more birds in fall 2008 than ever before, but we also had a record number of net hours. In part, this reflects a growing number of experienced volunteers at MBO, allowing us to minimize net closings as a result of being short-staffed. But at least as significantly, we had excellent weather this fall, with far fewer days lost to rain than in the past. This is why we track effort in terms of net hours, and report a standardized rate of birds banded per 100 net hours that can be compared more fairly over time. The rate of 91.0 birds banded per 100 net hours this fall was indeed also a record, but only slightly better than the rate of 86.4 in fall 2005. That year we lost several potentially good days in later fall to bad weather, and weren’t yet banding daily in August, as we were still setting up and recruiting volunteers at the time – had we been in full operation that year it seems likely we would have had a total of well over 4000 that year.

For the first time ever, we passed the 5000 birds banded mark in a single season – and while American Robins and Slate-coloured Juncos dominated this week, it was this male Ruby-crowned Kinglet (with just a hint of red showing) that was #5000. (Photo by Gay Gruner)

Without question, the story of this fall was the tremendous volume of Yellow-rumped Warblers that peaked in early October, with over 1500 of them banded just during the core three weeks of their migration. Considering that our previous record for this species was 522 individuals in 2006, they alone account for much of this year’s increased total. Although four years is too short a time to make any strong statements about population patterns or trends, it is intriguing that so far we have seen a very distinct two-year cycle in the numbers of this species, with many times more in even-numbered years than odd-numbered years (last year, for example, our season total was just 68!). We have seen complementary trends for other species (e.g. Black-capped Chickadee numbers have so far been spiking reliably in odd-numbered years) and this is something we are eager to explore in more detail over the years to come.

While the Yellow-rumped Warblers stole the show, we have commented over the course of the season that a number of other species (especially among the warblers and vireos) also were passing through in record numbers. Now that we are at the end of the season, we will start to compile all of the final statistics for our full seasonal report, that will be posted on the website once it is ready in December or January (it may take a bit of time to compile and verify all of this year’s numbers!)

One area where the 2008 fall season was actually a bit subpar was in terms of the total number of species observed – 139 this fall, better than 134 in 2006, but well below the 144 in 2007 and the 151 that we saw in our first full fall season in 2005. In large part this was due to a scarcity of waterfowl for reasons unknown. In some past years, Northern Pintail was common enough to rank among the top 10 species observed in some weeks, but this year we didn’t see a single one all season long – and the same holds true for a number of the other less common ducks. In terms of passerines, which are our priority for monitoring, the number of species observed has remained much more consistent from year to year, although the list varies a bit each year in terms of the rarities that don’t occur annually, such as Bicknell’s Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, and Pine Grosbeak.

Although no new species were seen or banded this week, we still had some special sightings. Large flocks of American Robins and twittering Dark-eyed Juncos kept the site and extractors busy this week. Growing flocks of European Starlings were seen almost every day, with an incredible 400+ birds in the neighbouring fields on Sunday. A small family group of 3 Purple Finches were banded on Monday and several days this week Rusty Blackbirds were seen or heard among the groups of Red-winged Blackbirds passing through. A cold, wet and very unpleasant Wednesday census was brightened by a pair of White-winged Crossbills perched atop the spruce trees – though we’ve seen them fly over MBO several times in the past, this is the first time we can recall them stopping over for a rest. On the very last day, a Ruffed Grouse was seen again – new for the site earlier this fall, it has now been seen a few times, suggesting that maybe it is settling down for winter at MBO.

Juncos always are among the dominant birds over the final couple of weeks of the fall season, but this year they were especially numerous, with an average of more than a dozen per day banded during the past week. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

American Robins just beat out the Slate-coloured Junco this week for the top spot of birds banded in week 13. The number of Slate-coloured Juncos was a one-week record, and helped propel them to over 200 for the fall – yes, another species with a record high. This included 39 on the final day of the season – at times like this it’s hard to shut down for winter, as it’s evident that migration is still well underway for at least a few species, but it’s important for standardization that we keep our dates consistent from year to year. We hope that informal censuses and other observations in November will continue to provide us some data about the numbers of these later migrants. Other than the top two species this week, the remaining 11 species banded all occurred in relatively small numbers (i.e. 10 or fewer), with four tied for last place with just one individual each: Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Red-winged Blackbird.

This week’s top 10 [last year’s rank for this week in brackets]

# individuals bandedmean # individuals observed daily
1. American Robin (95) [1]1. American Robin (259) [3]
2. Slate-coloured Junco (94) [2]2. Red-winged Blackbird (211) [2]
3. Ruby-crowned Kinglet(9) [8]3. American Crow (174) [4]
American Tree Sparrow (6) [7]European Starling (131) [8]
5. Song Sparrow (5) [4]5. Canada Goose (80) [1]
6. Fox Sparrow (3) [-]6. Slate-coloured Junco (48) [7]
6. Purple Finch (3) [-]7. Common Grackle (25) [5]
6. White-throated Sparrow (3) [3]8. Black-capped Chickadee (15) [9]
9. Hermit Thrush (2) [-]9. Ring-billed Gull (9) [6]
 10. Blue Jay (8) [-]

For bird species observed on site, the top spot belongs once again to the American Robin, with Canada Goose slipping down to the number 5 spot with an average of only 80 per day, far below the 1000+ individuals seen daily at this time last year. Red-winged Blackbirds remained in second place this week, while American Crow and European Starling both moved up the list due to the large flocks in the fields most mornings.

As in past years, we will maintain some level of monitoring at MBO during the winter, and plan to post updates at least monthly. However, we are already looking forward to our fifth year of spring migration monitoring, which will begin on March 28 with daily censuses, and will as usual expand to full morning observations and daily banding at the start of the fourth week. We look forward to seeing everyone again then, if not sooner!

Purple Finches are one of those birds that often look a bit scruffier and less colourful up close than they do at a distance – but nonetheless, we were delighted to get this after-hatch-year male and two others in the nets this week, as they’re never a common bird at MBO (only twice before have we banded more than three in a full season in either fall or spring). (Photo by Gay Gruner)