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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


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Teslin Lake update, September 20 2014


The colors changed quickly, in less than a week, from all green to just about all yellow!

The good bird movement continued from the early September period into this mid-September period but just for a few days. The period started with unsettled weather (meaning more rain) but quickly turned into unseasonally nice and warm weather and after the 13th pretty much all the migration came to a sudden halt. Towards the end the weather got lousy again (meaning even more rain!) but the bird movement didn't pick up at all, quite the opposite in fact. In the last five days we had four days with less than 10 birds banded!

This young Tennessee Warbler was a real surprise at the late date of Sept 16. Below two very different looking young male Sharp-shinned Hawks - the one on the left has the usual look whereas the finely striped one on the right has a pattern more associated with young Cooper's Hawk.



 





The banding total for the period was 234 birds with the following top five: Slate-colored Junco (51), Orange-crowned Warbler (24), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (22), Pine Siskin (22) and Yellow Warbler (20). Three new species for the season were caught: Gray Jay on the 14th, and Downy Woodpecker and Tennessee Warbler both on the 16th. The Tennessee is a very late record for the Yukon although not the latest ever. Even though they didn't make it to the top five, American Tree Sparrows entered the scene strongly early in the period and then, just like all the other birds, just disappeared. The current top five for the season is Alder Flycatcher (506), Yellow Warbler (504), Pine Siskin (297), Yellow-rumped Warbler (172) and Wilson's Warbler (163). The number of Yellow Warblers is a new season record.

Tail feather shape and pattern comparison between juvenile (L) and adult (R) Black-capped Chickadee

For some reason this young Northern Waterthrush hasn't molted (i.e. replaced) its greater coverts. This is a prime example showing how poor quality the juvenile feathers are to be this worn already at mid-September, and why the young birds need to replace those feathers before heading south.

A juvenile male Northern Harrier
There was some decent raptor movement early in the period including 137 on the 11th (American Kestrel 54, Northern Harrier 42, Merlin 8, Peregrine Falcon 4), 135 on the 12th (Sharp-shinned Hawk 60, American Kestrel 21, Peregrine Falcon 5), and 98 on the 13th (Sharp-shinned Hawk 56, American Kestrel 14, Peregrine Falcon 3). On the 12th four somewhat late Swainson's Hawks were seen as well as the season's first Rough-legged Hawk. This is the first time all three Buteo species have been seen on the same day at the observatory (incl. Red-tailed Hawk)! The same early days had decent morning movements of songbirds, primarily American Robins, Varied Thrush and Yellow-rumped Warblers but the numbers didn't climb over a couple of hundred per species until the cold morning of the 17th when over 600 thrushes (330 Robins, 70 Varied Thrush and 250ish unidentified) were counted.

This adult Horned Grebe molting into its winter-plumage has been sailing back and forth off the point for several days now.

A fly-by Common Merganser
 Other sightings of interest included a juvenile Sanderling from the 12th through the 14th, four early Mountain Bluebirds on the 14th as well as the season first Barrow's Goldeneyes, late juvenile Spotted Sandpipers and likewise a late male Purple Finch on the 16th, our earliest ever Yellow-billed Loon, a full breeding-plumaged adult, and our latest ever Olive-sided Flycatcher on the 18th, and finally the season's first Northern Hawk Owl on the 19th.

A juvenile Sanderling on the 12th

One of the flock of four Barrow's Goldeneyes on the 14th
"How many clowns fit in a VW beetle?" How about squirrels in one cavity...?

Here are the banding totals as of Sept 20 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 (6)
Solitary Sandpiper - 1
Wilson's Snipe - 1
Boreal Owl - 21 (5)
Belted Kingfisher - 9 (1)
Downy Woodpecker - 1 (1)
Western Wood-Pewee - 4 (2)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 3
Alder Flycatcher - 506 (12)
Least Flycatcher - 2
Hammond's Flycatcher - 8 (1)
Dusky Flycatcher - 4 (1)
Warbling Vireo - 12
Gray Jay - 1 (1)
Black-capped Chickadee - 15 (2)
Boreal Chickadee - 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 67 (22)
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 10
Swainson's Thrush - 49
American Robin - 9
Varied Thrush - 3
Tennessee Warbler - 1 (1)
Orange-crowned Warbler - 149 (24)
Yellow Warbler - 504 (20)
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 172 (16)
Townsend's Warbler - 10
Blackpoll Warbler - 61 (1)
American Redstart - 25
Northern Waterthrush - 48
Common Yellowthroat - 79 (8)
Wilson's Warbler - 163 (11)
American Tree Sparrow - 16 (14)
Chipping Sparrow - 15
Savannah Sparrow - 17
Fox Sparrow - 16 (3)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 8 (1)
White-crowned Sparrow - 15 (3)
Golden-crowned Sparrow - 1
Slate-coloured Junco - 130 (51)
Rusty Blackbird - 9 (5)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 2
Purple Finch - 3
White-winged Crossbill - 2
Common Redpoll - 1
Pine Siskin - 297 (22)

Total = 2490 (234) birds of 46 species