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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Teslin Lake update - Sept 30, 2015


The intricate patterns of a frosty net
The period started with cold but otherwise pretty nice weather but as the month draw closer to the end the temperatures soared (up to +15 one day!) and the winds picked up. For us it meant that on six days we had limited netting effort due to unfavorable weather. The small birds were still moving and we banded 349 birds breaking the 4000 birds banded in a season threshold for the first time and the new all time season record currently stands at 4163! The period top five was American Tree Sparrow 65, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 59, Dark-eyed Junco 48, Orange-crowned Warbler 39, and Boreal Chickadee 27. The current season top five is Alder Flycatcher 1058, Yellow Warbler 556, Wilson's Warbler 384, Orange-crowned Warbler 331, and Yellow-rumped Warbler 310.

This Orange-crowned Warbler marked the birth of the new all time season record
 Neither Boreal Chickadees or Dark-eyed Juncos started to move in numbers that we expected. Sharp-shinned Hawk and Gray-cheeked Thrush both reached a new season record. The banding highlights consisted of a late Swainson's Thrush and the season 2nd Golden-crowned Kinglet on the23rd, and of two more Mountain Chickadees on the 27th. No new species for the season were caught.
And this American Tree Sparrow was the bird #4000!

 No actual rarities were seen. Two fly-by Redheads on the 24th was probably the rarest species and two very late Bank Swallows on the 27th was perhaps the most unusual sighting.

A male American Redstart foraging in the willows by the shore
The story was the strong raptor migration. In six consecutive days, from the 22nd to the 27th, we tallied over 100 raptors each day, over 1700 in total! The two biggest days were the 25th with 564 and the 26th with 543 raptors. On both days the migration took place mostly in the afternoon and on both days the bulk of the migrants were Red-tailed Hawks (418 on the 25th and 296 on the 26th). The conditions, however, were quite different. On the 25th the weather cleared around noon and the raptors started flying into strong headwind but on the 26th, after a crazy sleet/snow storm, the wind suddenly shifted to northwest and the raptors took off under low hanging clouds but assisted by stormy tail wind. Each day all the common species were part of the flight including the first good numbers of Golden Eagles (39 on the 26th) and Rough-legged Hawks (45 on the 26th).

A group of Red-tailed Hawks soaring in the updraft on the side of the "eagle" mountain
It wasn't just raptors that were on the move on those days. The first Tundra Swans were seen, including 405 on the 25th and 760 on the 26th, and earlier good numbers of Sandhill Cranes passed through including 600 on the 23rd and 400 on the 24th. Snow Geese were seen in much higher numbers and more regularly than what is normal. The two highest counts were 470 on the 24th and 120 on the 26th. 1300 American Robins tallied on the 23rd was a good count but nowhere near the record.

313 Sandhill Cranes
Mixed duck flocks are fun to sort out - here Common Merganser (top) with two Shovelers and an Wigeon

The banding totals as of Sept 30 (the number in brackets indicates the number banded since the previous blog entry):

Sharp-shinned Hawk - 24 (5)
Solitary Sandpiper - 3
Belted Kingfisher - 6
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Olive-sided Flycatcher -2
Western Wood-Pewee - 4
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 11
Alder Flycatcher - 1058
Least Flycatcher - 4
Hammond's Flycatcher -21 (1)
Dusky Flycatcher - 2
Say's Phoebe - 2
Warbling Vireo - 10
Gray Jay - 1
Common Raven - 1
Black-capped Chickadee -31 (3)
Mountain Chickadee - 4 (2)
Boreal Chickadee - 130 (27)
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 9
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 2 (1)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 274 (59)
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 11 (2)
Swainson's Thrush - 68 (1)
Hermit Thrush - 8 (2)
American Robin - 3
Varied Thrush - 2 (1)
American Pipit - 6
Tennessee Warbler -8
Orange-crowned Warbler - 331 (39)
Yellow Warbler - 556 (12)
Black-and-white Warbler - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 310 (19)
Blackburnian Warbler - 1
Townsend's Warbler - 2
Blackpoll Warbler - 99
American Redstart - 47 (3)
Northern Waterthrush - 53
Common Yellowthroat - 88 (7)
Wilson's Warbler - 384 (22)
American Tree Sparrow - 133 (65)
Chipping Sparrow - 29
Savannah Sparrow - 55 (4)
Fox Sparrow - 42 (10)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 64 (10)
White-crowned Sparrow - 22 (4)
Golden-crowned Sparrow - 2
Dark-eyed Junco - 210 (48)
Rusty Blackbird - 18 (2)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1
Common Redpoll - 8
Pine Siskin - 1


= 4163 (349) birds of 51 (0) species


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Teslin Lake update - Sept 20, 2015

"In September Yukon turns yellow" is what I wrote last year. Closer to the ground there are many shades of red too!!

Not unexpectedly the temperatures dropped during the period and the colors changed from green to yellow during the period. It was still more rainy and warmer than average and we didn't get our first frost until the morning of the 20th. The banding remained good although the numbers did drop a little. However, the drop was noticeably less than on the other years at this time of the year and consequently the current season total 3814 is the observatory history's highest for the date! The current season top five is Alder Flycatcher 1058, Yellow Warbler 544, Wilson's Warbler 362, Orange-crowned Warbler 292, and Yellow-rumped Warbler 291.


A Gray-cheeked Thrush regains its freedom

A very late Warbling Vireo was caught on the 14th
 During the period a total of 634 birds were tagged including four new species for the season:  the Blackburnian Warbler on the 15th, familiar from the previous post and the highlight of the year thus far, Pine Siskin on the 14th, Varied Thrush on the 16th, and Mountain Chickadee on the 17th. The season record breaking continued as additional six species (Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Orange-crowned Warbler, American Redstart, Chipping Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, and Lincoln's Sparrow) reached a new high! The period top five was Ruby-crowned Kinglet 128, Dark-eyed Junco 94, Wilson's Warbler 58, Boreal Chickadee 54 and Orange-crowned Warbler 51. Other than the Blackburnian Warbler there weren't too many banding highlights but the few included a three Sharp-shinned Hawk net round on the 19th, and late birds such as Warbling Vireos on the 13th and the 14th, Chipping Sparrow on the 18th, and a Tennessee Warbler on the 19th.

American Redstart is one of the many species that have broken old season records this year
Juvenile (L) and adult female (R) Sharp-shinned Hawks caught on the same net run


Outside the nets the period was a rather quiet one. The season first Mountain Bluebird flew by on the 12th and three Parasitic Jaegers roamed around the lake the same day. It hasn't been a good year for Jaeger sightings. Visual migration counts were slow as well. The highest morning flight activity was seen also on the 12th when about 700 Yellow-rumped Warblers were tallied flying by as well as 146 Varied Thrushes. On the 18th another 124 Varieds were seen. Even though the weather wasn't perfect for raptor flights there was some movement on most days. 168 raptors on the 19th was the highest day total and included Osprey 6, Golden Eagle 3, Northern Harrier 26, Sharp-shinned Hawk 49, Bald Eagle 9, Red-tailed Hawk 60, American Kestrel 6, Merlin 7 and Peregrine Falcon 2. A juvenile Gyrfalcon flew right past the banding table on the 17th.

This Gray Jay attempted to cross the lake, something I've never seen at TLBO, but finally chickened out after seemingly reaching almost the half way point!
Juvenile Gyrfalcon
Who would've thought that the bright yellow of Yellow Warbler also serves as camouflage!

A long awaited visitor, the season first Mountain Chickadee. Below
Hélène and Ted are pondering over the ageing of this bird.


The banding totals as of Sept 20 (the number in brackets indicates the number banded since the previous blog entry):
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 19 (8)
Solitary Sandpiper - 3
Belted Kingfisher - 6
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Olive-sided Flycatcher -2
Western Wood-Pewee - 4
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 11
Alder Flycatcher - 1058 (8)
Least Flycatcher - 4
Hammond's Flycatcher -20 (4)
Dusky Flycatcher - 2
Say's Phoebe - 2
Warbling Vireo - 10 (2)
Gray Jay - 1
Common Raven - 1
Black-capped Chickadee -28 (1)
Mountain Chickadee - 2 (2)
Boreal Chickadee - 103 (54)
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 9 (1)
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 215 (128)
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 9 (3)
Swainson's Thrush - 67 (1)
Hermit Thrush - 6 (2)
American Robin - 3
Varied Thrush - 1 (1)
American Pipit - 6 (1)
Tennessee Warbler -8 (1)
Orange-crowned Warbler - 292 (51)
Yellow Warbler - 544 (33)
Black-and-white Warbler - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 291 (49)
Blackburnian Warbler - 1 (1)
Townsend's Warbler - 2
Blackpoll Warbler - 99 (1)
American Redstart - 44 (11)
Northern Waterthrush - 53 (1)
Common Yellowthroat - 81 (14)
Wilson's Warbler - 362 (58)
American Tree Sparrow - 68 (28)
Chipping Sparrow - 29 (1)
Savannah Sparrow - 51 (16)
Fox Sparrow - 32 (11)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 54 (27)
White-crowned Sparrow - 18 (7)
Golden-crowned Sparrow - 2 (1)
Dark-eyed Junco - 162 (94)
Rusty Blackbird - 16 (9)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1
Common Redpoll - 8 (3)
Pine Siskin - 1 (1)


= 3814 (634) birds of 51 (4) species

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Teslin Lake update - Sept 15, 2015 - Blackburnian Warbler!


Blackburnian Warbler - the first record for the Yukon
Today it happened, the bird we've always waited for, Ted's favorite bird, a Blackburnian Warbler found our nets on the 11:45am net check!! Hélène was the lucky one to extract it from a net and yours truly was given the honors to put a band on it. It was determined to be a young male, age confirmed by incomplete skull ossification.



This is the first record for the Yukon! It's range extends to the Peace country of BC where it is quite rare a bird around Fort St John - Chetwynd - Dawson Creek as far as I know. That is about 1000km southeast from Teslin. The core range is from Alberta/Saskatchewan east. You can learn more about Blackburnian Warbler from  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blackburnian_Warbler/id

Here our star alongside Ted's tattoo of an adult male of the same species, his favorite bird!
For the full suite of photos of our bird please visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/jukka_jantunen/

As you all may know, one has to be careful what one wishes for and likewise be very careful what one promises. It so happened that I went and promised early season that if we were to catch a Blackburnian Warbler I'd jump into the lake - and so I had to. Luckily Ted and Hélène were brave and kind enough to join me.

Ted (L), Jukka (M) & Hélène (R) in the really really ridiculously cold Teslin Lake! Photo actually by Francis Bordeleau-Martin.

Jukka,
the Bander-in-charge

Friday, September 11, 2015

Teslin Lake update - September 10, 2015

An adult Bald Eagle watches the world from atop of a spruce tree

The weather was very unsettled early in the period with rain and cold north winds. The surrounding mountains got lots of snow which did mostly melt away. The rain combined from this and the last period was enough to bring the lake up to about the same it was at the start of the season and our pond actually has a lot more water now than at the start - something we've never seen before! Towards the end of the period we had some nicer weather, even some sun, and the owling crew was fortunate to enjoy an amazing display of northern lights on the night of Sept 8th/9th.

Fresh snow blanketed the surrounding mountains, even the lower ones!
Banding remained very busy and, even though we lost one complete and most of three other mornings to weather, we banded a total of 1023 birds. Those lost days were compensated by high numbers on days when we were able to operate, including 201 banded on the 4th and 231 on the 7th. Four new species were added for the season: Golden-crowned Kinglet on the 5th, American Tree Sparrow on the 3rd, Golden-crowned Sparrow on the 7th and Rusty Blackbird on the 3rd. 29 American Tree Sparrows banded on the 7th was an unprecedented influx this early in the season. The period top five was Yellow Warbler 218, Orange-crowned Warbler 142, Wilson's Warbler 126, Yellow-rumped Warbler 105, and Alder Flycatcher 97. The current season top five is Alder Flycatcher 1050, Yellow Warbler 511, Wilson's Warbler 304, Yellow-rumped Warbler 242, and Orange-crowned Warbler 241. The current season total is the highest for the date in the observatory's history. During the period five species (Alder Flycatcher, American Pipit, Yellow Warbler, Wilson's Warbler and Savannah Sparrow) reached a new season record. Of course, the most remarkable of these is the now over 1000 Alder Flycatchers!!

Alder Flycatcher #1028!!
The season 1st Golden-crowned Kinglet was a scruffy-looking young male

 No real rarities were seen or banded but the first two days of September were great migration days. On the 1st 761 raptors were counted for a new observatory one day record. 588 of those were Red-tailed Hawks including one of subspecies abieticola, the 1st positive ID of the taxon for the observatory, and one nearly completely white leucistic one! Other raptors on the move that day included the season 1st Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier 87, Swainson's Hawk 32 and Peregrine Falcon 12. On the 2nd, further 367 raptors were seen including Red-tailed Hawk 204, Northern Harrier 64, Sharp-shinned Hawk 50, Swainson's Hawk 4, and American Kestrel 37. The Swainson's Hawk season total is now over 100 - more than four times the previous highest season total!! 

This almost all white Red-tailed Hawk was a most unusual sight!

A juvenile female Northern Harrier

During the cold and wet weather many migrants were foraging along the shore just like this young Say's Phoebe

Other birds heading south on those days included 906 Sandhill Cranes on the 1st and 859 on the 2nd, and 70 Rusty Blackbirds on the 1st and 53 on the 2nd. These numbers are unusually high for both species at this time of the year. Unusual sightings included two somewhat late juvenile Arctic Terns, an American Golden Plover, and an Upland Sandpiper on the 1st, and the season 1st Glaucous Gull and a Baird's Sandpiper on the 2nd. Later on the pace quieted significantly and no high counts of anything were made but naturally the odd interesting sighting was made. On the 3rd a late Cliff Swallow was seen flying south and the season first group of Golden-crowned Kinglets foraged in a spruce top visible from the banding spot. The season 1st Three-toed Woodpecker was seen on the 7th and a Sanderling, possibly the same juvenile, was seen both on the 7th and on the 9th. 

Baird's Sandpipers are not often seen on our rocky shoreline even if it is a common migrant on mudfalts
The second year Common Loons like this one are not often seen in the northern interior. Most of them spent the first two years of their lives on the wintering grounds.
Not all the exciting things with wings are birds. Here a female Zigzag Darner.


The banding totals as of Sept 10 (the number in brackets indicates the number banded since the previous blog entry):
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 11 (2)
Solitary Sandpiper - 3
Belted Kingfisher - 6
Downy Woodpecker - 1 (1)
Olive-sided Flycatcher -2
Western Wood-Pewee - 4 (2)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - 11
Alder Flycatcher - 1050 (97)
Least Flycatcher - 4
Hammond's Flycatcher -16 (6)
Dusky Flycatcher - 2 (1)
Say's Phoebe - 2
Warbling Vireo - 8 (1)
Gray Jay - 1
Common Raven - 1
Black-capped Chickadee -27 (3)
Boreal Chickadee - 49 (41)
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 8
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1 (1)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 87 (56)
Gray-cheeked Thrush - 6 (4)
Swainson's Thrush - 66 (7)
Hermit Thrush - 4 (2)
American Robin - 3 (1)
American Pipit - 5 (4)
Tennessee Warbler -7 (1)
Orange-crowned Warbler - 241 (142)
Yellow Warbler - 511 (218)
Black-and-white Warbler - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 242 (105)
Townsend's Warbler - 2
Blackpoll Warbler - 98 (28)
American Redstart - 33 (6)
Northern Waterthrush - 52 (7)
Common Yellowthroat - 67 (32)
Wilson's Warbler - 304 (126)
American Tree Sparrow - 40 (40)
Chipping Sparrow - 28 (3)
Savannah Sparrow - 35 (14)
Fox Sparrow - 21 (15)
Lincoln's Sparrow - 27 (6)
White-crowned Sparrow - 11 (2)
Dark-eyed Junco - 68 (40)
Rusty Blackbird - 7 (7)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1
Common Redpoll - 5 (4)

= 3180 (1023) birds of 47 (4) species

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Teslin Lake update - August 31, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



This Chaetura Swift was the first record for the Yukon

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

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

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

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

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

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