March 16th to 18th – Catching Up

Dark-phase Rough-legged Hawk over Ruthven

We’ve been out for the last 3 days to catch whatever birds we can but mostly just to observe and get a record of the early migration. Although above freezing (up to 5 degrees), the 16th was damp and windy. We caught 25 birds but only 2 of them were ‘new’ birds (American Tree Sparrow). This was a good opportunity for Peter Thoem to begin to learn how to band – enough birds to give him some experience handling them and figuring out how to take measurements and age and sex them but not enough to overwhelm. (Peter, who has helped out for a number of years by doing censuses, is looking for a new aspect of his birding passion to get involved in.) We had a couple more small flocks of Tundra Swans go over and, for the day, encountered 32 species.

Peter Thoem getting a banding lesson.

The 17th was warm with a stiff southerly wind. There was a lot of visible migration – birds taking advantage of these ideal conditions to move closer to their breeding grounds. There were birds of all sorts on the move: from Canada Geese and Tundra Swans, to Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. Most of this activity was high overhead as we caught only 8 birds of which only 2 were unbanded (American Goldfinches). Despite all the action, the total number of species encountered was only 30.

Today, the 18th, we had another ‘pulse’ of bird movement as the good conditions continued (although the wind had shifted from the south to the WNW). It was quite warm with the temperature rising to 14 by the late morning. A group of raptors took advantage of this: within half an hour we saw 8 Turkey Vultures, 11 Red-tailed Hawks, and 2 (dark-phase) Rough-legged Hawks. Peter Thoem was out again to continue his banding training. We caught 16 birds of which he banded 8: 1 Red-bellied Woodpecker, 1 Downy Woodpecker, 2 American Tree Sparrows, 1 Song Sparrow (1st of the year), 1 Dark-eyed Junco, 2 American Goldfinches. We encountered 35 species – the highest species count of the year so far.

Also of interest was the reappearance of honeybees – for some reason they were checking out the bird feeders.



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