October 10th – Summer Into Fall

Finally…s dawn that felt like Fall. -DOL

Over the 5 days from Thursday to today (Tuesday) there has a been a big shift in the weather….thank goodness. It was beginning to feel like Summer would never let go! Hot, muggy conditions persisted throughout September…and so did the mosquitoes. I certainly hope this isn’t the “new normal” but I’m pessimistic enough to think that it just might be. Anyway, the Summer finally broke with a downpour through Wednesday night limiting me to a late start on the 6th. It was still warm but not hot and the forecasts were all predicting the coming of cold. I think a lot of birds took off from the Farm ahead of the rain and weren’t replaced by newcomers from farther north. Even the meadow was quiet.
October 6th; Banded 11:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 House Wren

White-throated Sparrow -LR

1 White-throated Sparrow
3 Song Sparrows

Young Swamp Sparrow -KMP

4 Swamp Sparrows
I tried for owls the night of the 6th but got nothing. they’re yet to come….

Sue Merritt, out for a drive along River Road, took some shots of “our” family of Sandhill Cranes. The young one is on the left. -SM

The 7th was much cooler. It was noted that there “was a lot of sparrow action in the meadow.” Compared to the soybean desert across the road (the beans were taken off when it was hot and dry), the number of birds using the meadow is phenomenal – the grasses provide so much food. It’s sobering to let your mind drift back to the days when grasslands and old hay fields were a common part of the topography. The soybean fields are much more extensive but provide NO food, especially for seed-eaters. It will be interesting to see if our 7 acres become a common stopover site for travelling sparrows.
October 7th; Banded 31:
1 Eastern Phoebe
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Gray Catbird
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 White-crowned Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
10 Song Sparrows

Lincoln’s Sparrow -LR

2 Lincoln’s Sparrows
10 Swamp Sparrows
2 Common Yellowthroats

Anna and Laurel discovering the joys of leaf extraction… -DOL

The 8th was cool and windy with rain threatening…but not materializing. Again, the meadow was busy with sparrows. The birds can readily be seen flying up and then dropping back down into another feeding spot or flying from the meadow to the edge…and back again. A full 90% of the birds banded today were sparrows. But we’re noticing that warblers, especially the late-migrating Myrtle Warblers, are few and far between. The wind was again a factor, billowing the nets and filling a few with leaves. We spent a fair amount of time clearing them – but couldn’t come close to the record set by Elaine Serena and myself when it took an hour and a half to clear and close a double net situated under a Black Walnut canopy.
October 8th; Banded 32:
1 Winter Wren

Gray Catbird; it’s getting pretty late for these. -LR

1 Gray Catbird
1 Hermit Thrush
1 White-throated Sparrow
14 Song Sparrows
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
13 Swamp Sparrows

October 9th was a journey down Memory Lane and a stark warning of the changes wrought by Time and Age. Check out these photos:

Jack and I in 2011 -JG

Jack and I 2023 -JG

Jack 2011 -JG

Jack’s sister, Brynn – 2011 -JG

Brynn 2023 -JG

Despite the cold wind, we were pretty busy as the meadow was again awash with sparrows which made up almost 77% of the day’s catch.
October 9th; Banded 43:
2 Eastern Phoebes
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Tufted Titmouse
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Field Sparrow
1 White-crowned Sparrow
14 Song Sparrows
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
16 Swamp Sparrows
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Western Palm Warbler

The crew all had a chance to do some banding. From left: Jack, Ali, Marco, Brynn. -JG

With aspirations of soon becoming a registered bander, Sarah has been working hard at every chance she gets. -DOL

October 10th; Another day of cold wind. Sparrows weren’t quite as active as they have been in the past couple of days. Interestingly, they seemed to have shifted to the east end of the field leaving the more heavily netted area to the west. Not sure why but the east end was more sheltered from the winds. Sarah counted over 30 using the eastern edge of the meadow while she was doing a census. I wonder what we’d catch if we had the nets and the personpower to run a line of nets around the field on the 3 sides away from the road…..
The new meadow is paying off in terms of sparrow numbers, especially for 3 sparrow species. But for warblers we’ve been having a fairly dismal season. So far this Fall, warblers have made up only 13% of our banding totals vs 58% for sparrows. And in October, a time when Myrtle Warblers should be swelling our totals we’re at only 4% for warblers vs 76% for sparrows. Further, the sparrow numbers are made up largely of just 3 species: Song, Lincoln’s, and Swamp. White-throat numbers are down (but hopefully will pick up soon). Here’s some numbers for comparison:
Species 2021 2022 2023
White-throated Sparrow 38 124 52
Song Sparrow 21 77 172
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1 4 49
Swamp Sparrow 26 82 125
Myrtle Warbler 6 163 20
We still have about 3 weeks to go so these numbers will change but I’m hoping that White-throats and Myrtles will show an influx.
October 10th; Banded 24:
3 Eastern Phoebes
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
8 Song Sparrows
9 Swamp Sparrows

Ovenbird – a BIG surprise!

1 Ovenbird


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