October 29th – Swarmed!

The 3-day blow we’ve been experiencing continued today but the wind was diminishing. We opened all the nets. It was actually pretty quiet at opening time with only a few sparrow “chips” – no sign, no omen of what was to come…

We had a modest number of birds on the first round. Again, nothing portending later events. But small flocks of blackbirds and starlings began to fly over. And then those flocks joined to form larger ones and then those coalesced to produce really big ones – you could hear the birds’ cacophony a kilometer away. And then the noise came closer. At one point I was extracting birds from Nets 5-7 and a huge mixed grouping landed in the trees all around. The sound was deafening and it felt, strangely, like something from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds”. When the flock moved on the silence seemed almost eerie. But the birds didn’t move far. This large aggregation traveled about the site’s tree-tops all day dropping down occasionally to continue to strip whatever remaining dogwood berries they could find. Most of our nets are set in scrub, dogwood scrub….berry-laden dogwood scrub.

I used to think that chickadees were the biggest pain to extract from the nets but my vote now is cast for European Starlings. These birds get their shoulders jammed tightly into the mesh and bunch up the net with their very strong, grasping feet. And they are quite proficient at using their long pointed bills to let you know they’re more than a little perturbed by your intrusion. We banded 27 of them today along with 32 Red-winged Blackbirds and 20 Rusty Blackbirds – great numbers for us but only a very tiny percentage of the birds that were around. We also had good numbers of other species (see list below). All day we had the “banding machine” in continuous operation: 1 person banding; 1 scribing; 1 or 2 people extracting. We finished banding the last bird at 5:18 – we had done 213 of them! Our biggest day of the year. This also pushed our banding total for the whole year to over 6,000 (and this doesn’t include the 1,000+ Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs we did off-site).

[Interestingly, we didn’t see any raptors taking advantage of the flocks of birds that were around today. You’d think a Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk would be availing itself of this cornucopia.]

Banded 213:
1 Blue Jay
2 Black-capped Chickadees
5 Golden-crowned Kinglets
6 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
3 Eastern Bluebirds
11 Hermit Thrushes
15 American Robins
5 Cedar Waxwings
27 European Starlings
5 Myrtle Warblers
1 Northern Cardinal
1 American Tree Sparrow
1 Chipping Sparrow
5 Fox Sparrows
5 Song Sparrows
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
4 Swamp Sparrows
2 White-throated Sparrows
12 Dark-eyed Juncos
32 Red-winged Blackbirds
20 Rusty Blackbirds
8 Purple Finches
12 House Finches
29 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 23:
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Carolina Wren
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 Eastern Bluebird
2 Hermit Thrushes
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 House Finches
9 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 36 spp.

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