Photo: Nashville Warbler
For most of the first month of this year’s banding season it felt as though we were stuck in a rut. Most birds we caught were local breeders with a smattering of early migrants. On many days we didn’t even catch 30 new birds. We knew the bulk of migration was coming, but it felt a long way off.
All that changed with the offshore passage of Hurricane Dorian on September 6. Overnight winds shifted to blow from the north and on the next two days we caught 152 and 183 birds, respectively. We also had several “first of season” species, like Nashville Warbler and Palm Warbler.
Bird captures dropped off in the days following the storm’s passage as individuals in good condition moved on from Cape May. Also, the number of recaptures, especially of Northern Waterthrushes, increased as birds that used most of their fat reserves started bulking up again for their next long flight. Last year, some Northern Waterthrushes lingered at the Meadows for as long as two weeks after their initial capture before moving south again.
Of note from the past week was 33 Veeries, nearly all of which came after the storm. Recent research suggests that Veeries consistently have shorter nesting seasons in years with numerous hurricanes, and longer nesting seasons when there are fewer hurricanes. This suggests that they may be able to detect large-scale weather events far in advance, which has also been shown in several other songbirds such as Golden-winged Warblers. Maybe the National Weather Service should use songbird nesting behavior to help forecast hurricane seasons.
In the six days of banding from September 4 to September 11 we captured 510 new birds of 33 species, a few birds captured earlier in the season and a few birds banded here last year. This brings the season total to 1,216 captures of 44 species.
|Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)||2|
|“Traill’s” Flycatcher (Alder/Willow)||46|
|Palm Warbler (Western)||1|