CMBO Fall Banding Week 4: First big days of the season

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.

American Redstart (male) - Yotam Lehnardt
Veery - Yotam Lehnardt

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.

Yellow Warbler (male) - Yotam Lehnardt
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - Yotam Lehnardt
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 15
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 2
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 1
Alder Flycatcher 3
Willow Flycatcher 9
“Traill’s” Flycatcher (Alder/Willow) 46
White-eyed Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 11
House Wren 1
Carolina Wren 3
Veery 33
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 16
Northern Mockingbird 4
Yellow-breasted Chat 4
Northern Cardinal 4
Indigo Bunting 4
Baltimore Oriole 2
Ovenbird 10
Northern Waterthrush 106
Blue-winged Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 18
Nashville Warbler 1
Mourning Warbler 2
Common Yellowthroat 106
American Redstart 74
Northern Parula 2
Magnolia Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 18
Palm Warbler (Western) 1
Prairie Warbler 8