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 Hummingbird15
Downy Woodpecker1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)2
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher1
Alder Flycatcher3
Willow Flycatcher9
“Traill’s” Flycatcher (Alder/Willow)46
White-eyed Vireo1
Red-eyed Vireo11
House Wren1
Carolina Wren3
American Robin2
Gray Catbird16
Northern Mockingbird4
Yellow-breasted Chat4
Northern Cardinal4
Indigo Bunting4
Baltimore Oriole2
Northern Waterthrush106
Blue-winged Warbler1
Black-and-white Warbler18
Nashville Warbler1
Mourning Warbler2
Common Yellowthroat106
American Redstart74
Northern Parula2
Magnolia Warbler1
Yellow Warbler18
Palm Warbler (Western)1
Prairie Warbler8
New Jersey Audubon