Rain pelted down, washing the plane as it taxied to the terminal. St. John’s has had its share of rain and storms over the past three weeks, according to the taxi driver who ran me into the city and dropped me at the Captain’s Quarters Hotel. This must have been a fine building….decades ago. But time has levied its toll and it now would most appropriately be described as “seedy”. But it’s relatively cheap and the fact that (reportedly) its rooms can be rented by the hour lends it a certain ambience, character. Plus the concierge always calls me “sweety” which, at my age, is a bonus. I will fly up to St. Anthony at the northern tip of Newfoundland tomorrow and go aboard a Coast Guard vessel where I will spend the next 40 days doing seabird counts in the Labrador Sea/North Atlantic.
But in the meantime I have been able to take advantage of this rainy afternoon to go over the figures from this Fall’s banding effort. And the numbers bear out our efforts: it was a tough slog without much payoff. Here’s some of the numbers:
• We were open for 67 days, missing only 1 day to really bad weather (and that was taken up with DET data entry).
• The nets were open for 8,587 net hours which is our second highest total since inception in the Fall of 1995.
• But the total banded – 2,685 – is only our 9th highest total (the highest being 5,195 in 2012)
• The number of species banded was 87.
And here’s where the rubber hits the road:
• The rate of capture (i.e., birds caught per 100 net hours) in September was 23.5 – our lowest rate ever.
• The rate of capture in October was 39.9, by far our lowest rate ever.
• The rate of capture in November was 39.3, 15th overall.
• Our biggest daily catch was only 93 birds (on October 13th). This marks the first time since 1997 that we have not had a 100+ bird day in the Fall. (Of course, our biggest day was 309 on October 25, 2011).
1. American Goldfinch – 411 (good to see their numbers going up after the crash from 1,316 in 2012 to only 198 in 2013)
2. White-throated Sparrow – 215
3. Cedar Waxwing – 116 (well down from the 1,481 we did last year)
4. Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 110
5. Dark-eyed Junco – 107
6. Golden-crowned Kinglet – 99
7. Song Sparrow – 94
8. Gray Catbird – 81
9. Hermit Thrush – 80
10. House Finch – 80
At this point it’s hard to attribute cause to what we saw. It will be interesting to see what the results were at other stations. One big contributor was the poor berry and grape crop this year at Ruthven. This is certainly reflected in the drop in waxwing numbers. Waxwings are primarily fruit eaters in the Fall and, unlike last year when we had a bumper crop, there wasn’t much fruit around.
We did have some bright lights though; we set new records or tied records for the following species:
• Sharp-shinned Hawk – 2
• Cooper’s Hawk – 2
• Northern Saw-whet Owls – 62 (NOT a record but our 2nd highest total)
• 12 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers
• 9 Blue-headed Vireos
• 28 American Redstarts
• 7 Mourning Warblers
• 3 Connecticut Warblers
• 17 Scarlet Tanagers
• 37 Northern Cardinals
• 16 Indigo Buntings
• 28 Common Grackle (all at the same time – part of an estimated flock of >10,000)
So it’s all over but the crying (or rejoicing – depends on your point of view I guess). Much thanks to Nancy Furber, my right-hand….person, and to all the many people who contributed so much to make the banding program a great place to be….birds or no birds.