Friday, October 9, 2009
Isle au Haut Songbird Report -- September 22, 2009
Dense fog and mist were hanging around the banding station house as we (Patrick, Becky, Evan & Ken) rolled in at first light this morning. It felt like it was going to be a “quiet” morning. This was realized when our diligent 30 minute patrols produced no birds. Fortunately, our luck took a turn with a Brown Creeper captured at 09:00 am – three hours into our day! We had a group of students join us this morning when the creeper made its appearance (see photo). Birds continued finding our nets at a slow, albeit steady pace. By noon we had captured a mere three birds with the addition of a Nashville Warbler and Hermit Thrush. What seemed like our worst day in the making and certainly our slowest start of the season had come around and contrary to the lingering fog, our spirits had lifted. The afternoon continued to improve with lots of diversity, including a spectacular Blue Jay. By mid-afternoon a flurry of diminutive Golden-crowned Kinglets were in our nets. These amazing little birds weigh a mere 7 grams! The fog briefly receded but then closed in, obscuring the nearby shore across to Head Harbor. In the spruce canopy beside the banding station was a noisy flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets. Among them was a single Blue-gray Gnatcatchers which landed in net 13. Without question, this was the bird of the day. When things get busy, time has a way of accelerating and we were soon faced with having to close the nets to make it home using bicycles before nightfall. Just as we were poised to go for last rounds, a warbler hit net 1 adjacent to the banding station. This bird sent Evan bounding for the net to confirm what he had hoped it was—a Blackpoll Warbler. Evan is very excited about this species which is one of the species he is examining for his PhD and has the claim to fame of having the second longest migration for it’s body size. Blackpoll Warblers fly directly out over the open ocean destined for Venezuela. To accomplish this 80-hour open water flight, they must load on a tremendous reserve of fat, which can double and sometimes triple their body weight. Remarkable feat for a 12-grammer! Becky, Evan and Ken climbed onto bikes and made the 6-mile journey back to the Keeper’s House just in time for a fabulous New England sunset. Patrick decided to run home. An exhilarating conclusion to a very interesting day of banding on Isle au Haut.
By Ken Wright
Photo by Ken Wright
Photo caption: Isle au Haut students learn about bird migration as Patrick presents a Brown Creeper