In contrast to last summer's ample rain, this nesting season was dryer than normal with unprecedented heat, June being the driest and warmest on record (starting in 1895). Forbs, shrubs and saplings were wilting in June. The heavy spring fruit sets on shrubs started shriveling or dropping off. Stressed trees started to drop leaves by July.
The singing male census held its own with 64 nesting species, missing being the Willow Flycatcher, both Cuckoos, and Yellow-breasted Chat. Neotropical migrant species on territory dropped again to 38% of all species from the high of nearly 47% in 1985. Neotropical migrant numbers are slowly drifting down from the peak of 57% of singing males censused in 1995 to 40%. Effects of the rained out nesting season of last year are showing. Our big February snow reduced Carolina Wrens, Nuthatches. And I can't help but wonder if two weather events didn't have something to do with this decline: a recent-year spring storm that blew off-land at the Gulf during spring migration and resulted in drowned songbirds washing up on the beaches; and an October tropical storm up the Atlantic coast that blew 11 species of our migrant songbirds, plus 2 sandpiper species, an egret and a teal to the small island Corvo in the Azores on 17 Oct 2009. These events imply large flocks of birds lost at sea.
Constant effort mist-netting and banding for the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship program resulted in 186 new birds of 30 species, a 22-year low. 2008 had 341new birds of 43 species. Returns of birds banded in previous years held up at 18%, or 40 birds of the 226 individuals captured. Of these 40, 15 birds were banded as fledglings last year: 6 Catbirds and 9 other birds. Individual high ages were: Catbird 9 years old, three 6 years, two 5 years; Wood Thrush after 6 years; Hybrid Chickadee 7 years, Tufted Titmouse 5 years.
The young of all species took a hit again this year. Among the ground nesters there were only 7 Ovenbird fledglings compared to 15 in the last good nesting season of 2008, no Towhee fledgling and 1 Blue-winged Warbler fledgling. Other target fledglings banded were only 2 Wood Thrushes compared to 15 in 2008 and only 21 Catbird compared to 69 in 2008. The first Catbird fledgling appeared in the nets at the usual time, end June, and three waves of fledglings were evident.
As cooperators with the University of California LA Center for Tropical Research and The Conservation Genetics Resource Center, we pulled two tail feathers from each of 121 birds. The DNA in skin cells attached to the quill is used to determine the population origin of an individual bird, and stable isotope analysis of a portion of the feather is used to determine the latitude where the feather was grown. Researchers are trying to determine migratory connectivity, that is, the wintering grounds for specific populations of breeding birds and vice versa. The conservation implications are tremendous. Another researcher is looking for traces of West Nile Virus RNA that can be extracted from the feather calamus of previously exposed birds. For more information on these and other fascinating projects click here.
The species list follows, the numbers being singing/displaying males on territory throughout unless specified by dates.
|Common Name||Count & Comments|
|Great Blue Heron||frogging in pond 2x, July 11 week|
|Canada Goose||2 pr, nests predated|
|Black Vulture||2 flyover June 13|
|Turkey Vulture||3 pairs|
|Cooper's Hawk||1, calling fledgling Aug 8, 26, 29|
|Red-tailed Hawk||2 pair, routinely mobbed. Calling fledgling Aug 1-3, 15|
|Screech Owl||3, Aug 15, 22|
|Great-horned Owl||1 + pair, Aug 8, 15|
|Chimney Swift flyover||June 6, July 25, 31, Aug 7|
|Eastern Wood Pewee||5|
|Barn Swallow||4 pairs, 21 fledglings|
|Eastern Bluebird||2, 2 broods each|