Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 8 - Winter Songbird Monitoring

Spring has sprung! ...or at least it has started. The Red-winged Blackbirds around the wetlands have been a little vocal over the winter, but this time they were in full song and defending territories. Canada Geese have also gotten into the act, by pairing off and becoming more aggressive towards other pairs. Pacific Chorus Frogs continue to be heard calling, although we have heard them here in every month of the year. Reports from Portland indicate that the first wave of spring migrants have come in, with Say's Phoebe, Turkey Vultures and increasing numbers of swallows (Barn, Tree, and Violet-green) all reported recently. It won't be too much longer until a few of these reach southwestern BC.

One continuing trend is the burst of activity during the first hour of the day, starting half an hour before dawn. We managed to capture 21 of the 27 birds caught today within this first hour, and the remaining six birds were caught on two nets runs over the rest of the morning. Several birders and photographers in the area also noted the absence of bird activity mid-morning. Interesting birds that were caught included a returning Song Sparrow and Spotted Towhee that were banded last April and had not been caught again until now, a Golden-crowned Sparrow first banded in late November and a Pacific Wren first banded in mid-November. Looking at this winter's data so far, it appears that there may a population of around 40-50 of each Spotted Towhee, Song and Fox Sparrow, and probably 10-15 Black-capped Chickadees and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and 5 Golden-crowned Kinglets.

Other observations included many waterfowl in the sewage lagoons, with the bulk consisting of Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, and Green-winged Teal. Six to eight Yellow-rumped Warblers (both subspecies) were seen hawking insects in the cottonwoods on the west side of the lagoons. These are likely the same birds that have been present all winter, but they can be tough to find at times.

Now that we are nearing the end of the winter period it will be interesting to see when our birds leave and when the first wave of migrants will show up. It can't be too far off...

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