This is the time of the season when banders are beginning to grow weary as a result of having been up with the birds since the end of August, faithfully following the fall songbird migration—now coupled with the double duty of studying Northern Saw-whet Owls by night. Though we are tired, I think we’ll all agree that there’s no greater contentment than being a part of Nature’s changing of the seasons; the goldenrod and other wildflowers have gone to seed and taken on their fuzzy winter coats, nights have grown quiet in the absence of crickets and katydids, and the Hunter’s Moon illuminates the rattling hedgerows and blue carpeted trails by night.
Mornings last week were cold and windy, but Tuesday was still productive. Banders pushed through their delirium and processed 47 birds of 17 species. The showstoppers were two gorgeous After Hatch Year male warblers, stunning even in their dull winter plumage: a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) and a late Magnolia.
The Yellow-rumped Warbler is a hardy species that breeds in Pennsylvania and coniferous forests farther north. They can overwinter here in PA or south in the tropics. This common warbler can overwinter farther north than other warblers, owing to its ability to switch its diet from insects to waxy berries like bayberry and even poison ivy.
The rest of Tuesday’s catch was dominated by White-throated Sparrows and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. There were also good numbers of Palm Warblers, Eastern Towhees, and Purple Finches (PUFI). We can’t get enough of the PUFI’s as these erratic migrants are normally absent from our region. It is strange and wonderful to hear their rich, refined warbles raining down from the hedgerows of Rushton. Roger Tory Peterson best described this finch when he called it “a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.”
An international class from Saint Joseph’s University visited us on Tuesday, including students from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Brazil, China, and Japan. They were captivated by these tiny birds and how we are trying to contribute to their conservation by studying their populations and movements across the landscape. We always enjoy hosting these students from around the world for their positive attitudes, genuine concern for these creatures, and unmatched enthusiasm.
Thursday was a slower day with just 37 birds. Warblers were absent from the catch and replaced by netfuls of spunky Golden-crowned Kinglets. The procession of sparrows continued, and a nice batch of Hermit Thrushes came in. This week, we expect Dark-eyed Juncos and the notorious Fox Sparrow.
November 1st will be our last songbird banding day of 2018. Weather permitting, we’ll be banding this Tuesday and Thursday from 6:45 am- 11 am.