With a great start to spring neither the birds nor the banders at CHIP showed signs of slowing down. For the most part the weather cooperated. The record setting numbers of Chipping Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows and “Myrtle” continued to increase. We banded 77, 324, and 277 of each of these respectively.
Towards the end of Spring Migration a large number of Bank Swallows hit the nets. With 79 new Bank Swallows banded the previous record from 2012 was surpassed by 36 birds!
We also set a new spring record for Western Wood-Pewee, Orange-crowned Warbler, Song Sparrow and “Gambel’s” White-crowned Sparrow. Three new species to CHIP’s all-time list: Merlin, Violet-green Swallow, and Brewer’s Blackbird were also caught this spring. 2014 also marked the highest number of new bandings for any spring at CHIP besting the 2011 record by 286 birds! The final total was 1234, which coincidentally is the exact elevation of the Elkwater townsite in the Cypress Hills.
May 29th may have been the most exciting day at the banding station this spring. Not only did all three banders get new “banding ticks”, but two new species were added to CHIP’s all time banded list. While extracting a large group of Bank Swallows in net 8, one bird stuck out quite vibrantly. A single male Violet-green Swallow was in the net, a new species for CHIP! This species breeds in a few isolated locations in the southern prairies of Alberta, but is not regularly recorded in the Cypress Hills.
The excitement did not end there as CHIP’s first and only falcon species, a Merlin, ended up in net 12. Merlin’s have a large regional variation with multiple subspecies described. This individual was a second year male Richardson’s (Prairie) Merlin which makes it even more exciting.
The day continued to produce with this springs first Lazuli Bunting, second Black-billed Magpie, 29 Bank Swallows, and 46 Cedar Waxwings. The day’s total of new bands was 105!
Blackbirds or Icterids as a family have a reputation for being intelligent and even though Brewer’s Blackbirds are frequently seen around the netlanes at CHIP, they had never been banded here until this year. On the morning of June 3rd during the days first netrun two female Brewer’s were in net 11 side by side! A new species for CHIP! On June 8th another Brewer’s, this time a male, was captured and banded. On that same day a Common Grackle (one of two this spring), Brown-headed Cowbirds, and a Red-winged Blackbird were captured, making it a great day for blackbirds.
As spring wrapped up we began preparing for the upcoming MAPS season. Three sites, Spruce Coulee, Rodeo Grounds, and Old Baldy will be used. Hopefully the success of an incredible spring will carry on through the breeding season.