Spring Migration Monitoring 2015

Although we didn’t quite have the record numbers of new bandings this year as we did in 2014, we still had a pretty incredible start with 903 new birds banded. The weather cooperated at the beginning of the season and we were able to open on May 4th, which is the earliest we have been able to open since 2011. The fist week of May is usually fairly slow so we were shocked to band 92 birds on our first day out! The extremely mild winter and early spring in the Cypress Hills might have played a part in this early push of migrants. We had two days with over 150 birds, on May 14th (158) and May 19th (153), though we were unable to keep up to last years record of 249 in a single day. Once again “Myrtle” Warblers and Chipping Sparrows were the main culprits on our busiest days with a total of 254 and 90 banded respectively.

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One of 254 “Myrtle” Yellow-rumped Warblers banded at CHIP this spring. (Photo: Colton Prins)

We had a record spring for a number of species Including Belted Kingfisher with 3 beating the previous record of 2 from 2011, House Wren with 22 almost doubling the 2011 record of 12, Gray-cheeked Thrush with 3 surpassing the previous record of 1, American Robin with 34 beating 2011’s record by 5, Brown Thrasher with 5  compared to the previous record of 2, Yellow Warbler with 99 birds surpassing the previous record of 87 from 2011, Blackpoll Warbler with 35 beating 2013’s record by 4,  and Red-winged Blackbirds with 58 surpassing the 2013 record by 22.

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One of five Brown Thrashers banded at CHIP this spring. (Photo: Colton Prins)

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One of three Gray-cheeked Thrushes banded at CHIP this spring. (Photo: Colton Prins)

We also had a great spring in the Grosbeak department. We tied previous records for Rose-breasted Grosbeaks with 6 individuals, and Black-headed Grosbeaks with 2. Black-headed Grosbeaks breed in the Cypress Hills and are sometimes caught during our MAPS season at our Old Baldy site, where as the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are strictly migrants through the hills making their way to and from the Boreal and Parkland zones in Alberta. These birds are stunning in the hand, and are some of the most vicious birds to handle, but it adds to the excitement of getting a splash of colour in the net.

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A pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks banded at CHIP this spring. (Photo: Colton Prins)

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Three of four Rose-breasted Grosbeaks banded in a single net run at CHIP on May 19, 2015. (Photo: Colton Prins)

A couple of the more interesting birds captured this spring included our second ever Northern Rough-winged Swallow and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The Northern Rough-winged Swallow is uncommon in the Cypress Hills and its always nice to see or hear one in with the flocks of Bank and Tree Swallows that frequent our banding station. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird was a wonderful surprise that wound up in net 11. Unfortunately for us we do not have the equipment to band such small birds but they are always a treat to get to handle and process.

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CHIP’s second ever NRWS banded at Elkwater Lake. (Photo: Colton Prins)

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Such a small bird! This Ruby-throated Hummingbird captured at CHIP weighed only 3.8 grams! (Photo: Colton Prins)

The most interesting bird of the spring was banded on May 19th in the middle of a 60+ bird net run consisting mainly of Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows. This bird had our banders scratching their heads a bit as it showed intermediate characteristics between Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows. After consulting a few experts in the field of bird identification the general consensus was that this indeed was a hybrid between those two species! This extremely unexpected bird is one of the rarest birds we have ever banded, though in a very different way than the vagrant species we catch occasionally.

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A portrait of our Clay-colored X Chipping Sparrow Hybrid, showing off a very interesting facial pattern. (Photo: Colton Prins)

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A full body shot of our Clay-colored X Chipping Sparrow Hybrid. This bird shows many intermediate characteristics between the two species including the primary projection. (Photo: Colton Prins)

Stay tuned as an update on the first half of our MAPS session is coming soon!

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