Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wave Days are the Best

Today is my first real break since a four day wave starting on October 10 with only a few arriving birds and peaking on the 11th and 12th with hundreds of arriving landbirds, including likely over 100 Ruby-crowned Kinglets and perhaps more than 150 (>200?) Zonotrichia sparrows (mostly Golden-crowned with one third as many White-crowned and a few White-throated), many first of fall birds, and a few rarities.
"Western" Palm Warbler, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
Rock Wren, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
Aleutian Cackling Goose, one of seven total seen, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
HY Peregrine Falcon
White-throated Sparrow, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
"Bicolored" Red-winged Blackbird, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
One of the few dozen Pine Siskins during the wave
We continue to band Burrowing Owls every night, and continue to find unbanded owls each day.  This is apparently the best year ever for Burrowing Owls on the island in terms of numbers.  Our daily high count is 17, shattering the previous record of 11.
This rather late Olive-sided Flycatcher was one of the first birds I saw on wave day (October 11th).
As I said, the wave pretty much started on the 10th with a few new birds such as Cackling Goose, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and several other new arriving songbirds.  However, the 11th was the big day.  I rolled out of bed expecting nothing new, or at least very little in terms of arriving birds, since the the winds were very strong.  However, the cloud ceiling was low enough that the mainland wasn't visible, and when I walked out the door to start my AM area search, there were dozens of sparrows and kinglets flitting about and calling in the tree and shrubbery by the house.  As I continued my search, I turned up more and more new arrivals such as Olive-sided Flycatcher and Townsend's Solitaire (less than 50 records on the island; anything under 100 records is a pretty good bird), among the hundreds of other birds.

Common Raven on wave day, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
Townsend's Solitaire, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
Townsend's Solitaire, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
My favorite bird of the day, though, was found at the lighthouse just 30 minutes or so after I got down from doing my shark watch from there.  Sophie Webb radioed down that she was looking at a "lovely male Evening Grosbeak sitting on the lighthouse."  We spent some time attempting to scope it from below, but could never find it, and the bird eventually flew somewhere that Sophie could not tell.  I spent the next hour or so hiking around the island looking for the bird.  It began raining, so the rocks on all the hills were slippery, and I had to keep my camera under my shirt to keep it from getting too wet.  Just when I was ready to give up, I heard it call from the lighthouse, and I saw it flying in my direction.  The bird landed about 20ft from me, and I was able to get some okay photographs given the rain and lack of light.  There are only 5 previous records for Evening Grosbeak on Southeast Farallon Island.  Of course after all that effort, the bird flew into one of our nets, and I got to band it.
Adult male Evening Grosbeak, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
Adult male Evening Grosbeak, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
It was hard to beat the wave on the 11th, but the 12th still brought in a number of new birds, including a few island birds for me.  Ash-throated Flycatcher and Swamp Sparrow were among them.  On the 13th we were treated to a few new birds, and a Brown Booby that loafed around all day with the cormorants on Sugarloaf (small island/large rock just off of the island).

The best bird of the day was a probable Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (would be 3rd record for the island)/possible Red-naped Sapsucker (would be 6th record for island).  I saw the bird flying around the lighthouse (but to me only identifyable as a woodpecker), but Jim Tietz was at the lighthouse and was able to photograph (photos here) the bird during it's brief stay at the lighthouse before it flew off never to be seen again.  Of course there is always the possibility of hybridization, and the experts don't seem to agree on the identity of this individual, some going so far as to say they won't put a name on it from the photos.  Several people think it is Yellow-bellied, though.  The back pattern, to me looks great for Yellow-bellied, but I haven't seen enough Red-naped, and don't know enough about hybridization in these taxa to make a call myself.  Comment with your opinion.
Ash-throated Flycatcher, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
Swamp Sparrow [Photo by Dan Maxwell]
Brown Booby [Photo by Dan Maxweel]
One of the most interesting occurrences on the 12th was seen only by Dan Maxwell, as this adult Peregrine Falcon snatched a Sabine's Gull (I need that bird for the year!) off the water.  This cropped, distant shot is still identifiable. [Photo by Dan Maxwell]
Until next time –


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