Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Phenology: October 3, 2011

Posted by Kirk
Happy October! Man does time fly, or rather, disappear, just last week I was saying that we had the mark wherein we have less than 12 hours of sunlight and then by today we are already at just eleven hours, and thirty six minutes. We're loosing light fast. Those three minutes less per day are adding up. The sun rose at 7:13 am and set at 6:50. For those keeping score, or those with intimate knowledge of my bedroom habits, that means the sun now rises almost exactly an hour after I wake up. The only good news here is for those of you who like astronomy we'll soon have more and more darkness. I'll do my best not to dampen your high spirits by pointing out that next month, November, is typically the cloudiest month of the year.

The Phenology Week in Review:

Last Monday it was still September and I watched the colors change before my eyes. There was a maple out the window at work that had hints of color in the morning and by the end of the day it was 50% changed. It was quite remarkable.

Tuesday was drizzly and just all around not great. We only set two nets for bird banding and only had them open for a short while. The banders caught 11 birds.
American goldfinch 2
black-capped chickadee 4
Swainson's thrush 1
white-breasted nuthatch 5
Cool to see the Swainson's thrushes are migrating through. To be honest, we bird band mostly for the kids and you can show them all the warblers you want and they aren't all that impressed. You show them a black-capped chickadee and an American goldfinch and they practically explode out of their seats in excitement. We'd do well to remember that. 

Wednesday I went canoeing and it was beautiful. There were trumpeter swans on the lakes at work and migrating turkey vultures overhead. Hard to ask for much more but we did get more. In the wake of the poor windy weather on Tuesday we got slammed with migrating birds. The mist nets were only open for a short time but we had 170 birds in them comprising 21 species. The banders actually had to close the nets as they were simply getting birds faster than they could process them. The flocks of birds were hitting the nets 30 at a time. Here's what was migrating through. 

Nashville warbler 1
magnolia warbler 1
ruby-crowned kinglet 10
Tennessee warbler 1
American goldfinch  5
black-capped chickadee  4
chipping sparrow  2
eastern phoebe  1
Lincoln's sparrow  3
myrtle warbler  92
orange-crowned warbler 2
western palm warbler  12
ovenbird  1
downy woodpecker  1
eastern bluebird  2
swamp sparrow  6
song sparrow  5
white-breasted nuthatch  1
white-throated sparrow  17
gray catbird  2
northern cardinal  1
In case you didn't catch that, there were NINETY-ONE  myrtle warblers. (Those would be yellow-rumped warblers to you lumpers.)

Thursday I taught deer ecology all day and ironically it meant I didn't get outside much. Early on in the day I was overseeing a rotation table on deer digestion when the kid's teacher pointed to the radar screen we have up on a kiosk and said, "Hey, are we going to get rain?" There did seem to be green blobs moving toward us. I clicked on the storm cells and saw that the biggest one only had 2 kg/m² of vertically integrated liquid. "Shouldn't be more than a sprinkle," I told him. As it turns out, 2 kg/m² is more than enough to soak kids who didn't bring any rain gear.

Friday I left work early but not before a short stroll though the woods. I could hear birds everywhere including what seemed to be an endless movement of white-throated sparrows. Some of them were tentatively practicing their spring calls and it was easy to entice them to sing with a little whistle. The only warbler I saw was a myrtle and it was fun to note through the binoculars that it was banded.

Saturday was a beautiful day. We've been really fortunate this year to have so much nice weather. Instead of getting outside to enjoy it I took my son to the model train museum. Hey, I've got more hobbies than birds and phenology.

Sunday was our annual Fall Color Blast at work.We had around 630 people come enjoy the outdoors with us. The great thing about the wide open outdoors is that 630 people feels like almost nothing. One of the readers of the blog, Sue, shared with me while I worked down at the lake that the bird banders had caught a fox sparrow. That was the first we'd seen them this fall. (Though Birdchick mentioned to me that she saw a dead one smashed on a bike trail in the Twin Cities earlier in the week.)

The week ahead:
Expect more migration. The banding totals are showing that many species are moving though but you have to really be out there looking for them. The Tennessee Warbler is a good example, even while mist netting birds and with 170 to choose from, we only had one Tennessee Warbler. This is a tough season to be out birding as even when you see a bird you then have to deal with fall plumage. I wish you all luck. Those of you into flowers there will still be time this week to enjoy the late season beauty of the asters. Some of the last monarchs are moving through as well this week. Speaking of insects, watch for prodigious numbers of wooly-bear caterpillars this week. It is a good year for them. These will overwinter and become Isabella tiger moths next spring.