Point Traverse Lighthouse by Blair Dudeck
Point Traverse Lighthouse by Blair Dudeck

2020 Fall Sightings

Updates from Assistant Bander Megan Buers

(all photos © Megan Buers unless otherwise noted)

Migration has stepped on the gas pedal! We here at PEPtBO have enjoyed a busier week this week in terms of migration – more raptor movement this week with at least one Sharp-shinned Hawk caught every day for the past four days, and a lot more observations of hawk movement around the point.

Turkey Vultures also seem to be gearing up for migration as the flocks get marginally larger (15 birds), still not at their peak of kettles upward of 100 but we are making our way there.

On Saturdays We Catch Cuckoos!

Starting on Sunday August 23 we started to see more and more warbler diversity, but Sunday was a very humid, hot, and a slow day for birds. We had new volunteers come out for a bit of a tour of the observatory and a run-down on what to expect when you come out. We also found our first Smooth Greensnake for the season!

We woke up on Monday expecting much of the same and were delighted to have a busy day. The bird activity around the station seemed to be a bit busier. We did not expect to catch a beautiful hatch year male Merlin in one of our hawk nets.

It appears Merlin numbers have increased around the station recently and we originally noticed the uptick after a day of heavy migration for Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius). Blair Dudeck, our bander in charge, was delighted since it was his most ‘wished’ for bird to band and banding one on our second week was a special treat.

We also had an after hatch year Sharp-shinned Hawk in one of our passerine nets. On top of all the hawk/falcon excitement, we also caught our first

Carolina Wren (photo: Blair Dudeck)

Carolina Wren (photo: Blair Dudeck)

Carolina Wren for the season and only the 6th ever banded at Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO). They are an uncommon visitor to the point and are not a migratory species, although they do tend to move around in their range. We also had a good day for Bobolink banding 29 new birds.

August 25th was warm and humid but north winds were forecast and we waited patiently in the hopes that these north winds would bring down some new migrants but instead the opposite was true. We woke up on Wednesday to a brisk, crisp morning which was very refreshing.

It felt like a sunny fall morning, and we were excited! Daydreams of Painted Buntings and Kentucky Warblers danced in our heads. As the day wore on, we realised instead of bringing in new migrants from the north, all our local birds had left, and we had no new migrants!

We did have a couple of good rounds and caught a lovely Bay-breasted and Canada Warbler that posed quite beautifully for us. We also had a visiting Eastern Meadowlark hanging around our Bobolink nets. Unfortunately, it did not go in.

Thursday, we woke up to rain and wind, and Blair and I went on a damp census to find fewer birds skulking around. We used the day to catch up on data entry and other observatory chores. It was good we had a break because on Friday the 28th, we had our biggest day so far with 75 birds banded, 43 of which were Bobolinks. We westerners were delighted to catch a Great-crested Flycatcher as well!

Of course, on Saturdays we catch Cuckoos. This week was no exception, with two hatch year Black-billed Cuckoos, last Saturday we were lucky enough to catch a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

We have quite a few Cuckoos hanging around the point (of both flavours) and they are magnificent birds, although terrible to photograph as they stay high and out of sight, so catching them is all the more rewarding because you can marvel at them up close. It seems there are more cuckoos around this year due to a good year for the fall web worm, so there is an abundance of food for them.

We have also opened our swamp nets, which this morning (Saturday) caught a very disgruntled Cooper’s Hawk. She had been observed by our intern Ketha Gillespie carrying away a bird and when she hit our nets she let go of her breakfast, a young Blue Jay.

Watch your feeders this week, as the hurricane will be generating some strong south winds and might blow up something from down south!



This week was a bit of a rollercoaster at Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory. A lot of ups and downs in terms of migration and bird activity.

We started the week off strong with 52 birds caught and banded on Sun. Aug. 30; however, certain groups remained low on observations at the station. We had a bit of a drop off on birds of prey observed during the former part of the week, although Merlins and the occasional Bald Eagle was seen flying around it remained quiet for raptor migration.

On Monday we had our first Brown Creeper of the season, along with a majority of Red-eyed Vireo. We had a total of 32 birds banded. We had another standard day of early migration on the Tuesday, banding another 26 birds:  some migration but no big flocks of migrants. Cedar Waxwings still being observed in big family flocks with a lot of streaky young learning how to eat berries and still trying to catch invertebrate prey.

Lake Ontario on the morning of the big day

Lake Ontario on the morning of the big day

We had a painfully slow humid day on Wednesday with strong south winds, and we were hoping it might blow the Brown Booby toward us that had been hanging out near Toronto. Or even our own Brown Booby or southern visitor. The day was made far better by Kathy Felkar bringing Mike Burge’s wonderful sticky buns, which were consumed almost immediately after their arrival.

Overnight the winds changed from strong southern winds to a cool (and immediately refreshing) north wind. The next morning, we woke up to chips and flight calls of several hundred migrating birds. Overnight the forest had filled up and we were excited to start the day.

The wind had dropped, and a lot of the birds stayed throughout the afternoon moving around the woodlot. We had our first big push of thrushes and caught quite a few Veeries and Swainson’s Thrushes. We had our biggest day of 102 birds banded, we also caught our first Philadelphia Vireo. We managed to catch and band all 4 vireos on our big day.

The next day brought our first Grey-cheeked Thrush and several other great birds, although numbers were a bit lower. We also caught 3 young (hatch year) Black-billed Cuckoos (I suppose they hadn’t got our memo they were supposed to arrive on the Saturday.) Surprising of all was one caught in the bottom pocket of our Bobolink nets.

Our Bobolink had seemed to disappear overnight after our big day on the 3rd of September, only catching 2 the next day. We finished our season for Bobolink on the 4th of September, 20 days after our start on the 15th of August. We are all very eager to start banding Northern Saw-whet Owls on the 20th of September. We are also super excited to have Michaela Berdougo return to help us with owls and banding when it gets a bit easier!

Hatch year Black-billed Cuckoo

Hatch year Black-billed Cuckoo

Sat. Sep 5 was by far the most surprising. Still starting the morning with good migration energy, lots of chip and flight calls in the early morning – a lot of Red-breasted Nuthatches bouncing from tree to tree.

We banded 80 birds and almost half were Swainson’s Thrush, it seems they have arrived in full force and can be observed anywhere on the point munching on berries and storing as much fat as they can before they continue on their southward migration. We had a pretty average day, with our first Wilson’s Warblers.

We spent the last 30 minutes or so before net close at the picnic table and observed a young Merlin perched behind the cottage, before it darted behind the J-trap. We did not think much of it at the time. Our bander in charge, Blair, walked down the John Rymes memorial trail observing birds when he heard a Merlin crying and ran to our first pair of hawk nets.

I was standing chatting with long time volunteer Lee and our new recruit Kandie, when I heard Blair faintly call for me and I knew we had the Merlin. When I came up to the net he had, not one, but TWO Merlins. Both I, the assistant bander, and our intern Ketha Gillespie were able to band a Merlin, a new bird for the both of us. Their bite is not pleasant, but they are so beautiful; it is worth it.

Ketha Gillespie holding a young Merlin

Ketha Gillespie holding a young Merlin

northern parulaSunday started with a bang, after catching our first Mourning WarblerWood Thrush, and Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker. That morning started with lots of thrush movement with the top banded bird for the day being Swainson’s Thrush. We had also caught a few Veeries and another Grey-cheeked Thrush. Lots of Philadelphia Vireos observed around the point along with the dominant vireo migrant Red-eyed Vireo.

The morning of the Monday produced rain and windy weather unsuitable for banding; however, our bander in charge Blair used the opportunity to do some lake watching in the hopes of having some southern migrant or interest birds come in for the bad weather. No such luck.

Tuesday was a bit slower than the Sunday with only 46 birds banded. Still good Swainson’s Thrush movement in the morning and still our most banded bird for the day. We used our energy from the slower day to get the owl net lanes in shape for owl banding, bushes trimmed, and lanes mowed; they look ready for battle. Thanks to Mark for all his help getting those lanes into shape. Hopefully, it is a good Northern Saw-whet Owl year!

Wednesday was our slowest day that we were open with 32 birds banded, beating last week’s total of 5 birds banded. Yet again Kathy brought us delicious homemade treats baked by Mike to keep our spirits high!

After the slower day Blair and I took a walk looking for birds, but it was quite quiet, when Paul Jones informed us of a Blanding’s Turtle wandering along the path, so we set out to take some pictures.

Blanding's Turtle spotted by Paul Jones

Blanding’s Turtle spotted by Paul Jones

Blanding’s Turtles are threatened in Ontario meaning they are likely to become endangered if the factors leading to their decline are not met. The main factors to their decline are motor vehicles, fragmentation of their habitat, raccoons stealing eggs, or the pet trade. Blanding’s are slow breeders and usually do not start breeding until their late teens or twenties.

Thursday brought a flurry of migrating birds as the winds were blowing gently from the north. We banded 116 birds that day and had lots of flocks of warblers moving through the woodlot toward the end of the banding day. Even in the evening the point was still busy for birds.

The warbler du jour was Bay-breasted Warbler but a sneaky Pine Warbler snuck in with the flocks of Bay-breasted. We have since seen one or two other unbanded Pine Warblers around the woodlot, perhaps they will find our way to our nets. Another Wood Thrush found its way to our nets, as well as another Philadelphia Vireo. We also had our first Northern Parula caught. Even though they had been observed around the point the week prior, these were our first banded.

Friday was also quite busy to the end of the banding day with 85 birds banded most of the birds banded being Bay-breasted Warblers in the last few net rounds.

Today (Saturday) yielded NO Cuckoos to our surprise. However, Blair and I did see an unbanded Yellow-billed Cuckoo the day before. Saturday also yielded two Sharp-shinned Hawks, with Bald Eagle flyovers. Rumours of heavy Broad-winged Hawk movement to our north have us gearing up for more raptor movement in the coming week.