By Margie Menzies, Naturalist and Bird Bander
2020 was a year that taught or retaught so many of us that being outside is critical to maintaining our health and well being. We fortunately were able to figure out alternative methods for bird banding this year to maintain safety for the staff and volunteers by moving it away from the building and lots of visitors. During the summer and fall season we banded about an average number of 606 birds. And we recaptured 172 birds that were already banded previously, some of these captured multiple times during the course of the summer, as many 4 times in the case of 6 different birds. So the total individuals birds recaptured is 102 birds, with the majority birds being birds caught previously in the 2020 season.
There were a few unusual birds that stopped in this year. We caught a Scarlet Tanager during the summer breeding season this year for the first time during MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship- a summer breeding bird research project). We also caught 2 Golden Crowned Kinglets during MAPS- a male and a female in the same net at different points in the same day- which may indicate a pair. In both the Scarlet Tanager and Golden Crowned Kinglets, these were likely birds already on the move from their breeding territory.
During the fall migration banding we were lucky enough to catch a beautiful male Connecticut Warbler, a rare capture indeed. Only the third one of those captured at Sugarloaf as well. We had a Blue-headed Vireo (usually only migratory birds) hang out for a week and be recaptured again the next week. This is unusual behavior for a migrant. Other highlights included a Northern Flicker, which is a large handful for a bander, a Golden-winged Warbler early in breeding season- we hoped that it would stay for the season, but alas it doesn’t appear that it did.
This year the ongoing battle for bird most banded at Sugarloaf was decisively claimed by the American Redstarts. It’s been a neck and neck battle from the beginning with these two species. The last few years the title has largely belonged to the Nashville Warbler. But after 2020, in which we banded 111 American Redstarts to 67 Nashville Warblers, the American Redstarts currently hold the all time top spot at 679 banded compared to Nashville Warblers currently at 556. The other members of the top 10 list are listed below. Chestnut-sided Warblers also had a banner year with a new record of 49 banded in one year- previous record year was 31, and made it back into the top ten list for the first time since 2014!
This year was a less than average year in terms of overall diversity of birds captured at Sugarloaf. We captured a total of 49 species, our average is closer to 54 species a year, with our most diverse year being 2015. Both 2019 and 2020 yielded 49 species. We hope this is not a trend that continues! We also had 2 species absent from the types of birds that we band every year at Sugarloaf- we did not band any American Goldfinches, or Chipping Sparrows this year. Have no fear, they both were present this year- just didn’t happen to be birds that we caught this time around even though we saw and heard them all summer long. Birds do what birds do, when they want to do it. Stay tuned for the next update on what they are up to at Sugarloaf Cove.
Top 10 species banded at Sugarloaf in all years of banding
- American Redstart 679
- Nashvillle Warbler 556
- Black-capped Chickadee 346
- Song Sparrow 266
- Tennessee Warbler 233
- White-throated Sparrow 232
- Alder Flycatcher 210
- Chestnut-sided Warbler 204
- Purple Finch 201
- Ovenbird 175