Black-bellied Plover by Sumiko Onishi
Fall Migration Summary 2016

The unusually mild weather this fall caused some delays in the migration season compared to previous years. Migrating waterfowl took longer to appear on the lake, and birds like the Yellow-billed Cuckoo lingered on Pelee Island until late in the year. Also notable was the fact that September was the busiest month of the fall season for bird banding, with several days where over a hundred birds were banded. PIBO generally bands the highest numbers of birds in October, but this year that month was marked by consistent southerly winds that probably prevented many birds from migrating when they usually would have. Nevertheless, while birds appeared to take longer than usual to start heading south, the migration season itself was not any more drawn-out than usual – by the time the nets closed on November 4th and the census ended on November 15th, Fish Point was quiet, with only a few late migrants and resident birds seen out on the lake and around Fox Pond.
PIBO’s fall migration coverage began at Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve on August 1st. Shorebirds and a few early long distance passerine migrants like swallows, vireos and flycatchers were recorded from the 1st to the 20th along with a few early warbler species. South winds on August 4th and 12th seemed to provide encouragement to the Purple Martins, Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows, as large flights of them were seen heading south off the tip of Fish Point. Netting operations began on August 16th and the first significant pulse of autumn migrants reached Pelee Island ten days later. It included a number of new arrivals, such as Bay-breasted Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, and an early Yellow-rumped Warbler. 61 species from a wide range of families were recorded on August 30th, from American White Pelicans and Soras to Eastern Screech Owls and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, plus one Connecticut Warbler.
September began with a busy few days of banding as north-eastern winds helped to push migrants south. 120 birds were banded on the 1st, and 92 on September 2nd, the majority of which were Swainson’s Thrushes, Veerys, Magnolia Warblers and American Redstarts. From there the number of birds banded declined as the winds shifted back to the south. Banding remained slow until September 9th, when north winds early in the morning brought large numbers of thrushes into the netting area. They could be heard swooping in to land in the dogwood trees even before the sun had risen, and by the end of the morning 100 birds had been banded, most of them Swainson’s Thrushes. The following day brought rain, and from then on bird activity became more consistent, with banding totals of between 30 and 50 birds. Mixed flocks of Blackpoll Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers and other warbler species passed through the netting area and were often seen on census around Fox Pond.

The beginning of September also marked the beginning of raptor migration. A Red-tailed Hawk flew by on September 2nd, and the first Northern Harrier was seen on census on the 3rd. From September 12th onwards unbanded Sharp-shinned Hawks were captured every day as they arrived on the island. September 4th brought the first Merlin of the season and an American Kestrel who was observed watching the songbirds bathing at the edge of Fox Pond. The presence of so many birds of prey had an inhibiting effect on the thrushes and warblers, who kept a low profile to avoid becoming a morning snack. Blackpoll Warblers and Swainson’s Thrushes continued to predominate, with occasional sightings and captures of Veerys, Black-Throated Blue Warblers, and Magnolia Warblers. Bird activity slowed considerably until only 12 birds were banded on the 20th, all of them thrushes.
North winds arrived again on September 24th and the banding station was kept busy all morning, with 117 birds banded of 20 different species. Most of the birds captured were warblers, including 27 Magnolia Warblers, 12 American Redstarts and 9 Black-and-White Warblers, but the influx of warblers didn’t last long. By the next day the wind had shifted to the east and once again Swainson’s Thrushes and Grey-Cheeked Thrushes dominated the daily totals.

October began with overcast skies and scattered showers that made it difficult for the nets to be opened for the whole 6-hour banding period. Very few birds were captured. Some species were still moving through, though, especially diurnal migrants: large flocks of Blue Jays, mixed flocks of blackbird species and groups of American Robins were seen streaming overhead. Only a single bird (a Winter Wren) was captured on October 7th but during census the tip was crowded with Double-Crested Cormorants, American White Pelicans, assorted gull species, nineteen Turkey Vultures, and two female Peregrine Falcons, whose presence created an uproar among the Blue Jays and American Crows.
The birds became more active on October 8th as the temperature dropped. Large flocks of Golden- and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were seen moving through the trees with some Brown Creepers mixed in with them. Groups of White-throated Sparrows could be heard chipping to one another as they foraged among the leaf litter in the netting area, and the first White-crowned Sparrows of the season were seen on October 9th. While most of the warblers had flown south by the second half of October, a few individuals lingered on. An Ovenbird and a Black-Throated Blue Warbler were banded on October 14th, and a Chestnut-Sided Warbler was banded on the 15th. As well, a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo was unexpectedly observed and banded on October 18th. Generally the cuckoos have left the island by the first week in October and prior to this the latest that a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo had been banded by PIBO was August 29th, in 2013.
Out on the lake, things remained quiet. Even as late as October 22nd there was not a lot of waterfowl activity aside from a few Scaups spp. and the first Bufflehead of the season, which was spotted on the 23rd. It wasn’t until almost the very end of the month that the waterfowl migration began to pick up. 39 Horned Grebes were seen on October 28th and over 200 Red- Breasted Mergansers were counted on the 30th, while the first Hooded Mergansers of the season were seen on the 31st.
October 25th began with a surprise for PIBO’s field staff – the capture of a juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk, the first one to ever be banded at the station. Fortunately PIBO keeps a variety of sizes of bird bands on hand for just such an occasion, and the Red-Shouldered Hawk itself was very cooperative during the banding process.

Bird banding at Fish Point continued until November 4th, with a few Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes and Winter Wrens captured. The census continued until November 15th and racked up large numbers of migrating blackbirds and waterfowl. Common Grackles, Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Red-Winged Blackbirds and European Starlings were all seen in enormous flocks of many thousands of birds, and their squeaking, honking, chattering calls formed a distinctive aural backdrop to the morning census. One Tree Swallow was seen flying over Fox Pond on November 9th, scooping up the last midges and mosquitoes of the year.
The last census for 2016 took place on November 15th. Out on the lake, groups of Red-breasted Mergansers, Horned Grebes and Buffleheads bobbed up and down on the gentle swell created by the southwest winds. A few Golden-crowned Kinglets, one Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and the usual flocks of European Starlings and Red-winged Blackbirds were seen, along with some American Robins and Myrtle Warblers feeding at Fox Pond. It was a calm, sunny morning, and a beautiful end to another successful fall season.
1,671 birds of 62 species were banded by PIBO at Fish Point this fall. Including recaptured birds and birds that were captured and released without being banded, 1,737 birds of 64 species made their way into PIBO’s mist-nets over 107 days of banding. The overall catch rate was 0.668 birds/net hour with a total of 2598.39 net hours thanks to the combined efforts of Sumiko Onishi, Sachi Schott, Rob Tymstra, Suzanne Friemann and Graeme C. Gibson.
Special thanks goes to Rob Tymstra for providing transportation to PIBO staff to and from Fish Point when their usual vehicle was required elsewhere.
Northern Saw-Whet Owl by Sumiko Onishi 2016


The 2016 Christmas Bird Count will be held on December 18th. Contact us at if you'd like to join in. Photo by Sumiko Onishi.
For the last month a group of dedicated volunteers have been rebuilding the banding station. It will be completed before the start of the spring season.
We have launched a new fundraising campaign to replace the rotten floor at our research cottage.
Golden Eagle by Sumiko Onishi

G. Gibson, The Younger

Founding Patrons:
Margaret Atwood
Mysterious Starling Inc.

Chandisherry Foundation
Graeme Gibson, Elder
Rosamond Ivey
Suzanne Ivey Cook

Major Supporters:
Balzacs Coffee Ltd.
Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company
Bedside Press
Bird Studies Canada
Carol Elizabeth Denny
Chandisherry Foundation
David Jiles
Dine Magazine
Eco Foundation
Essex Region Conservation Authority
Friends of the Museum
George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation
Lambton Wildlife Inc.
Nature Conservancy of Canada
Ontario Parks
Rosemary Speirs
St. Clair College
TD Friends of the Environment Foundation
The Donner Canadian Foundation
The Echo Foundation
The Fleck Family Foundation
The Henry White Kinnear Foundation
The McLean Foundation
The Pelee Island Community
The Schad Foundation
The University of Windsor

We would also like to thank the many individuals who generously donated this year. Whether it was for our banding station rebuild, the new floor at our research cottage, our education program or to maintain the high quality of our research, we couldn’t do this without you.

PIBO held three owling nights this year. Although only one owl was caught when visitors were present, everyone still had a great time!
In support of PIBO and the Friends of Point Pelee, a collection of works by some of Canada's most recognized independent artists was on display this summer at the Point Pelee Visitor Centre. These artists kindly donated a portion of the sales to PIBO.

Chris Bacon
Michael Dumas
Tim Hough
Anja Karisik
Laura Kingsbury
Eddie Lepage
Gary Landon
Billy-Jack Milligan
Wayne Mondok
George Raab
Karen Richardson
Nigel Shaw
Andrew Cheddie Sookrah
Brent Trach
W. David Ward
April White

Heron lithograph by Chris Bacon
Support our work through Canada Helps
Tree swallows by Sumiko Onishi
NEW! Follow us on Instagram: Peleebird
Copyright © *2016* *Pelee Island Bird Observatory*, All rights reserved.

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Pelee Island Bird Observatory · 585 South Shore Road · Box E2, General Delivery · Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0 · Canada

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