[TN-Bird] Whigg Meadow - Swainson's Thrushes and N. Saw-whet Owl update

  • From: "Scott Somershoe" <Scott.Somershoe@xxxxxx>
  • To: <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2011 22:37:48 -0500

I spent the mornings of 9-13 Sept 2011 assisting with the bird banding at Whigg 
Meadow (Monroe Co., Cherokee NF).  Although it was generally slow in terms of 
birds and captures, there were significant numbers of pre-dawn thrush flight 
calls, primarily Swainson's, on the mornings of the 10th and 11th.  There were 
numerous Veery on the 10th (very few on the 11th) with a couple Gray-cheeked 
Thrushes mixed in as well both days. 

The real story began this morning (Sept 13).  It was very birdy pre-dawn with 
hundreds of thrushes calling.  Nearly all were Swainson's Thrushes (only 1-2 
veery and gray-cheeked were heard).  There was a moderate wind from the north 
all night, so we expected a good movement of birds (finally).

About 8:15am, I noticed small groups of Swainson's Thrushes moving more or less 
NW over the road/parking area/campground and also the upper end of Whigg 
Meadow, and nearly all flying over the trees and down the mountain.  Since the 
nets were not full of birds and we had plenty of good help, I started watching 
this spectacle.  I quickly realized this was a big movement of birds, so I 
began counting the thrushes.  

The birds came across singly or in small groups (up to 6 birds), so I was able 
to get a look at nearly every individual.  I was also able to sort through and 
pick out other species (which was a fun challenge!).  50+ warblers and some 
other birds were left unidentified, but I did get good looks at a lot of 
Tennessee's and some other species.

In just over two hours, I counted 606 Swainson's Thrushes that all went NW 
across the meadow/bald, plus about 50 warblers I couldn't ID (most were likely 
Tennessee Warblers).  Only 2 thrushes went the "wrong" way.  I estimated 50% of 
the Swainson's Thrushes called before they flew out of the hedgerow and across 
the bald and/or called while in flight, which made ID easy.  The lighting was 
good and I could visually confirm the ID as well on many of the thrushes.  I 
don't think there were more than 3 gray-cheeked and 1 veery in the mix (those 
flight calls were very rare).

Over 2 hrs 10 min, the following list is what I was able to ID on the wing 
(many Swainson's vocalized, a few other birds perched after crossing the bald):
606 Swainson's Thrushes (plus 3 gray-cheeked, 1 veery)
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
2 Baltimore Orioles (one was actually flying due north)
3 Scarlet Tanagers
4 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Black-throated Green Warbler
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch (flew across the meadow calling and provided nice views 
as well)
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Eastern Wood-pewee
25+ Tennessee Warblers

We banded 29 Swainson's Thrushes this morning, so I feel comfortable saying we 
saw at least 635 Swainson's Thrushes today. The birds that flew over the bald 
and down the mountain did not appear to be returning to the higher elevations, 
so I doubt we saw the same bird twice (no recaptures either).  Birds were 
flying over the bald all day, but I didn't keep a tight count on every bird 
flying by.

Saw-whet Owl update
-Charlie Muise captured and banded a hatching year N. Saw-Whet Owl on 1 Sept 
2011 at the banding station.  Charlie attempted trapping on 3 nights.

-On the night of 12 Sept 2011, at 10pm, we captured and banded a different 
hatching year N. Saw-whet Owl, in the same location.  We attempted trapping on 
only one night while I was there.

A few images of the Saw-whet Owl (and the elusive Tennessee Warbler) begin here:

Great migration birding!
Scott Somershoe

State Ornithologist
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
P.O. Box 40747
Nashville, TN 37204
615-781-6653 (o)
615-781-6654 (fax)

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