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3-31 October 2015

Installment #629---Visitor #AmazingCounters.com

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We returned to Hilton Pond Center from Mexico just in time for part of fall migration, having enjoyed a week of activities in San Miguel de Allende that included giving a keynote address at the 3rd annual International Hummingbird Festival (trip write-up is pending). It is interesting to ponder that migratory birds we banded in October here in the Carolina Piedmont--see the complete list below--might even pass through San Miguel just a few days later. Meanwhile, at the Center summer was gradually slipping away as autumnal splendors unfolded before our appreciative eyes. Among those wonderments were several species of thrushes, some of which undoubtedly were on their way south.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

For the record, 8 October was the first day we were able to run mist nets at Hilton Pond Center after the Mexico trip. Weather was good and migrants were moving. An immature male Ruby-throated Hummingbird was our 246th of the year--a new record for the Center; he also happened to be our 5,300th RTHU banded locally since 1984. Other birds banded on 8 October:

  • 3 American Redstarts
  • 2 Yellow-rumped Warblers (winter must be coming)
  • 3 Northern Cardinals
  • 1 Gray Catbird
  • 1 Summer Tanager
  • 4 Swainson's Thrushes
  • 1 Gray-cheeked Thrush (see photo above)
  • 1 Eastern Bluebird
  • 1 Mourning Dove

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Through 24 October at the Center we caught several members of the Thrush Family (Turdidae), including Gray-cheeked Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Eastern Bluebird, and American Robin (see photo of the latest immature male robin, above). Of these species, can you guess which thrush we've banded LEAST commonly over the past three years (2013-15)?

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The answer is actually Veery (above), since we've caught none since back in 2012. We caught one Wood Thrush in 2013 and none the past two years, and only two Hermit Thrushes have hit our nets since 2013.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Surprisingly, American Robins were once our abundant birds but these days are among our least-commonly banded thrushes, with only three caught so far this fall--and none in the previous two years (see chart above). Robins were much more common here when the land around Hilton Pond was more open; now we have too little lawn and grassy areas to attract these worm-eaters. (American Robins also like winter berries, but as natural succession continued the tree canopy shaded out many shrubs that might have offered cold-weather fare.) The chart shows the decline of American Robins as indicated by banding results for the past 34 years. So much for robins being a common everyday bird at Hilton Pond Center!

The other three-year banding tallies for thrushes: Eastern Bluebird and Swainson's Thrush with 19 each and Gray-cheeked Thrush with six. Alas, none of our Gray-cheeked Thrushes have turned out to be the diminutive and elusive Bicknell's Thrush. (We don't anticipate seeing or banding any Varied Thrushes, Townsend's Solitaires, or Northern Wheatears, although all three have occurred in the Carolinas.)

Below are portraits of some thrushes we have banded through the years at Hilton Pond Center:

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Male American Robin (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Male Eastern Bluebird (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Immature Eastern Bluebird (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Female Eastern Bluebird (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Gray-cheeked Thrush (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Hermit Thrush (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Swainson's Thrush (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Swainson's Thrush (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Wood Thrush (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Wood Thrush (above)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Veery (above)


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NOTE: Operation RubyThroat alumni who contributed to the 2015 Ujarrás expedition will be acknowledged in the upcoming write-up about that trip.

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  • Jane Griess (repeat donor, Operation RubyThroat expedition alumna)
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3-31 October 2015

Ruby-throated Hummingbird--4
American Redstart--5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet--2
Golden-crowned Kinglet--2 American Goldfinch--3
Carolina Chickadee--4
Yellow-rumped warbler--13
Black-and-white Warbler--1
Black-throated Blue Warbler--1
Eastern Phoebe--1
Red-eyed Vireo--1
Indigo Bunting--1
Northern Cardinal--12
Gray Catbird--1
Summer Tanager--1
Swainson's Thrush--8
Eastern Bluebird--1
Gray-cheeked Thrush--4
Scarlet Tanager--3
White-throated Sparrow--1
Carolina Wren--1
Downy Woodpecker--2
Hermit Thrush--3
Brown Thrasher--1
American Robin--3
Mourning Dove--1

* = new banded species for 2015

27 species
81 individuals

50 species (34-yr. avg. = 65.8)

2,296 individuals

246 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (32-yr. avg = 166)

(Banding began 28 June 1982; since then 171 species have been observed on or over the property.)
126 species
63,182 individuals
5,300 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

(with original banding date, sex, and current age):

American Goldfinch (1)
03/19/14--3rd year male

Carolina Chickadee (1)
05/06/14--after 2nd year male

Northern Cardinal (1)
08/25/10--6th year male
09/09/11--5th year male

Carolina Wren (1)
08/02/14--2nd year female

Downy Woodpecker (1)
10/08/14--2nd year male

White-throated Sparrow (1)
02/20/14--3rd year unknown

--Fall migration is underway at Hilton Pond Center, as indicated by the substantial number of species and individuals banded during October 2015 (see list at left).

--The immediate past installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond" is a an account of our recent trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to speak at the 3rd annual International Hummingbird Festival. When completed it will be posted,archived, and always available on the Center's Web site as Installment #628.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Please report your
sightings of
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Oct 15 to Mar 15:
East of the Rockies please report your sightings of
Vagrant & Winter Hummingbirds

(immature male Rufous Hummingbird at right)

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research, conservation & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., aka "The Piedmont Naturalist," it is parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Web site contents--including text and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To request permission for use or for further assistance, please contact Webmaster.