Feeling a certain let-down this first morning after the busiest spring banding season in the dozen or so years we've had this station! It wasn't even close - with a total of 1154 individual birds caught, we were 40% ahead of the next closest year - 2009 with 819.
My short-term thinking is that there were a couple of factors contributing to the big increase this season. First, there were several species that came through the Front Range in huge numbers - most of you noticed the Yellow-rumped Warbler invasion early in the spring - which was likely the result of a super good breeding season last summer. (We had a record number of Yellow-rumpeds last fall at Barr, followed by an even larger number this spring.) Second was the weather, which included several storms and no really hot weather. The cooler overall temperatures meant birds were more active longer each day. The storms brought migrating birds down that otherwise might have moved through without stopping and then kept birds around while they waited for the storms to pass and the late snow in the mountains to melt.
The excitement of the high number of birds during the storms was tempered by the problems that the cold, wet, windy, sometimes violent weather created for the birds. Many of you have noted dead or injured birds, nest failures, etc. In the hand, we noticed other negative impacts, particularly in some species, like Virginia's Warblers and Dusky Flycatchers, whose arrival at Chatfield spanned the good weather early on and the storms somewhat later, and both of which came through the station in record numbers. The later birds carried less fat, had more severely worn flight and tail feathers, and some even had body feathers that had dried but remained matted together rather than fluffy, etc.
A more complete summary will follow when I've had a chance to get the data compiled, which is going to take a few weeks. In the meantime, here is the info from our final day (yesterday). The highlights were 3 quite old birds being recaptured - a Yellow-breasted Chat and a Bullock's Oriole, both banded in 2015, and (drum roll......) a Yellow Warbler female banded on the same day (5/31) in 2012. The most amazing thing about this YEWA is that she had not been caught in the intervening years........how did we miss her? Maybe we need to stay open into early June! Here's the breakdown of the final 27 birds of the season:
Thanks to the great banding volunteer crew that makes it possible for us to run the full station and educate kids of all ages on even the busiest of days. And thanks to the many of you who visited the station, who took photos and sent them to me, and who sent e-mails during the course of the season. We are all part of a really supportive and enthusiastic birding community!
Meredith McBurney Bander, Chatfield Banding Station Bird Conservancy of the Rockies