Friday, October 21, 2022

Week 13 - Year End Wrap-Up: Pedder Was Better!

 The final week of migration monitoring is always a bittersweet one. The banding staff and volunteers are ready for some well-deserved R&R, while nostalgia and excitement from the season leaves us wishing it could go on forever! The migration season at RPBO is one of those good things that must come to an end. But fret not, for next fall we get to do it all over again! In the meantime, let us reflect on the outcomes, highlights, and banding stats of Week 13 at our Rocky Point and Pedder Bay stations.

A couple of semi-unexpected visitors this week included Swamp Sparrows banded at both stations! One of which being the first bird of the day at Rocky Point on the final migration shift.

Swamp Sparrow (David Bell)

Although we hear many calling on most days, House Finches don’t often find themselves caught in our nets. This week proved to be an exception as the team at Pedder Bay banded their 3rd of the season!

3rd and final House Finch of the season at Pedder Bay (Ashlea Veldhoen)

Another interesting catch was a recaptured Chestnut-backed Chickadee with only one foot. This Chickadee was originally banded in 2020 with no recorded injury information, meaning it had lost its foot in between now and then, and somehow managed to keep the band! A true champion of migration banding practices.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee banded in 2020. (Louis Driver)

This week Rocky Point banded 181 new birds with top species being Ruby-crowned Kinglet (61), Golden-crowned Kinglet (34), and Spotted Towhee (15). Pedder Bay continued its dominant numbers into the last week with 198 birds banded. Top species at Pedder were Oregon Junco (39), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (32), and Hermit Thrush (23). Between the stations 7718 new birds were banded with 1400 recaptures this year! Rocky ended the season with 3790 total banded, while Pedder smashed its old record with 3928!  Our top three most banded species this season are as follows: Lincoln’s Sparrow (710), White-crowned Sparrow (607), and Wilson’s Warbler (557).

Lincoln's Sparrow (David Bell)

White-crowned Sparrow (Julian Powers)

Wilson's Warbler (Louis Driver)

Although our season was devoid of any bird-dropping storms or rain, both stations managed to break a variety of different season-total records. At Rocky Point we had record-highs of Pacific-slope Flycatcher (387), American Robin (45), Cedar Waxwing (24), Lincoln’s Sparrow (313), Brown-headed Cowbird (28), Wilson’s Warbler (354), Alder Flycatcher (2), and White-throated Sparrow (24).

Season Total Board at Rocky Point - Green marker indicates new record (Ashlea Veldhoen)

Records at Pedder Bay included Downy Woodpecker (7), Swainson’s Thrush (288), American Robin (147), Chipping Sparrow (42), Lincoln’s Sparrow (397), and White-throated Sparrow (14).

Season Total Board at Pedder Bay - Stars indicate new records (Ashlea Veldhoen)

Although we didn’t want it to end, our final observation totals were estimated and the last few birds were banded. That wraps it up for the 2022 season! Here are some of the final moments captured.

From left - Louis Driver, Sonja Futehally, and David Bell with the Pedder Totals Board (Ashlea Veldhoen)

A Pacific Wren - The last passerine banded at Pedder Bay of 2022 (Ashlea Veldhoen)

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet - The last passerine banded at Rocky Point of 2022 (Julian Powers)

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the incredible team of volunteers, staff, and board members that make our program at Rocky Point Bird Observatory possible. We've been fortunate to have an incredible 2022 season thanks to your hard work, long hours, dedication, and passion! With so many memories made, skills learned, and friendships formed, it's no wonder that the sense of community is so strong within the organization. To each and every one of you who supports what we do, THANK YOU! We hope to see you next year to further education, hone your skills, and engage in some of the most captivating fieldwork there is!

Week 13 banding numbers alongside totals for the entire season!

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Week 12 - Robin Record(s)

This week’s cool mornings and the time spent clearing numerous leaves from the nets are a sure sign the weather is changing. Though we are nearing the end of passerine migration season, there has been no shortage of happenings at the stations, including the anticipated record-breaking number of birds banded at our Pedder Bay station in a season (previous record 3558 in 2017). Also noteworthy for both stations this week is the surpassing of previous records for numbers of American Robin and White-throated Sparrows banded.

At Pedder Bay (PB) 367 birds were banded this week. Top species banded were Oregon Junco (60), American Robin (47), Golden-crowned Sparrow (45), Hermit Thrush (38) and Fox Sparrow (37). The record-breaking bird was this American Robin pictured below, understandably oblivious to his/her significance! 


The record-breaking American Robin (Julian Powers, 2022)

Rocky Point (RP) banded 272 birds this week, topping the charts were Ruby-crowned Kinglets (52), Spotted Towhee (32), and Pacific Wren (29). Notable captures at the station were a Palm Warbler, a Barred Owl and an interesting Northern Flicker intergrade. Special recaps of the week were two Fox Sparrows, originally banded at RP in 2016 and 2018, making them 6 and 4yrs old respectively!


Palm Warbler, this unbanded individual was spotted at RP (Aiva Noringseth, 2022)



Palm Warbler banded at RP (Andrew Jacobs, 2022)

Northern Flicker intergrade - the brown face and red nape are features of Yellow-shafted, while the reddish-orange under wings are of Red-shafted (David Bell, 2022)


Fox Sparrow recap from 2016! (Julie Howe, 2022)

A single net round brought in 6 White-throated Sparrows at RP on Oct 7th! (David Bell 2022)

Steller’s Jay, Varied Thrush, Swamp Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Broad-winged Hawk, Canada, Cackling, Greater White-fronted, and Snow Geese (524 in a single day at RP!) have all been observed at both stations this past week. Also seen at RP this week were Sooty Shearwater, Short-tailed Shearwater, Pectoral Sandpiper, Long-tailed Duck, Wilson’s Snipe, Lapland Longspur, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, Common, Red-throated and Pacific Loons. Pacific Wrens, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets have been conspicuous in and around the nets. Their small size requires them to be processed quickly, hence extractors are required to mark their bird bags with a red peg.

Snow Geese flying over at RP (David Bell, 2022)

Golden-crowned Kinglet (Sonja Futehally, 2022)

Rose-hip, pacific crab apple, and Snowberries are a major source of fruit for birds at this time of year. You might have noticed them around the station, or in the beak of a bird. One of our most numerous yet often overlooked birds, the American Robin, is quite dependent on fruit now while the ground is hard and earthworms are unattainable. They also have an extendable esophagus which allows them to store fruit, an adaptation allowing them to survive colder night temperatures, and many are able to overwinter in their breeding range. 

Since we have an abundance of sparrows to observe, lets have a closer look at some of our winter residents. Many sparrows have red eyes as adults, while first year birds have a dull red eye colour. Those with a distinct hood can be sexed, with males having a black hood and females having more brown (Spotted Towhee) to gray (Oregon Junco). 

 HY Spotted Towhee  (David Bell 2022)

AHY Spotted Towhee (Sonja Futehally, 2022)


HY Oregon-Junco (David Bell, 2022)
AHY Oregon-Junco (Tamara Wolowicz, 2022)











The crown of Golden-crowned Sparrows is not well defined in first year birds. Adults have a yellow forecrown and crown, changing to white halfway down the median crown, the supersilium and supraloral is black.



HY Golden-crowned Sparrow(David Bell 2020)

AHY Golden-crowned Sparrow (David Bell 2020)







And finally, White-throated Sparrows can have very well defined head plumage in their first year, but often have streaking on the flanks which is indicative of first year birds. Adults also have reddish eyes, while first year birds have more brown in the eye colour.  


HY White-throated Sparrow (David Bell, 2020)  

 AHY White-throated Sparrow (David Bell, 2022)            


The ever present Mule deer are also enjoying the rose plants, the leaves though! (Sonja Futehally, 2022)

As you might already be aware, the banders at RPBO have many talents, including drawing, as you can see from this fine art work at RP. 
Turkey Vulture by bander Ashlea (Sonja Futehally, 2022)

Common Murre by Ashlea (Sonja Futehally, 2022)


Drawing birds is a great way to enhance your knowledge of bird topography and better understand feather arrangements. Taking the time to draw the head of a passerine can help you identify birds in the field as you will become more familiar with feather groups.

The owl banding season is also well under way. A Northern Saw-whet Owl originally banded outside Calgary (by Calgary Bird Banding Society) on October 1st, 2021 was captured at Pedder Bay station this week. That is a direct distance of 706 km, and it likely traveled further than that! It is a female and is now considered a second year bird. 

SY recap NSWO (Mark Byrne, 2022)

And for the first time at RPBO a Great Horned Owl was caught at Rocky Point (in net 5!). There have been at least 5 individuals seen regularly at RP this season. Since we do not carry the band size required for this species, we were unable to band it. 

Up close with an ATY male Great Horned Owl!

Great Horned Owl wing under UV light - Owl feathers contain the pigment porphyrin, which glows under UV light and is helpful for determining their age (Mark Byrne, 2022)

As always, we are grateful to all the volunteers for coming out and helping at the stations! If you would like to pick up some shifts please sign up on Or if you are new please email Further statistics for the week can be found in the following tables!

Weekly and Season Species Totals
Pedder Bay               Oct 6    Oct 7   Oct 8   Oct 9   Oct 10   Oct 11   Oct 12   Totals
Banded                          49       56         43        81        43          42          53         367    
Species Banded            15       12         15         17        13          12          14         58    
Recaptured                   18       15         22         27        17          13          19         131   
Species Recaptured       8         8          10         13        8             6           11         18   
Rocky Point 
Banded                         30      52          37         44        47          34          28         272
Species Banded            13      18         12          16        15         11           11           25
Recaptured                    6       11           3            6         4            8            6            44
Species Recaptured       5        7           3            4          2           6            4            12
                                          Week 12 Banding Totals

Friday, October 7, 2022

Week 11: The Winds of Change

Turkey Vultures kettling at Rocky Point (David Bell)
Warm, dry and breezy weather this week has continued to stir up tornadoes of turkey vultures preparing to make the journey across the Salish Sea towards their southern winter destinations. Vultures were seen in numbers upwards of 2300 at one time at the tip of Rocky Point and could be seen in a towering kettle from kilometres away at East Sooke Regional Park. The species diversity of captured birds began to change this week. Notable changes included an apparent disappearance of the flycatchers, vireos, thrushes and warblers, while numbers of Pacific Wren, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets, and Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows beginning to increase.

Week 11 saw a total of 355 birds caught at Rocky Point and 406 at Pedder Bay. If the numbers keep up this way for the next week, we may be hitting record high numbers at Pedder Bay by the end of the season. Top species banded were Ruby-crowned Kinglet (85) at Rocky Point and Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (60) at Pedder Bay. This week both Rocky Point and Pedder Bay surpassed 3000 birds each for the season. At RP, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet took the cake as our 3000th bird of the year, while at Pedder, a gorgeous Orange-crowned Warbler got the prize.

At Rocky Point, we had a unique Dark-eyed Junco (Cassiar) captured that was apparently of the cismontanus subspecies which breeds in the interior of the southern Yukon to central British Columbia and western central Alberta, wintering in California to Texas. An after hatch-year White-throated sparrow was among the highlights this week as was another (late) season-first with one Black-throated Gray Warbler banded this week.

Dark-eyed Junco (Cassiar) (David Bell)

White-throated Sparrow (Ashlea Veldhoen)

Black-throated Gray Warbler (David Bell)

Exciting captures this week at Pedder Bay included a Red x Sooty Fox Sparrow, a total of three Red-breasted Sapsuckers, two Northern Flickers including one Red-shafted and one Intergrade, and a beautiful hatch-year Northern Shrike, caught on top of the hill in Net 8 as it was flying through. This is only the fourth record of a capture of Northern Shrike in this history of RPBO as typically Northern Shrike migrate after Rocky's season ends, so it was a quite special bird for more reasons than one! You can occasionally see NSHR during the winter on Vancouver Island in farm fields along fencelines and powerlines in areas with open fields dotted with shrubs and bushes.

Red x Sooty Fox Sparrow (David Bell)

Red-breasted Sapsucker (Ashlea Veldhoen)

Northern Flicker (David Bell) 
Northern Shrike (Julian Powers)

As mentioned in the introduction, Turkey Vultures were really numerous this week, with a top count of 2375 vultures in view at once on October 5th. Radar from Oct 5th picked up the movement of these vultures as they crossed the Salish Sea in the afternoon, leading to some really incredible insights into the movements of these gentle and mysterious birds. A Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk was a highlight this week, with one sighted along the coast at Rocky earlier in the week.

Turkey Vultures streaming across the strait (David Bell)

Click to view live radar

Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk (David Bell)

Pacific Tree Frog (Ashlea Veldhoen)

Other species observed included a very special insect - Pedder Bay's first record of an Orange Sulphur butterfly! This tiny little butterfly was spotted by Dave Bell after banding was finished for the day. Further observations include a Pacific Tree Frog at RP, Pacific Lion's Mane Jelly (Cyanea ferruginea) on the shores of Rocky Point, a striped sweat bee (exact species unknown), praying mantis and a darkly furred mink.

Orange Sulphur butterfly (David Bell)

Pacific Lion's Mane Jelly (David Bell)

Striped Sweat Bee (David Bell)

Mink (David Bell)

One final interesting sighting included one that was heard long before seen - that of a Coast Guard Hovercraft travelling through the channel in front of the station. This huge craft was so loud that the it was difficult to hear each other on the radios while it was passing by!

Coast Guard Hovercraft (David Bell)

As the leaves fell in greater numbers this week, so the number of visitors to the station climbed. Three student groups totalling approximately 90 students ranging in age from 6 - 10 years old visited Pedder Bay station during the week to learn all about Rocky Point Bird Observatory, bird banding, migration and why we study birds. Inspiring a love of birds in the next generation brings all of us at RPBO so much joy and gives us hope that the kids of today will become the scientists, conservationists and advocates for the protection of birds in the future. 

David Bell with students at Pedder Bay Station

All in all it has been a wonderfully exciting week with so many changes in the local species to note. We still have two weeks remaining in the season, so if you'd like to join us (even for a day) as a new volunteer, please contact and let us know!

Weekly & Season Species Totals

Week 11: Banding Totals (Click to enlarge)