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Subject:Reverse finch flight, Boreal Chickadees - Cook County
From:Cameron Rutt <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Cameron Rutt <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 4 Oct 2009 23:03:44 -0500

While conducting a bird survey this morning (10/4) on a ski trail off of
Hall Road, just north of Lutsen, I played witness to an interesting
"wrong-way" finch flight.  Although I started my transect at 7:30 AM, the
flight did not truly get underway until 8:30 AM, when flocks of Purple
Finches began to stream overhead, all heading NE.  As of 11:45 AM, I had
counted a surprising 829 Purple Finches (PUFI), apparently the
single-highest day count in Minnesota, CBCs aside.  The bulk of the flight
occurred between 8:30 and 10:30 AM, but birds were still moving when I left,
just prior to noon.  Using a compass, I continuously checked and re-checked
flight direction over the course of the morning, finding some variation
between NNE and ENE, but overall the flight was decidedly NE, heading up the
shore.   Few other finches were involved, but I did tally 15 Pine Siskins
(PISI) and 2 Red Crossbills (RECR) joining the PUFI exodus.  Looking back at
some previous counts from Grand Marais (9/29) and Hovland (9/30), I was
intrigued to notice a similar NE/NNE movement of PUFIs and PISIs, simply in
much smaller numbers (a combined two-day total of 25 PUFIs and 9 PISIs).

On a seemingly related note, both crossbills have become scarcer in recent
weeks.  After having 16 RECR and 27 White-winged Crossbills (WWCR) in late
August (8/17 - 9/1), the last couple of weeks have produced a meager 4 RECR
and 2 WWCR (9/15 - 9/30).  Perhaps crossbills - like some PUFIs and PISIs -
are currently moving (have moved?) out of the region, just not in a
southerly direction.  On the other hand, this could simply be an extremely
local, perhaps even day-specific, phenomenon.

The only other noteworthy highlight was a pair of Boreal Chickadees in with
a mixed-species flock, just east of the intersection of Hall Road and the
ski trail.

    Good Birding,
       Cameron Rutt
       St. Louis County

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