Early fall updates from Dans Rock, 8/25 – 9/08
These last two weeks at Dans Rock have been some of the best so far this season! Multiple days this period have seen record-high numbers and new species for the Count.
The biggest highlight this time around has definitely been the Cape May Warbler flights. These warblers have been streaming over the Rock in loose flocks every morning since late August, with nine days this period logging over 100 individuals. In the past week, we broke the state high count for Cape May Warbler (previously 276 set during last year’s count) twice, with 321 Cape Mays detected flying over the Rock on August 30, and 481 detected on September 5. As of September 8, we’ve logged 2,515 Cape May Warblers for the 2023 count so far, more than double last year’s season total of 1,138. These warblers are expected migrants at the Rock through early October, so who knows how many more we will tally before the season’s end.
While Cape May Warblers have been stealing the limelight, Black-throated Green and Blackburnian Warblers have also been moving past Dans Rock in record numbers. Continuing their strong showing this season, Black-throated Greens were the second most abundant warbler this period and have been hitting double digits most mornings. A total of 58 Black-throated Greens were observed at the rock on September 8, representing a new high count for the species in Maryland. The striking Blackburnian Warbler has also been a staple at the Rock these past two weeks, and on August 29, we set a new state high count for this species as well, with 55 Blackburnians detected flying over the Rock or moving through the vegetation along the ridge. As of September 8, season totals for Blackburnian and Black-throated Green Warblers currently stand at 379 and 636 respectively, more than triple and quintuple last season’s totals at this date (120 and 118 respectively).
It’s not just Cape Mays, Blackburnians, and Black-throated Greens that are moving in large numbers this season. Twenty-four warbler species have been observed migrating past the Rock these last two weeks, and all of them are occurring in higher numbers than they were last year by September 8. Tennessee, Bay-breasted, and Magnolia Warblers are some of the more common species moving right now, and all three set county high counts this week, with 20 Magnolias, 21 Tennessees, and 22 Bay-breasteds recorded on September 7. Chestnut-sided Warblers have also been moving in decent numbers, and 14 was a new county high count for this species on August 29.
On the non-warbler front, Cedar Waxwings were the second-most abundant migrant this period (after Cape May Warblers), with more birds moving these last two weeks than the rest of August combined (1601 vs. 1415). Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were also on the move this month, with a high count of 21 zipping by on September 4. Most of these will be gone by month’s end.
Migrant flycatchers, never very abundant, have increased in diversity these last two weeks. Olive-sided Flycatchers put in two more appearances the last week of August, and Eastern Wood-Pewees have joined the ranks of active migrants making their way south along the ridge. Least, Willow, and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers have been spotted moving in mixed flocks of songbirds on 6 days this period, with both Willow and Yellow-bellied flycatchers being new species for the Dans Rock Count. Speaking of count firsts, 4 Purple Martins and a Dickcissel were notable flyovers on August 26 and September 6, respectively. Both these species are rare anywhere in western Maryland, so it was a treat to detect them migrating over Dans Rock.
This season has been really knocking it out of the park so far, so who knows what surprises are in store for the next few weeks?
Thanks for reading!