This will be my final article for the year; as much as I hate to admit it, owl migration is over. During the first half of the week I caught a couple owls a night, and was feeling hopeful that they would continue moving right until the end of October, but then over the last four nights I have only caught one owl. I will continue trying for a little bit longer – see if I can’t catch a few more owls, but am ready to be done for the year. It is time for me to find a winter job where I can keep busy while waiting for spring and birds to return once more.
All-in-all, 2014 was a very successful year for us. Spring migration was a little slow with only 670 birds of 43 species banded (the average is 953 birds of 43 species), but fall migration and MAPS were both above average. During fall migration we banded 1873 birds of 53 species – only slightly better than the average of 1821 but better is better, and after years of being below average, I will take any kind of better! MAPS, on the other hand, did way better than average, in both numbers and species richness. This year we banded 326 birds of 32 species – the average is 214 of 24 species. As for the northern saw-whet owl monitoring program, currently I have banded 86 saw-whet owls and although I may catch a few more it is very unlikely that I will reach the average of 100. The two boreal owls caught this year, though, were a wonderful bonus.
On top of our core monitoring programs, we provided a lot of support to research projects being conducted by the University of Alberta in the Lesser Slave Lake area and we also had the amazing opportunity to deploy geo-locators on Canada warblers in the Provincial Park. Doing the geo-locator work was probably the highlight of the summer for me; it was great to be involved in such ground-breaking research. Geo-locator technology is giving us a better picture of bird migration than anyone thought possible even as few as ten years ago. I am excited to track these birds down again next spring to recover the locators and get a glimpse into the secret life of this threatened species.
Although there are no more migrants in the winter, and therefore no more birding work for me, for a lot of people winter is a favourite time for birding. Many people fill bird feeders during the winter and put out suet. Any kind of feeding or a heated bird-bath is a sure-fire way to attract birds in the winter. It is a win-win situation. The birds get some help surviving the challenging weather and people get the enjoyment of sitting inside, all cozy and warm, watching the antics of the chickadees, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, jays and redpolls jostling for food.
Until next spring, thank you for reading and enjoy the birds.