the bird observatory. Late last week and into the weekend we experienced nothing but high winds and intermittent rain showers. The rain alone wouldn’t have been bad – it prevents us from opening the nets, but sometimes we can witness very heavy migration during rainy days. The wind was the real downer – birds won’t migrate in heavy winds and opt instead to hunker down and wait it out. For three days we saw and banded very few birds. The sour weather, however, miserable as it was, is actually to thank for the great birding that followed it. The weather created a backlog of held-up migrants that are now taking advantage of the clear calm nights and days to travel. For the last four days we have been counting over a thousand migrants of various species every morning. Banding has also picked up; we have almost banded more birds in these past four days than we did in the first two weeks of monitoring. It hasn’t been crazy busy, just nice and steady – a couple big checks early in the morning and then a few birds a check for the rest of the day. Not only have the banding totals been consistently high, but the diversity has also been great, and that, for me, is the best part. Some banders are all about numbers, they long for those days where it is all extracting birds from the nets and banding them with no time in between for anything else. Better yet, they dream about days spent just banding, with a team of extractors ferrying the birds from the nets to them. They will happily power through a hundred identical hatch-year Tennessee warblers thrilled with the rush. Not me. Don’t get me wrong, I find crazy busy days exciting, but nothing makes me happier than a moderate day that has superb diversity. I love checking the nets and being surprised by what each one holds. Extracting birds from the nets is easily one of my favourite parts and I take great satisfaction is being able to quickly identify exactly how the bird is caught up and how to get it out. Many of the species that we banded this week were firsts for the fall migration season and some were even firsts for the whole year. We caught western tanager, hairy and downy woodpeckers, rose-breasted grosbeak, warbling and blue-headed vireos, bay-breasted warbler, blue jay and many more. One bird in particular, though, truly stood out. It was not only a first for this year, but it was the first since 2009 and best yet, a first ever for me to band! It was a common grackle. Most people know this type of blackbird as a loud nuisance that harasses songbirds, and although that is fairly true, I can’t help but love them. Blackbirds are beautiful, gregarious birds and although they sometimes play the role of the villain they are a native species that is just as important to the environment as any other.