This week, spring migration monitoring was brought to us by Mistress Winter. She doled out her best: snow, frigid winds and cold temperatures. Although we are experiencing a lingering bit of winter up here, it is the winter conditions down south that are truly foiling us. Many bird species that should have arrived by now are still MIA and we believe it has to do with the heavy snow fall down south. The evidence we have to support this theory is fat birds; really fat birds. We haven’t caught many birds this week, but the ones we did had thick fat deposits on their bodies and were tipping the scales at almost twice their normal weight. Large fat stores like these indicate to us that these birds were held up somewhere and, unable to continue migrating, they hunkered down and fed for days. Seeing this gives us hope that the birds haven’t already passed us by, they are just running a bit behind. Once the weather clears up down south all these held-up birds will no-doubt flood their way north. So what do we do with ourselves when it is too cold or snowy to band? I admit, we often just stand around chatting. This week has been nice with the company of our new assistant, Ryan. Hailing from Nanaimo, BC, he has turned out to be a very knowledgeable individual who is full of great stories and is meshing well with us; I think he is a great addition to the team. More importantly though, while we chat we watch the skies and count migrants. Although the songbirds are held up somewhere, geese have been passing over in high numbers. A few thousand Greater white-fronted geese and almost as many snow geese every morning is becoming the norm. Other species that made a strong showing this week are Franklin’s gulls, northern harrier and northern flicker. Normally I forget to plug the Baillie Birdathon until last minute, but this year we are doing something a little different and I am excited to get the word out and start fundraising. The Baillie Birdathon is an annual event put on by Bird Studies Canada raising money for bird conservation. The object is for birders to collect pledges and then go out on a day in May and try to find as many bird species as possible in 24 hours. Richard and I participate every year and compete against our last’s years total. This year, however, we aren’t just trying to beat ourselves, we are battling the South! We have challenged Ken Orich, a long-time member who lives in Lethbridge, to try and out-bird us. He will be accompanied by another member, Wayne Boyles who is driving down from Slave Lake. This year’s Birdathon will be an epic show-down between North and South; banders vs. members, for supreme bragging rights! If you have ever thought of donating to the Baillie Birdathon, this is the year to do it; pledge money towards the team you are cheering for and follow the action May 22 on the Boreal Centre’s Facebook page. To donate please call the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation at (780) 849-8240 and let them know who you think will win: Team Bander Awesomeness or Team Thrasher. You can also visit the Baillie Birdathon website and pledge money online: http://birdscanada.kintera.org/birdathon.