Posted | filed under Weekly Banding Reports.

Sometimes it feels like it is all a numbers game. It is, sort of, technically… Our purpose, after all, is coming up with daily totals of each bird species we encounter so we can derive trends to determine if their populations are stable or not. But lately, it is feeling like instead of just recording numbers, we are fixating on them and comparing them with other numbers. We just banded our 200th bird of the season on May 21, normally by this time of the year we would be looking at a total of around 700 birds. Although this seems alarming it is not necessarily a concern, there are lots of things that affect arrival dates of birds as well as whether or not they do the bulk of their migrating during the night or during the day. This is the reason for long-term monitoring, by itself a bad year can look terrible, but when it is plotted on a graph with all the other years and a trend line is added, the natural fluctuations are accounted for. Having said all that, it can be hard not to fixate and fret on that low, low number (what else are we going to do while we wile away the hours spent not catching birds?). Eventually with all this fixating we graduate to comparing: playing ‘keeping up with the Jones’ with other banding stations. There are quite a few monitoring and banding stations across Canada; some are just casual banding sites associated with universities or research projects, but some, like our station, focus on long-term monitoring and follow very strict protocols and are part of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network. There are 25 stations in the CMMN and I hate to say it, but we are near the bottom as far as capture rates go. Some of the stations out east along the Great Lakes can catch more birds in a day than we catch in an entire year. I think banding 150 birds is a very busy day, I blanch at the idea of their busy days which can exceed a thousand birds. Then I remember that they have 20-30 trained volunteers there on any given day. I also must remind myself that they are situated on the southern-most point of Canada; a tiny spit of land that extends down into Lake Erie. For birds travelling north over the lake it is the first place to land after hours of hazardous flight over water. If recalling these facts don’t help me feel better about our station’s comparative totals, I turn to comparing us to other Albertan stations. There are two other CMMN stations in Alberta, one is near Tofield (Beaverhill Bird Observatory – Fun Fact: this is where bander-in-charge, Richard began his banding career) and the other is in Calgary (Inglewood Bird Observatory). Compared with them, we are not so shabby at all, and I can begin to look past the overall numbers and remember the most important thing, that each bird we band is more than a number. It is a wild animal and I count myself lucky that I get to experience it up close.