To kick off today’s article, I have composed a couplet.
Windy day; calm night
Migratory birds delight
But no delight for us banders. The weather this week has been absolutely perfect for migration, too perfect maybe. Although it has been very windy most days, it has been cool and calm overnight, which is when most birds migrate. Flying generates a tremendous amount of heat and the cooler nighttime temperatures help the birds avoid overheating and dehydration (imagine jogging on a warm day wearing a down jacket). This is why we operate so early in the morning – we are trying to catch the birds that are still actively moving before the sun rises. Once the birds stop actively migrating they come down into the forest and forage for a bit before enjoying an afternoon siesta. This foraging period right after sunrise is our best opportunity to catch birds in our nets, since the birds are actually down in the trees and not way up in the sky. Unfortunately that has been about the time the wind has picked up every day this week. Wind seriously diminishes the effectiveness of our nets; they get blown around making them easy for the birds to see and avoid. So, in essence, there is no delight for us because all the birds are passing us by at night while we are sleeping and lying low while we get wind-blown. I shouldn’t say no delight – we are of course happy for the birds that they are enjoying smooth sailing.
Although we aren’t seeing a lot of active migration, we are certain it is happening. Every morning at the lab we are still being greeted by new species. With the arrival of the clay-coloured sparrow, all our expected species of sparrow have arrived and many of the warblers have shown up as well. Black-and-white warbler, yellow warbler and Tennessee warbler are just a few examples. Blue-headed vireo and western tanager have been heard singing and even the least flycatcher has shown up. Our banding totals aren’t great, we are only catching about 8 to 12 birds a day, but two of our top banded species, the Swainson’s thrush and ovenbird, have arrived so we expect better banding in the weeks to come.
It has been interesting working with our new field assistant Jacob, he is a strong birder but is most familiar with the birds of Ontario where he is from. He has been getting quite the crash-course in western birds as every day there are another two or three new songs that we point out for him to learn – which he has been doing a fine job of.
Jacob Lachapelle with his first bird banded at the LSLBO – a myrtle warbler