This week was a little different – bird-wise everything was very similar to last week – the chickadees and myrtle warblers were still migrating in throngs and American tree sparrows and slate coloured juncos continued to slowly gain in number, but then on the weekend there was something missing at the observatory… Us. In the last seven years I cannot think of a single time that the lab has been completely closed for the day during the spring or fall migration monitoring periods. But this year we were closed Saturday and Sunday because both of us banders were at a workshop about aging and sexing birds that was held at the Beaverhill Bird Observatory near Edmonton. Workshops like this one take place every year or two and are hosted at an Observatory in western Canada (the eastern stations also hold similar workshops). These workshops are more than just a learning/refresher course on banding techniques, they are a great opportunity for banders to get together and share the tricks and tips they have learned through experience. It is also a great way for us banders to get to know each other and increase communication and collaboration between the various stations. Lastly it helps to strengthen bird research and monitoring in general as it enforces consistent techniques across all banding locations. For me and Richard the workshop was certainly more of a refresher than anything, but it was great to go and hang out with the crew of Beaverhill; they come up to our station once or twice a year, but this was the first time we have gone there.
It seems like fall as flown by, I can’t believe that in one week we will be shutting the nets down for the final time this year, in-fact my very next article will be a re-cap of our fall banding totals and highlights. So far it is looking like our banding total for this season will be above average, which is nice after the far below average spring we had. This is mostly thanks to the above average September we have been having. Typically we expect to band around 300 birds during September, but this year we are already approaching 600 for the month. Provided the weather isn’t as bad as it is forecast to be for the last week of monitoring we could be looking at a final banding total of 1900 birds.
Thankfully the owl banding will continue for another few weeks yet. Unlike spring and fall migration monitoring, owl monitoring doesn’t have a set end date, I will continue trying to catch owls until they either stop showing up or the weather turns foul. The first couple weeks of the owl monitoring period weren’t crazy busy but a few owls were being consistently caught each night; then over the last week, when it should have been getting busier, it slowed down to about one owl a night. Last night, though, things seemed to have turned around again. I banded 20 owls which broke the record for the most owls banded in one night (previous was 19). I am hopeful/confident that nightly totals will continue to be high for the next while to make up for the slow period.