Posted | filed under Weekly Reports.

On April 16, 2024, the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory began our 31st year of monitoring bird migration! While the start of April was warm and had us eager to start our spring program, the temperatures dropped and periods of rain and snow became more frequent.

Above: This American Tree Sparrow was the first bird banded of 2024!

Despite infrequently opening the nets, we have banded 140 birds from 17 species. The year’s first band was an American Tree Sparrow that flew into a net on April 16 when it was far too windy for banding, but sparrows hurried through the forest with over 5,000 counted. One of the nets had to be partially opened to make sure it was set up correctly and this first bird to be banded flew into what little was open before being quickly extracted from the net and banded. It wasn’t until April 20 that netting could be safely attempted.

We have already had an exceptionally exciting capture – a species which we rarely see and have only banded two of in the past 30 years: a Northern Shrike! While you may find the odd one around during the winter when they range from here to Colorado, they breed farther north throughout the territories. Across the Pacific Ocean, they breed in Siberia and winter in northern China.

While they feed on insects, songbirds and small mammals, shrikes are members of the passerine, or songbird order. As such, they have no talons typical of hawks or owls. Instead, they rely more heavily on their beak which, as our Bander-in-Charge Robyn’s fingers can attest, have a very sharp hook. They are clever and have been known to lure in other songbird species by mimicking their calls or hunting at bird feeders. Shrikes are well known for saving extra morsels by impaling it on branches or barbed wire inspiring their nickname “butcherbirds”.

So far, April 26 was our busiest day for captures with 51 birds banded – mostly Juncos who are currently our top species with 86 banded. The busiest day of northward migration, however, was May 4 when nearly 22,000 geese flew over the station. Most of these were Snow Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese which both nest on the tundra.

Next up for us is our Great Canadian Birdathon fundraiser (probably) next week on May 15 and the annual Songbird Festival on May 25. Birdathon is an annual event where Team Tanager will scour the local area after a day of migration monitoring to see as many birds as possible within 24 hours. Donations are split between us (75%) and Birds Canada (25%). Most of the Birds Canada pot is used to manage the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network of which we are a member. The LSLBO pot was used to purchase a new laptop in 2022, a new air monitor in 2023, and this year will be used to replace some nets that have experienced one too many deer running through them. After customs and shipping our nets run us around $200 per net so our 2024 fundraising goal is an ambitious $1,600! Our retired field staff Nicole and Richard Krikun will also be participating with their own team, Birders in the Park. Click the team names to donate! All donations are tax deductible.

By Robyn Perkins, LSLBO Bander-in-Charge