Spring is finally here, and the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory is beginning our 27th consecutive year of monitoring the migratory and breeding birds along the shores of Lesser Slave Lake. However, due to the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to let everyone know about some major changes to our operations this season. One of the most important changes is that the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory site will be closed to the public and volunteers this year. We know that people will be disappointed by this news, but we hope you understand the need to keep everyone safe and healthy this season.
After careful consideration, the LSLBO started up our Spring Migration Monitoring Program in late April. This program studies the long-term population trends of migratory birds in our area. Although people are most familiar with the bird banding that happens at the LSLBO, most of our data on bird populations is actually collected through a number of standardized visual counts that take place over the morning including a daily census. Essentially, we are watching and counting all the birds that we see actively migrating over our site. These visual counts will be our priority for this spring as there is minimal COVID-19 risk. All of our procedures including bird banding are being actively reviewed to make sure that we are minimizing any risk of infection for both people and wildlife, and incorporating physical distancing requirements into our day to day operations.
Robyn Perkins has returned for her second season as the Bander in Charge. Although the arrival of the rest of the LSLBO field staff has been delayed due to COVID-19, her partner Cory Cardinal has stepped in to help out at the station this spring. This “household” model is how some migration monitoring stations are operating this season to ensure staff safety. They are happy to report that despite how different things may feel for everyone right now, the migratory birds are arriving right on schedule! Flocks of both Tundra and Trumpeter Swans are migrating through along with large groups of Greater-white Fronted Geese being spotted overhead. So far, they have observed 59 different species. Some visual highlights include Belted Kingfishers spotted along the shoreline and over 4000 American Robins recorded migrating overhead in a single day.
The LSLBO education and outreach programs have also been impacted by COVID-19. The 25th Annual Songbird Festival planned for May 30th has been cancelled, as well as all of our spring fieldtrips. But our educators are busy working with the Lesser Slave Forest Education Society on creating new on-line resources for our local teachers and parents to bring our fieldtrips to them! In the meantime, we wish everyone the best of health and stay safe!
By Patti Campsall, Executive Director