Our past week has seemed to drag on not necessarily because the birds were not moving, or because of a single Grizzly Bear sighting, but because one stubborn and difficult to spook Black Bear has made us keep most of our nets closed. While we have been opening our two nets that are raised up into the low canopy, we have not been able to get the twelve ground level nets open for a full day since July 31. As a result, we have only banded 309 birds in what is often one of our busiest weeks. Of these, 131 were banded on August 6; the only day we were able to open the ground nets after having not seen a bear for two days. The bear would, however, make a reappearance to again shut our ground nets.
While there is still plenty of time left, this is shaping up to be a slow year for captures. Our current band total for fall monitoring is just 979 of 46 species. Yet you won’t hear us complaining about the slow pace after the last four years were our four busiest falls ever out of almost 30 years of monitoring, which was honestly rather exhausting. Unlike the start of the season, when we were concerned over the potentially low numbers of birds hatched, this week has brought on the young birds to reassuringly make up most of our captures.
You may have noticed the silence that has settled on our forests as our birds give up their breeding territories and few families remain with chittering young to feed. Yet now and then, a song will still ring out – sometimes a loose interpretation of each species’ typical song. These songs that are often a little squeakier, shorter, and all over the place are the new songbirds learning their song. While flycatchers are born knowing their song, most of our songbird species must spend the next year perfecting theirs.
Because songbirds learn their songs (for the most part), birds of the same species that live in different areas sometimes develop ‘accents’ to their songs. For example, Warbling Vireos in eastern Canada have a sweet, melodic song sliding across many notes, while Warbling Vireos locally have a similar song structure, but their voice is often just a touch huskier. Perhaps most easy to detect is Song Sparrow accents with each young male developing a unique song stylized after the adults it has listened to in its fledglinghood. Since we sometimes hear songs from birds of other regions as they migrate, we not only need to know our local accents, but those of migratory birds as well.
Want to help us deter bears and hear some of these quirky songs for yourself? Contact the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation and ask about our tours which run most Wednesdays and Saturdays in August.
By Robyn Perkins, LSLBO Bander-in-Charge