Posted | filed under Weekly Reports.

MAPS is done! I I do like MAPS, it’s just that once fall migration starts and the two programs overlap it can become quite stressful. As a brief recap, MAPS is our summer banding program; we run four sites, six times each, in ten day intervals. The reasoning behind only visiting each site once every ten days is that we don’t want to disturb breeding birds more than necessary – they are busy incubating eggs and young and then feeding the chicks that hatch, they don’t have time to be getting hung up in our nets, even for a short time, every day. The problem with the ten day interval, though, is that it takes a minimum of 60 days to complete the 24 banding days of MAPS and the time gap between spring and fall migration is only 32 days long. We are usually able to wrangle up a volunteer to provide support on overlap days to the bander at the migration site (as this is the busiest time of year for migration) while the other bander runs the MAPS site (MAPS sites typically catch fewer birds than migration and are easily managed solo). Not this year, though, this year was the first time in my seven years here that the last round of MAPS had no additional support, and Murphy’s Law dictates that of all the years, this would be the one that got busy. On one of the overlap days we banded 64 birds in migration and another 48 at our MAPS site, ROAD. I also had to run our largest site, RESI, solo. RESI is typically split in half and run by two people because its entire route is over a kilometer long and takes about 20-25 minutes to walk – and that’s without catching birds. Thankfully, it didn’t get overly busy; I caught 24 birds, including a beautiful young Cape May warbler, and even then I was booking it round and round that site for 7 hours to get it done. Now that MAPS is done, we are better able to focus on fall migration. With the two of us there, instead of just extracting birds and banding birds with little time in between, one of us is able to count the migrants while the other bands. This produces more accurate numbers as well as a better ratio of birds identified to species to birds identified just to family. While watching the birds pass overhead, one thing in particular has stuck out, and that is that we are seeing way more adults mid-moult this year than we typically do. Moulting birds are easy to spot, their tail feathers are mismatched in length and they have large gaps in their wings where they are missing flight feathers. Most adult birds complete their moult on the breeding ground so that they have fresh, strong feathers for migration. We speculate that the reason we are seeing all these mid-moult birds is that all the fires in the North West Territories have forced the birds to leave their breeding grounds before they are ready. According to the NWT fire situation report, the NWT is having a record-breaking fire season with over 333 fires consuming over 2.8 million hectares of forest. If it is the case that all the NWT birds are already passing through, I am worried that the rest of fall migration may be incredibly slow.