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Connecticut Warbler

MacGillivray’s Warbler

Most birds who migrate north of the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory to the tundra have already left and taken with them the peak of overall avian diversity for the year. Yet the nets still have some surprises for us including the 35th ever (but ninth of spring) Connecticut Warbler and our fourth ever (second of spring) MacGillivray’s Warbler. Both these species look a lot like each other and also a lot like our locally common Mourning Warbler. The key differences are their songs and eye-rings: male Mourning Warblers have little to no eye-ring, MacGillivray’s have a broken eye-ring, and Connecticut’s have a full eye-ring. This is just one example of how subtle some of the species ID differences are for birders if they aren’t singing.

12 year old female Hairy Woodpecker

Another exciting capture was a bird that was already banded at the LSLBO. Back in 2014, our Assistant Bander of the time, Nicole Krikun, banded a Hairy Woodpecker as a two-year old female who was just starting to nest. This woodpecker promptly disappeared and was not seen again until we recaught her in 2021, again in 2022, and most recently May 24, 2024. Each year she has been captured with a brood patch indicating that she continues to actively breed on-site. While she is now a remarkable 12 years old, she is not the oldest Hairy Woodpecker recorded. Two others have been recaptured in South Dakota and New York who were at least 15 years old.

Sadly, our first sightings of Cedar Waxwings heralds the beginning of the end of spring songbird migration. There is now a diverse dawn chorus ringing out from the forest as birds are establishing their breeding territories. The only other species we expect to see in higher numbers over the next week are Mourning Warblers and Alder Flycatchers who are our last spring migrants to arrive at the station. Spring migration monitoring will be wrapping up on June 10th, by which time the birds we see will be busy nesting for another season.

This abundance of songbirds arrived just in time for our 27th annual Songbird Festival! Over 250 visitors from across Alberta came out to the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation to celebrate spring migration. That morning, we greeted 128 visitors at the migration station during the special bus tours and birding walks where everyone was able to see a bird be banded. This spring, we are also very busy with dozens of school fieldtrips to the station. Community outreach is an important part of what we do at the LSLBO. These education programs connect people of all ages to our avian monitoring programs, and instill a greater awareness and love for the boreal birds who need our help.

By Robyn Perkins, LSLBO Bander-in-Charge and Patti Campsall, LSLBO Executive Director