Posted | filed under Weekly Reports.

Hooray! The birds have arrived! The diversity of species around the lab this week has exploded. Yellow warbler, black-and-white warbler, Lincoln’s sparrow, white-throated sparrow, Swainson’s thrush, least flycatcher, and western tanager, just to name a few, have arrived and are exuberantly advertising their presence with song. With an increase in birds in the area, we are starting to see some better banding totals. This makes more than just us banders happy, the educators at the Boreal Centre are also very glad to hear it since they are bringing school groups out for tours on an almost daily basis. The educators do a fantastic job whether or not we catch a bird, but being able to show students what we do is far more exciting than just hearing about it and we love fostering an appreciation of birds in young people. In the words of one impressed teenager who came out “I thought this would be a lame field trip, but birds are totally legit!” I had a winning moment this week. A few years back I was birding on Marten Mountain in the spring and saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker that was still in its juvenile plumage – something it should have moulted out of over the winter. A certain other birder didn’t entirely believe what I ‘thought’ I saw. The other day I caught a sapsucker in juvenile plumage. Solid proof that it happens. I Win. Besides that bit of fun, the highlight capture this week was a blackpoll warbler. We catch some of these warblers during fall when they are in their non-descript juvenile plumage, but it is uncommon for us to catch an adult male in its breeding plumage. Blackpoll warblers are a true wonder of the avian kingdom. They have the longest migration of any songbird in North America: an up to 19,000 km round-trip. In the spring they fly over land from Venezuela to northwest Canada and Alaska to breed but as arduous of a journey as that is, it pales in comparison to their fall migration. In the fall, blackpolls leave their breeding grounds and rather than fly south they head east, all the way to the Maritime Provinces. Once they are there, they bulk up for a few weeks and then fly out over the ocean in the general direction of Africa. Around Bermuda, they are swept up by the trade winds and blown into South America. For three days, they fly over 3000 km of open-ocean unable to stop to eat or rest at all. Any bird that isn’t strong enough will fall into the ocean and perish. When I know what these birds go through just to come up here to breed it makes me feel even more passionate about doing everything in my power to help them. Blackpoll warblers primarily nest in black spruce forests and bogs dominated by alder and willow. Both of these habitat types are sensitive to disturbances and take a long time to restore themselves if they are destroyed or altered. I, for one, hope that there will always be a home for blackpoll warblers in our northern forests.