It is Summer, with sweltering heat and stifling humidity, but for many birds, it is already time to migrate South. That said, the “fall migration monitoring” has started at Cabot Head, with nets open for the first time at 6am on August 15, 2018. Cabot Head is still a vibrant green, the water level of Georgian Bay is still very high, but one can tell that it has been a hot and dry summer as evidenced by dry grass and hard-packed ground.
The monitoring started with more of a whisper than a bang: very few birds are captured the first few days and not many species are observed. The local breeding birds are the most conspicuous, mainly Common Yellowthroats, American Redstarts, and Red-eyed Vireos. Very often, the first day that we open nets in the “fall” brings more birds than the following ones: local birds get surprised and trapped where they used to fly freely. That was not quite the case this year: we collected a meagre 15 birds on the first day but were happy with 33 birds in our nets the following day. The range of species on August 16thwas also much larger, with notably a good assortment of warblers: Nashville, Black-throated Blue, Myrtle (Yellow-rumped), Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Mourning, Common Yellowthroat, and Canadas. A young Blackburnian Warbler was seen but none were captured.
We are not yet into the waves and waves of migrants yet, but we’re detecting the first trickles. Another example is the echoing call of the Greater Yellowlegs, a shorebird that breeds in the Boreal Forest, already on the move and stopping briefly at Cabot Head to refuel before continuing on its way to the wintering grounds.
So, “fall” or “post-breeding” migration has indeed started while Summer is still blazing hot. Let us enjoy both!