Moving back the clock by one hour, as we happily did last weekend, will not be enough to stop time flying fast. Once again, the fall migration monitoring has come to an end. The nets have been taken down and stored for the winter. Data are now being entered and analysed, as I am hard at work on writing the seasonal report.
This fall, we actually closed the station a week earlier, on October 24, in order to attend the second International Bird Observatory Conference, in Cape May, New Jersey (https://www.facebook.com/IBOC2017/). The conference was an international gathering of fellow birders and banders, all involved in Bird Observatories. It was fun and exciting to meet so many dedicated and enthusiastic people, sharing ideas and stories and energy!
The last few days of monitoring at the station were a sorry continuation of the stormy trend! It was too windy to open nets from October 21 to 24, the last four days for this year. And, once again, it was strong South winds that prevented us from banding: where were the North winds this fall, bringing cold and birds alike?
The full report would be on BPBO website once completed. Here are a sneak preview of the major results: the fall 2017 has indeed the lowest banding total of the 16 years of monitoring, with 1037 birds of 61 species. A total of 120 species of birds were detected in the standard count area over the course of the field season. Among them, 77 species have been seen every fall from 2002 onward. Only three species previously observed in every fall were not seen in the fall of 2017 (Common Goldeneye, Fox Sparrow, Snow Bunting, all very late migrants missed because of closing the station one week early). The number of species detected this fall was well below the 2002-2016 average of 137 ± 9 (range: 127 species in falls 2006 and 2008 – 156 species in fall 2002). The highest one-day species total was 42, recorded on September 14. Most species are seen only in a few occasions (less than 10 days during the whole monitoring period), whereas only a few are observed almost every day. The main highlight of the season was certainly the Short-eared Owl, a new species for Cabot Head.
Long-term monitoring is essential to understand and quantified trends. Nature is, by definition, incredibly complex, with local events nestled into regional cycles nestled in global phenomena, sprinkled with randomness, chaos, and butterflies flapping their wings wildly! (Please read: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/422809/when-the-butterfly-effect-took-flight/ about how the “Butterfly Effect” came into being and ponder, if you will, the difference between its origin in weather modelling and its use in popular culture.)
So, here at the station, we witness the ups (2,476 birds banded in fall 2005!!) and downs (1037 this fall) and try to make sense of it all as best as our limited understanding allows. Besides numbers, we also bear witness to the cycles of life, to the great pulses of birds coming and going through our skies and lands, connecting distant places in a feathery and invisible web of flight paths crisscrossing the globe. I am already looking forward to the spring migration, to return to lovely Cabot Head, and, once again, have the privilege to study birds and the awesome journeys they make.
In the meantime, I will definitively be at BPBO’s fund-raising dinner in Owen Sound, on November 18, eager to hear Dr. Grant Gilchrist talking about “Exploring the art of delivering science in Canada’s north: conservation biology of seabirds in a changing Arctic”. See you there!