Being grateful in the time of coronavirus.

At this special time of the year when we pause and give thanks, I have been thinking of the many reasons why I am grateful, despite this being the weirdest of years. First and foremost, of course, being at beautiful Cabot Head is a blessing in of itself. But my staying here has been made possible only through the hard work and help of many. Behind the scenes, the Board of Directors is always working tirelessly on so many fronts, making sure the migration monitoring is possible. It is the endless and thankless task of finding funding, be it for a new roof (now a shining reality), more solar panels and batteries (a somewhat urgent priority), or, simply, to give the lucky Station Scientist a contract.

BPBO was also facing the complicated aspect of a washed-out lighthouse road. Here stepped up John, a friend of BPBO from Dyers Bay, who provided ATV rides to staff and volunteers, always willing, always cheerful! I cannot thank him enough for making my life so much easier. The road has now been temporarily fixed, still closed to all but BPBO and ON Parks staff, and always at the mercy of another strong storm.

With the return of a full monitoring program this fall, I have also been very lucky in finding enthusiastic and experienced volunteers, willing to spend their time and energy (one at a time) at a banding station. It was even more remarkable to have them given the very short time notice and the restrictions we are all facing. Soon, my fourth and last volunteer of the fall will arrive to spend the remaining three weeks of migration. 

And, of course, I am grateful for the joy that birds and nature bring me, even though they are completely indifferent about my human needs. The past week was once again filled with little moments of wonder and awe. Weather was very generous with fierce wind during that time: we had to shorten or fully abort banding on five different days! 

Pine Siskins are still enlivening the place with their constant chattering and bouncing flights. A few even ended up in our nets. Many kinglets and quite a few sparrows were also captured when banding was possible. On October 8, seven species of sparrows were also banded: Savannah (so many this fall!), Song, Lincoln’s, Swamp, White-throated, and White-crowned Sparrows, as well as the Dark-eyed Junco. The First of Fall American Tree Sparrow was observed on the windy morning of October 11. 

The keen eye of Ted Cheskey, one of the founding persons of BPBO, detected the three species of Scoters in one day, October 6, which included a Surf Scoter taking a break in Wingfield Basin from fighting the strong South wind. Ted also heard a Red Crossbill on October 9.

And then, the wind returned with a vengeance. On October 9, it picked up very quickly around noon, coming from the south with a brute force. I discovered the extent of it, coming back from running errands, in the unmovable shape of a fallen poplar across the lighthouse road. Luckily, I was only 3.5km from the station: grabbing a couple of grocery bags with food in need of refrigeration, it was a nice walk in the dark.

The wind has been spinning around the compass rose in a dizzying manner. After blowing from the South for about 24 hours, it shifted West, then, Northwest in early evening Saturday. At dawn on Saturday 11, it was Northeast and is now – at this time of writing, Saturday afternoon – firmly blowing from the East, still with a fierce urgency. It is supposed to turn Southeast and South again later on.

I have never experienced such a complete 360 degrees roundabout in such a short time. The East wind is the worrying one, the one that might wash out the road again with big crashing waves. I will certainly go out tomorrow to check on it, as well as walking the hydro line once more just in case more trees fell on it. This is why more solar panels would be so nice and reduce our dependency on the standard hydro infrastructure.

For now, golden rays of sunshine are pouring down on golden leaves, the blue water of Wingfield Basin is a mirror to the depthless blue of the sky, Ravens are playing in the wind above Wingfield Basin, sometime joined by Bald Eagles. So many reasons to be grateful. 

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