Birdathon and more!
It was a calm, cool, clear, and very early morning on Saturday the 21st when the BPBO President’s Choice team started our birdathon. We had – technically – 24 hours to tally as many bird species as possible! We did not use quite that many hours, especially yours truly who was not given the next day off by his president. The team convened at 5am at Cabot Head, the presidents coming from Cape Hurd and having done already some birdwatching. The rules stipulate that a bird species can be “counted” as part of the official tally as long as two members of the team have seen or heard it.
We spent some lovely hours at Cabot Head, enjoying a fine morning of birdwatching, exploring some wetlands and grasslands, and spending time around the station. After a few hours, we were suddenly witness to trees festooned with grosbeaks, scarlet tanagers, orioles, and multiple species of warblers! It was an awe-inspiring spectacle and a bounty for our birdathon tally! We counted 21 species of warblers in that one spot, notably FOY Wilson’s Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler (the latter being rare at Cabot Head). And the four species of Vireos were also detected, including FOY Red-eyed and Philadelphia.
By mid-morning, we had to peel ourselves away from the loveliness of Cabot Head and set out to explore other parts of the northern Bruce Peninsula, notably around Crane Lake. In the shrubby fields around Dyer’s Bay road, we detected seven Golden-winged Warblers, an impressive record, according to the living memories of “the presidents”. As noon-hour approached, we had almost reached our mid-day goal of 100 species. And shortly afterward, it was passed: with 103 species, we felt that we had deserved a nice lunch break. It was then time to resume the “mad” dash in the afternoon: we tramped around Tobermory to find House Sparrow, not such an easy task! Then, we visited the sewage lagoons, which yielded their usual 8-9 new species, including a juvenile Trumpeter Swan!
The day ended, as tradition dictates, at Crane Lake, this beautiful place, where Grasshopper Sparrows sing and Sandhill Cranes dance. It was not as “productive” as we had hoped but we were nonetheless rewarded with five additional species. In the end, when all the beans were counted, the team had detected 126 species of birds, with two extras that only one member observed. Not bad! Of course, I have no real frame of reference, since it was my first birdathon. But, I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the company of very, very fine birders (and birds too).
Of course, there was banding to do the next day! Back to the daily grind, as they say! As the weather warms up, the leaves grow and unfurl, and the earth breathes a sigh of relief that summer is almost here, one may be tempted to think that migration is over. Not so! There are still birds on the move, still travelling on their way during these shorter and warmer nights, still stopping and madly feeding during the days, eager to reach their breeding grounds for a season of plenty and reproduction.
Indeed, the days after the birdathon were rich in both diversity and number, with the daily catches building up to a remarkable 124 birds of 30 species on May 25. On that warm, calm, clear day, we detected a grand total of 82 species, most likely the best day for the season. For example, in the flycatcher group, we detected Eastern Wood Pewee, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, and Eastern Phoebe. The four species of vireos were also observed. And a total of 22 species of warblers graced the day, with an abundance of American Redstart (35 banded), a good haul of Magnolia Warbler (17 banded), a strong showing of Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, and Wilson’s Warbler (with 9, 7, and 7 banded, respectively). There was also quite a few Blackpoll Warblers, stringing their high-pitched notes high up in trees. A Red-bellied Woodpecker made a quick visit, maybe the same bird that was banded May 23. Speaking of rare birds, a Northern Mockingbird was seen here on the 21st, for the birdathon, and again on May 24th.
All in all, there are still many birds moving through, even though there are very few species that have yet to arrive. We will still be banding and watching birds at Cabot Head until June 10th, the end of the spring migration monitoring.
A big thank for all who donated for the BPBO President’s Choice team! And for those who may still wish to, fear not, there is still time: please visit the BPBO Facebook page. Thanks!