Stéphane’s Blog for April 17, 2011

Off in a Flurry!

Today, April 17th, is the official first day of a new season of bird migration monitoring at Cabot Head Research Station. All the nets (but one because of a huge snowdrift across its net lane) are up and ready to be unfurled, if only it wasn’t a cold and stormy day! A gusting West wind is pounding the peninsula, bringing thick and blinding snow flurries in its howl.

Consequently, no nets were open today. Not many a songbirds could be seen or heard anyway: a few brave Juncos and one singing Song Sparrows. However, we did go outside and observe. We were well rewarded when, in a span of less than 20 minutes, a flurry of birds was seen through the snowy curtain. Hold your breath, here comes the list: 2 young Bald Eagles flying together; 2 sub-adult Golden Eagles flying together as well, the same as the Bald ones; an adult Peregrine Falcon zoomed by, unconcerned by wind nor snow, as only Peregrines can be; a Rough-legged Hawk was hovering, playing with the wind; a Red-tailed Hawk was having a harder time; 3 Northern Harriers, as light and elegant as ever, fluttered around on their butterfly wings; several Sharp-shinned Hawks were fighting the wind in the distance; a fleetingly seen Osprey; and, least but not last, 2 Sandhill Cranes were seen shortly over the trees before dipping down again toward the big marsh!

There is also the usual accoutrement of waterfowl in the Basin: a pair of Common Goldeneyes, about 20 Buffleheads, several Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, a pair of Mallards, a trio of Ring-necked Ducks, a few pairs of Canada Geese. and more unusual, a pair of Gadwalls! Unfortunately, though, the mother goose who had been faithfully returned to her nest on the shipwreck is absent this year. After 5 years dutifully incubating, she is now missing in action. Other birds seen today include a couple of Double-crested Cormorants on the choppy waters of Georgian Bay, a Common Loon flying fast over the same waters, a Belted Kingfisher, a single Yellow-shafted Flicker. There was no sign of the Eastern Phoebe seen a couple of days ago; or, even, of the ubiquitous Turkey Vultures. They are probably hunkered down, waiting for the storm to abate…

We are indeed doing the same, staying close to the woodstove and waiting for breaks in the horizon.