Expect the unexpected!

As I wrote these lines, on the afternoon of August 21st, a heavy rain falls relentlessly on the grateful Earth. The rain has started mid-morning, forcing me to hurriedly close the nets, after the slowest morning of the season so far. Indeed, only two birds got into the nets in the 4.5 hours of banding!

Nonetheless, after a week of banding, we have collected a very average number of birds. Nature is everything but average, though: totals in the first week of the fall monitoring have ranged from a low of 53 birds banded, in 2017, to a high of 189, in 2008.

Rainy days are perfect for entering and analyzing data. It is always interesting to compare years: I thought that these first days were quite slow in number of birds seen and banded. It turns out that it is relatively normal for this time of year. As usual, memories fail or rather greatly filter our experiences. Always easier to remember the excitement of a busy week!

But excitement there was indeed around noon on Sunday, the 19th. There was a flock of Turkey Vultures lazily circling above Middle Bluff, which I dutifully put my binoculars on to count every single individual. One immediately stood out: it was as black and almost as large but its wings were held flat and not in the pronounced V of the Turkey Vulture. Moreover, it was very black except for the white primaries. Its tail was also very short and square. No doubt: it was a Black Vulture! The first ever recorded at Cabot Head! Like its cousin, this vulture has been on a steady Northward move but it has barely reached the border. In Ontario, it is most often seen across the Niagara River as it roosts near the giant landfill of Buffalo, NY. Some stragglers, like the one who enlivened my Sunday, are seen from time to time, mostly on the North shore of Lake Erie.

We “knew” that, sooner or later, one Black Vulture would be seen at Cabot Head. I’m happy that it is sooner than later! It is always fun to see new species for the area. The power of flight has once again delivered a surprise for us, land-bound birders.

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