Fall migration monitoring has begun!

It is once again time to unfurl nets and catch unaware migrants as they make their way South to their wintering grounds! Yes, it is still summer, do not be scared by the “Fall” in “Fall migration monitoring”. It should be more aptly named “post-breeding season monitoring!”

Nets were up and running on August 15, the first day of monitoring, ready for 10 weeks of banding and observing the slow spinning of the Earth, the change from a verdant green Summer through a flamboyant, multi-hued Fall, to finally a bare and brown end of season.

For now, we are still firmly in the dog days of Summer, despite the occasional rain, with young birds discovering the world, dispersing away from their nests, and severing the link with their parents. All songbirds undertake their migration on their own, be it their tenth journey southward, or their first one, guiding by their genetic program.

So far we have been getting the usual assortment of birds of mid-August, with American Redstart being the most common species: they breed in high density at Cabot Head and on the Bruce Peninsula. There are a few other warblers around, notably Black-and-white, Yellow-rumped, Pine, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green as well as Common Yellowthroat.

However, we captured three Cape May Warblers on August 16 and 17, which is quite early for his boreal forest species. This species does not breed on the Bruce Peninsula, so birds seen or captured are definitely migrating through. Only a handful of Cape May Warblers are banded every Fall, with the earliest capture being on August 16, in 2013, and the second earliest on August 24, in 2012.

It is still early in the season, migration has barely begun, many more birds will move through. Monarch butterflies have also started to migrate: we’ve been seeing them in some numbers, in ones, twos, threes, and even more. At one point, half a dozen of Monarchs were fluttering together around the station. I know that these numbers are small but they seem to be an uptick from previous, recent years.