Entering our 3rd decade: a new season has begun at Cabot Head!

Once again, I am at beautiful Cabot Head, ready to monitor the spring bird migration for 57 straight days, starting on April 15. The year 2022 marks BPBO’s 21st year of monitoring at the Cabot Head Research Station and my own 17th year doing said monitoring! It is an immense privilege to spend the spring and fall here, even when falling snow and temperatures envelop us in these very first days.

All 15 nets were up and running on the first day of monitoring, ready for 6 hours of banding. After a sunny start to the day,  increasing wind decided otherwise, forcing us to close more and more nets throughout the morning: a blowing net is not safe for birds and bird safety is paramount.

Nonetheless, it was not a bad first day, with 29 birds of 6 species banded and a total of 40 species detected. The strong South wind pushed quite a few raptors towards Cabot Head, notably Sharp-shinned and Copper’s Hawks, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawk. As expected, Golden-crowned Kinglets were numerous, with one single Ruby-crowned Kinglet among them. Eastern Phoebes were already singing, celebrating spring with their namesake song. Two of them were captured.

Among the usual ducks at this time of year (Common Goldeneye, the 3 Mergansers, Mallard, etc.), there was a pair of Northern Pintail, a species rarely seen at Cabot Head (in the previous 20 years, this species was detected in 2 spring and 2 fall seasons). The Bald Eagles were already incubating in their giant nest.

Two Tree Swallows were also seen on that first day, but “one Swallow does not make Spring”. Indeed, it started snowing the very next  day! The snow showers were frequent but short-lived throughout the morning but along plummeting temperatures, birds became quite sparse, either hunkering down or having flown south for a brief respite. 

These cold conditions have continued up to now, keeping bird activity low. We are still waiting for the “official” arrival of the first warbler, that is, detected during the monitoring period. I did arrive at Cabot Head on April 12, under a warm sun, and heard my first Yellow-rumped Warbler then. There will undoubtedly be more to come: we are ready for them!