Saying goodbye to Spring and Cabot Head!

The end of another bird migration monitoring is now upon us: nets were furled one last time on June 10th, taken down and stored away for the summer. It is almost hard to believe but summer is now here with birds on breeding territories, busily singing and building nests, heat bearing down from the sky, insects and flowers in full bloom.

It was a very, very slow last week, not helped with three consecutive days of intense windstorms, when no banding was possible and very little bird activity was to be had.

During this last week there were a few large flocks of Blue Jays milling around on their way to the northern fringe of their breeding grounds. Cedar Waxwings were also seen in bigger numbers, easily detected with their high shrill calls. But most of the birds we banded and counted were now locals on their territory. 

For example, I would almost every day encounter the Eastern Towhees at the end of the census route now, often only by the call, sometimes admiring the striking plumage of the male, who seemed annoyed by my presence. The more subdued female was seen only once briefly joining the male before disappearing again into the heavy shrub. It is likely that they are trying to breed there.

I observed Common Nighthawks on two evenings, 25 birds on June 4 and 11 birds on June 6. It is always a nice treat to see their fluttering flights and hear their nasal call, sometimes accompanied by a boom!

On June 9, the second last day of monitoring, while I was closing the net near Georgian Bay, I spied a gull on the shoreline with a black hood. I was instantly on high alert and ran to the shore: the regular gulls here, Ring-billed and Herring, have a white head. Maybe scared by the commotion, the gull took off and flew away but not before I had a good look at its black hood, red bill, wings with solid black tips and wide white band on the trailing edge. The bird flew towards the “tip”, the sliver of land that marks the entrance to Wingfield Basin. Indeed, luck was with us: we found the bird again resting among much bigger Ring-billed Gull, giving us perfect views and lots of time to look at all its features. It was a Laughing Gull in perfect breeding plumage, the first record for Cabot Head and Bruce County, for that matter. It is a gull very partial to the seashore from the Gulf of Maine all the way to the Yucatan Peninsula. I managed to get some pictures through the scope (“digiscoping”) that can be seen on Instagram @brucepeninsulabirds.

“Always expect the unexpected!” It was certainly a very nice way to end a season!