Something new under the sun.

Bird migration monitoring is done, day in, day out, every day from August 15 to October 31. Birds keep their own calendar, one without weekends or Holiday Mondays, but one that follows the stars and the moon and the slow turn of seasons. This is why we’re out observing, counting and opening nets 30 minutes before sunrise (weather permitting) for six hours every day for 78 days straight. I am sometimes asked if it is not “boring” to repeat the same things every day at the same place (and doing it for years in a row) but there is always something different… Georgian Bay has many moods, from angry to placid, and the clouds, wind, and sun play and interact in different ways. And of course, the birds, even though following a predictable pattern are always changing in diversity and numbers. Even so sometimes there is truly something new under the sun! On October 15, a female Redhead duck was found on Wingfield Basin accompanying for a short time two Mallards. Detected first by my enthusiastic volunteers (Evan Sinclair, our “summer” student, and Jake Nafziger, a co-op student), we spent quite some time making sure of our identification. I thought it was the first observation of a Redhead duck at Cabot Head but one was seen on October 10, 2014 (during my break away from Cabot Head). Nonetheless, a second observation in 20 years of monitoring is still exceptional. 

During the past week, kinglets and juncos have become dominant in our catches, the former no longer reaching the previous high numbers. Overall diversity has certainly declined with fewer and fewer warblers for example. Two Orange-crowned Warblers were seen on October 11. This species is usually seen throughout October but has been relatively sparse so far this year. A young male Black-throated Blue Warbler in a brilliant plumage was banded on October 12 (see pictures on Instagram and Facebook), the second latest date on record (October 25, 2008 being the latest). A young female Black-throated Green Warbler was banded on October 15, quite a late date for this species, although one bird was observed on October 22&23, 2020. On the other hand, Tennessee, Nashville and Yellow-rumped Warblers have been regular throughout the week, seen almost daily.

A Cackling Goose was in a small flock of its bigger cousin, the Canada Goose, flying over the bay on October 11. In the early morning of October 13, we were delighted to see a Great Horned Owl perched in full view across the basin for several minutes.

The weather was still very warm during these days, with a strong South wind blowing on October 11 and 12. It seems to be finally changing however. On October 17, a strong Northwest wind is blowing under a clear and cold sky. It feels like fall for the first time in terms of temperatures. Who knows? Maybe we will even get a hint of snow in the two weeks left of the fall bird migration monitoring!