Stéphane’s Blog for May 31, 2011

Surprised Warblers!

Today’s morning was a study in contrast! It was warm early, which was a nice change: no tuques needed to open nets, almost for the first time this spring. But… (there’s always a but!), there was a heavy fog bank over the cold waters of Georgian Bay. The fog pushed into the shore and our little spit of land. As a consequence, there was a sudden and dramatic change of temperatures: within meters, it was sweltering or chilly, so much that when I walked from cold to warm, my glasses fogged up completely! (just like stepping on a bus after a long wait in the winter!) It was almost surreal and a great example of the power of micro-climates! On these times of endless talks on “global warming” and “climate change”, it could be good to pause and reflect on the endless minute changes of the land and its interactions with the climate: Columbines on the south-facing steep bank of Wingfield Basin (in front of the station) bloom a good week earlier than the ones along the driveway that are in cedar shadows and exposed to the cool breeze of the Bay (especially in cold springs like this one).

It was another busy morning at the nets, with a good diversity: 53 birds of 21 species were banded, with American Redstarts being again the most common, but closely followed by Yellow-bellied Flycatchers (7 banded) and Traill’s Flycatchers. It is definitively this time of year, when Flycatchers are moving through, among the latest migrants to arrive in their breeding grounds.

The surprise, though, came with a Blue-winged Warbler! It is only the second Blue-winged Warbler banded at Cabot Head since 2002 (and my first)! It was a nice adult male. But then, another surprise: this time, it was a young female Golden-winged Warbler that got caught! Sometimes, surprises come in double!

With the south wind picking up to gale-force, capture rates plummeted and raptors started to enjoy the free ride: groups of up to 20 Turkey Vultures and 15 Red-tailed Hawks were seen together riding the wind. Interestingly, most of the Red-tailed Hawks were juveniles, showing moults in their primaries (making for clear “windows”).

Still no sign of a Mississippi Kite, though…