Stephane’s blog for May 19

Peak warbler!


It was, in the end, a stretch of three days with no banding, from May 13 to 15, with rain, strong wind, and even some snowflakes. Also as a consequence of the weather, there was very little bird activity in general. It seems, in fact, that many birds did a “reverse migration”, a poorly-known phenomenon in which birds temporarily fly South in search of better weather. For example, the “resident” swallows, which use the shipwreck in Wingfield Basin, were gone. And so we were left shivering in empty woods, biding our time for warmth and our migratory feathered friends to return.

And, of course, they did. In the last four days, bird migration has resumed with a vengeance, with a high diversity, most notably of warblers. It is the famous and eagerly anticipated mid-May peak warbler season!

On Monday, May 16, we opened the nets again, on a still cold morning. Bird activity was still low, both in numbers of individuals and in species. Only nine species of warblers, for example, were detected that day. And only 19 birds were banded. But birds were moving again and the swallows were back. The following day, May 17, started with more promise: a South wind and warmer temperatures. As the sun rose higher in the sky and warmed the trees, midges became very active and attractive to the birds. It was suddenly a constant steady stream of birds, mostly warblers, moving through Cabot Head. Most of them were flying just over the treetops almost without stopping, making for challenging identification. But, in the end, we managed to detect an impressive total of 20 species of warbler! Towards the end of the morning, they started to forage lower in the trees and shrubs and we caught a good haul of 35 birds in total. The most abundant warblers of the day were Palm Warblers, followed by Yellow-rumped and Nashville Warblers.

On May 18, dawn was calm and clear but a light East wind picked up quickly. The day unfolded quite similarly to the previous one, with waves and waves of warblers, of many different species, moving through. There was no particularly dominant species on this morning. In the end, with a FOY Blackpoll Warbler caught in our nets, and an observed FOY Tennessee Warbler, we had detected a total of 21 species of warblers! The daily catch was also higher, with 50 individuals banded, most of them warblers.

So, here’s the list of warblers, because 21 species observed in a morning doesn’t happen often: Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Northern Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Pine, Palm, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, and Canada Warbler! What a list!

And, finally, on May 19, it was another clear dawn but with a western wind this time. The shift of wind direction did not appear to have much impact on bird movement though, as we experienced another glorious day of peak warbler activity. It was again a steady flow, with birds this time spending more time lower down in trees and shrubs. As a result, we were busy extracting and banding all morning, with 63 birds banded of 22 species, including two Baltimore Orioles and one male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (with a definitively namesake beak!). The most abundant bird in the nets was Magnolia Warbler, with 15 birds banded, followed by American Redstart and Palm Warbler (eight individuals of each). There was a total of 20 species of warblers detected, with only Bay-breasted Warbler missing from the previous day. There are not many species of warblers that have yet to arrive in our region (Wilson’s Warbler, for example, being one of them), and the same goes for most species in general. Now that we have entered the second half of May, only the so-called ‘late’ migrants have yet to show up, so there is less FOY joy to experience. Nonetheless, on May 19, we heard and then saw the first Common Tern of the season, a sound and sight, which, for me, is synonymous with summer!

Tomorrow or on Saturday, I will be doing a birdathon as part of BPBO President’s Choice, teamed up, of course, with BPBO President, Ted Cheskey, and past President, Rod Steinacher. We will try to see as many species as possible within a 24 hour period for a fun (?) fundraising event. So, if you haven’t already, please consider making a donation towards bird conservation! Please visit our FaceBook page. Thank you in advance!