The end (of spring monitoring) is coming soon!

It was a long and stormy week! There was very active weather all throughout last week reducing or precluding banding on all but two days. It was mostly strong wind that hindered the banding operations, as we had no rain except for an intense thunderstorm in the middle of the night on June 1st. There were many bluebird sky days and warm sun. 

There are not many migrants still on the move at this time of year which is reflected in the very low numbers of birds captured and the high proportion of recaptures. Nonetheless, it is the period when large flocks of Canada Geese can be seen flying north. But why? It is seemingly too late for breeding up North. That late passage of Canada Geese is a moult migration. Geese, ducks, and swans are among the few species which moult (that is, replace) all their flight feathers at once, becoming flightless for a period of a few days or weeks. Southern failed or non-breeder Canada Geese fly north to large bodies of water (notably James Bay) which provide safe havens. There are also fewer predators in the boreal or sub-arctic. Previously at Cabot Head, daily totals have reached several hundred Canada Geese (604 on June 7, 2018, for example), however the highest daily total so far this year is 120 birds on June 5. 

On that day, we also counted 112 Blue Jays in one single flock! Early June is also a time for a strong passage of this species at Cabot Head. We are seeing the migratory birds of this mostly sedentary species going back to the boreal forest at the northern fringe of their range. It is always quite a sight to see a large flock of Blue Jays taking flight and climbing up in the sky, flapping wings like giant butterflies. The best part though is when the Blue Jays all decide to dive down at once, making an incredible whooshing sound. 

The characteristic song of an Olive-sided Flycatcher, a late migrant, was heard on June 1st and 4th. Two Green herons were seen flying across the basin, perching shortly in trees along the shore, and squawking loudly on June 5th. On June 3rd, a few flocks of Eastern Bluebirds were detected, thanks to their fluty flight call, with the largest one of 25 birds. There were also quite a few Eastern Bluebirds in the alvar where their dashing colours found an incredible background of Scarlet Paintbrush, Goldenrod, and Blue-eyed Grass. It was a feast of primary colours.

As I am writing these lines on June 6th, the fog is obscuring the whole land after a morning of intense rain. Needless to say, nets stayed furled. They will be furled one last time in a few days, on June 10th, at 11:00am (weather permitted), marking the end of another spring monitoring season. Shortly afterward, I will be off to northern central Ontario on a canoe trip for the 3rd Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas. In between packing the station and getting ready for the summer trip, I will try to write one last posting to give a quick summary of the season.