The return of the blue. 

Now that we are in the merry, merry month of May, we hope for, and are getting, some blue skies, following a long and dreary stretch of overcast conditions experienced 14 of the 16 days between April 17 and May 3. It seemed we enjoyed the return of blue, clear skies for a few days afterward, almost as much as birds did. It is ironic that I am writing these lines as heavy rain is falling mercilessly from a grey blanket of clouds on this 7thof May. 

In the last couple days of April and the early few days of May, there was not a lot of diversity with barely any new species arriving on our shores. There was almost an uninterrupted period of rain from April 29 to May 2. With on-and-off showers the morning of April 30, it was very good conditions for catching birds, netting a total of 83 birds of eight species, mostly Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers. After ending April with only three species of warblers caught/observed, there was a small trickle with an Orange-crowned Warbler on May 2 and a Nashville Warbler on May 3. On that latter day, banding was busy again with 90 birds of eight species, 64 of them Ruby-crowned Kinglets. This species has been quite abundant in our nets this spring, with a total of 358 birds banded so far. There might still be many more to come, as we have captured almost only males, who migrate earlier than females: only 20 females have been banded to date, mostly in the last few days. 

On May 4, a Red-throated Loon was flying not far from a Common Loon, allowing for an easy comparison and identification, despite disappearing quickly into the western horizon. Red-throated Loon is a rather uncommon species at Cabot Head, having been detected only once or twice in seven Spring seasons, but yearly since 2019 (and in seven fall seasons). A yearly appearance in Spring is the Golden Eagle: a young one was seen flying briefly on May 4 before it perched on West Bluff for some time.

On May 5, Black-throated Green Warbler and Black-and-white Warbler were finally detected: these two species of warblers are among the earliest, (relatively) often seen first in April (in 12 and eight of the previous 20 Spring seasons, respectively – Spring 2020 excluded).

May 6 was one of these days every migration lover and watcher hopes and waits for, the boom of intense movement following many days of bust. There was an almost constant stream of birds flying through Cabot Head, mostly warblers (and mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers at that). A total of 12 species of warblers were detected, with five of them giving ‘FOY joy’ (First-Of-Year: Yellow, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian Warblers and Ovenbird), in large numbers for some. For example, about 350 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 62 Palm Warblers, 20 Pine Warblers, and even nine striking male Blackburnian Warblers! An impressive total of 83 Red-breasted Nuthatches were counted: it was incredible to see and hear that many. There was also a rather large movement of Blackbirds (Red-winged and Common Grackles), as well as Northern Flickers. Finding some time to scan the sky at the end of the morning revealed an impressive spectacle: 250 Broad-winged Hawks (give or take a few) spread across the sky, gliding between thermals. On that impressive day, there were a few other new arrivals: Blue-headed Vireo, Swamp Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow.

All these birds must have known what was coming: the following day, May 7, was another day of overcast with rain coming in mid-morning. There was a short window of good weather to take advantage of, and migrating birds certainly did just that.