Winter’s last gasps?

On May 8th (the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe), snow and sun played a duet or danced a tango or, even, a waltz! Is it the last appearance of Mr. Winter and its white tears? It is too early to tell: after all, we are only in early May!
The last week has seen a mixture of temperatures, once again, but birds are determined. So, there has been a trickle of new arrivals, a continuing serenade by the local birds, and a gentle opening of buds on small shrubs and trees.

On the last day of April, I was lucky enough to observe the two species of warblers mentioned in the previous blog, being regulars for that month. And to make sure my so-called expertise was ridiculed, the Pine Warblers were seen in a flooded pasture, with no pine trees in sight! A little more reading confirmed that, indeed, during migration, that species does not depend as much on Pines. The Palm Warblers were observed in the same habitat, but that was not a surprise for me.

On the first day of the merry, merry month of May, I heard the loud singing of a Northern Waterthrush in the flooded forest, a typical habitat for them. I also watched two other species of warblers, Nashville and Black-throated Green Warblers, on May 4, but away from my regular patch.

I was treated on April 30 and May 5 to up-close observations of Upland Sandpiper, a species that is almost never seen at Cabot Head, and never on the ground. This time, with all the pastures along my route, I got to observe a pair on April 30 and two pairs on May 5, very close, in very good light, and for very long. They are absolutely remarkable, with a long neck topped by a small head in which the huge eyes take precedence, delicate etchings of all shades of brown on their feathers, and very sturdy yellow legs.

Another interesting sighting was the Great Egret I was surprised to see in a flooded forest, a species never observed in the area (as told by knowledgeable locals). On that same day, April 30, I got a quick glimpse of the FOY (First of Year) Cliff Swallow!
Other notable FOYs of the last week were: Gray Catbird, with one bird on May 5; and two Bobolinks on that day as well. I finally got to hear and recognize their flight call! They do fly over Cabot Head from time to time, especially when Ted Cheskey (BPBO founding father and birder extraordinaire) is at the station! He has the ear for their flight call and until now, I didn’t. I hope that I will be able to hear them over Cabot Head from now on.

Because, because, in a major turn of events, BPBO received an exemption from ON Parks, allowing us to return to Cabot Head and run a reduced monitoring program. And when I say “us”, of course, I mean “yours truly”. I am actually writing these lines from Cabot Head, as the sole occupant of the station. It is wonderful to be back and to be able to run the migration monitoring, even if three weeks late and in a reduced capacity, notably with only six nets deployed instead of 15.

I will miss the fluty song of Eastern Meadowlarks which greeted my morning walks at my patch but I am delighted to be back at Cabot Head and to return to my usual patch. It is with a renewed sense of gratefulness and appreciation that I settled back at the station, keenly aware of my privilege and good fortune and dedicated even more to appreciate each moment, including the blustery cold North wind and incessant snow squalls that still continue!

So, today, May 8th, was the first official day of migration monitoring for Spring 2020 at Cabot Head and it started with a bang! There were large waves of warblers, mostly Yellow-rumped and Palm, moving through, once the sun was high. They flew low and spent a lot of time in the bushes and on the ground, looking for insects in the cold air. As a consequence, when a wave of birds moved through, the nets got filled quickly: there was not much time to ease back into the life of a bird bander, when 19 or 25 birds are caught at the same time, in one net! In total, I banded 78 birds of eight species, including 38 Yellow-rumped Warblers and 26 Palm Warblers. These two species are usually early migrants, so having so many of them at this time of year seems to indicate a later than usual migration. The other warblers observed and/or caught during the day were Nashville, Black-throated Green, Pine, and FOY Black-and-White. Again, all species that tend to be among the first to arrive.

There will be much more to come, of course, as soon as the coldness of this wintery blast releases its iron grip, and I will be ready!


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