June 21st – Summer Solstice

 I’m not exactly sure why this is but….I’ve always been intrigued by the major “sun events” – solstices, equinoxes, etc. and their impact on human ritual. Is it any coincidence that Christmas occurs around the Winter Equinox – the birth/rebirth of the Son/Sun? The Summer Solstice is associated with Midsummer celebrations (I would cast myself as Puck in a Midsummer’s Night Dream) and is perhaps one of my favourites. I personally think we should have a major celebration to recognize it. But there is a dark side to the Summer Solstice. At this point the days start to diminish, to get shorter. From a neotropical bird’s perspective the Summer (or breeding period) is over. Oh, sure, the Cedar Waxwings and American Goldfinches are just getting going but….most birds (and certainly the long-distance migrants) are busy fledging their young. Soon the parents will abandon their young to their own devices, moult, and then start heading south……and it’s still only June!?!

Well, be that as it may….Nancy Furber and I went out today to help with the big Summer Solstice Celebration. Going back to our pagan roots, this usually requires a sacrifice and so we sacrificed ourselves to the flow of life: donating our blood to the mosquitoes, who in turn would give themselves to those up the food chain. I’d like to say it was a fulfilling experience but…..it wasn’t. It was almost like the birds and mosquitoes had planned it out. The former would get complicatedly (is this a word?) enmeshed requiring intense concentration on the part of the Extractor while the latter, sensing a vulnerability, honed in on exposed face and hands, comforted in the idea that the Extractors could not swat them away AND continue to unravel the birds. Thus a blood sacrifice was ensured. [I think that, in the future, I’d like to resort to a BBQ and a bottle wine to mark this day…]

Bird-wise it was a good day:

Banded 29:
1 Downy Woodpecker (HY or Hatch Year – meaning it was hatched this year)
1 Hairy Woodpecker (HY)
1 Eastern Wood Pewee
1 Eastern Tufted Titmouse (HY)
1 Black-capped Chickadee (HY)
3 Gray Catbirds
1 Brewster’s Warbler (an adult female with a brood patch)
7 Yellow Warblers (all adults!…why haven’t we caught them before this?)
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Northern Cardinal (HY)
1 Indigo Bunting
4 Song Sparrows (3 HY)
6 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 14:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Eastern Tufted Titmouse
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Chipping Sparrow (banded in 2007)
3 Song Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
2 Baltimore Orioles
2 American Goldfinches (1 banded in 2005)

ET’s: 54 spp.


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