Most small birds migrate during the night. So while we’re sleeping a huge movement of avian biomass is going on overhead. However, some birds fly during the day and are readily observable – like swallows, for example. I was with my family spending 10 days of vacation at the tip of Long Point and got to watch a steady stream of swallows moving along a sand ridge and then out over Lake Erie heading toward Ohio. Based on a count of around 90 birds per minute for 5 minutes and then extrapolating that over the hours that I saw them moving, I figured over 10,000 swallows went by that day.
Today I was banding at Ben’s Lowville Station with Ashley and Catherine and we watched a migratory flight of Blue Jays pass over. A conservative count showed that there were over 210 jays – all headed westerly. I say “conservative” because individuals and small groups were going over fairly continuously for several hours but much of our time was taken up with extracting and banding the migrants we were catching in the nets. So you might very well be able to double that number.
Yesterday I went to the Farm to see how deep the water was in the net lanes and along the trails. It’s deep…. I arrived around 7:00 AM and got to watch typically nocturnally migrating American Robins finishing off their flight – losing altitude after clearing the river and looking for suitable habitat to rest and feed in. For about half an hour they passed by in a loose aggregation, from single birds to small groupings of up to 10 birds. At least 100 robins went by in that time period. The interesting thing to me is that they were flying directly into the SSW wind, which was fairly strong but didn’t seem to be holding them up.
It was busy in Lowville today, lots of bird movement through the vegetation and we were able to tap into it to a degree. We ended up banding 39 birds of 19 species:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 House Wren
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Hermit Thrush (1st of the migration)
1 American Robin
4 Gray Catbirds
1 Blue-winged Warbler (!! very late for this species)
3 Nashville Warblers
2 Magnolia Warblers
1 Myrtle Warbler
1 Pine Warbler (1st for the Fall)
1 Black & White Warbler
1 American Goldfinch
3 Song Sparrows
10 White-throated Sparrows
1 Northern Cardinal
ET’s: 39 spp. Some of these were interesting: we scared up a Ruffed Grouse which took off and blew through one of the nets leaving a gaping hole. We saw the 1st Orange-crowned Warbler of the Fall. We caught and released 3 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (which seems quite late for this species). And a Common Raven flew over.
And I just received this from Fern Hill colleague, Katherine Paveley. Check out the song – I want to hear everyone at least humming it (if not downright singing it) the next time I see you.