April 28th, 2011 will be remembered by everyone in this region as the day of the Big Blow. Sustained winds of over 60 km/hr with gusts reaching 100 km/hr ripped through the area leaving a trail of fallen trees, downed power lines, and decimated buildings in their wake.
The day didn’t start off like that, although at opening time (5:50 AM) there was a good wind blowing. All the nets were affected but I opened only the few that I felt were the most sheltered. Just after opening, I saw a Common Loon high overhead trying to beat its way into the wind, heading south. It was making almost no headway and finally just gave up, wheeled around 180 degrees, and shot north at the speed of light. Just after the loon a hard rain started forcing me to run around and close the few nets I’d opened 30 minutes before. With the rain came the wind and what a wind it was! With its coming, the skies began to clear so I opted to do a census, not really expecting to see much but….it’s part of the protocol. As a followed the circuit and approached the Mansion, I heard a loud crack and about 75 m ahead of me one of the giant Norway Spruces in front of the building snapped off and fell to the ground with an enourmous whump, barely missing the front steps. I looked out over the vista in front of the Mansion and saw the river looking like a lake with big waves and whitecaps. I headed down to the river to continue the count and was amazed by the power of the wind funneling along the valley. Gusts were blowing the tops of the waves off and sending the spume racing up stream for 100’s of meters. On land these gusts hit you like a body blow, stopping you in your tracks. Consequently, I was awed to watch swallows over the river hunting for insects and actually flying into the wind. Amazing creatures!
The census trail continues up past the cemetery and then follows the Carolinian Trail through the forest. In retrospect this was definitely not a good idea on my part. All around I could hear sizeable branches snapping and falling – one tree came down within 30 m of me. I was relieved to get out of there. On finishing the census I headed for the front of the Mansion to investigate the fallen spruce. Nancy Furber met up with me – she had already been out the front – and reported that not just one but 3 big trees had come down and the gazebo had been decimated. I noticed as well that the heavy picnic tables had been thrown around like toys. My big fear now was that another big spruce that leans over the Drill Hall would come down causing big damage. I watched the base of the tree and when a gust hit you could see the earth over the roots rise and fall – as if it was breathing. Fortunately, it never went over but for safety’s sake it should probably come down.
I went around to examine the furled nets and found them to be generally OK – we had to remove small branches from a few and a small tree took down Net 1 but didn’t damage it. Whew!
Despite the weather we had 3 new arrivals: Chimney Swift, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Gray Catbird. We also took a few birds out of the traps that we’d opened for a half hour or so. We banded two: a Brown-headed Cowbird and a lovely male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
And to top it all off, Dr. Oliver Love from the University of Windsor arrived to deliver a new scale for the lab (which we’ll be able to use if the electricity ever comes back on line). It was quite a day…..