November 5th – Slip Slidin’ Away

[Again, some unkown problem is preventing my posting pictures at the moment.]

Now, I’m not a superstitious person. But everyone knows that the making of certain comments at particular times can have serious negative consequences on an imminent outcome. Just consider these examples: the announcer mentions that the goaltender is nursing a shutout going into the third period; or a pitcher has a no-hitter going on entering the top of the ninth; or Joe Blow hasn’t missed a game-winning field goal in 37 attempts. When you hear this you just know: the jinx is on and that person is going to fail…. It’s a scientific fact.

So, as our Fall banding season is drawing down (Monday the 7th is our last day), I made the mistake of mentioning….just in casual conversation…..that we had a really good shot at hitting 4,000 birds for the season. Bingo! That was it. Wouldn’t you know it, the weather cleared right up into sunny blue skies and the birds disappeared as a consequence. And it looks like it will stay that way until after Monday. No wonder Paul Simon’s wonderful lyrics keep running through my head: “….the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away.” I should just have kept my mouth shut.

Going into this morning we were sitting at 3,854 birds; so we needed just 146 – less than 50 per day over the next 3 days. During the night, the owl team did their part, banding 6 Saw-whets and 1 Eastern Screech Owl (and retrapping a Screech Owl that we’d banded last Fall)! But this morning the nets and poles were coated in frost and we were almost 2 hours late in getting them open.Not that this made much difference because there just weren’t many birds around. Even Goldfinches had a hard time finding the nets. The dayshift could come up with only 30 more birds so we’re sitting at 3,891 birds. Two days of 55 birds each would do it but the weather is going to be just so damned nice……aarrgh.

That old adage “if it rains, it pours” seems to be coming into play now. I went to help the owl team tonight but by the time I left, just after midnight, we hadn’t caught anything and the heavy fog off the river wasn’t helping our cause. I spent more time ruminating on Orion (not necessarily a bad thing) than banding birds…..

As I’m sure that many of you have the perception that my main pursuit is simply eating muffins, I would like to have you think that, at times, I do study birds. Check out this lecture I found after a friend introduced me to the site:
The lecturer, Tim Birkhead, a behavioural ecologist, did a considerable amount of research on seabirds in the Canadian Arctic in the 1970’s.

Banded 37:
6 Northern Saw-whet Owls
1 Eastern Screech Owl
2 Mourning Doves
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Black-capped Chickadee
4 Cedar Waxwings
1 Northern Cardinal
2 American Tree Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
5 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 House Finch
11 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 15:
1 Eastern Screech Owl
1 Mourning Dove
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 White-breasted Nuthatches
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 House Finch
4 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 34 spp.

Birds banded per 100 net hours: 29


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