October 18th – Wind Effects

“Synthetic” Oriole nest – made almost entirely of plastic strips from an old boat tarp.

The wind this morning was a big factor. It was blowing fairly hard out of the SE and gained in intensity as the morning progressed. It was interesting to watch birds try to negotiate it. In one instance I followed the movement of an American Robin in diurnal migration. The bird was high and was headed (pointing in the direction of) the SW. However, the quartering wind was pushing it to the side and, although it was making a little headway in a southerly direction, for the most part (and I watched it from one horizon to the other) it was going west. Good thing there wasn’t a large body of water that way (although my sense is that the bird would have come to ground if that were the case).

Another bird I followed from the time I first picked it up to the horizon was a Common Loon heading due SE, straight into the wind. We don’t see that many of them in the Fall but in the Spring they’re quite common. At that time I’m struck by their speed. Sitting at the picnic table just outside the lab we will see them close to the southern horizon and we’re able to follow their progress to the northern one. It’s amazing how little time it takes them to traverse this distance and we’ve often talked about how many loons we haven’t seen because we’ve been inside the lab banding or have had our heads down extracting birds from nets and they’ve simply zipped by. But this bird wasn’t having it nearly so easy – going into a strong wind, it was working really hard and its speed was greatly decreased. I would lay money that it got to Lake Erie and knocked off for the day or until better wind conditions prevailed.

We sometimes experience “fall outs” when passerines, in the course of nocturnal migration, run into poor conditions and especially a headwind. They have the option of continuing to fight against it and keep going or coming to ground – when they choose the latter, we might see them in large numbers. (Of course, if they are over water, they really don’t have the option and they keep going, sometimes until they simply run out of steam and perish. I’ve read descriptions of thousands of dead warblers and other migrants washing up on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico after being hit by a storm over the Gulf. Migration can be pretty tenuous and fraught with danger!)

Liz with the first Orange-crowned Warbler she ever (proudly) banded.

When the wind picked up we closed early. Billowing nets can be dangerous to birds that get caught. And many of the nets were just filling with leaves…..Still, we managed to band 73 birds, the “best” one being an Orange-crowned Warbler, which provided a banding first for Liz who, to her frustration, had been seeing pictures of them on the blog but had never seen one herself.

Banded 73:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Northern Flicker
1 Eastern Tufted Titmouse
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Eastern Bluebird
4 Hermit Thrushes
3 Cedar Waxwings
1 Orange-crowned Warbler
16 Myrtle Warblers
1 Northern Cardinal
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Fox Sparrow
3 Song Sparrows
5 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Purple Finch
1 Pine Siskin
21 American Goldfinches

Even the oriole nest we had (left) had blue nylon threads woven into it.

ET’s: 43 spp.
Fall Banding Total: 3,915
Year-to-Date Banding Total: 6,500


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