About Migration Monitoring

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (CHIP) Landbird Monitoring Project is operated by the Calgary Bird Banding Society (CBBS). The CBBS is a non-profit research organization dedicated to quantifying long-term population trends of Neotropic migratory birds using constant effort mist-netting, to promote involvement and expertise in bird banding and to promote conservation of neotropical migratory birds by fostering public awareness and understanding of Neotropical migratory birds. The Project is funded by the CBBS, the Alberta Conservation Association and receives in-kind contributions from CHIP.

Cypress Hills offers a unique opportunity to witness migration monitoring in action whether through public ongoing demonstrations or school educational programming operated by CHIP. Public viewing at Elkwater Lake Site is available between 09:00 – 12:00 during the following dates:

May 15 – June 10 (Spring Migration)

August 1 – October 15 (Fall Migration)

Northern Saw-whet Owl banding can also be viewed on select nights in October – please contact the Bander-in-charge for more information.

Migration monitoring efforts at CHIP collects data using a combination of daily mist-netting  (banding), census and casual observations. The combined results provides a Daily Estimated Total known as a DET which can be used to quantify bird migration on a given day.

Bird banding is an integral aid to the study and protection of wild birds. Operations at CHIP are standard and nets are opened (weather permitting) from sunrise to six hours thereafter. It is typically facilitated by using a fine net (known as a mist-net). Birds fly into the mist-net, are gently removed and a permanent light-weight band is placed around the lower leg. Often the birds are measured, weighed, sexed and aged before release back into the wild. Mist-netting is a useful tool to quantify species that are cryptic and otherwise difficult to monitor in a standardized fashion.

A daily census is essentially a visual and audio tally of the birds at the station collected during a set time period. This method collects data on species that are not captured in mist-nets or when the weather conditions don’t allow for mist-netting. The census is completed by a qualifed birder one hour after sunrise and is typically 30 – 45 minutes in duration. The figure below shows the census route at CHIP.

Casual observations account for any other species detected that may have been missed during mist-netting or on census.  The list of species detected at the Elkwater Lake Station is currently over 200 species – an impressive diversity for the region.  Many rare or vagrant species from further south and east of Alberta have been detected at CHIP; likely due to functional island-effect of restricting birds to forested habitat in a prairie landscape for hundreds of kilometers in all directions.

Sunset at CHIP by Leena Tirrul

Sunset at CHIP (photo: Leena Tirrul)

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