It has been a whirlwind first two weeks at CHIP with a mixed bag of challenging weather and record numbers of birds! The first day of banding here in the Cypress Hills occurred on May 7th where we dealt with low temperatures and frozen nets, but eventually were able to open and capture three birds! Fortunately band totals steadily rose from there.
The big story this spring has been the record numbers of Chipping Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows, and “Myrtle” Warblers that have been banded at the station this spring. The previous record for Clay-coloreds banded in a spring was 16 in 2010 and this year as of May 22, we are sitting at 61 new CCSP banded with 26 being captured on May 17th alone! A similar pattern has been noted with Chipping Sparrows. The previous record was 106 in 2011 while we are currently sitting at 306 with 111 of those being banded on May 20th. An even more impressive capture of “Myrtle” Warblers has occurred this year with 274 birds banded thus far. To put that into perspective, the previous record for a spring was 37 MYWA in 2013! May 20th was by far our busiest day with 246 new birds banded where 103 of those were Myrtles. With four consecutive days of 100+ new bandings from May 17th to 20th we are well on our way to setting a new spring record for CHIP.
On May 13th we were fortunate enough to capture a surprise Nashville Warbler. This species has been steadily increasing on the breeding grounds in northeastern Alberta and on migration in southern parts of the province. This is CHIP’s first capture of this species during the Spring Migration.
Another nice capture was a Gray-cheeked Thrush banded on May 17th. This arctic breeder does migrate through southeastern Alberta in small numbers but this is only the third time this species has been banded at CHIP.
The school group season is upon us and on May 22nd our first group of Kindergarten and Grade Two students arrived at the station. It’s always fun to be able to show these eager young children the diverse species of birds that grace the Cypress Hills during migration and try to instill in them an interest in the natural world. The Cypress Hills Interpretive Program does a great job with these children and even simulates how to extract birds from mist nets by using Christmas ornament birds in a net set up just for them. The kids really seem to enjoy it, and so do the banders!