For the Birds Radio Program: Lakewood Pumping Station Numbers from Last Fall
(Recording of a Blue Jay)
I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks analyzing the data from our fall bird counts at the Lakewood Pumping Station. We totaled over 115,000 birds this year in 159 hours of counting, averaging out to 728 birds every hour. Extrapolating that over the whole season, literally millions of birds must migrate through the North Shore-Hawk Ridge flyway every fall.
Blue Jays are among the most abundant migrants. Almost 14,000 of them were counted going through this fall. That’s certainly an underestimate of their real numbers–jays fly nice and slow, in straight lines, so they’re easy to count, but we miss quite a few flying below the tree line. Blue Jays aren’t typical migrants–even though so many leave, a lot of them stick it out up here through the worst of winters. The two that live on my corner of Peabody Street have been here at least two years now–cruising back and forth between my yard and my neighbors’ in search of peanuts and Purina cat chow.
Three groups of migrants were even more numerous than jays this fall. Almost 15,000 Pine Siskins, over 18,000 robins, and 21,000 warblers were tallied. Siskins are the hardest birds of all to count accurately–they move in large, tight flocks, each bird shifting position in the flock as they zip past. We recognize them by this flight pattern and by their flight calls.
It was heartening to note 133 bluebirds this year. Bluebirds had been almost extirpated because of DDT and competition for nest sites with the introduces Starling. Now bluebirds are increasing in numbers thanks to people setting out nest boxes. If you live in open country and would like to start a bluebird trail so we have even more to count next fall, I’d be happy to send you information about building nest boxes–just drop me a line. And if you don’t live in bluebird country, you can still help them by making a contribution to the Non-game Wildlife Checkoff on your income tax form. The DNR’s bluebird recovery program deserves a lot of the credit for the recent surge in bluebird numbers.
The weirdest bird counted from the pumphouse was an Anhinga–this bird, also known as a snakebird, normally lives in the Everglades and in other swamps of the deep south and the tropics. Fortunately, I had two competent witnesses to that bird–otherwise maybe no one would have believed it.
The tamest birds counted were the 264 Palm Warblers, many of which lighted right on the brick wall next to us to rest a spell before lighting out. They always seem to greet us with a bob of their tails before they take off for the southern U.S. Right now some of them are down in Florida and Texas, cheering human snowbirds awhile before they head north again in a few weeks.
The tiniest migrants were the 54 hummingbirds. They didn’t stop to visit–they had a date beyond the Gulf of Mexico and couldn’t afford to dawdle.
Millions of birds pass by here year, most uncounted and unnoticed. It’s comforting to think about this annual passage, which has taken place for thousands of years, and may well take place for thousands more. In 1988 again their journey will be a safe one, at least along the North Shore, thanks to U S West’s wise decision to withdraw their Moose Mountain tower plan.
(Recording–Ding Dong the Witch is dead)
This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”