Special to the Tribune
Each fall, during August and September, bird banders and volunteers at the Tatlayoko Lake Bird Observatory (TLBO) in the west Chilcotin conduct daily bird counts as part of long-term efforts to monitor North American bird populations. Both visual counts and banding of birds are used. Banding is particularly useful in providing consistent, year-to-year data. This year was the fifteenth season of operations and there was an increase in the overall number of birds banded with a total of 1,727 birds banded.
When banders arrived at the TLBO at the beginning of August they noticed that several species had very successful breeding seasons locally, in particular among the warblers and Swainson’s Thrush. But no species had a better summer than the American Redstarts as many family groups were noted daily during the first half of August. Ultimately, 104 of this beautiful migrant songbird were banded, more than double the annual average and far surpassing the previous record of 85.
Another species with record numbers in 2021 were the Warbling Vireos. This dapper bird congregates in flocks in the fall. These were commonly seen as they moved through the alder/willow around the property and foraged on the abundant red-osier dogwood berries. The 294 banded made this our most banded species of the season.
Every year we encounter a few unexpected species and these provide added excitement for staff and volunteers alike. We didn’t have to wait long as first thing in the morning on day one we caught and banded an adult Tennessee Warbler in breeding condition. The population of this Boreal-breeding species is tied to that of the spruce bud-worm and at present both are increasing as part of their normal population cycle.
This may account for the potential breeding of this species at a location on the southwestern fringe of their normal range.
While regularly detected, it was a treat to band two stunning female Evening Grosbeaks that were attracted to the nets by the big Saskatoon berry crop. These were just the fourth and fifth of these declining finches that have been banded at the TLBO.
Also in the highlights department were two new additions to the TLBO list of birds, which now stands at 206 species. First came a Broad-winged Hawk that showed up on August 21st. Like the Tennessee Warbler, this is a Boreal-breeder but they are increasing in the southern part of the province, especially during migration. Our second new species was Parasitic Jaeger, an arctic-breeder that spends the non-breeding season out at sea. These elegant “pirates” make a living harassing gulls and similar species to give up their hard earned catch. During migration, Jaegers can sometimes be seen on lakes in the interior of B.C.. Our first two were spotted flying overhead on Sept. 18, while one was also seen along the shore of Tatlayoko Lake the next day.
Volunteers are an important part of the TLBO program. This year we were fortunate to have several local volunteers from the immediate area as well as Williams Lake and Quesnel.
For those looking to gain experience in bird monitoring/banding techniques this is an ideal opportunity. Preferred candidates are those who can commit to one to two weeks and who will be using the skills gained to further their careers/volunteering in biology and wildlife monitoring. Volunteer applications are accepted from the beginning of June for the following monitoring season.
The TLBO relies on private donations with these making up about one third of our 2021 budget. If you would like to support the work done by the TLBO, are interested in volunteering, or have questions about the program please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the TLBO, including in-depth reports and daily blog posts, can be found on the website at www.tatlayokobirds.wordpress.com.
Other funding for the 2021 Migration Monitoring Program came from Canadian Wildlife Service, Tolko Log Hauler’s Fund and the North Okanagan Naturalists Club. Among our private donors honourable mention must go to Joerg Fischer, Hannelore Ernst, and Charlie and Ruth Travers for their generous contributions.
Nature Conservancy of Canada continues to partner with the TLBO to grant access to their property and onsite infrastructure.
The TLBO is a program of the Tatlayoko Field Station Society (tatlayokofieldstaton.org).