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2020 Lake Erie Islands Birding

The spring of 2020 was much different than normal spring. For the last 18 years the banding team along with Tom Barlett have come to the islands to study the birds using the islands during migration. This was done using mist nets, trapping the birds collecting data on them, banding them with a numbered metal band, and releasing them. It has always been open to the public and for participants of the Road Scholar programs that come to the islands.Picture of 2020 Lake Erie Islands Birding

This year most of the research has been curtailed because of COVID-19. Tom’s main banding station at Springville Marsh State Nature Preserve, in southern Seneca County, had to be closed. The preserve is open to the public, and access could not be controlled.

They banded March 14th, and over 20 visitors showed up. It first appeared we would have the same problem on the islands as The Bird Banding Laboratory protocol stated no visitors or banding on public lands, which could not be closed to the public.

On Kelleys Island, they band on land owned by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, so access was strictly controlled and no visitors were allowed. They also worked with the Kelleys Island mayor on when and how they could band. So the third week of April they were able to band on Kelleys, but snow on three of the seven days hampered their efforts. Working with the Lake Erie Islands Conservancy and the Put-in-Bay Township Park District, they were able to band on Middle Bass and on Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island. Middle Bass involved closing the East Point Preserve during the banding times.

Birding By The Numbers

On South Bass, they band on private property at the Vineyard B & B. Again, at both sites, the weather was not the greatest for bird migration, but at least some data was collected. The public was very cooperative and adhered to the no visitors rule without complaint, but I am sure they were disappointed. On Kelleys Island, there were only four of us in April.

The bad part was it snowed three out of the seven days so we only banded 107 birds. All that snow a part of why we called it the 31 Crazy Days Of May! Summer Tanager was good, though. On Middle Bass Island, we had five volunteers. and we banded 44 species and 285 individuals. Pine Warbler was the best, my first ever, and we did two!

On South Bass, there were only four of us birding, and we banded 39 species and 283 individuals. The best birds were a male Hooded Warbler and a 9-year-old Common Grackle. One note of interest from South Bass, our number one banded bird was the Red-winged Blackbird (which is normal). Last Thursday, we had some southerly wind, and the female Red-winged Blackbirds left. On Friday and Saturday, we did not capture a single female. There were plenty of males, but no females were attracted or viewed in the area.

On Sunday, we captured one female and saw one other. The females seemed to have left on Thursday night, and no other females replaced them. Sometimes it is not what you capture but what you don’t. Eventually, new Red-wing females arrived. Below are some statistics on some recaptured birds from other years. Most of these birds are coming back to the same location each year, or not leaving at all. Attached is the full list of birds banded this spring. I can’t remember a late spring banding when we had snow 4-5 days during the period. I still have my long underwear on…

Thanks for the help from our trained volunteers, scribes, and extractors; Paula Bartlett, Lisa Brohl, Teddi Keith-Morris, and Nancy Welter. And for additional special help from Russ Brohl and Bob Stausmire for moving equipment from island to island. We appreciate the assistance of the Put-in-Bay Township Park District, Dr. William Cleveland, and the Barnhill family for the use of their properties to collect the data. Thanks to the Lake Erie Islands Conservancy, Brohl and Miles family for assistance with lodging while birding. The Put-in-Bay Resort offered discounted rooms for the birding season.

Middle Bass Birding Numbers

1 – 6-year-old Northern Cardinal
2 – 5-year-old American Robins
3. 1 – 4-year-old Northern Flicker which was originally
banded in McComb County, Michigan on May 26,
South Bass:
1. a 9-year-old Common Grackle
2. 2 6-year-old Red-winged Blackbirds
3. a 6-year-old Common Grackle
4. 2 5-year-old Red-winged Blackbirds

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