Spring survey summaries

2013

The spring 2013 survey season was not covered as thoroughly as past years, as we were more heavily involved with our Gray Catbird research as well as finishing up a paper for submission to a scientific journal. In April and May, 41 days were covered, but only 2 dates in June as we concentrated on catbirds.

During this period, 126 species were recorded on campus, with another 9 species elsewhere in the city.  May 16 had the highest number of species with 67 recorded on campus.

Weather
The weather this spring seemed almost “normal” compared to the ridiculously wet 2011 and the incredibly hot and early spring of 2012 that began a long drought which lasted right through most of the winter. April was generally cool and wet, with late season snow.  Much of May was downright cold. This represented problems for insect-eating birds that had already arrived in the area. It’s likely that many swallows, for instance, probably perished and many early nesting species (including American Robin and Eastern Bluebirds) were unable to adequately feed their young and may have lost their early broods.

Highlights
Interesting birds included a Wild Turkey seen on campus in mid-April and early May —  the first in many decades. You can read about it here, on our blog.

The best bird of the season, however, goes to a singing male Yellow-throated Warbler in an east Dearborn residential area, found by former bander Greg Norwood. This is the second record for Dearborn; the first was one at Greenfield Village on May 10, 1972.

Other highlights were sightings of Pine Warblers on ten days; often we have only one or two sightings. While some may represent the same bird on different days, we did record 3 individuals on April 23.

Hooded Warblers were found on four occasions, but we had no sightings of other southern or uncommon species we usually see nearly every year: Prothonotary Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, or Summer Tanager.

Pine Siskins lingered into late May after a great showing over the winter.

Parting thoughts
Overall, diversity was decent, but numbers appeared very low for nearly all species. Some birds, however, seemed nearly absent, including most flycatchers, Baltimore Orioles, and Wood Thrushes. This phenomena was noted all over the region, along with many people noting that even when birds were around, there was a lack of song.

Low numbers of birds in any given year are really not a reason to worry about regional populations. Sometimes weather conditions can knock back numbers, or just cause migrants to re-route a little distance away. But I have to wonder about the effects of several years of extreme or unusual weather conditions. Could these past few years have really diminished bird numbers? Fortunately, with the power of so many citizen scientists utilizing tools such as eBird, other researchers may be able to look at a much bigger picture and provide some insight.

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